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WikiLeaks' Release on Iraq Arrives—Highlights Torture & Civilian Deaths | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

WikiLeaks' Release on Iraq Arrives—Highlights Torture & Civilian Deaths

It's been rumored, pondered, feared, denounced, and now it's here: The long-awaited massive "doc dump" from Wikileaks related to Iraq. Reporting has started, with The Guardian relating shocking numbers on civilian deaths (fifteen thousand more than ever reported) and Al-Jazeera covering torture, with The New York Times covering all that and more.

The Times put up its lengthy reports about 5 pm Friday. Its report includes many actual documents. On the Iraqi death toll issue, it relates: "The documents...reveal many previously unreported instances in which American soldiers killed civilians—at checkpoints, from helicopters, in operations. Such killings are a central reason Iraqis turned against the American presence in their country, a situation that is now being repeated in Afghanistan."

On torture: "And while some abuse cases were investigated by the Americans, most noted in the archive seemed to have been ignored, with the equivalent of an institutional shrug: soldiers told their officers and asked the Iraqis to investigate."

The Times' overview of the documents is here, along with the Pentagon's response condemning the release. The paper said it withheld some documents and added that the Pentagon to did not propose "any cuts." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the release of classified documents.

In a CNN interview, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange charged U.S. "war crimes."  The New York Times promises an Assange profile this weekend.

WikiLeaks keeps doing this kind of thing better, so now you can browse all the 400,000 docs yourself (have a nice weekend).  And a very valuable site from Great Britain called Iraq War Logs has organized subject matter in easy-to-find articles and chunks, which easily disprove any notion of nothing-new-here.

For the first time, Al-Jazeera was in on it, and already out with a kind of "trailer" video that suggests the biggest bombshell may be related to the US allowing Iraqi torture. They say US soldiers sent 1300 reports to headquarters with graphic accounts, including some beaten to death.   The other issue: Why Bush and Obama okayed turning over detainees to torturing Iraqis.

Al-Jazeera found a secret order that ruled out any US intervention on "Iraqi on Iraqi" torture. Some investigations were done but no evidence of Iraqis being punished. Some generals wanted troops to intervene. Pentagon chief disagreed, saying it should only be reported, not stopped. Also: At the time US was saying no torture going on, there were 41 reports of torture still happening "and that the US chose to turn its back."

Amnesty International quickly called on the US to investigate how much our commanders knew of Iraqi torture. 

Now The Guardian has its first report, which says the documents reveal at least 15,000 more deaths in Iraq than previously acknowledged. It opens: 

"Leaked Pentagon files obtained by the Guardian contain details of more than 100,000 people killed in Iraq following the US-led invasion, including more than 15,000 deaths that were previously unrecorded.

"British ministers have repeatedly refused to concede the existence of any official statistics on Iraqi deaths. US General Tommy Franks claimed in 2002:  'We don't do body counts.' The mass of leaked documents provides the first detailed tally by the US military of Iraqi fatalities. Troops on the ground filed secret field reports over six years of the occupation, purporting to tot up every casualty, military and civilian. 

"Iraq Body Count, a London-based group that monitors civilian casualties, told the Guardian: 'These logs contain a huge amount of entirely new information regarding casualties. Our analysis so far indicates that they will add 15,000 or more previously unrecorded deaths to the current IBC total. This data should never have been withheld from the public.'

"The logs record a total of 109,032 violent deaths between 2004 and 2009. It is claimed that 66,081 of these were civilians. A further 23,984 deaths are classed as "enemy" and 15,196 as members of the Iraqi security forces."

The Guardian has an incredible data section with maps on every death in Iraq, updated with the new info.

The New York Times, citing a new document, reports: "According to one particularly painful entry from 2006, an Iraqi wearing a tracksuit was killed by an American sniper who later discovered that the victim was the platoon’s interpreter."

The Times reports includes one from Michael Gordon, who has pounded this drum for years, focusing on Iran's alleged aid for Iraq's militias.

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