Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WikiLeaks (explored on today's Diane Rehm Show)

Late Friday, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and begins streaming live online at 10:00 a.m. EST), Diane will devote the first hour to a discussion on the WikiLeaks revelations (and her second hour will find her joined by Juan Williams to discuss his NPR career and firing). Beth Mendenhall (Kansas State Collegian) weighs in on the WikiLeaks release:

One serious problem is straight-up lack of accountability. The newest WikiLeaks revelations, which include roughly 400,000 classified documents published on the Web, show a pattern of unaccountability both tolerated and encouraged in military ranks. According to the BBC's Oct. 23 article on the subject, the documents revealed torture and execution committed by the Iraqi security forces against Iraqi detainees. While these abuses were reported to superior officers, portions of them were marked for no further investigation. As such, the claim that our invasion improved life for Iraqis by replacing Saddam's regime with a democratic one that eschews such tactics is totally false.
Another mark of unaccountability is the 66,000 civilian deaths since 2004 reported by American military officials. These included firing on civilians at checkpoints, firing on civilians from helicopters and firing at former militants who were attempting to surrender. The argument made by the Pentagon and Iraqi security officials that the WikiLeaks release hurts the causes in Iraq may be warranted, but the covering up of these unfortunate, and daily, civilian deaths is not. Not only have we not secured the country effectively, despite massive military expenditure, but we are not even able to claim Iraqis are secure from the threat of violence from our forces.

Meanwhile Free Internet Press highlights the findings of David Crossland (Der Speigel) including, "The 391,832 classified military documents from the Iraq war published by the WikiLeaks online platform provide a shocking portrayal of the brutality of the conflict and its impact on civilians, embarrass the White House and Pentagon and cast doubt on the integrity of the Iraqi government, write German media commentators. The logs also highlight the failure of the U.S. justice system to investigate war crimes committed during the George W. Bush administration, commentators say, adding that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has done democracy a service by publishing the logs despite attempts by the U.S. government to intimidate him with unsubstantiated claims that he his putting the lives of soldiers and civilians at risk." Rachael Brown (Australia's ABC) reports that British Prime Minister David Cameron has "promised to investigate" the torture allegations in the WikiLeaks release. AFP quotes Cameron's spokesperson stating yesterday, "Clearly our position is that there is no place for mistreatment of detainees and we do as a matter of course investigate allegations." Staying on England a second more, the Daily Mail reports that the Iraq Inquiry will be calling War Hawk, Poodle and former prime minister Tony Brown back before the committee to address "gaps" in his testimony. Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) outlines some of the the documented violence and abuse:

Another document shows that an eight-year-old Iraqi girl was killed at a checkpoint in Baghdad. Throughout the new documents, which are being described as the largest governmental leak in history, page after page shows that the US troops knew exactly what kind of malpractices were taking place in Iraqi prisons; turning a blind eye to all of them.
In one log, documents reveal that the Americans suspected Iraqis cutting off the fingers of Iraqi prisoners, and burning them with acid. One of the most notorious documents says that 17 men in uniform were confronted by troops from the Iraqi Army in October 2006.
When asked to identify themselves, they said they were a special unit reporting directly to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki. That special unit, Iraqis are now saying in retrospect, might have been one of the numerous death squads that mushroomed in the Iraqi capital that winter, striking at mosques, neighbourhoods, and individuals within the Sunni community.

While some attempts to 'convey' Iraqi opinion are nothing but 'reporters' grabbing on to Nouri's opinion and passing it off as universal -- were Nouri's opinion universal, his political slate would have received 100% of the vote in the March 7th elections when, as it was, they didn't even receive the most votes nationwise, Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered, link has audio and text) managed to actually convey the opinions of some Iraqis yesterday:

The truth is something many Iraqis are still searching for: the wife who went missing; the son whose body was never found. These new documents might hold some answers. For now, WikiLeaks has redacted all names from the sigact database that's available online. But news outlets were given the full database, and some names are beginning to trickle out. Saad Eskandar heads the Iraqi National Archive. He's trying to convince the U.S. government to release another trove of documents. These detail atrocities during the Saddam Hussein era. Eskandar says much of this database would be accessible to Iraqi academics and lawyers, but not to average people. He says while people have the right to know what happened to their relatives, how they might act on information from the Saddam data or the WikiLeaks data could be dangerous.

Gareth Porter has an important report on WikiLeaks here (Antiwar.com) and we'll note it in today's snapshot but right now we'll emphasize the latest from Justin Raimondo:

The biggest US security breach in our history, carried off by WikiLeaks, reveals a wealth of information – hundreds of thousands of field reports, the raw material collected by the US military on the ground in Iraq. It will be quite a while before the “gems” are mined from this treasure trove, but initially the one that stands out as the jewel in the crown is the revelation of “Frago 242” – an order from high up in the US military command instructing officers not to investigate reports of torture and other human rights violations by their Iraqi allies. As the Guardian, one of the media outlets given privileged access to the database prior to its general release, reports:

“A frago is a ‘fragmentary order’ which summarizes a complex requirement. This one, issued in June 2004, about a year after the invasion of Iraq, orders coalition troops not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict, such as the abuse of detainees, unless it directly involves members of the coalition. Where the alleged abuse is committed by Iraqi on Iraqi, ‘only an initial report will be made … No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ.’”

We invaded Iraq, according to George W. Bush, because Saddam Hussein was “killing his own people.” Yet the same can be said about the regime we installed after the Iraqi dictator was deposed – and it was being done with our knowledge. There are many references in the Iraq war logs to detainees being turned over to “MOI” (the Iraqi Ministry of Information) for interrogation, where, as the Guardian reports:

“At the torturer’s whim, the logs reveal, the victim can be hung by his wrists or by his ankles; knotted up in stress positions; sexually molested or raped; tormented with hot peppers, cigarettes, acid, pliers or boiling water – and always with little fear of retribution since, far more often than not, if the Iraqi official is assaulting an Iraqi civilian, no further investigation will be required.”

There’s no doubt US officials knew about this torture, and by their inaction were complicit. Indeed, the regularity with which they turned over detainees captured by US forces to MOI personnel shows they were depending on their Iraqi allies to employ methods that were far worse than anything that happened at Abu Ghraib [.pdf].

Transparency International issues their Corruption Perceptions Index 2010 today. The 5 worst countries?

5) Uzbekistan
4) Iraq
3) Afghanistan
2) Myanmar
1) Somalia

I've ranked that so that the worst comes in at number one. The file is PDF and it's 12 pages in Adobe. There are no details on the individual countries, just their ranks and opening statements on corruption as a barrier to freedom around the world.

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on yesterday's violence noting that the dead including 2 "Iraqi ministry officials" -- Saad Qassim Hamoudi of the Ministry of Electricity (a ministry without a real minister heading it -- Nouri's plugged the Minister of Oil into the leadership post without Parliament approval) and Capt Raed Ismael of the Ministry of the Interior. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) notes Monday's violence here. Meanwhile Press TV reports 7 people have died in Iraq today throughout the country.

International law expert and Law professor Francis Boyle has a book entitled The Palestinian Right of Return under International Law:

The just resolution of the Palestinian right of return is at the very heart of the Middle East peace process. Nonetheless, the Obama administration intends to impose a comprehensive peace settlement upon the Palestinians that will force them to accept a Bantustan of disjointed and surrounded chunks of territory on the West Bank in Gaza; give up their well-recognized Right of Return under United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194(III)) of 1948; and even expressly recognize Israel as “the Jewish State” as newly demanded by Benjamin Netanyahu.
All this will fail for the reasons so powerfully and eloquently stated in this book.
For the past three decades, Francis A. Boyle has provided the leadership of the Palestinian people with advice, counsel, and representation at all stages of the Middle East Peace Process. Here, he elaborates what the Palestinians must now do to realize their international legal right of return, in keeping with his startling perception of Israel itself as little more than a US-dependent Jewish Bantustan bound for failure.
While an enormous amount of scholarly literature has been generated affirming the Palestinian right of return under international law, none is as authentic, powerful, personal, or convincing. Boyle has gone to the heart of the solution.

I have not yet read that but will note I enjoyed Tackling America's Toughest Questions: Alternative Media Interviews -- a collection of interviews with Boyle.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.