The whistleblowing website Wikileaks has released nearly 400,000 American military documents, detailing widespread torture, summary executions and war crimes. They reveal the truth about the US/UK legacy in Iraq.

The source of the leaks is thought to be the same US army intelligence analyst who recently leaked 90,000 documents concerning brutality, abuse and civilian killings in Afghanistan.

The Guardian has full coverage – including detail on how:

  • ‘US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.
  • A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.
  • More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.’

It’s easy to become complacent about the horrors of war and occupation in Iraq. The same applies to Afghanistan. But the scale of human suffering – and the deliberateness behind that suffering – revealed by these war logs is still a jolt.

This is what happens in modern warfare. It’s a long time since men in uniform were overwhelmingly the casualties of war. We live in an age in which civilians – women, men and children, from all walks of life – are the direct victims of policies formulated by governments thousands of miles away.

But of course that’s not the ‘narrative’ our media want us to hear. On the BBC news bulletin I listened to earlier we only heard one voice other than the newsreader’s. It was the voice of a US Army spokesman, condemning Wikileaks for sharing this information. In fact we heard him twice.

So the BBC, like (I’m sure) many other media organisations, is already complying merrily with American efforts to turn this into a story about the leaks causing a supposed security threat, not a story about massive levels of abuse, killing and cover-ups.

It reminded me of the deceit and distortion we had from the pro-war propagandists, especially those former lefties who turned into cheerleaders for US imperialism: Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch, Christopher Hitchens and the rest. Even now you’ll struggle to discern any remorse from these people – no doubt they’ll push the smears against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and whip up a non-existent ‘security threat’.

But we all know, and they all know, that the real threat to security comes from the casual brutality and cruelty revealed in the leaked documents. There is nothing ‘secure’ in the lives of the relatives of those 15,000 or more Iraqi civilians who ‘died in previously unknown incidents’.

What security is there for those victims of ‘abuse, torture, rape and even murder’? If the crimes against them were reported nothing was done. Instead they were covered up, didn’t count, made invisible.

There are 391, 832 leaked documents. Every one is a reminder of why we need US and allied troops out of countries where they don’t belong. Only a complete and immediate end to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan will bring any hope of ending the abuses and the killing.

Every one of those documents is a call to action. Join Stop the War’s national demonstration on Saturday 20 November. It’s Time To Go.

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Alex Snowdon

Alex Snowdon is a Counterfire activist in Newcastle. He is active in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and the National Education Union.‚Äč He is the author of A Short Guide to Israeli Apartheid (2022).