WikiLeaks’ Releases Iraq War Logs: On Friday, the international organization WikiLeaks released The Iraq War Logs, a “huge trove of secret field reports” — 391,832 documents in all — from the U.S. military in Iraq. The archive is the second such cache obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to news organizations. The first, released in July, was a trove of 77,000 reports covering six years of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. National Security Network’s Heather Hurlburt described the reports as “add[ing] a numbing amount of new, awful detail to what we already knew about the Iraq war.” The documents suggest that violence was reduced from 2007 “not only because the American military committed to more troops and a new strategy, but because Iraqis themselves, exhausted by years of bloody war, were ready for it.” According to the New York Times, the deaths of Iraqi civilians also “appear to be greater than the numbers made public by the United States during the Bush administration.”
ABUSE OF IRAQIS BY IRAQIS: While the newly released documents “offer few glimpses of what was happening inside American detention facilities, they do contain indelible details of abuse carried out by Iraq’s army and police.” The Guardian reports that the documents reveal that “U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.” Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg “said the allegations of killings, torture and abuse were ‘extremely serious’ and ‘needed to be looked at.’” Joel Wing noted that “Iraq’s political parties were quick to put [the Iraqi police] to work in their internal struggle to form a new Iraqi government,” with Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement saying “that the documents gave proof that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should not stay in office.”
IRAN IN IRAQ: The reports “underscore the seriousness with which Iran’s role [in Iraq] has been seen by the American military.” According to the documents, Iran’s military “intervened aggressively in support of Shiite combatants, offering weapons, training and sanctuary and in a few instances directly engaging American troops.” Robert Farley, an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Kentucky, wrote that it is “utterly unsurprising” that Iran intervened in Iraq. “Attempting to manage the political situation in a neighboring country, while simultaneously weakening a potential enemy, is something that countries do.” Iran’s involvement in Iraq has not primarily been military, but rather political and economic. As Center for American Progress analysts Brian Katulis and Matthew Duss wrote in April 2008, depictions of Iran’s role in Iraq as purely military “ignore an inconvenient truth: The leaders in Iraq’s current government are closely aligned with Tehran and represent some of Iran’s closest allies in Iraq.” Iran has been similarly politically involved in neighboring Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai “said Monday that his government receives as much as $1 million at least once or twice a year from Iran,” just as he said Washington doles out “bags of money” to his office.
COSTS AND CONSEQUENCES: While the documents reveal that coalition forces found traces of past Iraqi weapons programs, Wired Magazine reported that, the “war logs don’t reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime,” as the Bush administration had claimed existed, but that “remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained.” There are no earth-shattering revelations in the new cache, but they do deepen our understanding of the war’s disastrous consequences, both for the U.S. and for the region, particularly in regard to the wide-scale inter-community violence and sectarian cleansing that gripped the country in 2006-7. The violence led to the displacement of over 4.5 million Iraqis, both within and without the country, the vast majority of whom have been unable to return home, remaining displaced either inside Iraq or in neighboring countries. A February 2010 Center for American Progress report, The Iraq War Ledger, examined the costs and benefits of the Iraq intervention, and concluded “there is simply no conceivable calculus by which Operation Iraqi Freedom can be judged to have been a successful or worthwhile policy. The war was intended to show the extent of America’s power. It succeeded only in showing its limits.”