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Despite resistance, WikiLeaks continues its fight for the truth

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WikiLeaks has been instrumental in uncovering the truth about activities governments didn't want us to know about (Screenshot via YouTube)

WikiLeaks continues as one of the world’s most remarkable organisations, despite numerous attempts to shut it down.

Its founder, Julian Assange, is gaoled in the United Kingdom's Belmarsh Prison as a “political” prisoner and faces extradition to the Medes-in-wait. Assange has not murdered anyone — but he is hounded as if he has.

WikiLeaks ignited widespread courage to shine a light on cursed darkness.

To quote playwright Bertolt Brecht from his Threepenny Opera:

‘The wickedness of the world is so great, you have to keep running so your legs won’t be stolen from under you!’

Yet there are those prepared to challenge the wicked.

WikiLeaks exposed the killers and their keepers from the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrikes in which air-to-ground attacks deploying U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters killed innocent civilians and journalists. Three years after this horrific incident, the world was aware of its inherent right to know when WikiLeaks released 39 minutes of “classified” footage of the slaughter of 18 innocents.

On 5 April 2010, WikiLeaks released classified U.S. military footage of the slaying of people in an Iraqi suburb. The civilians included two news staff from Reuters. There was no threat from them but soon they were dead.

It is said that no lie lives forever, but it is not my general experience that truth prevails. The tenet of a sane society should be “no lie is so grand it can be got away with”.

In the first airstrike by the Apache crew, they fired on ten Iraqi civilians. Two were Reuters journalists: Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Seven were killed, including Noor-Eldeen in that first airstrike. Chmagh lay injured.

Saleh Matasher Tomal was driving by and instead of exclusively valuing his own life, he stopped to help the injured Chmagh. Tomal had his children with him. In a second airstrike, Chmagh and Tomal and three others were murdered. Two of Tomal’s children were critically injured.

The Apache flew over injured Chmagh who was crawling, fighting to live. The gunner declared his disappointment that Chmagh had no weapon. When Tomal approached Chmagh in his van, he had been driving his children to school: nine-year-old Sajad and six-year-old Doaha. The children survived and would later insist their father wanted to help the injured man to hospital.

Despite Chmagh being unarmed, an Apache crew member kept repeating, “Let me engage… Come on… Let me engage… Light ’em all up, come on, fire”.

Without permission, they fired, killing Chmagh and Tomal. The children were injured and the van burned.

The Apache strikes did not stop. It did not matter there were no signs of any threat. The Apache crew were huddled safely within the most advanced technology. They could see every detail on the ground. They fired, they killed.

In the panic, those on the ground who were able fled to a nearby building. A third airstrike fired AGM-114 Hellfire missiles into the building. Reuters was denied the right to view the footage of the incident but three years later, WikiLeaks let the whole world see it.

The moral force of WikiLeaks is bent on the truth in a world overflowing with lies.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere with more than 80% of the Haitian population living in abject poverty. The life expectancy of Haitians is 64 years. Around 61% of the population is literate and one child in five attends secondary school. Around 35% of Haitians lacked access to “safe” water.

In November 2010, WikiLeaks released 1,918 documents from 2003 to 2010 — ending six weeks after the 12 January 2010 earthquake which further devastated Haitian life. The documents were among the most disturbing I read of the files published by WikiLeaks on how the USA controlled policymaking in Haiti.

The cables begin nearly a year before a coup ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. René Préval took over. Préval negotiated an oil buying deal with Venezuelan oil company PetroCaribe. The U.S. called in two major oil companies to do the dirty on the Haitian people. American oil companies operating in Haiti were to refuse to transport PetroCaribe oil.

In one cable, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Janet Sanderson, recommended

[the U.S.] convey our discontent with Preval’s actions at the highest possible level when he next visits Washington.’

This followed Preval’s visit to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to craft an energy agreement that would have brought electricity to millions of Haitian homes.

When Preval took office in 2004, Chávez was prepared to provide oil to beleaguered Haiti at below cost, with Haiti paying 60% upfront to Venezuela and the remainder payable at only one per cent interest over 25 years. Washington sabotaged this deal. Haitians suffered.

It gets worse. Haiti’s minimum wage during Preval’s time was 24 cents hourly. Preval went for an increase by 37 cents to 61 cents. Washington saw this as a 150% “wage rise”. The U.S. instead backed exploitative major brand American manufacturers. These companies wanted profit margins on the back of Haitian slave wages.

Two major manufacturers lobbied Washington to harass the Haitians to cap the wage rise to an additional seven cents an hour. Ambassador Sanderson pressured Preval to drop the 31 cents hourly increase for the textile industry workers. Sanderson argued to Preval to keep daily pay to less than $3. Preval had been pushing for at least $5 per day.

American Embassy to Haiti deputy chief David Lindwall wrote of Preval’s $5 a day plea as appeasing ‘the unemployed and underpaid masses’. One of the American companies was paying nearly 3,200 Haitians $2 a day to sew T-shirts. The company’s annual turnover from Haitian-manufactured T-shirts was $4 billion in sales with a profit of $220 million. The increase to $5 a day in wages would have only cost the company $1.5 million from their $220 million profit.

WikiLeaks continues hounded and Julian Assange’s mortal coil is pursued by the Medes.

The Syrian cables tell how the U.S. assisted in igniting the Syrian bloodbath. In 2010, WikiLeaks released 251,287 classified U.S. State Department cables. Some of these cables were from as far back as 2006. A 13 December 2006 cable written by William Roebuck at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus provided destabilising strategies.

Roebuck focused on how to create conflict:

We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists.

 

There may be actions, statements and signals that the U.S. Government can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.

Publicly, the U.S. favoured economic reforms in Syria but privately would seek to undermine the potential of these reforms. Publicly, the U.S. was opposed to the threat posed by Islamist extremists but considered them an opportunity to destabilise Syria in private.

In other cables, Roebuck advised the U.S. Government on how to divide the Shia and Sunnis:

‘There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytising and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis. Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business.’

These cables were sent to the White House — to the Secretary of State. At the time, the George W Bush administration publicly denounced the Sunni and Shia sectarian violence in Iraq, but Roebuck advised a similar predicament should be ignited in Syria. Roebuck would be trusted with subsequent posts in Iraq and Libya.

In another cable, Roebuck advised:

Encourage rumours and signals of external plotting. The regime is intensely sensitive to rumours about coup-plotting and restlessness in the security services and military.

 

Regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to meet with (exiled figures like) Khaddam (former vice president) and Rif’at Asad as a way of sending such signals, with appropriate leaking of the meetings afterwards. This again touches on this insular regime’s paranoia and increases the possibility of a self-defeating over-reaction.

 

Bashar keeps unveiling a steady stream of initiatives on economic reform and it is certainly possible he believes this issue is his legacy to Syria… these steps have brought back Syrian expats to invest.

 

Finding ways to publicly call into question Bashar’s reform efforts – pointing, for example to the use of reform to disguise cronyism – would embarrass Bashar and undercut these efforts to shore up his legitimacy.

 

Publicise Syrian efforts against extremist groups in a way that suggests weakness, signs of instability and uncontrolled blowback. The Syrian Government’s argument (usually used after terror attacks in Syria) that it, too, is a victim of terrorism should be used against it to give greater prominence to increasing signs of instability within Syria.

Roebuck was the U.S.’s top diplomat in Syria. WikiLeaks' offence to the powerful is to expose their crimes, brutality, inhumanity, slaughter of human life, narratives contrived to bring on civil strife, human suffering and misery, a climate of death.

WikiLeaks published the Iraqi War Logs, revealing thousands of reports of the most abominable, degrading, injurious abuse and torture by Iraqi Security Forces and American personnel. The Geneva Conventions – their pursuit of humaneness – were sidelined by barbaric behaviours. America sold anger as the excuse. So now, anger, hate and inhumanity become permissible. Prisoners were hung from ceiling hooks — holes in their legs with electric drills. They were sexually abused, urinated upon and relentlessly bashed.

WikiLeaks revealed the Frago 242 order. In 2004, the Frago directive instructed no allegations of abuse were to be investigated. Ten years earlier, the United States signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture.   

The George W Bush administration publicly insisted there were no official counts of Afghan and Iraqi casualties. WikiLeaks published the War Logs which exposed between 2004 and 2009 that 70% of deaths were of civilians. 

The Barack Obama administration imprisoned more whistleblowers than all previous Washington administrations combined. There is an endlessness of laws made by governments to imprison and punish people into silence. In this context, stands by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and by Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden must be realised as genuinely heroic.

Gerry Georgatos is a suicide prevention and poverty researcher with an experiential focus on social justice. You can follow Gerry on Twitter @GerryGeorgatos.

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