More than 390,000 US military field reports from the Iraq War were released by WikiLeaks one year ago. The reports—the Iraq War Logs, which range from 2004 to 2009, revealed the truth of the US occupation of Iraq. When they were released, editor-in-chief Julian Assange hoped the logs would help correct the attacks on the truth that had occurred before, during and after the war’s official conclusion.
One of the most stunning revelations was the uncovering of 15,000 more Iraqi civilian deaths, which put the total of civilians dead at about 66,000. (Note: Other studies have put the number of Iraqi civilians killed at 100,000 or even higher.)
At a press conference one day after the release, 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 could 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).
Specifically in relation to the Iraqi National Guard or the Iraqi Police Service, Shiner highlighted a fragmented order Frago 242, which the US and the UK appeared 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 logs detailed how US interrogators had threatened Iraqi detainees with the prospect of being turned over to the “Wolf Brigade” or “Wolf Battalion”:
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]
Channel 4 News reported that the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (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.
When the Iraq War Logs were released, WikiLeaks had already released the “Collateral Murder” video, showing a 2007 Apache helicopter attack that killed two Reuters journalists and a van with a “Good Samaritan” and two children inside being fired upon. The “Good Samaritan” was trying to save the two journalists.
Just over one month later, WikiLeaks began to publish US State Embassy cables as part of what is now known as the “Cablegate” release. In many respects, diplomatic cables dealing with Iraq have had more of an impact on the US occupation in Iraq than the military war logs. No investigation was opened into military order Frago 242 and the US military coverup of torture by Iraqi death squads or police, but in August, when all the cables were released, a communications log was published that appears to have played a role in the US decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
CNN reports, “The negotiations were strained following WikiLeaks’ release of a diplomatic cable that alleged Iraqi civilians, including children, were killed in a 2006 raid by American troops rather than in an airstrike as the U.S. military initially reported.”
I found this cable, a communications log from UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, that became a top news story in August and the first weeks of September. The following is an excerpt from the log:
I have received various reports indicating that at least 10 persons, namely Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay’ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra’a (aged 5) Aisha ( aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz’s mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz’s sister (name unknown), Faiz’s nieces Asma’a Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma’arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.
According to the information received, American troops approached Mr. Faiz’s home in the early hours of 15 March 2006. It would appear that when the MNF approached the house, shots were fired from it and a confrontation ensued for some 25 minutes. The MNF troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them. After the initial MNF intervention, a US air raid ensued that destroyed the house.
Iraqi TV stations broadcast from the scene and showed bodies of the victims (i.e. five children and four women) in the morgue of Tikrit. Autopsies carries out at the Tikrit Hospital’s morgue revealed that all corpses were shot in the head and handcuffed.
The US wanted to keep 40,000 troops in Iraq past 2011. Iraq would not grant US soldiers legal immunity for any crimes committed. They insisted any soldiers accused of crimes be “tried in Iraqi courts and subjected to Iraqi punishment.”
It is not hard to understand why the US insisted on being able to enjoy the luxury of impunity. WikiLeaks cables and the war logs show war crimes happen routinely. A “Collateral Murder” incident has been happening on a daily basis since the US invasion. The US has done everything to prevent soldiers from being prosecuted, even interfering in the Spanish courts to prevent prosecutions.
And, the US military might be drawing down its presence almost completely (they are needed in America’s other five or six wars, right?). But that does not mean the Iraq occupation is over. The occupation will now be nearly 100% private contractors – with a hired army of 5,500 security contractors being used to protect the US diplomatic presence in Iraq.