By Mark Memmott
"It was a bad afternoon of war. ... It wasn't the worst day that I was witness to, (but) it was one of them."
That's Washington Post reporter David Finkel on Talk of the Nation today, discussing the 2007 killing in Baghdad of 12 civilians -- one of them a Reuters photographer and another the journalist's driver -- who were fired on from above by a U.S. Army helicopter.
The leaking of a classified video taken from the helicopter has stirred controversy.
Finkel, who was nearby when the incident happened, wrote about the airstrike in his book The Good Soldiers.
Host Neal Conan asked whether in retrospect something might have been done differently, and the tragedy would have been prevented.
"What could it be?" Finkel wondered. "An operation took place. And it was an operation with merit because it was preceded by soldiers just getting banged up all over the place and they had to do something about it. ... The operation was planned thoroughly for days and days and out they went. ...
"Here came some guys walking down the street -- one with a (rocket) launcher; one, at least one, with an AK(-47). And in the middle of them were two guys, one of whom had something long (a camera) hanging around his neck. And there was no word to the soldiers that journalists were going to be there.
"On the other hand -- well, it's all on the other hand, isn't it?"
Here's some of their conversation:
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