The New York Times has an interesting article today about WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, entitled "WikiLeaks Founder on the Run, Trailed by Notoriety." Salon also has a counter-point in "The Nixonian Henchmen of Today: at the NYT." Assange just released almost 400,000 secret documents on the Iraqi war. At a press conference in London yesterday, he said that the release of U.S. Army field reports “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record.”
Three months ago, WikiLeaks posted around 90,000 classified Pentagon documents regarding the Afghan conflict on its website.
I have been fascinated by Wikileaks’ never ending release of "secret" documents and "classified" images over the course of the last year. I first heard of Wikileaks when it released graphic footage last year of U.S. Apache helicopters tracking and gunning down nineteen people in the streets of Baghdad in 2007.
The video (below) shows the gunship operators acting like over-stimilated, out-of-control teenagers playing a computer war game. When they jumped to the conclusion that a Reuters photographer carrying a camera tripod was somehow a bad guy carrying a AK-47, the helicopter gunners opended fire, seemingly gleefully, maiming the photographer who crawled across the dirt road trying to escape. When a medical van arrived to help, with two children inside, the Apache helicopter again blasted away until no one was left standing.
The video reveals not only the incredibly brutal violence involved in the Iragi war, but the cowboy mentality attitude of the U.S. soldiers. The gunners killed innocent civilians and two equally innocent journalists – who they called "pricks" and "assholes."
When the video was released, the Pentagon harshly criticized WikiLeaks. The U.S. Government claimed that the video was taken out of context and was harmful to the U.S. war effort. But the video jeopardized no one. It revealed the truth of what was actually happening in the street of Baghdad. The disturbing images contrasted sharply with the usual type of PR videos released by the Pentagon showing precision laser bombs nicely hiting a target with no "collateral damage."
I am a fan of transparency. The truth is often quite ugly. I am inherently untrusting of what governments and large corporations (especially cruise lines) tell the public. Every moment of our lifes we are being fed pretty images of what others want us to believe. The war is going as planned, they tell us. But the truth becomes inescapable when faced with videographic proof of Apache helicopters slaughtering journalists. And the recent document dump reveals that our U.S. Government grossly understated civilian deaths. The documents released by WikiLeaks reveal that over 66,000 civilians died in "collateral" damage which often resembled murder.
WikiLeaks plays a vital role in a world where governments keep secrets like this from the people.
But transparency forced by whistleblower organizations like WikiLeaks comes at a cost in the military context. Contained in the almost one half million documents released by WikiLeaks may be the identities of Iraqis and Afghans who worked under-cover for the U.S., Great Britain and Germany. If their names were not redacted, their lives are now in peril.
Will WikiLeaks release video showing the deaths of other innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan killed because WikiLeaks revealed their identities in the interest of transparency?
Video Credit: WikiLeaks (via collaterlamurder.com via YouTube sunshinepress)