Nothing New in Wikileaks Iraq Leak? Yes, That’s Kind of the Problem…

Posted on October 23, 2010

2


The Pentagon says there’s nothing new in the Wikileaks leak of around 400,000 war reports documented by military personnel in Iraq since 2004.

Here’s a relevant portion of the Defense Department’s boilerplate response to the leak:

…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…”

This is obvious bullshit. In the first place,  the horrendous level of death reported by these accounts–some figures as high as 30 odd deaths a day since the beginning of the occupation–has definitely not been reflected in our news coverage, and when it has, has often been placed below the fold and deep into the caverns of the teen-pages. There’s also a wealth of parallel data in these reports that can give a richer and more nuanced view of US actions and Iraqi society in general. Demonstrations in Iraq, according to the documents, were  common–concerned with everything from university education, to never-fulfilled promises of work, to the lack of electricity–and carried great risk to the demonstrators, who were often shot at and murdered and injured by masked assailants while US soldiers looked on. That’s a picture of Iraq that as Americans we have definitely not seen either in news accounts or “films” (I hope they mean documentaries, because if not, then wtf).

I repeat, none of this new, but not in the way the Pentagon suggests. I say none of this is new, because we’ve known it’s been happening the whole time. Will we–moderately well-informed and intelligent adults–pretend that we didn’t realize what would happen during our occupation of Iraq? That when we sent American soldiers there, knowing little of the people, and nothing of the language, and put guns in their hands and told them to man checkpoints, and to, by all means, come back home alive and intact, that we weren’t telling them to kill anyone who posed even the slightest threat in order to do so.

As Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports:

Through an extensive manual count, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal that 681, more than 80 per cent of those killed [at checkpoints]…were civilians. Fifty families were shot at and at least 30 children reported killed. In contrast, only 120 insurgents died in checkpoint incidents in the same period.

Including Iraqi Army and police deaths, 832 were reported killed in incidents at checkpoints and involving convoys.

The numbers that died in this type of incident got worse as the war progressed. In 2004, the war logs indicate there were 22 civilian deaths. By the following year this had increased to nearly 300.

Isn’t this exactly what you’d expect? Aren’t incidents like the following just what we should have known had been happening since our occupation began?

—MARINES ENGAGED A VEHICLE AT ___ ALONG MSR ___ IVO : ___

2004-09-26 04:07:00

AT 1107D, A VEHICLE APPROACHED /___ TCP AT ___ ALONG MSR ___ 4KM NORTH OF CAMP ___ AT ___. THE MARINES ATTEMPTED TO STOP THE VEHICLE USING HAND AND ARM SIGNALS AND VERBAL COMMANDS, BUT THE VEHICLE CONTINUED TOWARDS THE CHECKPOINT. THE VEHICLE WAS ENGAGED WITH SAF AFTER IT CROSSED THE TRIGGER POINT. 1X ___ KILLED/3X ___ INJ(ALL SUPERFICIAL WOUNDS TO THE ARMS). JCC WAS NOTIFIED AND SENT AN ING PATROL WITH AN AMBULANCE TO TAKE THE WOUNDED INDIVIDUALS TO THE HOSPITAL.

—AT 0720C, -___ CAV OBSERVED (___) BUSES TRAVELING EAST ACROSS THE ___ CANAL BRIDGE BEHIND A (___) VEHICLE MILITARY CONVOY. AFTER DETERMINING THE CONVOY WAS NOT AN ESCORT, THEY ALERTED THEIR QRF TO STOP AND SEARCH THE (___) BUSES STOPPED BETWEEN TOWERS ___ AND ___. THE SEARCH INDICATED NOTHING SUSPICIOUS AS THE BUSES CONTAINED FAMILIES AND MIDDLE AGED MILITARY MEN. AT THE SAME TIME, A FOURTH BUS APPROACHED THE ___ CANAL BRIDGE CHECKPOINT AT A HIGH RATE OF SPEED. THE CHECKPOINT FIRED WARNING SHOTS IN AN ATTEMPT TO STOP IT. THE BUS STRUCK AND DESTROYED A JERSEY BARRIER, DAMAGED ANOTHER BARRIER, AND CONTINUED TO MOVE -___ BEFORE IT STOPPED SHORT OF THE CHECK POINT ITSELF. ALL THE PASSENGERS DEPARTED WITH THE EXCEPTION OF A FEMALE PASSENGER AND THE DRIVER. AS THE DRIVER ATTEMPTED TO RESTART THE BUS, THE SOLDIERS ENGAGED THE BUS WITH MACHINE GUN FIRE RESULTING IN THE BUS CATCHING FIRE AND ITS QUICK DESTRUCTION. WITNESSES VERIFIED THAT THE FEMALE CIVILIAN DIED FROM THE ACCIDENT AND NOT THE MACHINE GUN FIRE. FINAL RESULT ON CASUALTIES WERE (___) CIVILIAN KIA AND (___) CIVILIAN WOUNDED.

—ESCALATION OF FORCE BY -___ IVO : ___ CIV KILLED, ___ CIV INJURED, ___ CF INJ/

2005-07-30 07:54:00
AT 1354D, ELEMENTS OF TF -___ OPERATING AN OP IN ___ AT THE INTERSECTION OF ___ AND RTE (___) ENGAGED A LN VEHICLE. THE PATROL HAD ESTABLISHED A CF ONLY ___ AND BARRIERS IOT SECURE CF MOVEMENT ONTO PB ___. A LN BLUE VAN ENTERED THE CF ONLY ___ PATROL FIRED WARNING SHOTS TO HALT THE VEHICLE. THE VEHICLE CONTINUED TO MOVE DOWN THE . ___ ENGAGED THE VEHICLE WITH ___.56MM IN ORDER TO DISABLE IT. ___ X LN KILLED, ___ X LN WOUNDED AS A RESULT OF THE SAF. THE ___ IP RESPONDED TO TAKE THE WOUNDED AND THE REMAINS TO THE ___ HOSPITAL. AN INVESTIGATION HAS BEEN INITIATED. UPDATE ___ 0330D BDA IS 2X LN MALE KILLED, 1X LN FEMALE KILLED, ___ UNKLNWIA NO CHILDREN
You can find twelve hundred pages of reports describing such incidents here:

NSTR, an acronym you’ll come across often in the context of searches of the vehicles of those injured and killed, means Nothing Significant to Report.

As several polls show recently, Americans no longer demand any accountability from their government in terms of these wars. They are concerned only with the economy. Not because they’re unaware of what’s been going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, but because they simply don’t care. That’s the beauty of these Wikileaks’ data dumps. For a few days, our papers of record are forced to outdo one another in reporting the contents of the leaks, the things they may have reported from time to time, but mostly in buried articles and blurbs. While Americans are forced to  acknowledge what they’ve always known about these wars, but didn’t want to be burdened with.

There’s a permanent link to the Wikileak’s Iraq leak under “Handy Stuff” in the right margin of the cover page.
Posted in: Uncategorized