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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.



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Entries tagged "Wikileaks"

Malice Versus Nobility: Scooter Libby and Bradley Manning

March 11, 2012 ·

Scooter Libby and Bradley Manning.After 9/11, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a Yale graduate with a law degree from Columbia, and fellow neo cons plotted to twist and invent "intelligence" data to convince the public that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, so as to build a case for invading Iraq.

From 2001 to 2005, Libby served as Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs, Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States and Assistant to President George W. Bush.

Libby and fellow neo cons stressed Bush’s dubious 2003 State of the Union Address claim that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Cheney repeated that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons" in March of that year.

The CIA was asked to investigate. Joe Wilson, a former U.S. Ambassador and expert on Africa, got chosen for the mission. His wife, Valery Plame, worked as a covert CIA operator.

Wilson dismissed the “yellow-cake tale”. His July 2003 New York Times op-ed, What I Didn't Find In Africa, suggested the Bushies had invented pretexts for the Iraq war.

Libby and fellow war plotters Karl Rove and Richard Armitage, not satisfied by their success in making war, wanted to punish their Washington enemies. They leaked Plame’s name to the mischievous columnist Robert Novak — to punish her husband, Wilson. Novak’s story ended her CIA career, and exposed her agents and contacts.

A jury later convicted Libby of obstruction of justice and perjury around the case. A judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison, and fined him $250,000. Bush, months later, commuted his term.  But no one got charged with plotting to distribute false information to lure the public to war. The New York Times had even helped the campaign by publishing the lies as news stories on its front page.

Count the Bush cabal’s accomplishments: thousands of dead US military personnel and contractors, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis; hundreds of thousands wounded, physically and mentally – here and there. Iraq remains broken. 13,000 Iraqis died violently last year. Bush destroyed Iraq’s integrity. His profligate war spending vastly increased the national debt. His definitive biography might be called: “Lying The Nation Into War.”

Libby served some months in prison. But the neo con gang should be called simply "cons" – as in convicts. Most of them got great jobs instead.

In November 2005, a Marine Corps unit killed 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children in Haditha, Iraq. Investigators determined all died from multiple gun shot wounds at close range  — apparently as payback for an Iraqi rebel attack on a US convoy in which a Marine Corporal died – the mini My Lai of Iraq.

This past January 24, a U.S. military judge handed down harsh sentences. Squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank G. Wuterich, pleaded guilty of war crimes and received a maximum of 90 days in prison and a reduction in pay and rank. He served no time in the brig. One Marine was acquitted; six others had their cases dropped

No U.S. official has been charged for the massive number of civilian deaths in Iraq, or for lying as a pretext for war. Who remembers the Nuremberg laws?

Now look at Private Bradley Manning’s ordeal. He had access to and allegedly released — to Julian Assange of Wikileaks — hundreds of thousands of secret documents. These documents did not expose secrets vital to our enemy, but lies, corruption and crimes by U.S. officials and those of other countries. Manning’s defense team stresses that what Wikileaks published wasn’t or shouldn’t have been secret.

Manning did however embarrass U.S. officials by exposing their illegal, stupid, selfish and downright inane activities. If he illegally distributed those documents, why doesn't the Justice Department charge the New York Times and other newspapers that gleefully distributed this supposedly classified (mortifying) material? One video Manning allegedly released spread virally. U.S. helicopter gunship members get orders to fire on Iraqis because one (a Reuters cameraman) might have a weapon (a video camera). We witness from the camera mounted on the gun the massacre of a group of men near the cameraman, and then of others who subsequently arrive to help the wounded, including a child in a van. Humanitarian behavior in Iraq? Who invited us there?

Was this classified because Iraqis didn’t know our troops did such things – or because it disgraces our military?

With vindictiveness aforethought the military held Manning for months in solitary confinement – often naked with the light on all night — in the Quantico Virginia Marine Base. Solitary confinement “crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment,” as John McCain described his two years of solitary confinement in Vietnam.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and the New York Times concluded that solitary confinement constitutes torture, designed to break a person. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture tried to investigate Manning’s prison conditions. The military refused his request for an unmonitored visit.

The 24 year-old Manning faces 22 charges, including "aiding the enemy." If convicted, the government will call for life imprisonment, unless Manning implicates Julian Assange in the "conspiracy" to expose the "secret" sins of U.S. national security. Members of the Icelandic Parliament have nominated Manning for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Let's help him win it – as a free man.

Unconventional Wisdom: No Secrets at IPS

December 3, 2010 ·

The release of secret diplomatic cables by the whistleblower organization WikiLeaks is either a truth-seeker’s treasure trove or a massive threat to international security and diplomacy. While much of the information has embarrassed members of the U.S. Foreign Service for their snide and “undiplomatic” portrayal of world leaders, the content merely confirms what we already suspected - the Obama administration's diplomacy is more of what we have seen in the past, further evidence of the insanity of our foreign policy, conducted at great economic and political costs through either force or negotiations.

The diplomatic leaks are “an orchard of exposés over-ripe for cherry-picking,” as IPS fellow Phyllis Bennis states in her most recent article, “WikiLeaks: War, Diplomacy & Ban ki-Moon’s Toothbrush." Bennis points out, in a recent interview with the Real News Network, one of the more bizarre and frightening disclosure of the leaks is the fact that U.S. diplomats have been effectively turned into spies, tasked with obtaining biometric and other information on top world officials. IPS fellow Emira Woods, in her recent Voice of America interview, also emphasizes this aspect of the leaks and lauds the transparency and the free flow of information that the leaks provide.

While there are reasons to applaud WikiLeaks, there is also great concern that information taken and interpreted out of context could have negative and even fatal consequences. IPS scholar John Feffer points out how the current and possible future revelations exposed through leaks about South Korea, North Korea, and China can easily undermine secret negotiations in his latest article in the Institute's weekly foreign policy ezine, World Beat, “Transparency Fundamentalists.” Our hard-hitting analysis isn't top-secret but it's free and always worth a close read. Subscribe to World Beat today.

For 47 years, IPS has responsibly spoken truth(s) to power. We look forward to the many years to come.

Pentagon Papers 2.1 - Wikileaks Iraq War Logs Make Accountability Harder to Deny

October 25, 2010 ·

The Iraq war logs released by Wikileaks over the weekend do not, as far as we can tell so far, contain much evidence of things we didn’t already know.  The revelations are not surprising – but they are shocking nonetheless. Partly because of the scale – 15,000 more civilian casualties than we had known about before. (And remember, this is the very narrow definition of war casualties – including only those killed directly by weapons of war, not the hundreds of thousands more killed by the effects of the war – those unable to find treatment because hospitals had been destroyed, those children dying of once-vanquished diseases because the water treatment systems had been destroyed, and so much more.)

This latest trove of Wikileaks war documents is important not because it holds any new revelations of how the U.S. has and continued to wage war against Iraq, but rather because it reminds us of exactly how that war was and is being waged, and crucially, who is responsible. The significance has everything to do with accountability. 

It is unlikely that this latest exposé will have much impact in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East – the brutality, illegality, immorality and inhumanity of the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq are already all too well known there.  (Despite fevered Washington outrage, the “revelation” that Iran is paying huge amounts of money to buy influence in Baghdad should come as no surprise – isn’t that what the U.S. has been doing since 2003? Except Iran isn’t also militarily occupying and bombing its neighbor.)  The impact of the documents will be much more important here in the U.S., where economic crisis and intractable joblessness have, however understandably, diverted public attention from the horrors of war.  It is much more important here because despite a partial reduction of troops, there are still 50,000 re-named combat troops and 75,000 U.S.-paid military contractors occupying Iraq.  The war continues.

The actions recounted in the Wikileaks seemingly endless list of documents – attacks on civilians, airstrikes ordered by Pentagon legal advisers on Iraqis trying to surrender, attacks at checkpoints against Iraqi families who had no reason to understand the language or handmotions of occupying soldiers – represent war crimes.  And as long as there is no accountability – at the highest levels – for the policies that put these potential war crimes in motion, there is no reason to believe they will stop.  These documents do not tell us anything we didn’t already know – except for the details of who did what, who died, and crucially, who gave the orders.

It will not be enough to hold accountable those individuals at the end of the chain of command who pulled the trigger. First we must hold accountable all of those – in the Pentagon, the White House, the Justice Department and beyond – who gave the orders, who wrote the policies, who approved the airstrikes.  Then, and only then, we might be in a position to claim that we are trying to end the war.

The Wikileaks Afghan War Diary: More Evidence of a Failed Mission

July 26, 2010 ·

Afghan soldiersI wrote an assessment of last week’s meeting in Kabul on Friday, before news had, ahem, leaked of Wikileaks' extraordinary new trove of documents, the Pentagon Papers: Afghanistan. I think the earlier piece is still useful.

But first, a couple of quick thoughts on the Wikileaks documents. There will be much more to come, as we find the time to dig through the reports.

This set of documents is unquestionably an important first history of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Of course, mistakes will be found — but these are reports of military leaders to others in the military. This is where they tell the truth. It's significant that the Obama administration has carefully avoided claiming the reports aren't accurate. Instead, they're claiming that disclosure of the reports somehow endangers U.S. troops while at the same time disparaging the documents as having no new information. There's no way these reports will endanger the troops — Afghans and Pakistanis clearly know far better than we do what U.S./NATO forces are actually doing in their countries.

What the leaks will do is stoke even greater global anger around the world, as evidence comes to those who didn’t know firsthand what the U.S./NATO occupation means for Afghans and Pakistanis. That will certainly mean rising anger toward U.S. policy and Americans as a whole. But more importantly, it will spur enormous antiwar activity in places like Europe, Canada, Australia, and Turkey. And that means greater pressure on those governments now providing troops for the war in Afghanistan — and on the Obama administration to end the war.

There is no evidence yet of a new smoking gun among the documents. But taken as a whole, the documents provide a collective arsenal of evidence of a brutal war that never did have a chance to succeed — and evidence of two administrations of a government determined to mislead its own people and the rest of the world.

The documents indicate significant shifts in the nature of how the war is being fought, with documentation of escalating Special Forces operations and drone attacks. The Pentagon's "nation-building" efforts are failing in places like Marja, last spring’s poster-city of a U.S.-backed government-in-a-box.The handpicked mayor-in-a-box, who spent most of the last 15 years living in Germany, is so unpopular that he has to be ferried into town on military helicopters for occasional meetings and then quickly whisked away.

So perhaps it isn't surprising that the new documents describe activities like those of Task Force 373, a death-squad that goes after identified individuals on a kill-or-capture list. No trial, of course. And if drones are called in to do more of the dirty work so U.S. troops are not at risk, and more Afghan or Pakistani civilians are killed as a result — well, that’s just part of the cost of war.

The documents include evidence of civilian deaths never reported in the press, many of them probably never even mentioned or asked about in the virtually nonexistent congressional oversight of the years documented in these reports. They detail massive levels of corruption, extortion, and constant violence inflicted on Afghan civilians by the U.S.-backed, U.S.-trained and U.S.-funded militias known as the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

And they demonstrate, again, the continuing links between Pakistan’s top military intelligence agency, the ISI, and the top leadership of the Taliban — despite claims by Secretary of State Clinton and others in the Obama administration that Pakistan is a reliable U.S. ally that just needs to work a little harder on going after terrorists. Ironically, the Obama administration’s answer to the documents repeats the effort to blur the very distinct organizations known as the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban into a generic presence in Pakistan known as “the terrorists” or “the Taliban.”

The Wikileaks documents provide a treasure trove of evidence — of what we already knew. This war has already failed. Every death, of civilian and soldier, is needless. The cost of this occupation and this war — in Afghan blood, in U.S. and NATO military blood, in billions of dollars needed for jobs at home and real reconstruction in Afghanistan and elsewhere — is too high. 

We need to stop the funding now, bring the troops and contractors home, support regional diplomacy, and begin the long effort of repaying our huge debt to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Wikileaks Releases 'Afghan War Diary'

July 26, 2010 ·

The analogy between the Vietnam War and the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan has taken on a new uncanny similarity. The New York Times leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, unveiling years of classified government documents detailing unlawful behavior and wartime atrocities. Simply change the names and locations and you have the Afghan War Diary, a compilation of 91,370 war documents released by WikiLeaks, revealing what the Guardian calls "a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan.”

The leak was distributed to three Western news sources (Der Spiegel, The New York Times, and The Guardian) on the condition that they wait until the July 26th release date. Responses to the latest WikiLeak have been mixed, with some fearing that transparency and accountability will come at the price of more American lives.

The White House promptly condemned WikiLeaks as “irresponsible” and a “threat to our national security”; however, they were also prompt to note that the report covers 2004-2009, when the war was directed by a Republican administration and before President Obama’s surge was implemented.

Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project here at the Institute, warns that the leak might lead to more violence against Americans, but critically points out that “The solution is not less information, but to stop U.S. activities leading to higher than acknowledged civilian casualties.”

Glenn Greenwald from Salon also lauds the value of the new information, defending that “WikiLeaks has yet again proven itself to be one of the most valuable and important organizations in the world.” But Greenwald forecasts that, like the controversy that embroiled the release of the Pentagon Papers, “The war on WikiLeaks, unfortunately, will only intensify now.”

Wikileaks has respectfully withheld 15,000 of the documents at the request of its source for “harm minimization,” but plans to release them all at some point. With this careful understanding of wartime information management, is all of the criticism and concern for Americans’ welfare warranted?

The 75,000 documents already released offer plenty of critical, disparaging fodder to attack the credibility of the U.S. operation ”supporting the aspirations of the Afghan people,” as officially claimed by National Security Advisor General James Jones. WikiLeaks reports instead that, “the material shows that cover-ups start on the ground. When reporting their own activities U.S. Units are inclined to classify civilian kills as insurgent kills, downplay the number of people killed or otherwise make excuses for themselves.”

The report also contains unprecedented news on U.S. Special Ops unit, Task Force 373, which The Guardian describes as a “secret ‘black’ unit of special forces” with the mission to hunt down Taliban leaders for ‘kill or capture’ without trial. This unit, as revealed by the files, is responsible for some of the worst civilian atrocities in a war that has already led to at least 12,000 civilian deaths, according to UN and Human Rights Watch estimates. Gut-wrenching excerpts on the activities of TF373 can be found here.

The logs contain details of 144 incidents of US troops directly causing civilian casualties, but David Leigh and Nick Davies of AlterNet point out that these only account for 195 civilian deaths. That leaves an estimated gap of 11,900 civilian deaths completely unaccounted for and undocumented by the US in Afghanistan. 

Rather than playing defense and condemning WikiLeaks’ action as an “irresponsible leak,” the Obama administration has an invaluable opportunity to utilize this sensation constructively: With a bright spotlight illuminating shortcomings of the past, Obama ought to galvanize this energy to change the war’s present futile trajectory.