Despite the commendable efforts of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange to expose the truth about the Iraq war in a responsible manner – that not only would not endanger lives but aim ultimately to save millions of lives, in addition to seeking justice for the countless number of lives already lost – some media outlets are determined to mislead the public about the lessons to be learned from the war.
A number of media outlets, which are entrusted to explain to the public the implications of the leaked raw data, seem to go out of their way to make the best of a bad situation (for Pentagon officials) and derail the essence of the message that comes out from these classified documents.
They are desperate to downplay the scandalous actions perpetrated by the American forces with the green lights that go high up the chain of command, and try to divert the focus on the Iraqi side alone despite the following:
- The US military acts were no less horrific.
- American policies and actions forced Iraq into borderline civil war – and critics say deliberately (divide and rule). But regardless of the intent, the US government was under legal obligation under international law to ensure the safety of Iraqi civilians.
- It is easier to report more of what the Iraqis were doing and less of what you are carrying out, when such actions are embarrassing or are clearly war crimes.
- The Americans were monitoring the Iraqis, but who was monitoring the Americans?
- The new Iraqi recruits were trained by the Americans, who are themselves sometimes confused by what should be the correct code of conduct.
- When not conducting torture themselves, the Americans were either handing Iraqi detainees to their Iraqi torturers or were present at the scene of the crime and did nothing. But what must not be missed is (a) why did they not act? And (b) who were the detainees? (We know that the torturers are pro-American).
It is most probable that those tortured detainees were not arrested for say shoplifting or failing to pay their parking tickets. They are most likely to be ‘suspected’ or actual anti-occupation insurgents, or even just loud critics of post-invasion Iraq. They could include anything from innocent bystanders, to Al-Qaeda extremists, passing through nationalists, Bathists, Sadirists or just some apolitical guy (or girl) who simply objects to foreign military occupation.
If they were perceived to be actively anti-occupation (whether Sunni or Shiite) then they will be treated as enemies by American and Iraqi forces alike. In this new US-Iraqi alliance, who does the capturing and who gets to carry out the torturing is really a matter of convenience.
Also, what later became a sectarian conflict did not begin that way. It started as a clash between armed anti-occupation groups and US-led forces. Then following the establishment of the new Iraqi forces, the insurgents began finding themselves fighting US-armed (trained and paid) Iraqis who got in the way in their pursuit of American soldiers. Matters were complicated later with a number of other factors (all resulting from the invasion and post-2003 US policies) and the conflict became between various communities (not just along the Sunni-Shiite divide).
For better understanding of the sectarian conflict in Iraq, you could take a look at the roots of the Rwandan genocide. And if you look at how the sectarian conflict was contained in Northern Ireland, it makes you wonder why the exact opposite polices were applied by the occupying coalition in Iraq – a place that prior 2003 did not even have the problems of Northern Ireland.
Critics of Assange, whether US officials or in the media, have overnight developed caring left-wing hearts and began talking about Wikileaks potentially ‘endangering lives’. These are predominately none other than the well-established war advocates and possible war crimes perpetrators of this world.
The website that told the world that there were at least 15,000 dead Iraqis that no knew about wants to put an end to further bloodshed by informing the US electorate of what is – secretly – being committed in its name (which is really no news to the Iraqis). But Assange went one step further and asked the Pentagon to coordinate with Wikileaks in redacting any sensitive information. The Pentagon declined.
One must always remember that these war logs were already self-censored when originally recorded. Their authors also knew that they could be made public and may be accessed by others. So what is recorded there is the ‘official’ version of certain events. This version may not always correspond to (the much darker) reality, nor does it necessarily record all that took place or was carried out by US soldiers in Iraq.
Secondly, these logs are limited to what took place in the presence of the US military and what it saw as significant to put down. This means that what US intelligence services or private security contractors do on the ground would not show up there unless there was an involvement of the military. And even then the motives of these parties could not be verified.
It’s safe to say that – for example – any covert CIA operation or unacknowledged Balckwater conduct would fly right above the head of the US military, who might well mistake the consequences of such actions to be the work of some ‘hostile’ parties, and not that of their supposed allies.
These documents serve as ‘confessions’ of the actions carried by the US military, and they serve as witness accounts to conducts performed by their allied Iraqi (and non-Iraqi) forces. But beyond that they could include anything between speculations and bold lies. Anything related to US foes inside Iraq or in neighbouring countries is nothing more than the view held (or projected) by the American military – not some damning evidence against anyone except the military itself and its allies in Iraq.
Mamoon Alabbasi is an Iraqi journalist based in London. He can be contacted at email@example.com.