Did WikiLeaks Endanger Lives?

By James Cerveny

The U.S. government and many pro-war commentators have rushed to condemn WikiLeaks’ release of over “90,000 classified” documents. They claim that WikiLeaks “has blood on its hands” (Robert Gates) and has acted “irresponsibly” (Hamid Karzai). They aver that last week’s leaks endanger “national security”, coalition soldiers, and Afghan/Pakistani informants.

The absurdity of these arguments is breathtaking. One hardly knows where to begin in addressing these ludicrous and — in most cases — knowingly dishonest assertions. Let’s take these issues one at a time.

Civilian Casualties

To begin with, civilian casualties, which everyone agrees are an inevitable result of any war of occupation (hence the damnable euphemism “collateral damage”) endanger our national security far more than any leaked documents. It is an indisputable fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been a boon for terrorist recruiters, fed by hundreds, if not thousands, of desperate souls who now hate the United States after their loved ones have been senselessly slaughtered during these unnecessary wars.

Harmful for the Troops

Flag draped coffins

Tami Silicio's photo of flag-draped coffin; WeMeantDemocracy at Flckr

Second, WikiLeaks not only took great care to redact potentially harmful information (holding back more than 15,000 documents for this very reason) but prior to releasing the documents, sought to engage the White House in its efforts to vet the material. (Source: “Afghan Leak: WikiLeaks’ Assange denies ‘blood on hands’”, BBC News Canada, 7/30/10)

According to Julian Assange, military procedures for source protection were poor and the leaked material was available to every soldier and contractor in Afghanistan. “We are appalled that the US military was so lackadaisical with its Afghan sources. Just appalled. We are a source protection organization that specializes in protecting sources and have a perfect record from our activities,” Assange said.

It is clear, then, that if anyone has “blood on their hands,” it is the US government. There is no rhyme or reason for a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that, contrary to the focus of coalition military activity, Al Qaeda now operates largely out of Pakistan. As General McChrystal has stated, the battles in Afghanistan are tribal in nature and the agendas are local. (Source: “Thank God for the Whistleblowers”, Robert Scheer, Truthdig, 7/27/10), paraphrasing McChrystal.

Indeed, the US government has demonstrated that concern for its soldiers is, to put it mildly, not a top priority.

Dangers to National Security

Finally, interventionism and its inevitable blowback are far greater dangers to security than basic truths. Among the truths revealed by the leaks (which, of course, the US government wishes to conceal) is that Stinger rockets given to the Mujhadeen by America during the Soviet war are now being used against American troops. (Source: Scheer article)

Even more astonishing evidence of blowback is revealed by the words of our own officials. In an article by Ralph Lopez in his blog, “War Is a Crime”, dated 7/28/10 he states:

Last month a report from the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by John Tierney (D-MA,) concluded definitively that up to 20 percent of funds for contracts to transport U.S. military supplies are knowingly and systematically paid to insurgents in “protection money” in order to avoid Taliban attack. The report confirms that knowledge of the practice is widespread and well-documented up the chain of command, due not least to private contractors themselves reporting to the military that massive extortion payments were being paid to insurgents through warlord intermediaries who control almost every stretch of key road and highway. The report states:

HNT Contractors Warned the Department of Defense About Protection Payments for Safe Passage to No Avail….While military officials acknowledged receiving the warnings, these concerns were never appropriately addressed.

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admits that a large percentage of this “protection money” goes to fund the Taliban. As she testified to Congress seven months ago:

“You offload a ship in Karachi and by the time whatever it is – you know, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfasts or anti-IED equipment – gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money.”

The sums involved are staggering. To quote Lopez again, paraphrasing the House Subcommittee report:

The magnitude of the Department of Defense funds going to the insurgency, which inevitably pays for massive quantities of weapons, explosives, and fighters’ salaries, may equal or exceed the amount gained by the Taliban from the opium trade. The report places the range taken in from truck convoy protection payments at between $100 million to $400 million per year. Taliban profits from the opium business are estimated at around $300 million per year.

The government’s whining about the dangers caused by the leaks is nothing but crocodile tears. Demonizing WikiLeaks is a classic case of projection by now a second administration in complete denial regarding its hubris, incompetence, and indifference to human suffering.

13 thoughts on “Did WikiLeaks Endanger Lives?

  1. Im saddened by the high level of impunity among American leaders and many US citizens who think the war crimes committed in the name of fighting terrorism should be justified in whatever way they can. Bradley was and has been brave enough to expose the evils that America and other western powers are engaged in against innocent people. Shame on them who pretend to promote human rights when in the dark they do the opposite. Im sure the leaking is such bad information will in future save many lives when those in leadership and military start to act responsibly for fear of being exposed. Bravo Bradley, you are the real promoter of human rights.

  2. The U.S. military has – yet again! – endangered more lives. Had it behaved ethically and professionally – or, at least, tried to – this leak would never have been made.

    The military is to blame for any further deaths.

  3. When Bush invaded Iraq, how many Americans thought about the innocent civilians that were going to die? Bush got over 70% approval ratings at the start of the invasion.

    When “The Lancet” published a study stating that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had died as a direct and indirect consequence of the invasion, the corporate media pooh-poohed it. Again, a complete lack of concern for Iraqi lives.

    This attack on WikiLeaks and Manning is nothing but a feeble character assassination attempt by the U.S. military to discredit those who shed some light on the evil being committed in secret with U.S. taxpayer dollars.

  4. “Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

    “Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”

    60 Minutes (5/12/96)


    Let’s take a look at the military’s logic: the most brutal sanctions ever imposed on ANY nation that kills over 500,000 children and brings the whole of society to a virtual standstill (even schools were unable to function: http://pilger.carlton.com/page.asp?partid=115 ) is NOT America’s responsibility, but Saddam’s. Saddam was ultimately responsible for the 500,000 deaths, we were told – no matter that the White House armed Iraq in the 1980s (“Spider’s Web” by Alan Friedman) and allowed Saddam in 1991 to crush a rebellion that might have toppled him (Bush senior didn’t want Iraqis conducting their own regime change) – Saddam and Saddam alone was to blame for the deaths caused by the U.S.-imposed sanctions.

    But, if anyone is killed by the Taliban over this leak, it’s suddenly NOT the responsibility of a vile regime – as it was for the 500,000 Iraqi children that died – but the responsibility of WikiLeaks.

    A nice set of double-standards!

    Had the military behaved professionally and ethically, this information would not have been leaked. Therefore, the military will be to blame for any deaths.

    No one leaked any names deliberately. Whereas, the brutal U.S. sanctions on Iraq were imposed deliberately, and in full knowledge of the consequences – and NO ONE in the military or White House gave a damn.

  5. Thank you! Thank you for this concise editorial, James Cerveny!

    Wikileaks might is only as perfect, as the humans running it 🙂 it will still make mistakes, but I hope it learns from them and always keeps our best interests at heart.

    What an amazing win for honesty and disclosure guys!

  6. Thank you all for your comments. James, your post on the double standards regarding the “responsibility” of Wikileaks vis-a-vis that of Saddam for the sanctions against Iraq is brilliant.

    • @Marion: You sure can. All content here is public domain, but your link back and attribution are greatly appreciated.

  7. Interesting News:

    The number of civilians killed in the Afghan conflict in the first six months of the year rose 25 per cent compared with the same period a year ago, with insurgents responsible for the spike, the United Nations said in a report Tuesday.



    The situation is getting more and more tense. They claim- the spike is due to insurgents are killing their own civilians…

    A quick question, is there a way to verify civilian casualties actual vs civilian casualties reported by NATO based on the Afgan War Logs?

  8. James Cerveny, your comment above about my post was very much appreciated.

    I detest politics and what I read makes me very despondent at times. But there are occasions when you have to wrestle with this beast whether you like it or not.

    PS Didn’t see that you’re a “James”, too, otherwise I would have used a different name.

  9. Wikileaks endanger lives? Hilarious. Who’s the warmonger here? Why don’t they ask themselves if they’re endangering lives? What nonsense. Be prepared for a lot more of it before this is over. Remember what Gandhi said.

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