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Gates Calls Air Strike Video 'Painful to Watch'

John J. Kruzel - American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said recently published footage of a U.S. Apache helicopter killing 12 people in Iraq, including two Reuters news agency personnel, was "painful to watch," and that the attack has been thoroughly investigated.

The 17-minute video from a July 12, 2007, air strike shows U.S. military personnel gunning down a group perceived to be armed militants and opening fire on a subsequent rescue attempt. The footage was made available last week by WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing Web site that publishes anonymous submissions and leaked documents.

"We've investigated it very thoroughly. And it's unfortunate -- it's clearly not helpful," Gates said yesterday on ABC News' "This Week." "But by the same token, I think it should not have any lasting consequences." Asked if the release of the video would damage the image of the United States in the world, Gates said he didn't think so.

"They're in a combat situation. The video doesn't show the broader picture of the firing that was going on at American troops," he said. "It's obviously a hard thing to see. It's painful to see, especially when you learn, after the fact, what was going on."

A defense official interviewed for the story said "a perfect storm" of circumstances contributed to the missteps. The official said a longer version of the video, also available online, shows the fuller context of the air strike, including evidence of nearby gunfire.

"You talked about the fog of war -- these people were operating in split-second situations," Gates said.

The findings of the U.S. military investigation are available on the U.S. Central Command Web site in the Freedom of Information Act Reading Room section.

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