Defying a Superpower

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

WikiLeaks has given us another cold bath in reality:

“As the vehicle approached Post 7, the Marines on post used hand and arm signals but the vehicle did not yield. The Marine at Post 7 employed a pop-up flare when the approaching vehicle was 200m S of the post and the vehicle continued.

“The Marine on post then engaged the vehicle with (30) rounds of 7.62mm when the vehicle broke the plane of the ‘no penetration line’ 50m south of Post 7. The vehicle traveled an additional 15m toward post 7 before coming to a stop. . . .

“The Marine that engaged from Post 7 was unable to determine the occupants of the vehicle due to the reflection of the sun coming off the windshield. The EOF resulted in (1) NKIA and (4) NWIA. All casualties were in the vehicle. The (1) NKIA was an adult IZ female (mother). The (4) NWIA consisted of: (1) NWIA adult IZ male, urgent (father), (1) NWIA adult IZ female, routine (daughter), and (2) NWIA children IZ females, routine (daughters). There was an additional IZ child (daughter) in the vehicle that was not injured. The (4) NWIA were medevaced to Fallujah surgical. I 3/8 escorted and turned over the female IZ KIA to the imam of the Al Subiahat.”

EOF: escalation of force. NKIA: national (i.e., native Iraqi) killed in action. NWIA: national wounded in action. IZ: International (i.e., Green) Zone.

Last week the superpower-defying website, in collusion with unknown U.S. military personnel, posted 391,832 field reports from Iraq — SIGACTs, in military-speak, or significant actions in the war — including the checkpoint incident above. They’re all rendered in the same style, with the sensitivity of ledger notes at a meat-processing plant.

This extraordinary leak is itself a SIGACT — a direct penetration of military secrecy and public display of war in the raw, free of spin and propaganda. This is why, from the military point of view, it is such an outrage. No war-making enterprise can sustain itself without serious information control and the home-front dominance of its inviolate core message: We are good and our enemies are evil.

From what I can tell, the primary significance of the leak is the act itself: the sheer comeuppance of it. Last summer, after WikiLeaks released a similar cache of field reports from Afghanistan, the Pentagon struck a note of stern moral gravity to vilify the website. “The truth,” said Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “is that they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family” — this, from War Crime Central, the bloodiest perps on the planet. Damage control begins by professing a reverence for “the troops” and all other innocents, otherwise known as the fodder of our wars of choice and aggression.

The field reports, written between May 2004 and March 2009, itemize a total of 109,032 deaths in the Iraq war: 66,081 are listed as civilians; 23,984 are insurgents; 15,196, Iraqi government forces; and 3,771, coalition forces.

Among the starker revelations: Some 1,300 incidents of torture of detainees, including rape and murder, at the hands of Iraqi security forces, were reported by U.S. soldiers up the chain of command, but were never investigated; and 832 Iraqis were killed at checkpoints, of whom 681 were civilians, including 30 children.

Blood on our hands!

“The reports make it clear that most civilians, by far, were killed by other Iraqis,” Sabrina Tavernise and Andrew W. Lehren wrote in the New York Times last week, subtly downplaying American responsibility for the horror that Iraq has gone through over the past seven-plus years. The article does look at some of the U.S.-generated carnage described in the field reports, including what it calls “misunderstandings” at checkpoints, but it misses — as all of the mainstream U.S. media continually miss — what might be called the “Nuremberg significance” of the WikiLeaks disclosures.

Robert Parry, the former AP reporter who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s, put it this way a few days ago in Consortium News:

“Assessing the barbarity unleashed by the Nazis, the Nuremberg Tribunal identified ‘war of aggression’ as ‘the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.’

“What those judges meant was that every evil that comes with war — the slaughter of civilians, the brutality faced by soldiers, the depredations of hunger and disease, the destruction of homes and businesses, the temptation to torture, and all other war crimes — can all be traced back to the original crime of invasion.”

We started this war and, in so doing, shattered the nation of Iraq. We bear responsibility for “the accumulated evil of the whole” — which is far greater than the stats and unvarnished details of the WikiLeaks disclosures. American soldiers weren’t writing field reports about environmental damage, escalating rates of cancer and birth defects or their own PTSD, but these hellish consequences also stem from the crime we launched, with near-universal mainstream media support, at the beginning of the last decade.

I applaud WikiLeaks for daring to rip the frock of respectability off the criminals in high places in the U.S. government.