"I couldn't stop crying" - Ethan McCord relives Collateral Murder video
I've long been an admirer of Ethan McCord, the Army soldier who rescued the two children in the Collateral Murder video.
Yesterday RT posted an interview with Ethan for the third anniversary of the release of Collateral Murder. The segment has been widely picked up, and as I write this the YouTube has already gotten over 400 comments. RT even published a report that's almost like a transcript, so who needs this? But I want to do my own.
Ethan tells us that was the day that destroyed his life. I've never been able to watch more than a few seconds of the Collateral Murder video myself. I know there's stuff in there I'll wish I'd never seen, wish had never happened, stuff I can't stand. But I'm glad that I saw Ethan.
'I couldn't stop crying': Soldier relives 'collateral murder' video
Published on Apr 6, 2013
YULIA SHAPOVALOVA, RT: So it’s been three years since WikiLeaks released a graphic video dubbed the Collateral Murder showing U.S. helicopters slaying over a dozen Iraqi civilians. The incident shocked the world and also left a mark on many American soldiers who witnessed the massacre, and one of them has exclusively spoken to RT, revisiting the tragic day he says destroyed his life.
Collateral Murder video clip
...more that keep walking by and one of them has a weapon.
MEGHAN LOPEZ, RT: It was the video that put WikiLeaks on the map, turned the tide of war in Iraq, and landed Private First Class Bradley Manning in military detention. But for Army veteran Ethan McCord, it was just another day on duty.
ETHAN McCORD: The helicopters, they’re approximately about a mile and a half away when they were zooming in on these guys, and from looking at it now you can’t see anything. That right there is obviously a camera dangling, if you were to really pay attention. That guy has an AK-47 right there.
RT: Baghdad, Iraq, 2007. The 216th Battalion was out patrolling a volatile part of the city.
McCORD: I was about five blocks away, four or five blocks away, to the left of the screen. This was a battalion-wide mission.
RT: And then the situation turned deadly.
Come on, fire. [shooting]
McCORD: You hear the Apaches firing.
RT: Ethan and his infantry squad began running toward the scene to provide support. Again the Apache helicopter opened fire.
Come on. [shooting]
RT: When he arrived on the scene, the Apache guns were quiet. The accused enemies were dead.
I think I just drove over a body
McCORD: One guy’s, the head was com– the top of his head was completely off and his brains were – were on the ground, and, and the smell – the smell still haunts me today. It – I don’t even know how to describe it.
RT: When he approached the van, a noise Ethan wasn’t expecting: A cry of a little girl.
McCORD: I think she was 4 years old. You could tell she had a wound to the stomach. And I remember her looking at me and the blood around her eyes made her eyes so ghostly white.
RT: Ethan grabbed the girl and ran into a nearby building. He then picked glass out of her eyes so she could blink and handed her off to a medic.
McCORD: I went back outside and was told to take pictures, so I started taking pictures of the inside of the van.
RT: And that’s when he discovered the little boy.
McCORD: And that’s me. That is a little boy who I originally thought was dead.
RT: Despite their injuries, the children survived. But part of Ethan changed forever that day.
McCORD: I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I couldn’t stop myself from feeling the way that I was feeling.
RT: When he did seek mental help, he says he was mocked by his commanders and threatened with expulsion from the military.
McCORD: That’s when I started drinking. Mental Health had given me prescriptions, 13 prescriptions. Of Geodon, Depakote, Prozac. I mean I was a zombie.
McCORD: I started daydreaming of killing my own children and everybody around me.
RT: So Ethan took matters into his own hands.
McCORD: I’d already begun drinking pretty heavily and I had downed all the pills and I drank a fifth of Crown Royal. 10 o'clock in the morning. And my wife at the time found me.
RT: That was the first time Ethan tried to take his own life. After that he was dismissed from the Army.
McCORD: I was kicked out with no disability, no benefits from the Army whatsoever.
RT: He returned to Wichita, and then Ethan attempted suicide for a second time.
McCORD: I actually wrote a poem right before I did it, before I put the gun in my mouth. And – I don’t know if I really want to talk about it.
RT: Ethan’s story is tragic, yes, but he certainly isn’t alone. Tens of thousands of military veterans suffer the effects of PTSD long after they leave the battlefield. And for those who simply can’t cope with the stress, oftentimes they choose to end their own lives. They are fathers and brothers, sons and soldiers, and now they’re simply another casualty in American wars abroad.
In the past two years alone, Ethan has lost eight of his veteran brothers to suicide, and his outlook on life hasn’t improved with time.
McCORD: I know that I will never ever ever get better. I’ll never get over this.
RT: For the world, the Collateral Murder video was just another black mark on an unpopular war. For Ethan, it was a catalyst that made him question the entire purpose of the Iraq war.
McCORD: You know, America, we – John Wayne. You know, we wear the white hat. Americans are always out, “Well all we’re doing is trying to help people. That’s all we do, is trying to spread freedom and democracy." Through the barrel of a gun.
RT: History will be the ultimate determinant of how the Iraq war is viewed. But for Ethan and so many soldiers suffering from postwar stress, the future is far and the past is too much to cope with.
Reporting from Wichita, Kansas, Meghan Lopez, RT.
Thank you, Ethan.