I was planning to get some work done tonight, but ran into a link about the release of the Iraq War Logs by Wikileaks, and got absorbed by the initial summaries and info-graphics from the news organisations with early access.
In short, the situation in Iraq is pretty fucking reprehensible, particularly because no one, except for a probable source, is likely to be punished for what has happened.
I’m also deeply unimpressed with the DOD Response, which I will paraphrase as “We don’t understand how the Internet (that we helped spawn) works. Also, we’re unrepentant about the various shitty behavior we’ve been caught covering up.”
One thing I am impressed with is the presentation by some of the media outlets, especially the interactive infographic from Der Spiegel (Link to English version), and the Google Map from the Guardian.
The important findings can be summarized in a single passage from any of the basic analysis (The Guardian’s is nice and succinct):
Although US generals have claimed their army does not carry out body counts and British ministers still say no official statistics exist, the war logs show these claims are untrue. The field reports purport to identify all civilian and insurgent casualties, as well as numbers of coalition forces wounded and killed in action. They give a total of more than 109,000 violent deaths from all causes between 2004 and the end of 2009.
This includes 66,081 civilians, 23,984 people classed as “enemy” and 15,196 members of the Iraqi security forces. Another 3,771 dead US and allied soldiers complete the body count. [src]
Which hits the three key facts: 1. “Coalition Leaders” have been blatantly lying to the public, 2. 109,000 violent deaths, 3. More dead civilians (as defined by people with a vested interest in not reporting killing civilians) than combatants by almost a factor of two.
The last round on Afghanistan actually did change my attitude toward continued American involvement over there, despite the constant talking point that they wouldn’t:
Before I saw the leaks, I was willing to accept the argument that, like a child, we (collective for United States) made a mess and have to stay until we were done cleaning it up. After seeing the leaked material, it’s clear that a more apt analogy is a child that got into paint, and the only thing we can do to help now is get the fuck out and focus on cleaning ourselves up before we make the mess even worse.
As much as the Wikileaks folks are probably not saints, anyone shining lights into dark places and exposing the vile things that live there is doing the world a service.
Can we start gutting the DoD for cash to use on things that aren’t shameful now? Maybe redirect large fractions of the military budget over the next few years to things that will actually reduce net suffering?