War crimes and Web of deception

This article originally appeared in the Daily Mirror of July 30, 2010

Hats off to Wikileaks.com for revealing the murderous character of the United States’ war in Afghanistan though one does not know why its sources decided to reveal those top secret documents.

WikiLeaks, the website that allows whistleblowers to post documents that expose corruption in governments, non-governmental organisations and transnational companies, made headlines once again this week when it announced that it had posted 92,000 reports that gave the real picture of the Afghan war.

It was only months ago that the website hit international headlines when it posted a video that showed US helicopter gunships killing unarmed civilians in Baghdad.

The latest reports which are war logs written by US soldiers and officers in Afghanistan have caused severe embarrassment to the United States. They revealed several war crimes, assassination attempts by US special forces (or death squads?), dealings with drug lords, corruption and other sordid happenings, which the embedded western journalists in Afghanistan have failed to report or have been prevented from reporting.

The Barack Obama administration has dismissed the logs as insignificant. Yet it has come down hard on WikiLeaks, accusing it of putting US soldiers in harms way and jeopardizing war plans and national security.

Despite the embarrassment and the anger, the Obama administration may find some solace in the fact that the reports covered the period from 2001 to 2009 — the two terms of the George W. Bush administration. This may make one to believe that the whistleblowers are probably anti-Bush and anti-war, and do not want Obama to go the Bush way.

But there is another theory which says the whistleblowers are hardcore hawks. They leaked the documents to show how messy the Afghan situation has become and whip up support for fresh military measures that would require a longer stay in Afghanistan, a strategic country overlooking China and Russia’s backyard. These military measures may even take the war to Pakistan because the reports claim that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, is sharing information with the Taliban and protecting them.

Whatever the reasons for the leaks and whoever the sources are, the war logs show that war crimes have been and are being committed in Afghanistan. Even as the war logs were being posted on WikiLeaks’ website, news agencies over the weekend reported that 52 Afghan civilians were killed in a US missile attack. The deaths would probably be categorized as collateral damage.

How many more civilian lives will it take for the Obama administration to realize the demonic nature of the imperial war it wages for global dominance and global resources? There is little the rest of the world can do with regard to prosecuting those responsible for the war crimes in Afghanistan. The United States did not sign the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court, which is also known as the war crimes tribunal, because it argued that the US judicial system was strong and credible enough to try war crimes suspects who are US citizens. But days after the Afghan war logs were made public, there is little indication that the United States is even thinking of such prosecution. There is also no indication that the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will set up an experts panel to advise him on the war crimes mentioned in the war logs.

Surely, the US prosecutors and the UN Chief must have by now read at least some of those logs where evidence of war crimes is found. Surely, they must have by now heard or read the comments made by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The global anti-corruption activist told a news conference in London on Monday that thousands of incidents revealed in the documents constituted war crimes that should be investigated and prosecuted.

Here is one such war crime extracted from the reports and carried in the British Guardian, which WikiLeaks trusted to share the Afghan war logs.

Headlined “How the US marines sanitized bloodbath’, the article describes an incident in these words:

“It started with a suicide bomb. On 4 March 2007, a convoy of US marines, who had arrived in Afghanistan three weeks earlier, was hit by an explosives-rigged minivan outside the southeastern city of Jalalabad.

“The marines made a frenzied escape, opening fire with automatic weapons as they tore down a six-mile stretch of highway, hitting almost anyone in their way — teenage girls in the fields, motorists in their cars, old men as they walked along the road. Nineteen unarmed civilians were killed and 50 wounded.”

The Guardian article notes that no soldier gave the account of the rampage in their military reports. The details of the carnage, however, transpired in a subsequent 17-day inquiry. At the end of the inquiry, no one was punished, despite strong evidence from Afghan officials who witnessed the bloody trail left behind by the US soldiers during their trigger-happy ride back to the Jalalabad base.

The article also gives details of how US military investigators who went to the scene of carnage threatened the journalists there and got them to delete the photographs they had taken.

Talking of journalists, the Afghan war logs on WikiLeaks also record how the US occupation force bought the loyalty of the Afghan media so that they would not report civilian killings and other wrong deeds committed by the international troops.

It is understandable that the poorly-paid Afghan journalists are selling their souls for a few extra dollars. But it is unfathomable why the Western mainstream media did not dare to report the war crimes. When enemy fire brought down a US helicopter, the embedded journalists dutifully reported that the crash was due to mechanical failure, though they knew that the insurgents were using shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles — a fact now confirmed by WikiLeaks’s Afghan war logs.

Even after WikiLeaks revelation, the rightwing Western media groups did not want to see the wood for the trees.

Instead of calling on the United States and other NATO members to withdraw from Afghanistan or launch war crimes probes, they lambasted WikiLeaks and accused it of helping the Taliban.

Britain’s Sun newspaper, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the pro-war Fox television, denounced the whistleblowers as “traitors”. In an editorial, Sun asked:

“Who benefits from the massive leak of military papers: the evil Taliban or British squaddies? Who will be cheering loudest that the allies have a traitor in their midst: the mad mullahs of Iran who supply weapons to the terrorists? Or the world leaders who want to make Afghanistan a country free from fear?”

The New York Times, another newspaper with which WikiLeaks shared the war logs, went to the White House and discussed the reports prior to their selective publication.

The lame reaction of the Western media gives credence to the claim that the war is fought with the help of the media.

The media certainly play a major role in modern warfare where truth is the first casualty. The embedded journalists of the mainstream media twist and turn the truth and produce bastardized news. As a result, the collective Western mindset is estranged from morality. This explains why the WikiLeaks revelations have not generated much public outcry against the Afghan and Iraq wars, the way the 1971 Pentagon Papers that exposed the US sham in Vietnam had done.

The Americans are silent even in the face of the war becoming a huge robbery. A US audit this week said more than 95 percent of the 9.1 billion US dollars Iraq had paid the Pentagon for reconstruction work was unaccounted for. It is Iraq’s hard earned money from its oil revenue. The Iraqis are furious, but the Americans are not.

It is time that Obama pulled out US troops from Afghanistan before the illegal, immoral and unjust war could further damage the American public conscience. He must realize that Afghanistan is a graveyard for invaders. He must realize that by continuing the war, he is only breeding more terrorists.

The world’s most powerful military force, supported by armies of other Western big powers, has been struggling to win the war for ten years. What more indictment than this is needed to show that the Americans are fighting a losing war?

The Afghan war logs posted on WikiLeaks offer a face-saving exit. Grab it and get out. But the US won’t. It was only on Wednesday that the US House of Representative passed a bill to fund the Afghan war with bipartisan support.

About ameenizzadeen

journalist and global justice activist
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