Saturday, 23 October 2010

WikiLeaks and US Politics (Jon Kofas, Greece)

On 22 October 2010, WikiLeaks made available a very large number (400,000 pages) of classified docs that reflect US government coverup during the Iraq war in several areas. There are some tragic revelations, among them that the Obama administration continued some of the secret war operations that Bush started, the same operations he had criticized before taking office. The US systematically and deliberately denied it was keeping a record of Iraqi casualties, especially civilians that according to the war logs could be 66,000 of the total 109,000 (another source has the total at 150,000, of which 80% were civilians), or 31 civilians dying each day of US occupation with the intention to “deliver freedom and democracy to Iraq.” The graphic description of detainee abuse and torture in Iraq is nothing new. However, killing journalists by US forces cannot be good news for the Pentagon’s image; not that killing innocent Iraqi women and children is any better for the military’s image or for the US. WikiLeaks adds another empirical dimension to what was already known, a dimension that disproves the massive US-NATO propaganda that torture and prisoner abuse were isolated incidents and that they were not policy but the acts of “individual servicemen” simply going too far. US-trained Iraqi military under the watchful eye of US military officials, carried out systematic torture and prisoner abuse; this despite US government and media propaganda campaign that such acts were isolated and not policy, and the individuals responsible would of course pay. But what about the fact that at one time the US had over 200,000 private contractors in Iraq and they operated with trigger-happy enthusiasm at the expense of civilians? The numbers of dead, tortured, and of course running for their lives inside and outside Iraq may never be known with certainty, but the certainty is that the casualties of war were mostly civilians. Surprisingly, perhaps not, we have the following revelation that: “US soldiers sent 1300 reports to headquarters with graphic accounts, including some beaten to death. The other issue: Why Bush and Obama okayed turning over detainees to torturing Iraqis.”
WikiLeaks shows that Iran was engaged in low-level warfare against the US along its border with Iraq. Iran’s aim was to train hit squads operating inside Iraq, while the US aim was to thwart any Iranian strategic advantage in the region as a result of Iraq’s occupied status. Based on the WikiLeaks information, the question of “war crimes” both in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan is an obvious one that many people around the world will raise. I have no doubt that the US will “strongly condemn” the illegal tortures and deaths by Iraqi security forces and that if there is anyone to go to trial for war crimes, it will be the Iraqi military and political leaders implicated in war crimes! All wars are carried out mostly at the expense of civilians, mostly at the expense of women and children, and Iraq is no different. Just before the US midterm elections, the question is whether the WikiLeaks docs reveal that operations and practices on the ground did not change simply because America put on a “kinder gentler face” attached to Barack Obama and the Democrats.
What do WikiLeaks mean for US foreign policy? First, WikiLeaks has edited out sensitive information that could cause harm to individuals. We now know that the docs about Afghanistan did not cause as much damage to US interests as US officials claimed initially. “In a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) dated Aug. 16 and obtained by CNN, Gates asserts that while the online whistleblower’s publication of the documents did pose a risk to national security, it did not compromise any key sources of intel. Gates said most of the information published related to “tactical military operations.”

Second, it is too early to determine if the Iraq WikiLeaks will compromise US intel sources or even national security. But there are serious questions why WikiLeaks is the place for top-secret government docs and not the NY Times, Washington Post, or any mainstream media outlet. Given the reports that such a flood of classified docs on Iraq was coming, what does that say about Pentagon security? Is there a group of people inside the Pentagon and perhaps State Dept. that wants to a) end the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan and pull out completely; b) increase defense spending and force the Obama administration to become more hawkish; c) focus all efforts on a future conflict with Iran, given that Iraq and Afghanistan did not go so well, and given that Iran has emerged as the regional power; d) an effort by Democrats to embarrass Republicans and keep losses to a minimum in the upcoming election; e) an effort by Republicans trying to prove that there is not much difference between Bush and Obama in the manner they handled the issue of torture in Iraq?
Although the Nov. 2010 mid-term election will be decided on the economy, unemployment, and fiscal issues, the release of the WikiLeaks docs may help the Tea Party Republicans make even greater gains in November by focusing more on Iran and militant Muslims as a threat to US interests, something Israel has been pushing as well. American citizens now have proof that the Democratic administration allowed some of the same type of operations that Obama criticized while running for President. Documents prove Obama’s response was not very different than Bush’s when it came to detainees and having Robert Gates as Defense Secretary may tell much of the story. Not that WikiLeaks will decide the election, but it may have some impact in further polarizing the already polarized electorate. Tea Party Republicans will definitely gain ground trying to show that US foreign and defense policies must remain hawkish against the background of international (Islamic terrorist threat, especially Iran trying to join the “Nuclear Club”), and against liberal and leftist conspiracies like the one that appears behind WikiLeaks and undermines American security. Obama, now exposed by WikiLeaks, will have no choice after the mid-term elections but to move to the right of center–left and center have nowhere to go–in preparation for the 2012 presidential race.

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