The biggest US security breach in our history, carried off by WikiLeaks, reveals a wealth of information – hundreds of thousands of field reports, the raw material collected by the US military on the ground in Iraq. It will be quite a while before the “gems” are mined from this treasure trove, but initially the one that stands out as the jewel in the crown is the revelation of “Frago 242” – an order from high up in the US military command instructing officers not to investigate reports of torture and other human rights violations by their Iraqi allies. As the Guardian, one of the media outlets given privileged access to the database prior to its general release, reports:
“A frago is a ‘fragmentary order’ which summarizes a complex requirement. This one, issued in June 2004, about a year after the invasion of Iraq, orders coalition troops not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict, such as the abuse of detainees, unless it directly involves members of the coalition. Where the alleged abuse is committed by Iraqi on Iraqi, ‘only an initial report will be made … No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ.'”
The Iraq war logs detail hundreds of reports by US personnel, recording incidents of abuse by the US-supported Iraqi authorities. Helpless prisoners are blindfolded, bound, thrown into dungeons and tortured, they are beaten with “wire cables, metal rods, rubber hoses, wooden stakes, TV antennae, plastic water pipes, engine fan belts or chains,” burned with cigarettes, electrocuted, sodomized, some as young as 16 years of age. Some prisoners are summarily executed.
We invaded Iraq, according to George W. Bush, because Saddam Hussein was “killing his own people.” Yet the same can be said about the regime we installed after the Iraqi dictator was deposed – and it was being done with our knowledge. There are many references in the Iraq war logs to detainees being turned over to “MOI” (the Iraqi Ministry of Information) for interrogation, where, as the Guardian reports:
“At the torturer’s whim, the logs reveal, the victim can be hung by his wrists or by his ankles; knotted up in stress positions; sexually molested or raped; tormented with hot peppers, cigarettes, acid, pliers or boiling water – and always with little fear of retribution since, far more often than not, if the Iraqi official is assaulting an Iraqi civilian, no further investigation will be required.”
There’s no doubt US officials knew about this torture, and by their inaction were complicit. Indeed, the regularity with which they turned over detainees captured by US forces to MOI personnel shows they were depending on their Iraqi allies to employ methods that were far worse than anything that happened at Abu Ghraib [.pdf].
This is quite clearly a war crime, committed not just by the Iraqi security forces but also by the top US military command and no doubt extending up to the political leadership. All roads in this matter lead straight to Washington, D.C.
Another aspect of the Iraq war logs is the revelation that, contrary to their public statements, the US military was carefully recording civilian casualties in Iraq – and the number turns out to be significantly higher than anyone thought. The new documentation indicates a minimum of 122,000 civilians were killed, 15,000 more than previous estimates.
Another little “gem” that has come to light: US pilots spotted two insurgents and tried to take them out, but they managed to scramble to cover, whereupon they came out of hiding with their hands up, indicating that they wished to surrender. However, a Pentagon “lawyer” in communication with the pilots told them to keep shooting. The log entry reports: "Lawyer states they can not surrender to aircraft and are still valid targets."
This is not just the record of the tragedy of war, the horrific chaos and horror unleashed by the mightiest military machine on earth against a nation that posed no threat to us or our legitimate interests: it is an indictment of those who made it possible – the men and women at the top, the ones who issued the orders, made the policy, and lied to the American people while they were committing war crimes in our name.
Although I should have expected it, it never ceases to amaze me how relentless the smear campaign against WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, has been: and if anything it has intensified since the release of the latest war logs. The coverage in the New York Times and the Washington Post puts just as much if not more emphasis on the trumped-up allegations against Assange as on the actual content of the released materials. Assange, to his credit, simply walked out of a CNN interview in the course of which the “reporter” insisted on discussing his personal life – rather than the fact that the equivalent of a mass grave of 15,000 bodies had just been uncovered. CNN has a history of cooperating with US government agencies: during the Kosovo war, CNN played host to the Fourth Psychological Operations Group, which was “training.” No doubt they are back for a reunion.
What should not and must not be forgotten is the person who gave us access to these horrific secrets: Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old intelligence officer who is suspected of handing over the logs to WikiLeaks. He, along with Assange, is being vilified and smeared in the media: under arrest, in solitary confinement, and subject to “military justice,” he can’t speak for himself. It is up to us – to all who believe that we have the right to know what our government is doing in our name and with our tax dollars – to speak up on his behalf.