Late last week, major media outlets announced, to the bated breath of the world, the latest disclosures of classified materials on the war in Iraq from Wikileaks. The documents — almost 400,000 files comprised mostly of the U.S. military’s daily field reports — detail a staggering civilian death toll and a record of abuses hitherto papered over by the Defense Department. Perhaps the most harrowing feature of the news is that, if U.S. military history has anything at all to teach, we’re likely seeing just the tip of a shameful, gory iceberg.
As these new numbers bear out, the state’s metastatic indifference toward human life infects everything it comes into contact with, its only concern being the solidification of its dominance. “In the war’s bloodiest months,” reports the New York Times’s Sabrina Tavernise, “[the WikiLeaks documents show that] more than 3,000 Iraqi civilians were dying,” with bodies turning up everywhere from “a brick factory” to “a sewage treatment plant.”
The reports limn a scene of blunt horror, with mangled bodies littering the streets as U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and MPs indiscriminately murdered their way through the country. Further, the leaked documents expose the consistent and habitual abuse of detainees, corruption of government officials and unchecked torture that mark the United States occupation of Iraq.
Instances of the erratic violence caused by contractors hired by the U.S. government to satisfy its security needs also fleck the reports, the firms exhibiting the same unaccountability as the troops. Now, as troop levels decrease, there will be ever more perquisites doled out to influential, well-connected contractors, and — although they won’t be wearing U.S. military uniforms — these mercenaries represent the same fetid murder industry and its interests.
Right on cue, in the face of all the execrable crimes that have been laid bare this week, the mainstream media is prepared to rally to the cause of unending war. An Associated Press report of the slipped field chronicles, for instance, reads, “Leaked Iraq war logs highlight risk that scheduled US military pullout could lead to chaos.”
Spin of such a kind, in its servile devotion to state power, mimics the rubbish of war accomplices like former ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who responded to the leaks by saying it is “profoundly important” that the United States maintain a strong presence in the country. But one wonders, chaos as opposed to what? The Arcadian tranquility that blankets Iraq today?
War is the definitive big government program, the most harmful and prodigal of them all, seizing inconceivable amounts of wealth from the productive class to profit moneyed corporations. For anyone even slightly bothered by the state’s other redistribution programs, war, the gold standard of corporate welfare, should be absolutely abhorrent. To say of war (or any other state program) that it is ineffective, however, is to mistake the havoc caused by its implementation for the defeat of its actual purpose.
Measured against its stated purpose, the war in Iraq is an utter failure, but it is, rest assured, accomplishing its true mission for the state’s profiteers. Although this disconnect between the state’s claimed and actual objectives can, with little scrutiny, be discovered in all that it does, nowhere is the discrepancy more glaring than with war.
The heroism of WikiLeaks is its iconoclasm, the undaunted need to air truth in a society that lionizes and worships soldiers and military culture. There is nothing in any way honorable or virtuous about cooperating with the state’s military secrecy, nothing noble about pouring scorn on Julian Assange for being the advocate of every innocent person who has died in Iraq.
“It is a hypocritical cloak,” wrote Emma Goldman, “to cover the country’s crimes.” Goldman understood that by derogating bold voices like that of Assange, we are “helping to perpetuate the war among the classes, a war which, in reality, is at the bottom of all other wars.” The members of the state’s court, whom Jefferson called the “tinsel aristocracy,” have made a king’s ransom from this war, and they will not ungrudgingly stop imposing bloodshed. Still, if there is an end to be had, it will be a result, at least in large part, of the efforts of organizations like WikiLeaks, true heroes who don’t shrink at threats or shaming.