Wikileaks Releases Iraq War Documents, Detailing Torture, Civilian Deaths
The numbers, indeed, are stunning. According to the report, 109,032 people died between 2004 and 2009, of which a whopping 66,081 were "civilians." Overall, the Bush administration failed to report roughly 15,000 deaths (Check out the Guardian's Google Maps-generated overhead shot, which geographically pinpoints every single death mentioned in the logs).
The U.S. military, meanwhile, reportedly ignored hundreds of civilian claims of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi soldiers and police, and even tortured its own detainees well after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal of 2004. The soldiers' claims, which were substantiated with medical evidence, detail cases in which detainees were shackled, blindfolded and hung by their wrists or ankles. Many prisoners had to endure whipping, punching, kicking and even electric shocks administered by their American captors. In one instance, U.S. soldiers in a helicopter gunship willingly killed a group of Iraqi insurgents -- after they'd already attempted to surrender.
The Pentagon, as you'd imagine, is none too pleased about the logs, which are believed to have been sourced from Pfc. Bradley Manning -- the same army intelligence officer alleged to have been behind Wikileaks' previous leak on the war in Afghanistan. "This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed," the Pentagon said. "Our enemies will mine this information looking for insights into how we operate, cultivate sources and react in combat situations, even the capability of our equipment."
Other organizations, on the other hand, are pressing Washington for answers. Amnesty International has already called upon the U.S. to determine how much its military commanders knew about their soldiers' abusive behavior with detainees. Phil Shiner, a human rights specialist at Public Interest Lawyers, says he'll use the logs in court to pressure the UK into holding a public inquiry into the apparently unlawful killing of Iraqi citizens.
At a London news conference held this morning, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange proudly claimed that the freshly leaked documents "constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record." Assange's claims may sound lofty, but they were later substantiated by an observer who knows a real leak when he sees one. "I've been waiting 40 years for someone to disclose information on a scale that might really make a difference," said Daniel Ellsberg -- the man who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971.