Sunday, October 24, 2010

Editorial: WikiLeaks' document release


Above is the front of The New York Times on Saturday. Word to the wise, you don't want to make the cover of the Saturday paper. It's the least read edition.

If WikiLeaks made any big mistake in their Friday release of US military documents pertaining to the Iraq War, it was in releasing them on Friday and so late on Friday. The news cycle remains a Monday through Friday cycle. You've never noticed how many times MSNBC runs so many of those bookend programs Crimes Caught on Camera and Caught On Camera?

The documents (the equivalent of 800 telephone books, according to NBC Nightly News) contain many revelations including that the military knew things were worse than was being admitted. Instead of admitting it, the Pentagon blamed reporters, as was pointed out Saturday on NBC Nightly News.

Richard Engel: The problem is they don't reflect what we were being told by the military at the time. Particularly before the surge, the military was saying that the situation on the ground was better than was being reported, that it was reporters who were exaggerating the problem. These documents show that the military knew full well how bad the situation was and was telling itself and reporting it internally that there was a really serious situation in Iraq.

The Pentagon lied. At the start of the war, this wasn't a controversial statement to make. But since Rolling Stone walked out on those 2003 'news' briefings, has the press really raised the issue?

No. They've ignored it and repeatedly ignored it.

The documents note the torture and murder of Iraqi detainees that were tortured by Iraqi forces.

The US government knew this -- under George W. Bush and under Barack Obama -- they knew this. There was a video of an execution in December 2009 and there was no follow up after the report was filed. Explain that.

And explain to us how Iraq continues to receive funds? Didn't the 1997 Leahy Amendment (recently back in the news due to abuses in Pakistan)forbid funds going to any forces who were even suspected of torture?

The Nobel Peace Prize winning president didn't stop torture, didn't even stop funding torture. It's not good news for the Cult of St. Barack.

Nor is Angus Stickler's "Obama administration handed over detainees despite reports of torture" (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) which notes War Crimes:

President Barack Obama's government handed over thousands of detainees to the Iraqi authorities, despite knowing there were hundreds of reports of alleged torture in Iraqi government facilities.
Washington was warned by the United Nations and many human rights organisations that torture was widespread in Iraqi detention centres. But the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal the US's own troops informed their commanders of more than 1,300 claims of torture by Iraqi Security forces between 2005 and 2009.
[. . .]
Human rights organisations have expressed outrage at the revelations. Professor Novak, the UN Rapporteur on Torture told the Bureau: "If the United States forces handed over detainees to Iraqi jurisdiction, despite the fact that they were at serious risk of being subjected to torture, that is a violation of Article 3C of the Convention Against Torture of which the US is a signatory."

Human rights groups? Oh, yeah, the thing the US media keeps forgetting to include. Amnesty International issued the following Friday:

Amnesty International today called on the USA to investigate how much US officials knew about the torture and other ill-treatment of detainees held by Iraqi security forces after new evidence emerged in files released by the Wikileaks organization on Friday.

“We have not yet had an opportunity to study the leaked files in detail but they add to our concern that the US authorities committed a serious breach of international law when they summarily handed over thousands of detainees to Iraqi security forces who, they knew, were continuing to torture and abuse detainees on a truly shocking scale,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The new disclosures appear to closely match the findings of New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detentions and Torture in Iraq, a report published by Amnesty International in September 2010 detailing the widespread torture and other ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi forces, committed with impunity. Thousands of Iraqis who had been detained by US forces were transferred from US to Iraqi custody between early 2009 and July 2010 under an agreement between the USA and Iraq that contains no provisions for ensuring protection of the detainees’ human rights.

“These documents apparently provide further evidence that the US authorities have been aware of this systematic abuse for years, yet they went ahead and handed over thousands of Iraqis they had detained to the Iraqi security forces,” said Malcolm Smart.

The USA is a party to the UN Convention against Torture, the main international treaty prohibiting torture, which requires all states to prohibit torture and to refrain from transferring detainees to the authorities of another state at whose hands they face torture.

Amnesty International continues to campaign for full accountability in the cases of all those detainees tortured and ill-treated by USA military personnel in Iraq , such as those in Abu Ghraib prison.

The US authorities, like all governments, have an obligation under international law not only to ensure that their own forces do not use torture, but also that people who were detained and are being held by US forces are not handed over to other authorities who are likely to torture them.

“The USA failed to respect this obligation in Iraq, despite the great volume of evidence, available from many different quarters, showing that the Iraqi security forces use torture widely and are allowed to do so with impunity.” said Malcolm Smart

“The information said to be in these documents also underscores the urgent need for the Iraqi government to take concrete measures to end torture, ensure the safety of all detainees, and root out and bring to justice those responsible for torture and other serious human rights abuses, however senior their position.”

When you hear or read the stories, you need to pay attention to what you're being offered. It is just what the Pentagon says? Is anyone else being brought in?

War Crimes took place. Where are the attorneys in the coverage? Where are the human rights activists? Where are the peace activists?

While the war was being sold, only a very narrow range of voices were allowed to be heard via the media. Why is these are the same voices getting to weigh in now?

We hope there will be more coverage. We know that, tomorrow, Friday's release will feel some time ago to many news outlets. Saturday, the Financial Times 'covered' the release in their weekend edition . . . on page two . . . under the fold on page two . . . in fifteen lousy paragraphs.

But we see that The New York Times also front paged the documents today. Hopefully, that's a sign that the story will still have traction in this week's news cycle.

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