WikiLeaks is What Democracy Looks Like

The release of nearly 400,000 confidential Iraq war documents on Oct. 22 by the WikiLeaks website reveal a startling image of the secret history of the war in Iraq.

The documents contain details of events reported by the United States military and provide evidence of systematic torture and rape used as weapons of warfare. Sixty percent of the deaths registered in the documents are civilian. The documents reveal the use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force used and condoned by the US military. The documents raise substantial questions concerning war crimes.

It is the largest release of classified military documents in history.

Critics argue the release of this sensitive information will jeopardize US military operations and be used by opposition forces to seek out and kill Iraqi civilian informants working with the US military.

Supporters of the whistleblower website contend the documents contain information the public deserves to know. According to the documents, as many as 15,000 Iraqi civilian deaths were previously unaccounted for.

When President Obama was elected he promised to conduct his administration with transparency. The amount of secrets revealed within the documents WikiLeaks released flies in the face of such promises. Obama’s promise for transparency has gone the way of his promise to close Guantanamo Bay. To be fair, the files document the Iraq war during a time Obama was not president. But that doesn’t excuse him from failing to hold the Bush administration accountable.

Secrets and lies are what paraded the US into the war in Iraq. The WikiLeaks files reveal that secrets and lies have prolonged the war in Iraq.

It is difficult to justify a war waged under false pretenses. It is also difficult to support a war that tolerates torture, civilian murder and gives private contractors free reign.

Julian Assange, an Australian, is the spokesperson and editor-in-chief for the WikiLeaks website. As would be expected, he is receiving a lot of flack for releasing the Iraq documents. News organizations are wondering why he isn’t dead yet and claiming that the US government should list him as an enemy combatant which would deprive him of the right to due process.

This doesn’t seem right. Shouldn’t he be considered a champion of truth and democracy? Don’t the people have a right to know about the sort of devastation and destruction that is happening in their name, with their tax dollars? The WikiLeaks files are important for the historical record as primary documentation of a complicated war mishandled. It appears the media is more concerned with attacking Julian Assange than with discussing the issue of human rights the Iraq documents raise.

In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a former Rand Corporation employee, released Department of Defense documents that detailed the United States political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The documents became known as the Pentagon Papers and indicated, among other things, that the Johnson administration had systematically lied to the public and to Congress. The publication of the papers caused a national outcry for government transparency and accountability.

Today, the social-political landscape is much different. Many major media outlets have expressed their disgust over the release of the WikiLeaks documents.

On the other hand, media sources that commend the website for its courage and goodwill do not appear to be surprised by the lack of government honesty.

There is no palpable call to action or demand for accountability. Instead the politically discontent shrug their shoulders and brush off the failure of military responsibility.

Wikileaks is trying to pull the wool out of the eyes of a world that prefers to live in the dark.

An army whistleblower, Spc. Bradley Manning, is currently in custody. He is suspected for leaking thousands of Iraq war documents to WikiLeaks. The Obama administration has brought as many prosecutions for leaks to the American public as all previous administrations combined. Granted, it is a small number, three, it is still important to note. The Obama administration is threatening to use the Espionage Act to prevent further leaks. If that happens, the American public will know even less about the destruction that is happening in their name.

This past summer WikiLeaks released over 70,000 documents related to the Afghanistan war. The same national security concerns were raised at the time. But the Associated Press recently obtained a pentagon letter that stated no US intelligence services or practices were damaged after the release of the documents.

For a democracy to function as a true democracy the governing body must live up to the public expectation of transparency and accountability. WikiLeaks is providing information the United States government was expected, but failed to provide. The Iraq documents establish firmer grounds for dissidents to stand upon in denouncement of this despairingly unjust war.

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1 Comment

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One response to “WikiLeaks is What Democracy Looks Like

  1. Samantha McNamara

    I feel like I’m living in a Bond film.

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