The war against WikiLeaks

(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here. You can also listen to the podcast of the interview on WCPN 90.3 about the book.)

Yesterday, I wrote about the killing of a family of five people, including two pregnant women and a teenager, and the attempted cover up by NATO forces in Afghanistan. It should be noted that the London Times reporter Jerome Starkey reported the story of killings and cover-up in Afghanistan more than a month ago, saying that “A Times investigation suggests that Nato’s claims are either wilfully false or, at best, misleading” but there was a lack of interest by the US media in reporting these stories

That is par for the course. The US news media rarely has the kind of inquisitiveness or the healthy skepticism of official versions of events that you would expect journalists to have and continues to report the military’s versions of events as facts, at least initially, unless they happen to have reporters actually on or near the site when the event occurred. They usually wait until the real information is unearthed and publicized by either the foreign media or independent groups like WikiLeaks before starting to question the official story and investigate for themselves.

For those who read the foreign media, the number of cases of large scale or brutal civilian deaths covered up by the US military becomes staggering. The use of unmanned drones to strike at targets, which has escalated greatly under Obama, has resulted in numerous cases of civilian casualties. Take this story that reports that up to 90 people, 60 of them children, were killed in an airstrike in Azizabad in Afghanistan on August 22, 2008. First the US said only seven civilians were killed, then much later acknowledged that figure to 33.

Tom Engelhardt describes the event and the cover up:

As many as 76 members of a single extended family were killed, along with its head, Reza Khan. His compound seems to have been specially targeted… The incident in Azizabad may represent the single deadliest media-verified attack on civilians by U.S. forces since the invasion of 2001. Numerous buildings were damaged. Many bodies, including those of children, had to be dug out of the rubble. There may have been as many as 60 children among the dead. The U.S. military evidently attacked after being given false information by another tribal leader/businessman in the area with a grudge against Khan and his brother.

Given the weight of evidence at Azizabad, the on-site investigations, the many graves, the destroyed houses, the specificity of survivor accounts, and so on, this might have seemed like a cut-and-dried case of mistaken intelligence followed by an errant assault with disastrous consequences. But accepting such a conclusion simply isn’t in the playbook of the U.S. military or the Bush administration.

Instead, in such cases what you regularly get is a predictable U.S. narrative about what happened made up of outlandish claims (or simply bald-faced lies), followed by a strategy of stonewalling, including a blame-the-victims approach in which civilian deaths are regularly dismissed as enemy-inspired “propaganda,” followed — if the pressure doesn’t ease up — by the announcement of an “investigation” (whose results will rarely be released), followed by an expression of “regrets” or “sorrow” for the loss of life — both weasel words that can be uttered without taking actual responsibility for what happened — never to be followed by a genuine apology.

Another horror story is the execution-style killing in December by NATO soldiers of eight handcuffed Afghan children aged 11 to 18. Once again, the US media accepted at face value the US military’s initial statement that these were members of a bomb-making ring, and it took the foreign media (again Jerome Starkey this time in The Scotsman) to investigate and report what had actually happened and get NATO to admit two months later that the dead were actually students.

Given the penchant of the US government for secrecy and cover-ups, is it any wonder that the independent news media are seen by the US government as an enemy? We are also partly to blame because we don’t seem to want to hear this kind of bad news, unless the victims are Americans. As Engelhardt says:

This sort of “collateral damage” is an ongoing modern nightmare, which, unlike dead Amish girls or school shootings, does not fascinate either our media or, evidently, Americans generally. It seems we largely don’t want to know about what happened, and generally speaking, that’s lucky because the media isn’t particularly interested in telling us. This is one reason the often absurd accounts sometimes offered by the U.S. military go relatively unchallenged — as, fortunately, they did not in the case of the incident at Azizabad.

As a result of the recent WikiLeaks video, the US has now trained its guns (at least metaphorically for now) on it, stating that the organization is a threat to national security and is trying to find out who is leaking to them so that they can punish them as a means of discouraging further leaks. Dan Froomkin writes:

Just last month, WikiLeaks posted the results of a U.S. counterintelligence investigation into none other than WikiLeaks itself. The report determined that WikiLeaks “represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security (OPSEC), and information security (INFOSEC) threat to the US Army.”

The report also concludes, highly suggestively: “ uses trust as a center of gravity by assuring insiders, leakers, and whistleblowers who pass information to personnel or who post information to the Web site that they will remain anonymous. The identification, exposure, or termination of employment of or legal actions against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others from using to make such information public.” (my italics)

You can see the secret US memo on how to destroy WikiLeaks at WikiLeaks.

The threats by the US military against WikiLeaks are not to be taken lightly. During the Iraq war, we saw how they viewed Al Jazeera as a ‘hostile’ force. Al Jazeera bureau offices in both Baghdad and Kabul were bombed by US forces even though the news organization had given its coordinates to the Pentagon, and the bombing of their head offices in Qatar was also discussed. The two people who leaked the memo of George Bush and Tony Blair discussing this last option were put on secret trial for violating Britain’s infamous Official Secrets Act, and were sentenced to prison for six and three months.

Any American news organization that questions the innate decency and goodness of the US government and the military risks being harshly attacked as ‘not patriotic’ or not ‘supporting the troops’. This is how a propaganda system is created. It is interesting that a few US media organizations (such as the Associated Press and the Hearst and Gannett groups) actually provide support for WikiLeaks, presumably because as a way of getting around the self-censorship they seem to feel obliged to practice. Once WikiLeaks publishes something, the media then has some cover to follow up on the story. As the editor of WikiLeaks says, “We take the hardest publishing cases in the world and deal with them and by doing that we create a space behind us that admits other people to successfully publish.”

As the London Independent points out, what is amazing is that WikiLeaks has a staff of just five people and yet has produced “more scoops in its short life than The Washington Post has in the past 30 years” and the article provides some background on who is behind it and how it manages this.

This is why organizations like WikiLeaks and need our support. Without them, we would be at the complete mercy of the sanitized reporting of mainstream American media as they faithfully repeat the lies of the US government and the military.

Please support WikiLeaks. There are many ways to do so, not just with financial contributions.

POST SCRIPT: Stephen Colbert on the WikiLeaks video

He first talks about the video, the second clip has an edited interview with Julian Assange, and the third clip has the full, unedited interview. The full interview is well worth watching.

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'WikiLeaks Military Video
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News
<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Julian Assange
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News
<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Exclusives – Julian Assange Unedited Interview
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News


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