WIKILEAKS AND WAR CRIMES: With nearly 400,000 documents, WikiLeaks’ most recent trove of military reports constitutes the largest intelligence leak in US history. The war logs reveal numerous instances in which the US military was aware of American involvement in torture, death squads and private contractor killings— contrary to what our military and civilian leaders said at the time.
Covering the 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, Ellen Knickmeyer, the Washington Post’s Baghdad bureau chief at the time, reported that an estimated 1,300 Iraqis died in the aftermath of the attack as the nation spiraled into civil war. Then–Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. George Casey dismissed Knickmeyer and other reporters, denouncing the possibility of imminent civil war and suggesting that no more than 350 people died. The WikiLeaks revelations confirm Knickmeyer’s firsthand account. According to Knickmeyer, the documents show the US officials “must have known that all along, owing to the accounts from their forces. Despite the statements of the top US commanders at the time, it wasn’t the journalists in Baghdad who were lying.”
The question now is whether the WikiLeaks files will renew the push to hold Rumsfeld et al. accountable for misleading the public and for complicity with war crimes. As The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill argued on Countdown With Keith Olbermann, Bush administration officials “need to be held accountable by the Obama administration. And that is, I think, where Congress needs to really put pressure on this administration.” RYAN DEVEREAUX
COALFIELD JUSTICE? On October 15, the EPA announced its recommendation to veto a Clean Water Act permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine, the largest mountaintop removal proposal in West Virginia. According to EPA regional administrator Shawn Garvin, the mining proposal by St. Louis–based Arch Coal would likely “contribute to the significant cumulative loss of aquatic resources and degradation of water quality” and bury about 6.6 miles of high-quality headwater streams.
Mountaintop removal supporters like West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin characterized the decision as an attack from the Obama administration. Only ten days earlier, in a widely dismissed stunt, Manchin had the state hire private lawyers to sue the EPA for attempting “to destroy the coal-mining industry and our way of life.” But fifty members of Congress applauded EPA administrator Lisa Jackson for the proposed veto, and the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune added that it shows the “Obama administration is adhering to science and the rule of law.”
Coalfield residents are not celebrating just yet. The EPA has announced plans to meet with officials from Arch Coal, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state government to discuss “potential actions that can be taken to reduce impacts to the environment.” Residents warned that this could lead to a compromise permit similar to the one the EPA granted in June for the nearby Pine Creek mountaintop removal operation. According to Coal River Mountain Watch president Bob Kincaid, “The only valid conclusion [the EPA] may legally, morally and ethically reach is that the Spruce Mine is an intolerable menace to Appalachia’s future.” JEFF BIGGERS