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Saturday, 23 October 2010

US soldiers operating in Iraq were told, from 2004 according to Al Jazeera's report released on the website today, not to intervene when they saw torture or evidence of torture committed by the Iraqi military or police. The broadcast shows, to telling effect, a Pentagon press conference in which a US senior military officer says that US soldiers have an obligation to stop inhumane treatment when it is observed but he is immediately corrected by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who says that a soldier does not have an obligation to "physically stop it" but rather to merely "report it".

Al Jazeera's broadcast dramatises incidents of torture and also provides definitions of the official orders passed down the chain of command to soldiers operating in Iraq - Frago 242 and Frago 039 - which detail the obligations incumbent upon US military personnel regarding such events.

A number of media outlets globally have published material based on the Wikileaks "War Logs" the broadcast draws on for the bulk of its content, but Australian outlets so far have neglected to cover the document release with the notable exception of the ABC, which has reported reactions to it from the Pentagon.

Overseas, The Guardian, The New York Times and Al Jazeera have led the pack in English.

The Guardian says that the documents show there were an additional (so far unreported) 15,000 Iraqi civilian deaths in the country as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the military operation launched in March 2003 that then resulted in the Iraqi War which is now officially over.
More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. 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.
Most civilian deaths were caused by other Iraqis, reports The New York Times, with December 2006 being the deadliest month for non-combatants. But there were also cases where Iraqi civilians were killed by the US military.
The documents also reveal many previously unreported instances in which American soldiers killed civilians — at checkpoints, from helicopters, in operations. Such killings are a central reason Iraqis turned against the American presence in their country, a situation that is now being repeated in Afghanistan.
The newspaper also reports that the Iranian military was active in Iraq endeavouring to destabilise the government by training insurgents and by providing weapons for use in targeting Iraqi forces and politicians and Coalition forces.

Proof that the US military turned a blind eye to the torture of Iraqis over a period of, say, seven years will add to bad feeling among communities especially in the Muslim world. Added to evidence of torture by US soldiers at Abu Graibh prison, which was released in 2004, the Wikileaks "War Logs" promise to spark new moves by US authorities to shut down the operation, a task which has so far proven difficult to achieve, despite several attempts. The most recent of these, reported this month, took the form of a block placed on the transaction service Wikileaks relied on to generate revenues.
Moneybookers, a British-registered internet payment company that collects WikiLeaks donations, emailed the organisation to say it had closed down its account because it had been put on an official US watchlist and on an Australian government blacklist.

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