A former CNN Iraq correspondent suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder says his employers wouldn’t run footage he filmed of what he describes as a war crime by US troops, an Australian news source reports.
Michael Ware, who covered Iraq for CNN from 2006 until last year, describes the incident as “a small war crime, if there is such a thing.”
In 2007, Ware was with a group of US soldiers in a remote village in Iraq that was under the control of al Qaeda militants. Ware says there was a teenage boy in the street carrying a weapon for protection.
‘‘(The boy) approached the house we were in and the (US) soldiers who were watching our backs, one of them put a bullet right in the back of his head. Unfortunately it didn’t kill him,’’ Ware told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, as quoted at the Brisbane Times.
Ware said his footage of the incident was deemed “too graphic” by CNN bosses to be placed on the air.
The Brisbane Times quotes Ware:
We all spent the next 20 minutes listening to his tortured breath as he died.
I had this moment … that I realized despite what was happening to this man in front of me, I’d been more concerned with the composition of my (photo) shot than I was with any attempt to either save him or at the very, very least ease his passing.
I indeed had been indifferent as the soldiers around me whose indifference I was attempting to capture.
Ware became “obsessed” with the footage of the incident, playing it repeatedly, said John Martinkus, a journalism teacher at the University of Tasmania and a friend of Ware’s.
“Part of him was like, ‘How could I just stand by and watch that happen?’ It was a really horrible, stark moral choice that he faced and he still wrestles with that,’’ Martinkus said.
Ware says the footage belongs to CNN and he can’t release it himself.
The Australian citizen returned to his native Brisbane last December to recover from the trauma of nearly a decade in war zones (he covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for Time prior to moving to CNN.)
Members of his family say he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and endures “nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia and mood swings,” according to the Brisbane Times.
Ware was reportedly kidnapped during his stint as a war correspondent. In the incident, recounted at Men’s Journal, he was grabbed by followers of the al Qaeda warlord Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
They dragged Ware into an anonymous building in Baghdad, hung up a banner, and were preparing to tape his execution with his own camera — until an Iraqi friend of his, a former Baathist, insisted they spare his life. “I didn’t leave my hotel room for three days after that,” he said. “I was nauseated for weeks.”
Ware thus became “the only Westerner to be captured and later released by Al Qaeda in Iraq,” reports ABC in Australia.
The CNN correspondent has been known for occasionally stepping into controversy. In 2006, he aired partial footage of militants stalking and killing US troops, prompting then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to declare that “CNN has now served as the publicist for an enemy propaganda film.”
In 2007, some bloggers accused Ware of disrupting a Baghdad press conference by Sen. John McCain, who at the time was gearing up for a White House run. Ware denied the allegation, and Raw Story reported that video evidence backed up Ware’s denial.