FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Leaking the Truth

by SHELDON RICHMAN

WikiLeaks has released close to 400,000 U.S. classified military documents relating to the Iraq war. The American people, the theoretical masters of the government, were not supposed to see them. So, just as it was when the website released 77,000 documents on the Afghan war in August, WikiLeaks was roundly condemned. Unnamed officials in the Obama administration are reported to have asked European governments to criminally investigate WikiLeaks director Julian Assange. There was even talk of charging him under the U.S. Espionage Act. The website Daily Beast said that “the U.S. effort reflects a growing belief that WikiLeaks and organizations like it threaten grave damage to American national security….” Or, at any rate, to the government’s ability to shape public opinion by withholding the truth about its wars.

The reaction to Wikileaks has been surreal. In August Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen and Secretary of Defense Gates said that WikiLeaks and whoever provided the documents “have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.” That was said without irony by two of the men who are conducting the lethal operations about which WikiLeaks has released information.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said that “this is the kind of stuff that gets people killed.” If so, it’s not unlike the “kind of stuff” the CIA’s assassination teams do to people throughout the Muslim world.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, “Neither WikiLeaks, nor its original source for these materials, should be spared in any way from the fullest prosecution possible under the law.” He and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) planned to add language to exclude WikiLeaks from protection in the media-shield bill they were writing.

And Marc Thiessen, former staffer to Vice President Dick Cheney and apologist for “enhanced interrogation” techniques that can be described only as torture, said in August, “The Web site must be shut down and prevented from releasing more documents — and its leadership brought to justice.”

Why are these people so upset? The reason is easily understood. WikiLeaks and its sources have the nerve to give the public information the government doesn’t want them to have. It is information about military operations conducted in the American people’s name — though without their real consent — and paid for by their tax dollars. But “their” government doesn’t want them to know what’s really going on. If they knew, they might be disgusted enough to demand an end to those operations. Then WikiLeaks would deserve credit for saving lives.

In the latest document dump we learn, among other things, that the number of Iraqi civilian deaths has been underreported by 15,000, according to an analysis by Body Count, which keeps track of civilian deaths in Iraq. According to the New York Times, “The reports make it clear that most civilians, by far, were killed by other Iraqis,” but, “The documents also 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.”

The U.S. government may claim that Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence is not its responsibility, but things are not so simple. Many of the deaths were from Shi’ite ethnic cleansing of Sunnis in Baghdad, which was unleashed by the U.S. invasion in 2003 and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s secular Ba’athist regime, which had subjugated the majority Shi’ite Muslims. Absolving the U.S. government of responsibility seems a hard case to make under the circumstances. Blood is on the hands of American policymakers, no matter how much they deny it. The U.S. government also had a role in creating 3.5 million refugees who show no sign of returning to their homes, despite the glorious success proclaimed by President Obama.

At any rate, thanks to WikiLeaks we know more now than we did before about the the consequences of the U.S. government’s criminal conduct. Like the Bush administration before it, the Obama administration would rather have the American people ignorant of the truth about its military operations. But we have a right to this information. If the government won’t give it up, we are justified in getting it by other means.

SHELDON RICHMAN is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org) and editor of The Freeman magazine.

 

Sheldon Richman, author of America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail