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https://fair.org/home/nyt-on-wikileaks-move-along-no-atrocity-to-see-here/ 1/4, September 1, 2011

NYT on WikiLeaks: Move Along, No Atrocity to See Here

Peter Hart

(UPDATE: Today’s Times includes a story about the WikiLeaks Iraq cable, under the somewhat strange headline “Cable Implicates Americans in Deaths of Iraqi Civilians.” Still very little in the rest of the press— nothing on television, according to a search of the Nexis database).

One of the main media tropes regarding WikiLeaks‘ release of State Department cables last year was that there was either nothing new to be learned, or that private conversations they revealed were remarkably consistent with what U.S. officials were saying publicly. That was
totally misleading, but for many pundits the story seemed to end there.

Now comes the release of thousands more documents. If you’ve been reading the New York Times, you know these cables exist. But you don’t know much more than that. On August 29, the Times focused on a dispute over whether some names in the cable weren’t properly
redacted to protect these individuals—”a shift of tactics that has alarmed American officials.” WikiLeaks disagrees.

In today’s edition of the Times (9/1/11), reporter Scott Shane gives a few examples of what’s actually in the cables: criticism of former Philippines President Corazon Aquino, something about the Australian air safety system, human trafficking in Botswana.The rest of the article discusses the controversies over redactions, and whether or not someone has gained access to the entire trove of cables.

Shane adds: “News organizations in dozens of countries are panning for nuggets in the latest and largest dump of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks.”

One “nugget” the Times seems to have trouble finding: A cable that details how U.S. forces executed 11 civilians in a night raid in Iraq in 2006. The victims appear to have been handcuffed. U.S. forces apparently destroyed the evidence—the house—in an airstrike. McClatchy has a piece by Matthew Schofield (8/31/11) summarizing the matter ( “WikiLeaks: Iraqi Children in U.S. Raid Shot in Head, UN Says”). He reports: A U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a five-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.

The unclassified cable, which was posted on WikiLeaks‘ website last week, contained questions from a United Nations investigator about
the incident, which had angered local Iraqi officials, who demanded some kind of action from their government. U.S. officials denied at the
time that anything inappropriate had occurred.

But Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a communication to American
officials dated 12 days after the March 15, 2006, incident that autopsies performed in the Iraqi city of Tikrit showed that all the dead had been handcuffed and shot in the head. Among the dead were four women and five children. The children were all 5 years old or younger.

Schofield adds: At the time, American military officials in Iraq said the accounts of townspeople who witnessed the events were highly unlikely to be true, and they later said the incident didn’t warrant further investigation. Military officials also refused to reveal which units might have been involved in the incident.

The Daily Mirror (9/1/11) also has a piece today on this incident (“WikiLeaks Reveals Atrocities by U.S. forces”). John Glaser at Antiwar.com wrote a piece on August 29 detailing the contents of the cable—the first account that I can find, so he deserves credit for that. But at this point, major U.S. papers like the New York Times are still searching for this nugget.

Cable Implicates Americans in Deaths of Iraqi Civilians

By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr., Published: September 1, 2011, NY Times

A recently disclosed diplomatic cable shows that a top United Nations human rights official, Philip Alston, warned the US government five years ago that he had received information indicating that Iraqi reports of US troops executing a family were true. Five of the victims were children 5 years old or younger, and four were women.

The March 15, 2006, attack in Ishaqi, Iraq, was one of the most disputed episodes of the war. Iraqi police officials said that the family had been lined up and executed. A video later surfaced that showed graphic images of five dead children and three dead adults killed by bullets or other flying projectiles that punctured their head, abdomen or chest.

Three months after the killings, and after the United Nations official’s warning, the American military announced that its own investigation had determined the allegations of an execution were “absolutely false.” The military admitted, however, that the raid and subsequent air strike resulted in as many as nine “collateral deaths,” a euphemism for civilian fatalities.

Mr. Alston reported that information he had received indicated the episode unfolded this way: Someone in the home fired on the Americans, then a 25-minute gunfight ensued, and then troops “entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them.” After that, an American air raid destroyed the house, which Iraqis had viewed as an attempt to cover up the killings.

Baghdad, Oct. 10, 2006

A team of American and Iraqi public health researchers has estimated that 600,000 civilians have died in violence across Iraq since the 2003 American invasion, the highest estimate ever for the toll of the war here. Researchers acknowledge a margin of error that ranged from 426,369 to 793,663 deaths.

September 30, 2006

Congress authorized an additional $70 billion in emergency funds to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through early next year. The new funding brings to $507 billion the total amount authorized by Congress for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for extra security for military bases and embassies, since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Senate and House conferees also agreed on $463 billion in overall military spending for fiscal 2007, a 3.6 percent increase over 2006.

Damage Done Through 42 Days of Bombing

From http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/

January 17, 2006 marks the 15th commemoration of the Gulf War in 1991 after Iraq occupied Kuwait (briefly) in 1990.

For 42 days, Baghdad and other cities and towns were bombarded with nearly 140,000 tons of explosives, by international estimates. The bombing was relentless- schools, housing complexes, factories, bridges, electric power stations, ministries, sewage facilities, oil refineries, operators, and even bomb shelters (including the only baby formula factory in Iraq and the infamous Amirya Shelter bombing where almost 400 civilians were killed).

According to reports and statistics made by the "Iraqi Reconstruction Bureau" and the ministries involved in reconstruction, prior to the 2003 war/occupation, the following damage was done through 42 days of continuous bombing, and various acts of vandalism:

Schools and scholastic facilities -- *3960
*Universities, labs, dormitories -- *40
*Health facilities (including hospitals, clinics, medical warehouses) -- *421
*Telephone operators, communication towers, etc. -- *475
*Bridges, buildings, housing complexes -- *260
*Warehouses, shopping centers, grain silos -- *251
*Churches and mosques -- *159
*Dams, water pumping stations, agricultural facilities -- *200
*Petroleum facilities (including refineries) -- *145
*General services (shelters, sewage treatment plants, municipalities) - *830
*Factories, mines, industrial facilities - *120

*...And much, much more- including radio broadcasting towers, museums, orphanages, retirement homes, etc.

Added comment:

By comparison, how many buildings has Bin Laden bombed? Is there the stench of hypocrisy here? Yes, people will argue that Iraq had to be bombed because it illegally invaded and occupied Kuwait - just like the US illegally invaded and occupied Grenada, Panama, and Iraq. Using that argument, bombs would be raining down on the US in retaliation for its illegal invasions. When one looks at both sides of the argument, it is easy to see the justification used by "terrorists" to strike back at the US. In the meantime, we civilians get caught in the middle, either killed, injured, or losing their loved ones, homes, livelihoods, or tax revenues. War is a form of insanity. Its first casualty is always truth.