Monday, November 15, 2010

Wikileaks and a Democratic Conscience...

It’s time that we wrote about Wikileaks. 
The Wikileaks website [Here] explains their latest action:
At 5pm EST Friday 22nd October 2010 WikiLeaks released the largest classified military leak in history.  The 391,832 reports ('The Iraq War Logs'), document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army.  Each is a 'SIGACT' or Significant Action in the war.  They detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout.
The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces).  The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.  That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period.  For comparison, the 'Afghan War Diaries', previously released by WikiLeaks, covering the same period, detail the deaths of some 20,000 people.  Iraq during the same period, was five times as lethal with equivalent population size.
The site gives us easy access to the war material described above.  It also has a very interesting video of Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! interviewing famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg who in 1971 released to the New York Times and other newspapers, the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Defense Department study of the Vietnam WarThe entire collection was 7,000 pages long which the paper published in segments.  (Ellsberg said in the Democracy Now! interview, that he xeroxed the entire document.)  
Ellsberg was finally arrested and put on trial, accused under an old Espionage Act, of turning secret papers over to the press.  When he turned himself in to the police, he wrote this: [Here]
I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision.
The case against Daniel Ellsberg was finally thrown out of court.  The Nixon administration had been so anxious to get more information about Ellsberg to bolster their case against him that they had sent burglars into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office to see if his file contained any more dirt about him that they could use in court.  During the investigation of that event, one of the burglars mentioned the “first burglary” into the Democratic offices in the Watergate complex, opening up the whole subsequent sordid Nixon Watergate coverup scandal and Nixon’s eventual “I am not a crook” resignation.
Ellsberg remains a patient, intelligent, democratic voice for open and humane government.  It’s good for the soul to see him so quietly and articulately insistent that we remain true to our democratic principles.  
We were led into this story by an article by Jonathan Schell in The Nation, that same issue from which we quoted in our last blog.  Schell’s piece is titled “What We Learned From Wikileaks.”  [Here]  (You might remember that Schell is the author of Fate of the Earth, the compelling book that alerted my generation to the dangers of nuclear war and introduced us to the concept of a “nuclear winter.”)  
Schell gives us a brief overview of the Wikileaks documents and introduces us to young pfc. Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence soldier, who is suspected of leaking the documents to Wikileaks.  According to Schell, Manning has not yet been formally charged, but is in a military detention center while the investigation proceeds.  Manning once admitted thinking about releasing the information.  Schell tells us that Manning chatted online with a blogger, Adrian Lamo, who asked Manning why he didn’t make money by turning  the documents over to a foreign power.  Manning answered:  [Here]
Information should be free...because another state would just take advantage of the information...try and get some edge.... It should be a public good. 
(This sounds exactly what Daniel Ellsberg would have said at an earlier time--or a young Jonathan Schell.)
Schell describes Manning’s tipping point.  [Here]
Manning's breaking point had come when he witnessed the arrest by the Iraqi police of fifteen people for printing "anti-Iraqi literature."  He looked the documents over and found them to consist merely of "a scholarly critique" of the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.  He reported the finding to his American superior, who dismissed it and told him to busy himself looking for more people to detain.
As an intelligence officer with access to secret reports, Manning knew well what happened to detainees in Iraqi custody. They were commonly tortured...

I do not know what will happen to young Bradley Manning.  I hope nothing, beyond perhaps being thrown out of the army.  We also hope that Julian Assange, the creator of Wikileaks, remains safe and free from custody.

Jonathan Schell gives voice to our hope for these brave Wikileaks men. [Here]  
Perhaps here in the United States, when the country has found its moral bearings again, there will be recognition of the integrity and bravery of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange.
I wonder how many Americans even know what Wikileaks has told us about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I wonder how many care...

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