WikiLeaks and the Iraq and Afghan Wars
By Steffen Schmidt
By Steffen Schmidt
“We already know, as Aeschylus said, that truth is the first casualty of war. But when the truth finally emerges, the reputations of nations and their leaders are often the second casualty. If this scrutiny has but one purpose, it will be to remind politicians, who have often seemed to take war lightly, of the continuing weight of their accountability.” Telegraph.co.uk
The truth is that nothing about the Iraq war has turned out well as the 391,832 classified documents released by WikiLeaks in October 2010 on top of previous releases and another bunch from Afghanistan since then, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt. The credibility is impeccable because these are in the words of the United States military on the ground, in battle. Here is a quick summary of what has been confirmed.
“Americans carelessly opened fire at checkpoints when Iraqis failed to stop. Militias and insurgents roamed the streets, randomly killing members of the other sect. Iraqi security forces rounded up suspects at will and tortured them. Iran infiltrated, armed and influenced the Shiite Muslim militias responsible for thousands of the deaths.” The LATimes.com
Soon after the war started we discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction (none we could find). Saddam Hussein needed to pump that myth up as protection against his enemy Iran which was a big military threat.
Then Bush and Cheney said – “Well, but Saddam was a terrible man and we got rid of him, torture, violence and brought ‘democracy’ to Iraq.”
Documents now show a country in which torture, instability, violence, and brutality are probably as bad as under Saddam and the country is in ruins.
The use of private contractors has proven to be a catastrophic failure because they are not in the chain of command and it looks like they were given free rein to do whatever they wanted.
We have discovered that Iran was VERY deeply involved in the Iraq war but we largely ignored or minimized it because the “coalition” forces were not up to taking on a third front (beyond Afghanistan which was going nowhere and was neglected for eight years and Iraq).
The documents also show a nation in which sectarian violence deepened and will now rip even further as these documents confirm publicly what Iraqis have known from every day experience. Many of us argued from day one (you can check out the archives of my comments on WOI radio, KASI radio, and in my writings) that Iraq is not a nation but a loose collection of Kurds, Shiites, Sunni and other groups which were held together with the glue of blood and threats by Saddam.
The long term viability of a single, unified, and “democratic” Iraq seems more remote today, October, 2010 than ever in the seven+ years the U.S. Coalition partners and the Iraqi people have been expending blood, sweat, tears, tragedy and coin.
If anything is disturbing it’s the 680 civilians that were killed by U.S. forces after failing to stop at roadblocks. Of course U.S. forces, under constant attack, were quick at the trigger. We put them in that position. The soldiers were at war. The politicians put them there. It is a war where the enemy fights asymmetrically and anyone could be a combatant – the old woman walking by, the kid on a bicycle, the street vendor. It’s like Vietnam only to the nth power.
But for the people of Iraq and the relatives of these folks Americans are not likely to win their hearts and minds, which in the end is hugely important if Iraq is to be a friendly and stable place.
The U.S. military that knew a great deal more about the scale of the sectarian killings and abuses by the Iraq security forces that exploded especially from 2005 to 2007. U.S. forces largely ignored this brutality. This is a deadly blow to the moral high ground and the trust that the U.S. needs from the Iraqi people as we try to stabilize that country, train the military and police, and slowly leave.
Iraqis have had little reason to hope that an American officer or soldier will intercede on their behalf when Iraqi security forces rape, torture, whip, behead, execute them. That means that the only way an Iraqi can be safe is to come under the protection of their own sectarian militia – their own people; their “tribe.”
I have studied this conflict in great detail and my conclusion sadly is now that there is almost no hope for a political solution for a unified Iraq.
When politicians say that we need to continue to sustain or increase American troop and financial expenditures in these difficult places I suggest they look at the wreckage we have brought. Maybe a change in direction would is in order.
Steffen Schmidt is a university professor of political science at Iowa State University. He writes a political blog for The Des Moines Register and does analysis in Spanish for CNN en Español. He also serves as chief political and international correspondent for InsiderIowa.com.