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Wikileaks + whistle-blowing « Previous | |Next »
October 25, 2010

The whistleblowing group WikiLeaks has released up to 400,000 US intelligence reports on the Iraq War from the start of 2004 until the end of 2009 leaked from the Pentagon's secret archives on the Iraq war. The disclosure is the biggest leak in US history, far more than the 91,000 Afghanistan war logs WikiLeaks released this summer, and it includes evidence of 15,000 more civilian deaths than initially reported. Adding those deaths to 107,000 others that had been recorded by the group Iraq Body Count, WikiLeaks has estimated the civilian toll since 2003 at more than 120,000.

Iraq appears to have been a bloodbath on every corner. Most civilians, by far, were killed by other Iraqis and these were caused by systematic sectarian cleansing.

The latest leak--the Iraq war logs ---shows that the US-led military knew that Iraqi police, soldiers and national guards, that they were training and equipping, were torturing detainees and in some cases beating them to death. The documents describe scenes of torture by Iraqi forces of Iraqi detainees, involving acid, drills, hosepipes, lit cigarettes, and rape.

WikiLeaks, has redefined whistle-blowing by gathering secrets in bulk, storing them beyond the reach of governments and others determined to retrieve them, then releasing them instantly, and globally. The response from the Obama administration is an aggressive pursuit of whistle-blowers and it is trying to close down WikiLeaks. As Daniel Ellsberg observed, “Secrecy is essential to empire.”

Civilian deaths is what was ignored by those in favour of the war-- officials in the US, UK and Australia consistently downplayed the numbers of civilians they killed – or denied killing any at all. Glenn Greenward at Salon points out that there is now:

a major, coordinated effort underway to smear WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, and to malign his mental health -- all as a means of distracting attention away from these highly disturbing revelations and to impede the ability of WikiLeaks to further expose government secrets and wrongdoing with its leaks. But now, the smear campaign is led not by Executive Branch officials, but by members of the establishment media.

The strategy in the "establishment media" ---the media that serves the Government's interests, sidies with government and military officials, and attacks government critics--- is that Julian Assange must have his character smeared and his psychiatric health maligned. The whistle-blower is a psychologically ill, America-hating subversive and paranoid narcissist.

The Republican media--- eg., the war cheerleaders on Fox News--just want Julian Assange taken out because he is conducting an act of political warfare against the United States.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:54 AM | | Comments (13)


Lots of interesting developments in the USA following the release of the documents. Many, as you suggest Gary, are attempts to distract attention from the content by attacking the leakers. Others are quite funny, like the argument that because a few corroded, useless old mustard gas shells were eventually found buried somewhere, and someone had a chemical factory in their house, it proves there really were WMDs in Iraq all along. Bush was right!

However I sense that the Americans are in the process of doing what Australians did several years ago: wipe Iraq from their collective consciousness. The UN has reported that '[a] UNHCR poll of Iraqis who have returned to Baghdad from neighbouring countries found that physical insecurity, economic hardship and a lack of basic public services has led the majority to regret their decision to return to Iraq.' And that's just the handful who were motivated enough to return.

Iraq and Afghanistan remain the countries of origin of almost half the world's refugees but that doesn't appear to register with the people who keep trying to justify the invasions and occupations. They continue to pretend that we are liberators, bringing freedom and democracy to the oppressed masses of Islamofasciststan.

The response by the US Department of Defence to the WikiLeaks Iraq war logs is:

We strongly condemn the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and will not comment on these leaked documents other than to note that ‘significant activities’ reports are initial, raw observations by tactical units. They are essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane, and do not tell the whole story. That said, the period covered by these reports has been well chronicled in news stories, books and films, and the release of these field reports does not bring new understanding to Iraq’s past.

Despite being well chronicled----and the US military has been paying out financial compensation ---- the Department states that exposing secret information will make its troops even more vulnerable to attack in the future.

They are trying to have it both ways.

Ken is right. The Americans are bored with war --especially the war in Afghanistan. They seem to want to forget the Iraq war and the on going occupation.

Of course the lazarus like warty toad himself is published in the Oz today justifying the invasion.

John what's his latest excuse? Just after he got booted out he was interviewed online by the Hoover Institute in the USA and said, with commendable honesty, that the whole thing was about preserving the global prestige of the USA. I doubt that he got many private congratulations for his candour from his American pals, and I expect that by now he's reverted to his old nonsense about keeping terrorists over there to stop them coming here.

Howard was on Q+A tonight and the Iraq war came up with questions from the audience He still defends the invasion and regime change. America was attacked and he supported America through Anzus.

Makes no sense Nan does it. As if the yanks needed our help, when Rumsfeld was bragging they could take out Saddam, Iran and the North Koreans all at once if they had to and still have enough in reserve to handle any threat from a major power.

Howard seems to have an assortment of reasons to justify our participation and he just throws in whichever one he hasn't used for a while, to keep critics off balance.

I watched Q+ A as well. Howard performed well and won over the audience in the early stages. However, things changed with Iraq---he didn't convince his audience and he looked embattled on Hicks.

His main defence of his neocon position on Iraq was:
(1) Saddam posed a threat in that he could provide weapons of mass destruction to a terrorist group.
(2) the intelligence said that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

The obvious flaw with (2) was that there were no weapons of mass destruction and so the intelligence was false. Howard said that it was better to be safe than sorry --implying that terrorists would get weapons of mass destruction from Saddam and that they attack Australia.

What came through was that Howard defined Australia's national interest with America's imperial interest and that he was all the way with Bush + Cheney. Not a hint of criticism of their geo-poliitcal strategy.

Australia's geo-political strategic thinking had been outsourced to the neo-conservative Republicans in Washington under Howard.

I hadn't heard of the interview mentioned by Ken Lovell, so I went looking. Here is a link to a Crikey report about it (April 2009):

Here is an extract from the Crikey report:

"Asked why participation in the attack was in Australia’s national interest, Howard immediately replied: “It is always in Australia’s national interest to work closely with the United States because ultimately the United States is our security guarantor,” before going on to say the attack on Saddam Hussein removed a “potential facilitator of future terrorist activity.”

There is a link to a video of the interview on the Crikey page. My connection is too slow to watch it.

what surpises me with Howard's position, namely:

It is always in Australia’s national interest to work closely with the United States because ultimately the United States is our security guarantor

is the lack of critical reflection--the US is divided between Republicans and Democrats; Howard's America is a Republican America; and the views of Republican America (Bush + Cheney) were deeply contested in the US.

Howard just repeats his mantra--- it is always in Australia’s national interest to work closely with the United States--- without ever questioning the 'always'. He never raises the possibility of limits eg., rendition or torturing Australian citizens.

Howard was more flexible on domestic issues.

The 4 Corners screening on Iraq real emphasises Ken's point, timely.
Liked the reference to Ells berg, the "Wikileaksman" of his generation and its war, Vietnam. Too true.
The authorities may cluck and
scold away, but there is perhaps some thing of a collective conscience as well as as collective consciousness that allows civil society to resist some totalisings.
The Howard Hicks shoe show is not quite an accident, is it?

I just noticed that The Independent has a story reporting internal dissent at Wikileaks about too much emphasis on the US military:

But don't you see? We HAD TO attack Afghanistan and Iraq... because someone is mailing bombs from Yemen.