Leaked documents show 'truth' on Iraq war: WikiLeaks founder

23rd October 2010, Comments 0 comments

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Saturday that 400,000 classified US military documents leaked by the whistleblowing website showed the "truth" about the war in Iraq.

"This disclosure is about the truth," Assange told a news conference in London.

"The attack on the truth by war begins long before war starts and continues long after a war ends," he said, adding that WikiLeaks hoped "to correct some of that attack on the truth".

The mass of documents from 2004 to 2009 released late Friday offer a grim snapshot of the conflict, especially of the abuse of Iraqi civilians by Iraqi security forces.

The heavily redacted logs appear to show that the US military turned a blind eye to evidence of torture and abuse of Iraqis by the Iraqi authorities.

Assange said the documents showed the war had been "a bloodbath on every corner".

Washington warned that releasing the documents could endanger the lives of US troops and Iraqi civilians, although the rights ministry in Baghdad said the logs "did not contain any surprises".

In an announcement which could further concern the United States, WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the website would soon release a further 15,000 secret files on the war in Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks enraged Washington by releasing 92,000 documents on the Afghan war in July.

The files published Friday contain graphic accounts of torture, civilian killings and Iran's hand in the Iraq war, giving a grisly picture of years of bloodshed and suffering following the 2003 US-led invasion to oust dictator Saddam Hussein.

In one document, US military personnel describe abuse by Iraqis at a Baghdad facility that was holding 95 detainees in a single room where they are "sitting cross-legged with blindfolds, all facing the same direction."

It says "many of them bear marks of abuse to include cigarette burns, bruising consistent with beatings and open sores... according to one of the detainees questioned on site, 12 detainees have died of disease in recent weeks."

Other reports describe Iraqis beating prisoners and women being killed at US military checkpoints.

WikiLeaks made the files available several weeks ago to selected newspapers and television channels and then, just before their publication, invited journalists for a three-hour preview in London.

British newspaper The Guardian, which had the documents in advance, said the leaks showed "US 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."

It added that "more than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents," going on to say that "US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities."

The Guardian said WikiLeaks is thought to have obtained the material from the "same dissident US army intelligence analyst" who leaked the material on Afghanistan. WikiLeaks has not revealed its source.

On Iran's role in the conflict, the files show Tehran waging a shadow war with US troops in Iraq and Tehran allegedly using militias to kill and kidnap American soldiers.

The documents describe Iran arming and training Iraqi hit squads to carry out attacks on coalition troops and Iraqi government officials, with the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps suspected of playing a crucial role, The New York Times newspaper and The Guardian reported.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers told the London news conference that some of the deaths documented in the reports could have involved British forces and could now be the subject of legal action in British courts.

"Some of these deaths will be in circumstances where the UK have a very clear legal responsibility," he said.

"This may be because the Iraqis died while under the effective control of UK forces -- under arrest, in vehicles, helicopters or detention facilities."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned "in the most clear terms" the leaks of any documents putting Americans at risk.

A Pentagon spokesman said the documents were "essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane, and do not tell the whole story."

Assange responded by telling Sky News television: "The Pentagon and Hillary need to get back into their box and understand what kind of community they're meant to be serving."

© 2010 AFP

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