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
DREAM DEFERRED: On October 21 the White House released Jobs and Economic Security for America’s Women, a report that details women’s position in the economy. According to the report, 47 percent of American workers are women, compared with 33 percent in 1960. Women are also increasingly economically vital to their families: almost four of every ten mothers are the primary breadwinners in their household. Despite such changes, the report finds that women are still greatly underrepresented in high-level management positions as well as in high-paying industries. While women on average have a higher educational attainment than men, they earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn.
Although the report states that Hispanic women are a full 50 percent more likely to be unemployed than white women and highlights the importance of higher education, there is no mention of the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow immigrant students the chance to earn legal status if they attend college.
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, sees this omission as a major oversight: “Young undocumented women are spearheading the activism around the DREAM Act and the broader movement to increase immigrants’ access to education.” She points out that these educational opportunities would open up legal employment to countless young undocumented women, advancing their position in the economy and surely aiding in President Obama’s goal to “once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” KATE MURPHY
BAILOUT BLOWBACK: By any estimate, the Troubled Asset Relief Program is one of the most unpopular federal government actions in recent history, and Republican Congress members who approved the Bush-proposed bailout have paid a heavy price in this year’s primaries. Utah Senator Bob Bennett lost his re-election bid largely thanks to Tea Party–backed Mike Lee‘s vilification of Bennett’s affirmative vote. But for all their howling, Lee and his ilk never seem to mention that TARP has largely been repaid—and may actually yield a profit. According to Bloomberg News, the financial portion of the program, which funneled $309 billion into AIG and banks, ultimately will earn the government at least $25.2 billion.
Nevertheless, Americans are mostly blaming Democrats for what they perceive as a failed policy. And in a cruel twist of irony, firms that received at least $1 billion in TARP money are donating heavily to Republican candidates, most of whom have made “bailout” a toxic slur. Despite likely saving the world’s financial system from untold ruin, legislators who enacted TARP during those dire months in 2008 can’t seem to catch a break. MICHAEL TRACEY
GREAT JOB, BILL! William Greider, The Nation‘s national affairs correspondent, has been awarded the David Nyhan Prize by Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. The prize, given annually to honor the late Boston Globe reporter and columnist David Nyhan, recognizes outstanding political journalism.