WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs Show Indiscriminate Prisoner Abuse, Civilian Killings
A release of 400,000 classified documents from the Iraq War revealed private contractors fired upon and killed hundreds of civilians, Iraqi security forces abused scores of prisoners and foreign nations became involved with the counterinsurgency.
The online whistleblowing site Wikileaks made the documents, covering a period of six years early in the war, available Friday. They include damning reports of prisoner abuse that extend beyond the revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib. In one instance, a leaked document describes instances of Iraqi soldiers urinating on, jumping on, and spitting upon a detainee. The report illustrates that United States forces condoned such behavior; it is written that, "due to no allegation or evidence of US involvement, a US investigation is not being initiated."
The L.A. Times calls the prisoner abuse reports the "most explosive element" of the documents because the U.S. became aware of much of the abuse and did very little.
The New York Times focused Saturday on the use of private contractors, highlighting "the multitude of shortcomings with this new system: how a failure to coordinate among contractors, coalition forces and Iraqi troops, as well as a failure to enforce rules of engagement that bind the military, endangered civilians as well as the contractors themselves. The military was often outright hostile to contractors, for being amateurish, overpaid and, often, trigger-happy."
The war logs also include details of 15,000 more civilian deaths than had previously been reported, often going into graphic detail. Many of the civilian deaths were condoned or ignored by United States military authorities. Excessive use of violence -- resulting in increased civilian death -- occurred at checkpoints, during military operations, and sometimes even from air support.
One leaked document reveals that two insurgents who were waving to a US helicopter, indicating their desire to surrender, were killed when the helicopter pilots were advised by military lawyers that "they cannot surrender to aircraft, and are still valid targets."
Still further documents indicate that private military contractor Blackwater may have been responsible for friendly fire incidents, mentally handicapped children were recruited for suicide bombing missions, and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps funded Iraqi militants.
The documents were released under embargo to a variety of international news outlets, including the New York Times, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Le Monde, and the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The database of all 400,000 documents are available to read on the Wikileaks website.
The New York Times has already begun to use the documents to broaden its analysis of the war. They write:
In Iraq, Americans expected to be hailed as liberators, but they were resented as occupiers, and Iraqis eventually turned to the Americans largely out of exhaustion and despair. In Afghanistan, Americans were welcomed at first, but as the war dragged on, Afghans lost faith in the Americans’ ability to protect them — and it is unclear whether that faith can be restored. The lesson of Iraq is that without it, no strategy, however well conceived, can be successful.
If Afghanistan is a war of small cuts, Iraq was a gash.