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The Conscience & Agency of Bradley Manning

6:01 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

With previously unreleased instant message chat logs, Steve Fishman for New York Magazine published a feature story July 3, 2011, that further examined the accused whistleblower to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning. It looked at his family life before going to Iraq, his time in Baghdad and plans to use the military to pay for college and his current relationship with his father. The tidbit that drew the most attention, and will likely continue to draw attention, was the section of Fishman’s article allegedly detailing Manning’s interest in pursuing a sex change.

Ethan McCord, former specialist in the US Army and Iraq War veteran, who can be seen rescuing children in the “Collateral Murder” video allegedly released by Manning to WikiLeaks, put together a response to Fishman’s article. He sent it to New York Magazine and they agreed to publish portions by Monday, July 11.

The magazine published the portions late on Sunday, July 10—a few sentences where he directly mentioned Manning.

…The chat logs at the center of the story “add depth to the picture that’s emerged of Manning as a psychologically damaged ‘mess of a child,’” Adrian Chen added on Gawker. But others felt the profile, which dealt extensively with Manning’s gender-questioning, focused on the personal at the expense of the political. “If PFC Bradley Manning did what he is accused of doing, then it is clear—from chat logs that have been attributed to him—that his decision was motivated by conscience and political agency,” writes Ethan McCord, a former Army specialist whose unit was depicted in WikiLeaks’s first big scoop, the video “Collateral Murder.” “Unfortunately, Steve Fishman’s article erases Manning’s political agency. By focusing so heavily on Manning’s personal life, Fishman removes politics from a story that has everything to do with politics.” Read the rest of this entry →

CNN’s ‘WikiWars’ Documentary Exploits Character of Julian Assange to Cast Doubt on WikiLeaks

9:58 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Closely following the character of Julian Assange, founder of the pro-transparency media organization WikiLeaks, the recently aired CNN documentary, “WikiWars,” provides a presentation of the story of the organization with a prime focus on Assange’s character. It is another opportunity, like PBS’ Frontline documentary “WikiSecrets,” for a wide audience in the United States to get a better grasp of the nature of the organization.

That, perhaps, is what makes discussing this documentary important. There is no new information in this documentary, but, packaged together, the documentary uses Assange as a vector for communicating the idiosyncrasies of WikiLeaks to an audience. Whether legitimately done or not, viewers are able to hear Assange in footage obtained by the producers and also hear a handful of people, who have worked with Assange, discuss what he is like.

The documentary can be broken into the following parts: an introduction into the behavior and motivations of Assange, the founding of WikiLeaks (which highlights the work that impacted Kenya and Iceland), the release of the “Collateral Murder” video, the release of the Afghan War Logs that involved collaborating with the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel, the accusations of sexual assault that now find him under house arrest in the UK and the rise of a secret global force of cyber hacktivists known as Anonymous that have launched DDoS attacks in defense of WikiLeaks.

Larsen frames the story in the opening scene like this:

Over twenty years ago the Berlin Wall came down and it marked the end of a cold war between two superpowers. Now, there’s a battle that’s being waged for control of information. Its frontlines aren’t brick and mortar walls, they’re firewalls. Its weapons are computers, not missiles. And its warriors—hackers, activists, even anarchists. It’s an epic struggle over state secrets between institutions and individuals. And at the center of this war is Julian Assange.

Centering the documentary on Assange has a way of reinforcing the notion that WikiLeaks is an autocratic organization that is all a project of Assange, who has little regard for his actions. The enigma of Assange is built up throughout the film. He is made to seem more like a fictional character in a spy movie instead of a human being whom has the ability to discern right from wrong and is committed to transparency because of his conscience belief in what the opening up of governments can do to correct injustices and corruption.

As Daniel Domscheit-Berg, former member of WikiLeaks who defected from the organization, says, Assange is smart and intelligent and doesn’t really care what anybody else thinks about him. He says Assange sees himself as a “hero of a spy novel” and believes he and everyone around him is being constantly tapped and followed (which journalist Mark Davis says later in the documentary is probably true).

The story sets viewers up to doubt the judgment of Assange’s handling of WikiLeaks releases. It asks those watching to consider whether he might be a maniac by showing interviews with journalists like David Leigh of The Guardian, who not only claims Assange has to have it explained to him there are “flesh and blood consequences” to leaking but also says at one point Assange “didn’t behave like earthlings.”

Fmr. Brig. Gen. Used to Discredit the “Collateral Murder” Video

The most disparaging criticism comes from former Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt. Kimmitt, who served as the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs under George W. Bush from August 2008 to January 2009, is used as a tool to discredit the work of Assange and WikiLeaks. The producers employ his viewpoint to help viewers decide whether Assange and WikiLeaks are correct in their belief that the “Collateral Murder” video, which WikiLeaks released in April 2010, is in fact a war crime.

Here’s the full exchange between Kimmitt and Larsen, who go through some of the video together in the CNN Studios in Washington, DC (note: not once is it noted that Kimmitt served in the Bush Administration and might have a clear bias):

LARSEN: This clip is where they believe they identify an RPG. It turns out as we know now that was a long lens telephoto camera held by a Reuters journalist. You can see him as he peak’s around the corner there.

(voice over) The Reuters photographer, his assistant and the men around him were all gunned down.

KIMMITT: This photographer shouldn’t have been walking around with an instrument that looks very much like a weapon.

LARSEN: Is the blame on the photographer or is it a causal series of mistakes made by the crew there that led to the ultimate negative consequences?

KIMMITT: Warfare is not perfect. There are mistakes that are sometimes made. He shares much of the blame for what happened here.

LARSEN: I want to move to the van video. And what you see is the van that’s coming to help grab some of the wounded people on the ground. The Apache helicopter asks for permission to engage.

KIMMITT: Again, this is an active battlefield. That van could have other fighters inside of it with weapons. Those fighters could put soldiers at risk and kill other soldiers that they’re fighting.

ASSANGE: We can see in this video that the young pilots in the Apache helicopters have become debased in their charcacter. They are playing video games with real human lives and looking for excuses to kill people.

(voice over) LARSEN: It turned out there were children inside the van.

LARSEN: I have a decade in naval special warfare. You’re obviously thirty years in the army. Soldier to sailor, ground pounder to ground pounder, should these men have exercised more restraint?

KIMMITT: I don’t think so. What we have here from everything I’ve seen is that they followed the proper procedures.

LARSEN: If they did everything by the book, is there something wrong with the book?

KIMMITT: I don’t think so. The book doesn’t have every scenario. It doesn’t have every possible outcome.

Ethan McCord and Josh Stieber might agree with Kimmitt. Both are soldiers who were part of Bravo Company 2-16, the company of soldiers in the video. McCord and Stieber, however, did not accept that nothing morally reprehensible happened that day. They wrote an open letter of reconciliation and responsibility to all who were injured or lost during the shootings in the released video.

The Iraq War veterans wrote the “Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.”

Larsen could have easily contacted McCord and Stieber and had them talk about their opinion on the “Collateral Murder” video release. Since Larsen and others involved in the making of the film specifically wanted people who were active in the WikiLeaks story, McCord and Stieber would have made good characters to feature especially since “Collateral Murder” and the Afghan and Iraq War Logs were a major part of the film. Both could have spoke to “rules of engagement” and what they were asked to do as soldiers during the Iraq War.

But, they are not included. The documentary instead presents us with Kimmitt, a character who defies the criteria Larsen and others set for including people.

Kimmitt is not an active player in the WikiLeaks story; he has only read the military’s report on the “Collateral Murder” video. Essentially, Kimmitt does for the documentary what “military analysts” planted on news shows by the Pentagon did throughout the Iraq War: he appears to be objective because he read the report and is calling it like he sees it and this supposedly gives him the authority to minimize the significance of a video that depicts the horror of war.

Is it even worth it to explain why blaming the Reuters photojournalist for being killed is reactionary? The remark is like blaming a hot blond woman for a sexual deviant’s decision to rape her.

Assange Thought Afghani Civilians Deserved to Die

After discrediting the “Collateral Murder” video release and presenting Assange as an adversary of the United States, journalists whom Assange worked with on the release of the Afghan War Logs appear to discuss the relationship between them and how the release of classified information occurred. Nick Davies, a journalist with The Guardian, describes tracking Assange down and speaking to him in Brussels, Belgium. It is here that Davies convinced Assange partnering up with media organizations could maximize the impact of his war logs releases.

The key tension in this part of the documentary stems from discussions over what names to redact and not redact. Davies explains, “All of us came across material which was clearly likely to lead to the death of innocent civilians if we published it. All of us had the experience of bringing this to his attention and being told in effect, ‘If an Afghan civilian helps coalition forces, then they deserve to die.’”

It is a “high crime” for a pro-transparency organization to release material it knows will endanger the people it most wants to help. Therefore, there should be some kind of skepticism raised as to whether this is true or not. But, Leigh and Davies are not pressed on their description of the dispute that was had.

From PBS Frontline’s full interview with Assange for the documentary “WikiSecrets,” there is a reasonable motivation for the release of names, as Assange explains:

We, as all good investigative journalists do, name names. We name names of those people that are involved in corrupt or abusive activities, and that includes in Afghanistan. And then there are people that are incidental characters, that are not themselves threatened in any way. They should also be named as part of just the context of the situation.

We have a harm-minimization procedure. A harm-minimization procedure is that we don’t want innocent people who have a decent chance of being hurt to be hurt. Now, no one has been hurt. There is no allegation by the Pentagon or any other official source that anyone has been physically harmed as a result of our publication of the Afghan war logs, the Iraq war diaries or the State Department records, or the “Collateral Murder” video, or in fact anything we have done over the past four years in over 120 countries.

Here, “WikiWars” fails. It had the potential to really get into specifics of allegations that WikiLeaks “has blood on its hands.” It could have gone to official sources in the Pentagon and State Department. It could have talked with people in Europe and in the Middle East. There could have been a segment that got to the bottom of this consistent claim that WikiLeaks has led to the deaths of innocent people. For example, former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley alleged during an Index on Censorship panel discussion that hundreds of people are known to have suffered because of the release of material by WikiLeaks. CNN’s “WikiWars” crew could have involved Crowley and worked to find out what evidence Crowley has for such allegations.

The Government is Not Going to Stop WikiLeaks

In the final part of the documentary, viewers are introduced to Anonymous, which is described as a “secretive global force of cyber hacktivists.” Two members of Anonymous – sometimes referred to as “Anons” – speak with Larsen.

An Anon explains that Anonymous is part of an Internet subculture that believes in anonymity, freedom of thought freedom of speech and freedom of expression all taken to a logical extreme. The Anon explains the government is after Anonymous and that is why members must have anonymity. And, WikiLeaks is worth supporting because they believe in many of Anonymous’ ideals especially the idea of exposing secrets.

“They’re not going to stop WikiLeaks. Even if the government were to take down WikiLeaks, they’d essentially be martyring WikiLeaks and a hundred other sites would spring up. The only thing they can do is turn the Internet off and even that didn’t stop the people in Egypt,” explains an Anon.

Larsen understands this reality. As the documentary concludes, he laments, “In some sense, the WikiLeaks phenomenon is unstoppable—part of a new reality where whistleblowers go global and make governments quake, where a leak can add fuel to a revolution. But, governments will fight back.”

The section on Anonymous along with the scenes on the release of war logs and the “Collateral Murder” video all serve to present a rising challenge to US government, one that consists of players creating much uncertainty for the future of American superpower. It’s the same uncertainty driving the US government to ramp up its efforts to establish a coherent strategy and policy for cybersecurity that can protect commerce and agencies withing US government. It’s an uncertainty that leads to questions like, for example, should a pro-transparency organization that is accountable to no one (as government officials and those in US media contend) be allowed to release material and make it harder for the US to conduct wars and international diplomacy?

Julian Assange understands it doesn’t matter if the war on WikiLeaks by the US succeeds or not. As he said in a press conference call:

…. Either the mainstream press in the United States collapses as an effective investigative organ holding the government to account and all sources then are forced to only deal with WikiLeaks, or the administration finds that it has to conform to the U.S. First Amendment and other parts of the Constitution and then the United States is a free society that upholds our values…

Don’t underestimate the impact that a presentation like this can have on the public in the United States if what is said is not clarified or reviewed properly.

Many Americans know very little about WikiLeaks. They may know the name Julian Assange and the name Bradley Manning. They might have heard media reports that said Assange was suspected of raping two women or they might know that a soldier was held at Quantico for leaking classified information. Certainly, PBS Frontline’s “WikiSecrets” documentary went a long way to “educate” Americans on the key details in the story of Bradley Manning. And, now with “WikiWars,” Americans get an “education” on the character of Julian Assange.

Larsen and crew properly include Iceland and Kenya in the backstory of WikiLeaks and Assange. How WikiLeaks revealed there were “hundreds of killing at the hands of Kenyan police” during violent disputed elections in 2007 show that WikiLeaks can potentially make the world a better place. The spotlight on WikiLeaks’ posting of a secret loan book in July 2009 that revealed one of the largest bailed out banks, Kaupthing Bank, made risky loans that likely contributed to Iceland’s banking crisis which brought the country to its knees further establishes that WikiLeaks can improve society. In Iceland, viewers learn they were regarded as “local heroes” because of the leak and influenced a push in Iceland to strengthen press protections and make Iceland a “haven for whistleblowers.”

Post Iceland and Kenya, audiences are not treated to this kind of tolerant analysis of WikiLeaks operations. The case might be made that it is far better to be critical and get to the truth. Supposing that is true, it is worth considering the fact that a CNN poll conducted in December 2010 found seventy-seven percent of American disapprove of “the online organization’s release of thousands of confidential US government documents concerning US diplomatic and military policies. Only twenty percent approved of the action.”

Assuming the level of support found here was an accurate representation of the level of support in the United States and assuming that it remains at this level, Larsen and crew would have known going in that most Americans are skeptical and, in fact, irked by the operations of WikiLeaks. So, in that sense, what Larsen presents is “safe” journalism that helps to affirm Americans’ views toward WikiLeaks.

That WikiLeaks has published information the US public should have a right to know (i.e. the overclassification of information by government) is overlooked. That WikiLeaks is a publisher and should be protected by press freedoms that all media organizations enjoy is not discussed. The sheer number of revelations on US corruption and abuse of power by the United States is omitted (an excuse might be that production had to wrap and could not get to this aspect). And, that Assange was awarded a Sydney Peace Prize and WikiLeaks has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize is not fully examined.

Here’s two key questions for the producers of “WikiWars”: Why, all over the globe, is WikiLeaks being given credit for being a force for good?  Why is it being nominated for peace prizes and medals when here in the United States most contend it has put lives at risk and exercises reckless authority when deciding what information to publish and not publish?

The answer might help the producers understand where they failed and why Americans will, even after “WikiWars,” still not get what WikiLeaks is all about.

Director of New Film on ‘Collateral Murder’: It’s a ‘Perfect Microcosm” of Iraq War

11:08 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A new short documentary called, “Incident in New Baghdad,” premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on Sunday. The film tells the story of Iraq war veteran Ethan McCord, a soldier who appears in the “Collateral Murder” video rescuing two wounded children.

The director, James Spione, attended an event at Revolution Books in NYC on April 21, 2011. He talks about his initial reaction to the video WikiLeaks released and how he was horrified. But, then he began to pay attention to the media response and found it was pretty much the same on every channel.

It didn’t matter if it was Fox, ABC, CNN, CBS or MSNBC. It really didn’t matter. For the most part, each media channel’s response was “let’s find two people with opinions we know in advance and we’ll have them argue about this and they’ll say things we already know they are going to say and we’ll say that we were journalists and we did our job. And, it’s bullshit.”

Spione was doing research on the Internet and he found an interview with McCord. He thought it was interesting that he had actually been on the scene and wondered why the media was not talking to him about the incident. So, he decided to fly out and spend some days in Wichita, Kansas meeting McCord, shooting and doing an extensive interview for the film.

This is Spione’s “first political film.” He says he has done fiction films and in the last ten years has become more and more involved in documentary filmmaking. With this short film, he hopes to make it into a longer film that will look at the incidents from different points of view—the point of view of Iraqis, dissenting views from his company that was on the scene—because, as he concludes, the “Collateral Murder” incident is a “perfect microcosm” of the Iraq War.

Also, McCord, who was in NYC to attend the festival premiere of the film with director James Spione, recounted the incident and I shot and edited a clip of him speaking forTheNation.com.

Ethan McCord: ‘Collateral Murder’ Just One Incident of Many

2:18 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A new short documentary called, “Incident in New Baghdad,” premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on Sunday. The film tells the story of Iraq war veteran Ethan McCord, a soldier who appears in the “Collateral Murder” video rescuing two wounded children.

In NYC to promote the film with director James Spione, McCord recounted the incident and I shot and edited a clip of him speaking for TheNation.com.

McCord describes what it was like that day to see the civilians maimed by the Apache helicopter. He talks about rescuing a girl and boy from a van. Their father, who was trying to help two journalists killed in the incident, was dead.

His platoon leader told him to stop worrying about thos “m’fin kids” and pull security. When he was back at the Forward Operating Base, he was having trouble coping with what happened, he says. He wanted to see mental health. He was laughed at by a superior officer and told to “suck it up” and get the sand out of his vagina.

For what it’s worth, McCord thinks the weapons the civilians had out were probably for show, meaning they saw the journalists and wanted to get their picture taken and be made famous.

The “Collateral Murder” incident was “one incident of many,” McCord concludes. Things like that happen on a daily basis in Iraq and you can see from that incident, he says, we should not be in Iraq.

Iraq War Logs Reveal US Chose “El Salvador Option” to Secure Iraq

7:04 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Screenshot taken from an al Jazeera English news report on Wikileaks and the US turning a blind eye to torture

More than 390,000 field reports known as the Iraq War Logs, leaked by Wikileaks, show the regular use of abuse, brutality and torture used on Iraqis by Iraqi Police and Iraqi Security Forces. The routine violations of human rights by the police and security forces, which US and Coalition forces have trained to takeover Iraq’s security as they withdraw, raise questions about the nature of conduct and operations between the US, Coalition, and the Iraqi forces.

“The El Salvador Option”

Reports show that police or security forces were likely given the task of detention and interrogation and the US forces were to transfer detainees into custody and perhaps check in regularly to figure out if any of the detainees were truly terrorists or not. And, other than those duties, it appears police and security forces had carte blanche to do as they please with Iraqi detainees.

ON 02JUN06 ___ SUBMITTED A SPOT REPORT TO THE ___ Military Police ___ OF A DETAINEE E ___ ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE BY THE CAPTURING UNIT. A ___ SUBMITTED THE FOLLOWING REPORT TO THE ___ Military Police ___: F Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ WAS INTERROGATED AT THE CAMP ___ THEATER ___ FACILITY ON 01JUN06. DURING THE INTERROGATION, Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ STATED THAT AFTER BEING BLINDFOLDED AND PLACED INTO A HMMWV, HE WAS KICKED IN THE GROIN AND PUNCHED IN THE LEFT SIDE OF HIS FACE BY A MARINE. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ ALSO STATED THAT AFTER HIS ARRIVAL AT THE FIRST BASE, HE WAS PUNCHED BY MEMBERS OF THE IRAQI ARMY AND AN ___. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ HAD NO SPECIFIC DETAILS ABOUT THE IRAQI ARMY MEMBERS OR THE ___, ONLY THAT HE WAS BLINDFOLDED AND RECOGNIZED THEIR ACCENTS. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ THEN STATED THAT UPON HIS ARRIVAL AT THE SECOND BASE, HE WAS CONTINUALLY KICKED IN THE GROIN FOR AN UNSPECIFIED AMOUNT OF TIME BY AN IRAQI OFFICER DRESSED IN A .___. SOLDIER E ___ UNIFORM. AFTER WHICH HE WAS PLACED ON THE GROUND FACE DOWN BY A ___, HAD HIS PANTS AND UNDERWEAR TAKEN OFF, AND HAD COLD WATER POURED ON HIS BARE BOTTOM. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ ALSO STATED HE WAS FORCED TO HOLD BOTTLES OF WATER IN FRONT OF HIM FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ COULD NOT PROVIDE ANY SPECIFIC INFORMATION PERTAINING TO HIS ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE. Internment [or Insurgent] serial Number ___ COULD NOT PROVIDE NAMES OR DESCRIPTIONS OF INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED. G ["ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE ___ BY ___ IVO FALLUJAH: ___ INJ/DAMAGE", May 18, 2006][emphasis added]

Some reports show how US forces helped give police or security forces the benefit of the doubt, like for example this chilling report involving one detainee that was sodomized with a bottle and brutally beaten. The US soldier filing the report chose to question whether abuse took place by citing a “motorcycle incident” the Iraqi police officer involved claimed the detainee experienced:

AT 191400C OCT ___ IN ___ (ZONE ___) IVO ___ NPTT ___ THAT – ___ BDE SPTT – ___ BDE SPTT CONDUCTED A ROUTINE INSPECTION OF THE – ___ [WOLF] BDE DETENTION FACILITY AND IDENTIFIED ONE PROBABLE CASE OF DETAINEE ABUSE. THE ALLEGED BEATING TOOK PLACE UNDER INTERROGATION AT THE — ___ HQ ON THE EVENING OF ___ OCT ___. THE DETAINEE WAS BLINDFOLDED AND IS UNABLE TO IDENTIFY THE OFFENDERS. THE DETAINEE CLAIMED HE WAS BEATEN ABOUT THE FEET AND LEGS WITH A BLUNT OBJECT, AND PUNCHED IN THE FACE AND ___. HE CLAIMED THAT ELECTRICITY WAS USED ON HIS FEET AND GENITALS, AND HE WAS ALSO [SODOMIZED] WITH A WATER BOTTLE. — ___ PERSONNEL CLAIMED IT WAS CAUSED BY THE DETAINEE FALLING FROM HIS MOTORCYCLE WHILE HE WAS BEING CHASED BY THE ___ . THE DETAINEE DISPLAYED GREAT DIFFICULTY WALKING WITH BRUISING AND SWELLING ON THE SOLES OF BOTH FEET. THE DETAINEE HAD LOCALIZED CUTS AND BRUISING ON BOTH LEGS (PRIMARILY THE LEFT), THE LEFT ARM, AND THE LEFT CHIN. THERE WERE NO INJURIES VISIBLE ON THE DETAINEE E ___ HANDS, UPPER ARMS, TORSO, UPPER LEGS, OR BUTTOCKS. HIS CLOTHING WAS NOT RIPPED OR DAMAGED, BUT DID DISPLAY BLOOD STAINS. THE NPTT E ___ INITIAL ASSESSMENT WAS THAT THE DETAINEE E ___ WOUNDS WERE NOT CONSISTENT WITH THAT FROM A MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT, AND QUESTIONED THE DETAINEE IN FRONT OF THE JAIL GUARDS. THE DETAINEE MAINTAINED THAT HE WAS SIMPLY DRIVING SLOWLY AT THE TIME. WHEN ASKED IF HIS MOTORCYCLE TIPPED TO THE RIGHT OR LEFT, THE DETAINEE TOOK AN UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF TIME TO ANSWER …THE SPTT REMOVED THE DETAINEE TO A PRIVATE ROOM FOR FURTHER EXAMINATION. THE RESULTS OF THIS INCIDENT INCLUDE…” ["*ALLEGED DETAINEE ABUSE ___ BY -___ NPTT IN ___ (ZONE ): ___ INJ/DAMAGE", October 19, 2006][emphasis added]

A Washington Post editorial published in 2005 provides context to the individual field reports.:

“OF ALL THE bloodshed in Iraq, none may be more disturbing than the campaign of torture and murder being conducted by U.S.-trained government police forces. Reports last week in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times chronicled how Iraqi Interior Ministry commando and police units have been infiltrated by two Shiite militias, which have been conducting ethnic cleansing and rounding up Sunnis suspected of supporting the insurgency. Hundreds of bodies have been appearing along roadsides and in garbage dumps, some with acid burns or with holes drilled in them. According to the searing account by Solomon Moore of the Los Angeles Times, “the Baghdad morgue reports that dozens of bodies arrive at the same time on a weekly basis, including scores of corpses with wrists bound by police handcuffs.” The reports followed a raid two weeks ago by U.S. troops on a clandestine Baghdad prison run by the Interior Ministry, where some 170 men, most of them Sunni and most of them starved or tortured, were found”"

It shows that what journalist Nir Rosen called on Democracy Now! the “El Salvador Option” was likely employed. Iraqi death squads or police and security forces were used to cleanse areas of Iraq and beat sections of communities into submission through the terrorism of possible brutality. “The Wolf Brigade” The logs show that a “Wolf Battalion” or “Wolf Brigade” existed in Iraq, which went around terrorizing insurgents. The death squad was known for its brutality, known well enough that interrogators threatened detainees with the prospect of being turned over to the squad. For example:

“DURING THE INTERROGATION PROCESS THE ___ THREATENED THE SUBJECT DETAINEE THAT HE WOULD NEVER SEE HIS FAMILY AGAIN AND WOULD BE SENT TO THE WOLF BATTALION WHERE HE WOULD BE SUBJECT TO ALL THE PAIN AND AGONY THAT THE WOLF BATTALION IS KNOWN TO EXACT UPON ITS DETAINEES.” [December 14, 2005]

The Guardian details the Wolf Brigade:

“The Wolf Brigade was created and supported by the US in an attempt to re-employ elements of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, this time to terrorise insurgents. Members typically wore red berets, sunglasses and balaclavas, and drove out on raids in convoys of Toyota Landcruisers. They were accused by Iraqis of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects. The then interior minister in charge of them was alleged to have been a former member of the Shia Badr militia.”

What also is apparent is the fact that Col. James Steele was involved in the training of forces, forces that operated like the Wolf Brigade. Journalist Dahr Jamail wrote about Col. Steele a few years ago:

“Retired Col. James Steele, who served as adviser on Iraqi security forces to then-U.S. ambassador John Negroponte, supervised the training of these forces. Steele was commander of the U.S. military advisory group in El Salvador 1984-86, while Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to nearby Honduras 1981-85. Negroponte was accused of widespread human rights violations by the Honduras Commission on Human Rights in 1994. The Commission reported the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political workers.”

Col. Steele played a role in emboldening the El Salvador death squads. It can be surmised that he played the same role in Iraq. Additionally, details in log entries from 2004 and 2005, according to The Guardian , indicate US infantry raids led to the handing over of detainees to the Wolf Brigade for “further questioning” multiple times. And, New York Times Writer is cited explaining, “US soldiers, US advisers, were standing aside and doing nothing.”

Torture Chambers Discovered

The field reports detail discoveries of “torture chambers” or, in some cases, “torture houses.” One update in a field report reads, “UPDATE: /-___ REPORTS A TORTURE CHAMBER WAS DISCOVERED AT MC ___ CONSISTING OF A CHAINSAW AND OTHER VARIOUS DEVICES.” Another report details:

AT 1715C, -___ In support of OPERATION STEEL CURTAIN DISCOVERED A POSSIBLE AIF SAFE HOUSE ( ) ___.5KM ___ OF NEW ___. THE HOUSE CONTAINED ___-COALITION MATERIALS, Improvised Explosive Device MAKING MATERIALS, ___ TANKS AND BATTERIES. -___ ALSO FOUND Improvised Explosive Device MAKING MATERIALS BEHIND THE HOUSE AND A SHACK SUSPECTED BEING USED AS A TORTURE CHAMBER . Sensitive Site Exploitation CONTINUES At this time. NO CASUALTIES OR DAMAGES REPORTED. ["SAFE HOUSE FOUND/CLEARED BY - ___ OF NEW : ___ INJ/DAMAGE", November 14, 2005][emphasis added]

And, the following report describes forces finding a torture chamber. The report does not mention whether it is believed to be a remnant of Saddam Hussein’s regime or not.

LATE REPORT: Task force -___ IN DISCOVERED TORTURE HOUSE NE OF ___ At 051230C NOV , /-___ IN (Task force -___ IN) discovered a torture house In the vicinity of (___ MC ), ___.5km NE of ___, while conducting clearing operations In support of Operation ___ II ( ___). The unit was guided by a local civilian who stated that he was a torture victim and had personal knowledge of the whereabouts of both the ___ and the torture chamber. /-___ conducted Sensitive Site Exploitation and found an underground facility containing a secure chain possibly used for captives, a tube running to the surface possibly used to supply air and food and multiple cots were discovered. Due to the inability of the ___ Assault Force (___) to leave a permanent present force behind to secure the torture chamber site and prevent the enemy from ___ the facility to conduct further torture and murder/intimidation activities, Explosive Ordnance Disposal [bomb defuser] destroyed the facility with a controlled detonation without incurring any collateral damage to existing structures surrounding the site. Additionally, while clearing an adjacent building In the vicinity of ( ), /-___ detained (___) suspected enemy ( ___). The (___) detainee was identified by (___) local national sources as a ___ and Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device maker. The detainee also had a small cache in his possession consisting of (___) AK-, (___) rounds ___ ammunition, and multiple AK-___ magazines. All personnel were wearing required ___. There were no Coalition Forces, ISF or civilian casualties or damages to equipment. ["(FRIENDLY ACTION) SMALL UNIT ACTIONS RPT TF -___ IN : ___ AIF DET", November 5, 2007]

Frago 242

Fragmentary Order 242 or Frago 242, which allowed for US soldiers to report detainee abuse or torture, and, if the case did not involve US or Coalition forces, give the matter no further attention or investigation. In other words, it became standard protocol to be complicit in allowing Iraqi police or security forces to carry out abuse and torture when policing and securing the country against Al Qaeda, insurgents or terrorism. An incident June 19, 2005, demonstrates how “Frago 242″ was invoked. The report has a description of the incident involving the detainee.

“ON ___ JUN ___ FROM FOB ISKANDARIYAH. ___ WAS APPREHENDED BY /___ ACR ___ ON ___ MAY ___ DURING A RAID AND TURNED THE DETAINEE OVER TO ___ IRAQI POLICE. ___ MADE A STATEMENT SAYING HE WAS HIT BY THE IRAQI POLICE ON HIS EARS, BACK, ARMS AND LEGS. ___ HAD VISIBLE BRUISING AND ___ ON HIS BACK. THERE WERE NO COALITION FORCES WERE INVOLVED IN THE INCIDENT. ___. DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT INVOLVING DETAINEE ___: DETAINEE , ___, WAS RECEIVED AT ___ ON ___ JUN . ___ WAS TRANSPORTED TO ___ BY /___ BCT FOB ISKANDARIYAH. ___ WAS BROUGHT TO ___ WITH BRUISES TO HIS LEFT SHOULDER, FOREHEAD, AND LEFT BUTTOCKS. HE WAS MEDICALLY EXAMINED BY ___ WHO FOUND ___ HAD HIS LEFT SHOULDER, FOREHEAD AND LEFT BUTTOCKS BEATEN BY IRAQI POLICE OFFICERS IN THEIR POLICE STATION AT , ___. NO COALITION FORCES WERE INVOLVED IN THE INCIDENT”

But, above the description of the incident is the note, “PER ___ FRAGO ___, ONLY AN INITIAL REPORT ___ FOR APPARENT ___ VIOLATIONS BY OR AGAINST ALLIED MILITARY OR CIVILIAN PERSONNEL NOT INVOLVING US FORCES PERSONNEL. NO FURTHER INVESTIGATION ___ UNLESS DIRECTED BY ___.” The nature of recorded reports of Iraqi on Iraqi brutality often detail beatings of arms, legs, back, buttocks, etc. Some involve much more grotesque tactics:

” A CF party, including a ___ went to the Ar ___ Police Department iot investigate a statement that was done by an ___. He mentioned that detainees are tortured in prison by IZ Police Officers. Using a hygienic inspection as an excuse, ___ detainees were searched and questioned without IZP attendance. The conclusion taken after this is that drug or medicine users are being tortured specially during dark hours. Methods they are using are to blindfold the detainee and hang them upside down on their feet iot hit them on their foot soles. Also the use of an electrical device is confirmed. This subject ___ with senior IZP Officers iot stop this, also ___ inspections ___. ["A CF party, including a ___ went to the Ar ___ Police Department iot investigate a statement that was done by an ___. He mentioned that detainees are tortured in prison by IZ ___" February 10, 2004] ON 29MAY05 AN MNF-___ APPROVED JOINT INTERROGATION PROJECT WITH THE IRAQI POLICE IN MOSUL REVEALED EVIDENCE OF PRIOR TORTURE/ABUSE ON 3X LOCAL NATIONALS THAT HAD BEEN CAPTURED APPROX. ___. EXAMINATION OF THE DETAINEES SHOWED LACERATIONS ON WRISTS FROM HANDCUFFS, BRUISING ON THE BACK AND THIGHS, BRUISING ON FACE. DETAINEES ALLEGE THAT THEY WERE BEATEN BY POLICE WITH CABLE ON THE BACK, CHEST AND FACE; HUNG BY THE WRISTS AND FORCED TO CONFESS TO TERRORIST ACTS. ["SUSPECTED DETAINEE ABUSE BY IPS IVO MOSUL: ___ DETAINEES ALLEGE ABUSE", May 29, 2005]

Conclusion

Channel 4 News reported that the Bureau of Investigative Jounralsm (TBIJ) and Channel 4 Dispatches found “between 2004 and 2009 32,563 civilians were murdered” and that of the numerous unidentified corpses, which coalition forces often found in the Tigris River, “10,871 civilians were shot in the head, 439 were decapitated and up to 164 were recorded as children.” The news organization suggested these “murders” were largely a result of “sectarian death squads.”

TBIJ and Dispatches also found “over 300 classified reports in the Iraq war logs alleging abuse by coalition forces on Iraqi prisoners after the Abu Ghraib scandal” and that, in the time span covered by the logs, “some 180,000 Iraqis were imprisoned” or appoximately “one in 50 of the adult male population of Iraq” were imprisoned. And, “more than 1,300 individual cases of torture and abuse carried out by Iraqis on Iraqi prisoners at police stations and army bases, which imply that coalition forces either witnessed or reported on themselves” occurred.

In a good society, revelations of torture and the use of police or security forces, which operate like death squads, should be cause for judicial inquiry or independent investigation. It should be a kind of teaching moment for leaders and an opportunity for soul searching among citizens who decide whether this is the nature of foreign policy they want their government to promote (and, since a number of citizens likely bought the idea that Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein, it’s even more important to be outraged that US and coalition forces were and likely continue to be complicit in allowing brutal tactics Saddam Hussein was known for using on Iraqis).

Britain and other countries with coalition forces are taking the Iraq War Logs seriously. Inquiries into how torture became systematic and how indisciriminate attacks or murder became part of the war and occupation will be opened. That the Obama Administration and the US government will likely be absent from any inquiry into the war to investigate crimes committed is a bitter indication of how a Washington Consensus or set of rules holds government captive. What power the UN or other countries have over the US to compel investigations of war crimes is unknown. But, one imagines that the US is headed down a road where it will ultimately find itself alone spending blood and treasure on wars of occupation that few countries choose to support.

The burden on US citizens will increase. More and more US soldiers will be asked to torture and kill and commit indiscriminate attacks. The Iraq War Logs spell out the years between 2004 and 2009 and how the war effort was managed. They also suggest what 2009 to 2013 could be like. With a permanent occupation of 50,000 troops and tens of thousands of contractors still there, there will be more bloodshed and more clear violations of the so-called Laws of War.

Truth About Hopeless, Deadly Stalemated War Revealed in Iraq War Logs

11:57 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


U.S. Army Spc. Justin Towe scans his area while on a mission with Iraqi army soldiers from 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division in Al Muradia village, Iraq, March, 13, 2007 by U.S. Military

Iraq War Logs from Wikileaks were made public yesterday and document 109,000 deaths, including 66,000 civilian deaths, of which 15,000 were previously unknown. The more than 390,000 field reports from US military reveal the truth about the Iraq War from 2004 to 2009, which Wikileaks’ Julian Assange hopes will correct attacks "on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which [have] continued on since the war officially concluded."

A press conference convened in London on Saturday, October 23rd, focused on the huge body of evidence that Wikileaks has put into the public domain as a result of the leak (video of the full press conference: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3). It illuminated the Logs, which, like the previously leaked Afghanistan War Logs, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the New York Times were all granted access to so that coverage could be released simultaneously and so that the coverage would provide detailed insight into the reports.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers in the United Kingdom, a firm that has acted on behalf of Iraqis claiming they were tortured or the victim of indiscriminate military attacks, explained how the released evidence can be broken into three key categories:

-Unlawful killings of civilians, indiscriminate attacks or the unjustified use of lethal force against civilians

-Horrendous abuse and torture of Iraqis by the Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service

-Torture of Iraqis whilst in UK custody (presumably, whilst in the custody of US and other coalition forces custody as well)

Shiner stated, "Some of the circumstances will be where the UK had a very clear legal responsibility. This may be because the Iraqis died under the effective control of UK forces–under arrest, in vehicles, hospitals or detention facilities." The death likely fall under the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Grand Chamber could take legal action. That, according to Shiner, would be especially likely if the Grand Chamber found that when UK forces have authoritative control of Iraqis the Convention has jurisdiction over their action.

One example of indiscriminate killing given by Shiner involving a little girl in a yellow dress being fired at by a rifleman in a UK tank while she was playing in the street would likely not fall under the Convention. Shiner suggested lawyers might be able to get courts to argue that Common Law in UK could provide some remedy and give credence to launching a judicial inquiry into the legality of all deaths detailed in the Iraq War Logs.

In terms of abuse and torture by Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service, Shiner’s statement highlighted a fragmented order ("Frago 242"), which the US and the UK appear to have adopted as a way of excusing them from having to take responsibility for torture or ill-treatment of Iraqis by Iraqi military or security forces. This, according to Shiner, runs "completely contrary to international law" and "it’s well known that there’s an absolute prohibition on torture" and "it may never be used."

"The US and UK forces cannot turn a blind eye on the basis that it wasn’t their soldiers that were doing the torture and that’s what happened," stated Shiner. They have an "international obligation to take action to stop torture" and "that they did not makes them complicit."

As far as torture of Iraqis by US and UK forces goes, Shiner said there appeared to be many instances where Iraqis died in UK custody and were certified as dying of natural causes. None of the deaths had been investigated, many were hooded and abused and his law firm does not accept the Ministry of Defense explanation that these deaths all have an innocent explanation.

Shiner explained hundreds of Iraqis have been complaining for a long time about ill-treatment and torture, often a result of coercive interrogation by UK interrogators in secret facilities run by the Joint Forward Interrogation Team. The evidence of torture would help promote support for a formal inquiry into the detention policy and practice used by forces in southeast Iraq.

Daniel Ellsberg, known for leaking the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, flew from the US to stand in support of Julian Assange and others in the WikiLeaks coalition, which released the reports. He said he had been waiting to see something like this for forty years and suggested that if he was the "most dangerous man in America" than Julian Assange might be, to US officialas, "the most dangerous man in the world."

According to Ellsberg, President Obama has started as many prosecutions for leaks as all previous presidents put together: three prosecutions, Bradley Manning being the latest. That is because, prior to President Obama and President George W. Bush, presidents didn’t think they could use the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers. They thought that using the act to halt whistleblowing would be viewed as unconstitutional and a violation of First Amendment rights. But, after 9/11 and with the current Supreme Court, President Obama has no problem with "mounting a new experiment" to "change the relationship between press and sources." Now, press has to know taking leaked information means risk of prison. (*For more, see Glenn Greenwald’s previous coverage of the Obama Administration’s war on whistleblowers: "What the whistleblower prosecution says about the Obama DOJ").

Up to this point, the US has no Official Secrets Act while the UK does. What might be worth noting is the possibility of some type of Official Secrets Act criminalizing the leaking of information being passed as a way to combat the effectiveness of WikiLeaks in getting the truth about wars into the press and in the hands of millions of people around the world.

Also, Ellsberg made a distinction about the Iraq War that because the justification for invasion by US forces was based on lies the civilian casualties may not only be considered victims of a war of aggression but the non-civilian casualties reported may be victims of a war of aggression because "they were fighting foreign occupiers."

Assange and Shiner both communicated their dissatisfaction with how the press has previously handled not only stories related to WikiLeaks but also stories related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in general.

In response to a question about whether the Iraq War Logs were putting lives at risk and if he was concerned, Assange responded, "I’m worried that the press chooses to credibly report statements like that from the Pentagon. In fact, the Pentagon would not have been able to review our materials in those few hours. It’s simply logistically impossible. And, we also have strong confidence in our redaction process."

Shiner asserted, "Yes, the press are the ones who allow [torture] to be covered up" because the press simply do not run the stories. He added, "You’re obsessed with what we might’ve done in Pakistan or what we might have done in Guantanamo Bay. I say to you, "Wake up and have a look at what is happening at our High Court next month on November 5th about what we actually did. We intend to open that and reveal actual material about the way we interrogated people."

And, Assange concluded that "Iraq is now cool in the public imagination" so this dump is already being received differently than the Afghanistan War Logs.

"The news is already less defensive about what has been revealed," said Assange.

The general tone of news coverage may be less defensive, but the US continues to regard the actions of WikiLeaks as criminal or reckless. Hillary Clinton and a number of military officials condemned the release of the documents. And, the US press has been warned to not produce news coverage of the document dump.

UN special rapporteur Manfred Nowak declared the US has an obligation to investigate torture claims, specifically claims that military handed over Iraqi detainees knowing they might be tortured or killed. One would like to believe Obama would uphold human rights and international law and open an inquiry into what these leaks reveal like several European countries are doing and will do in the coming weeks, but that simply would run contrary to the preemptive attacks on WikiLeaks the Obama Administration and the military have made before even looking over the contents of the dumped documents and the picture of the war the documents reveal.

Currently, the Iraq War Logs, which are available to the entire world, can be viewed individually in their raw form at War Logs or Diary Dig. War Logs is accessible and one can log in and rate each individual report suggesting what reports deserve more investigation and what reports are insignificant. Diary Dig, the location that allows for searches of the documents, is tremendously overloaded and may not be accessible until traffic dies down over the next few days.

Obama Declares Combat Mission in Iraq Over: What Nation Will America “Liberate” and “Rebuild” Next?

8:59 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

President Obama appeared before the American people to formally declare the combat mission was officially over in Iraq. Obama discussed what Iraqis must do now that the U.S. has ended combat operations, re-affirmed America’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan, and ended with a focus on the economy and restoring the middle class in America.

In a much more reverential and eloquent manner (with no bombastic stunt like landing on a military aircraft carrier to lead us into the speech), Obama delivered a “Mission Accomplished” speech. It was an address to the troops to assert and assure them, their families, and those who had little stake in this war that this war was a war worth fighting.

Left out was how President Bush sent troops into a war based on the lies that Iraq posed an imminent threat to this country, how his administration falsely claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and how the administration successfully propagandized and convinced a large portion of the population that Saddam Hussein and others in Iraq played a role in the attacks of 9/11. Instead, Obama discussed the beginning of war by stating: “Seven-and-a-half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Much has changed since that night. A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested.”

Why should it be any surprise that “unity” was tested as a result of an administration that failed to convincingly lie an entire nation into war sell this nation a war because some people used logic, reasoning and asked questions to decide whether to support this military adventure or not and when they discovered the Bush Administration was fabricating a case for war they began to seriously doubt the motives for invading Iraq?

At one point, President Obama appeared to suggest that Americans with grievances toward former President George W. Bush should suspend those grievances. He said he was “mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home.” He admitted he disagreed with Bush on the Iraq War but asserted that “Bush’s support for our troops or his love of country and commitment” to American security was unflinching, which essentially meant liberals or progressives should forgive and possibly forget any sort of criminal or negligent activity Bush participated in that took place as a result of the Iraq War (like the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent when her husband, Joseph Wilson, failed to come back with “evidence” to promote the idea that Iraq had WMDs).

Obama explained “there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women and our hopes for Iraqis` future.” What about the patriots who did not support the wars and found that they could not support the troops because if they did they would essentially be supporting the mission and reinforcing the idea that the war should continue? Those people are probably not to be considered; it’s likely they aren’t to be regarded as Real Americans.

And, Obama said, “The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead. And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda.”

Americans were reminded that President Obama is just as committed to “taking the fight to the extremists” as President Bush was to “fighting the terrorists over there so we didn’t have to fight them here.” How real is this al-Qaeda “threat” really? Why does it seem like President Obama has continued former Vice President Dick Cheney’s “one-percent doctrine”—the idea that if there is a one-percent chance of something happening, that something has to be treated as it will happen? How many of us still fear the al-Qaeda boogeyman and feel that the Homeland Security-complex in this country isn’t good enough to keep us safe? How many believe continued wars are helping to keep al-Qaeda from striking at this country again?

President Obama said now a “transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security” in Iraq will take place. Americans should be weary about this transition; it is likely to not be as welcoming to the Iraqi people as President Obama would like Americans to believe.

If you ask Iraqis like Yanar Mohammed, President of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, Iraqis will likely tell you they view the Iraqi security forces to be more oppressive than benevolent. The U.S. trained the Iraqi army to detain Iraqis and carry out many of the tactics U.S. troops used, which consequentially made it difficult to win hearts and minds. 

If you ask Iraqis like Mohammed, freedom of organizing doesn’t exist. Collective bargaining or the privilege to organize and form unions, the freedom to participate in civil society organizations that promote democracy in Iraq—that doesn’t really exist. People who participate in unions or civil society organizations are being harassed, targeted, and, in some cases, banned. And, there is fear of continued repression because, as Human Rights Watch has reported, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki runs a prison in Baghdad where prisoners have been tortured “Abu Ghraib-style.”

In order for America to legitimate the belief that Iraqis “can resolve their differences and police their streets” and “only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders,” there are a number of policies and permissions that the U.S. government granted to corporations and non-governmental organizations that need to be reversed and suspended. There are a number of policies and laws that the U.S. encouraged the Iraqi government to pass that must be repealed and entirely done away with so all Iraqi people can truly enjoy the so-called freedom troops fought to institute in Iraq.

President Obama said in his speech, “We`ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people, a belief that, out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibilities. Now it`s time to turn the page.”

The stunning aspect of this was, as Fareed Zakaria, host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, said on CNN after the speech, “this was President Obama speaking, not candidate Obama and not Senator Obama’ praising the idea of nation-building in Iraq.” He was praising “the idea of spreading democracy in Iraq” and “conditions-based withdrawal,” which were terms “more associated with the more hawkish elements of the Democratic Party and indeed with President George W. Bush.”

Now, America continues to act under the notion that it is capable of building nations even though it’s success in rebuilding countries like Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc has been dismal at best. The U.S. military and its leaders continue to fight a war that we are led to believe will end in the next couple of years, but it will likely have an ending similar to the end we have seen here with Iraq. Unless neoconservatives along with a band of rogue generals in the U.S. military win influence over Obama, the war will lack a decisive endpoint like this war did.

The exit of combat brigades from Iraq was, as professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the U.S. Army has suggested, an indication that officers came to the conclusion this outcome was likely to be as good as it would get. That’s because, according to Bacevich, the military establishment and foreign policymakers no longer believe in "military solutions." The "officer corps" have resigned themselves to the fact that true victory, in the sense that Americans understand it, is impossible; they accept the fact wars from this point on will be protracted, dirty, costly, and will from now on end in an ambiguous way if they end at all.

Such is the expectation Americans will be asked to have for the Afghanistan War. Americans will be conditioned, as they have been, to accept a permanent presence will remain in Afghanistan after the “combat mission” is over. And why should all troops come home anyway? The military is one of the best jobs programs in the nation. America cannot cut back their use of military forces now or else unemployment in this country would be much worse.

So, the question now is, where to next? How long before another theater of war is opened? The corporations and leaders who run the country will not be content if all of these wars in the “war on terror” have wound down by 2016. They will be tremendously bored. And, if the economy continues to worsen, they will increasingly propose war as a way of rejuvenating the economy.

Iraq should be a lesson not to engage in nation-building. But, it doesn’t appear America will learn it should not attempt to build nations. So, what country will America try to "liberate" and "rebuild" next?

As Combat Brigades Leave Iraq, NBC News Corporation Helps Pentagon Manufacture Support for Withdrawal

12:36 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Soldiers from the 17th Fires Brigade and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Taken in August 2009. by The U.S. Army

On the same night that the NBC news corporation had the "inside scoop" on America’s withdrawal of combat brigades from Iraq to Kuwait, Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the U.S. Army, discussed his new book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Chicago.

 

During the discussion, Bacevich explained to a room packed with standing room only that the Obama Administration’s movement of troops from Iraq is part of a plan to make Americans (and others in the world) think of this as some end point. But, the fact is that the Iraq War will continue, violence will continue, and the insurgency will still exist.

 

Bacevich added the officers likely believe this outcome is as good as it will get. The troops will now move into an "advise-and-assist" role not much different from a role troops had during part of the Vietnam War. And, this is because much of the military establishment and foreign policymakers no longer believe in "military solutions." The "officer corps" have resigned themselves to the fact that true victory, in the sense that Americans understand it, is impossible; they accept the fact wars from this point on will be protracted, dirty, costly, and will from now on end in an ambiguous way if they end at all.

 

Cue Richard Engel, who, embedded with the combat brigades that were leaving Iraq and claiming "victory," reported live for NBC. Cue Rachel Maddow who had been in hiding the past few days because she didn’t want anyone to know the "withdrawal" was going to begin Thursday night and she’d be reporting from the scene. And, cue MSNBC’s special coverage of the "end" of the Iraq War, which featured the all-star panel that many know from MSNBC’s Election Coverage.

The exit of brigades was heavily orchestrated. NBC had the express permission from the Pentagon to give the "official announcement" that war was "over"(although the Pentagon now claims nobody said the war was over) and troops were coming home (well, some of them; some are going to Afghanistan). The Associated Press reported "NBC Executive Phil Griffin said "Given the access, a decision to devote the entire evening to the story was a "no-brainer," Griffin said. "We’ve got something unique and it’s an important story. We said, ‘Let’s go for it.’"

It was an opportunity to manufacture support for the withdrawal and help the Pentagon sell this as victory. It was an opportunity to convince those watching that soldiers had done a good deed for humanity and that, despite fears, Iraqis will be able to secure the country.

Little time was spent trying to argue this was a complete withdrawal, however, NBC News Chief Correspondent Richard Engel reported "50,000 troops remaining, noncombat troops would stay behind and will have a "mandate" to be "trainers." Here, Engel essentially helped the Pentagon re-brand the war by explaining troops would not to be called into "direct combat operations." If there were incidents and the U.S. wished to respond, he said, they would have to file a "formal request for troops."

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, said "there’s a worry that Iraqis may continue to fail to gain political traction and put together a government that can properly run Iraq." Hill also made clear "Iraq is important" to "American interests." He called it a "major league country" and expressed the belief that the U.S. must have a presence and mentioned America’s "impressive" embassy.

The all-star panel did not focus on whether it was right or wrong to fight the war. Criticisms were limited to tactical mistakes the military had made in the war.

 

Lawrence O’Donnell contended, initially, there was "no comprehension of the rebuilding required." O’Donnell noted how Coalition Provisional Authority leader Paul Bremer decided to completely disband the Iraqi military, the Iraqi police force and the bureaucracy of the government, "the people who knew how to deliver electricity, water, things like that throughout the country."

 

Chris Matthews argued Iraq was always an "ideological war" and talked of the "neocons and those who drank the Kool-Aid like Rumsfeld" and thought "the government in Iraq would topple the minute we went in there." Matthews suggested the neocons thought, "it wouldn’t take a long, protracted struggle to subdue the country because we would be liberators — we were liberators. They really believed that ideology that we’re going in there to free those people from the scourge of Baathism and then it proceeded to get rid of the Baathist army, get rid of the Baath Party politically throughout the agency."

 

Interestingly, Col. Jacobs stated he couldn’t remember a "single" country that America ever fought an unconventional war or limited war in and left better than when America went in. In contrast, O’Donnell directed attention to the fact that Vietnam is now a "vacation spot for American tourists" as if to suggest things could work out after all a Middle East Disneyland and other resorts could potentially stabilize this country.

 

Engel spoke on the issue of Iran and its influence on Iraq and how the war had helped increase Iran’s influence in Iraq. And, finally, there was attention paid to the Iraqis. Engel said:

 

I’ve been listening not only to what the soldiers say but some of your guests and we’re hearing this mantra building over and over again that the U.S. won the war in Iraq and then the Iraqis lost it or are potentially losing it. And I think that is true to a degree. But you also have to be cautious with that argument.

 

The United States in these last several years made quite a few mistakes in this country. And not to blame the people who are in these trucks, these sergeants and privates and first sergeants, they didn’t. But there were policy errors — there was the dissolving of the Iraqi army, which forced them to rebuild an army. There was the outbreak of civil war in this country which troops were then called in to try and pacify. But for many reasons, that civil war broke up because there were never enough troops here to begin with.

 

This mantra is not new and could be heard years ago when news organizations managed to find time in their newscasts to cover the Iraq War. This narrative implied Iraqis were ungrateful for the liberation (or war and occupation) America had brought to their country.

 

Soldiers interviewed, for the most part, contended Iraqis were better off and they were glad the U.S. was able to do something good for them and were able to come around and close it on a good note. They contended Iraqi army and police would be able to handle their situation as they did in 2007 and could hold their own without American support now.

There is a sober reality that cannot be forgotten in the midst of the patriotic cheering for troops who are homeward bound. Thousands of contractors will remain in the country. How they cooperate with the Iraqi army and police will likely determine the level of stability Iraq manages to achieve in the coming months.

Up to a million Iraqis are dead. At least 100 trillion dollars was spent. More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers died in combat (and a number of contractors died as well). The Independent reports "human rights groups say extra-judicial killings, kidnappings, torture, bribery and corruption are still endemic with little accountability for perpetrators" and "more than 5 million Iraqis have been turned into refugees since the invasion, with 2.7 million of those displaced internally. Some live with relatives, others in public buildings."

Furthermore, The Independent notes that while Iraqis may have some economic prosperity to look forward to as foreign companies flock to the region to take advantage of the country’s natural resources, "unemployment runs at close to 40 per cent and GDP per capita remains a paltry $3,200." More importantly, "The presence of an occupying non-Muslim force in the heart of the Middle East sent Islamist militants flocking to Iraq with devastating consequences for both Iraq and its neighbours. Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have all seen al-Qa’ida-inspired militant activity increase with varying levels of success."

Robert Fisk, who recently reported on the impact America’s use of chemical weapons had in Fallujah, wrote a damning editorial on America saying "goodbye." An excerpt:

"…the millions of American soldiers who have passed through Iraq have brought the Iraqis a plague. From Afghanistan in which they showed as much interest after 2001 as they will show when they start "leaving" that country next year they brought the infection of al-Qa’ida. They brought the disease of civil war. They injected Iraq with corruption on a grand scale. They stamped the seal of torture on Abu Ghraib a worthy successor to the same prison under Saddam’s vile rule after stamping the seal of torture on Bagram and the black prisons of Afghanistan. They sectarianised a country that, for all its Saddamite brutality and corruption, had hitherto held its Sunnis and Shias together…"

Few politicians will have the courage to say anything like that and interrupt what the Obama Administration will likely demand liberals or progressives celebrate as an end to the war or else. Few politicians except Dennis Kucinich, the politician White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs happens to think the "professional left" would not be satisfied with if he was president. Kucinich put out this press release proclaiming the "war in Iraq has entered a new stage of public relations":

Who is in charge of our operations in Iraq, now? George Orwell? A war based on lies continues to be a war based on lies. Today, we have a war that is not a war, with combat troops who are not combat troops. In 2003, President Bush said ‘Mission Accomplished’. In 2010, the White House says combat operations are over in Iraq, but will leave 50,000 troops, many of whom will inevitably be involved in combat-related activities.

Just seven days ago, General Babaker Shawkat Zebari, the commander of Iraq’s military, said that Iraq’s security forces will not be trained and ready to take over security for another 10 years. One story is being told to the military on the ground in Iraq and another story is being told to their families back home.

You can’t be in and out at the same time.

This is not the end of the war; this is simply a new stage in the campaign to lull the American people into accepting an open-ended presence in Iraq. This is not an honest accounting to the American people and it diminishes the role of the troops who will put their lives on the line. This is not fair to the troops, their families or the American people.

The Administration and the Pentagon would be wise to level with the American people about our long-term commitment to Iraq.

The cost of the wars has been estimated to be around $1 million per soldier per year. Each year the troop levels stay at 50,000 means another $50 billion is wasted. I object to spending billions of dollars to maintain a charade in Iraq while our own economy is failing and over 15 million Americans are out of work. I object to keeping any level troops in Iraq to maintain a war based on lies. It is time that Congress sees through the manipulation and finally acts to truly end the war by stopping its funding."

NBC’s cooperation with the Pentagon to bring Americans "closure" to the Iraq War Thursday night—to bring families with loved ones serving in the Iraq War "closure"—provided more evidence that U.S. media is solely concerned with the American perspective of war and cares little about the impact war has on the people many of the troops think they have liberated.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) reported in 2008, the percentage of news coverage devoted to the Iraq War was 4% down from 24% in January 2007 when President Bush announced the "surge" strategy. And, PEJ reported in 2007 that "although the bloodshed [was] occurring about 6,000 miles from Washington, coverage of the conflict [had] been overwhelmingly U.S.-centric. More than 80% of war news focused on Americans — those shaping policy, fighting or affected at home. Only about one in six stories about the war was about Iraqis, whether about their government, their lives, or their casualties.

U.S. media helped deceive the public into buying the Iraq War. They helped the Pentagon construct a case for war in Iraq just over seven years ago. So, how fitting is it that the endpoint of this travesty in American history would involve the media asking Americans to buy the "victory."

In the end, Brian Stelter, writing for the New York Times‘ Media Decoder Blog, characterizes what happened best (and affirms Rep. Kucinich’s contentions on the withdrawal):

The images from NBC and other outlets are important for the United States as a public relations tool, as they reaffirm with color and sound that the country is winding down a widely unpopular combat mission. But they are in part a media construct. Though the media may yearn for a dramatic finish to the war, there is not likely to be one, at least not yet.