Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged on Sunday that leaked video showing the 2007 killing by U.S. Army personnel of a gathering of civilians in Iraq is "unfortunate" and "painful to see." But he did not think it would have a long-term affect on U.S. operations in that country.
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Gates was asked about the video that recently surfaced on WikiLeaks, showing two Reuters journalists (in a gathering with Iraqis) being shot at and killed by U.S. forces in a hovering helicopter
"Does the release of that video, and the fact that that happened damage the image of the U.S. in the world?" host Jake Tapper asked.
"I don't think so," said Gates. "They're in a combat situation. The video doesn't show the broader picture of the firing that was going on at American troops. It's obviously a hard thing to see. It's painful to see, especially when you learn after the fact what was going on. But you talked about the fog of war. These people were operating in split-second situations."
"And, you know, we've investigated it very thoroughly. And it's unfortunate," he added. "It's clearly not helpful. But by the same token, I think it should not have any lasting consequences."
There has been some speculation that the WikiLeaks video would spur an equivalent wave of outrage as did the photos from the detention center at Abu Ghraib. While Gates argues that viewers are left with only part of the story (there is, as he notes, no footage of the apparent firing at U.S. troops), the image of people trying to provide help and provide medical attention to the wounded -- only to be shot at as well -- is jarring. Certainly, it has called into question whether this episode can be dismissed as simply a "fog of war" scenario.
Nevertheless, as Gates's comments suggest, the fallout seems, at this point, rather contained. Part of it may be that few lawmakers have been around Washington D.C. to be asked about the video -- owing to Congress' recess. But mainly it seems to be another byproduct of the secondary status that Iraq and Afghanistan now take in political discourse.
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