As Baghdad Burns
The leak led to a fierce political debate in the elite circles of Baghdad. However, the Iraqis didn’t show much reaction. What we are calling “revelation” has been the way of life for most Iraqis for the past seven years. Not knowing whether today (let alone tomorrow) when a son who steps out of the house to buy bread will return or be shot by a soldier who did it just for fun is a reality Iraqis are grappling with even after this leak.
Obama is not happy about the recent revelations coming out from WikiLeaks on the Iraq war. Much had been anticipated by the top dogs, but nothing as extensive as what was revealed. To most, the revelations weren’t anything new. Based on Bush-era war hostilities witnessed in Bagram and Abu Ghuraib to say the least, we knew this was the tip of the iceberg. What this extensive leak does do is that it puts it all out there. Clear, blunt, raw, and spin-free. It hones in on the ugliness of an increasingly privatized war without the backdrop of the media softening the blow. It re-affirmed for the world that the gross violation of the rule of law is just not limited to a few mentally insane in the occupying forces. The violations are systematic and rampant.
The leak led to a fierce political debate in the elite circles of Baghdad. However, the Iraqis didn’t show much reaction. What we are calling “revelation” has been the way of life for most Iraqis for the past seven years. Not knowing whether today (let alone tomorrow) when a son who steps out of the house to buy bread will return or be shot by a soldier who did it just for fun is a reality Iraqis are grappling with even after this leak. Understanding that the citizens of a nation that prides itself as the cradle of civilization are rotting away in torture cells with the “liberators” partaking in the “activity” is a daily reminder for the woman whose husband was locked away for reasons unknown. No, the leaks haven’t much affected the daily routine in Iraq. Iraqis still avoid the foreign men in uniform, steer away from the multiple check posts that have been propped up, fear the random arrest on arbitrary evidence and tolerate the daily humiliation sanctioned by their own government. All this in search for hope. Hope for accountability one day, hope for someone to speak up, hope for the stability that their elected officials speak of.
Speaking of elected officials, the leaks weigh heavily on their minds. The explosive revelations led to a lot of bickering amongst parties, although they don’t realize they are all standing with blood on their hands. Allawi has taken the opportunity to call out Maliki for his “dictatorial ambitions” by allowing the occupational forces (private or otherwise) to go on with such impunity. Allawi forgets that much of it was happening during his tenure as interim Prime Minister, from 2004 to 2005, when the torture and murder was rampant as well. What he also dismisses is that his political ally, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, made up the interior ministry that operated within the framework of the WikiLeaks revelations.
What this spells out for the stability of any future Iraqi government is anyone’s guess. The vision that once existed of Iraqi liberation, freedom and stability will be decided by these very elected representatives.
Perhaps the most irritating factor in all this is the muted response by Washington. Yes, Obama is not happy. Washington denounced the leak – not the illegal, inhuman practices it spoke of. Legislation was put forth to put an end to the whistle-blowing. Intelligence sharing is now being re-assessed and re-evaluated. What’s comforting is that the leak isn’t going to do much for the mid-terms. The wars, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, aren’t anywhere near the list of priorities that most will base their votes on. For all they know, combat operations in Iraq are over and the US is on the path towards a draw down. By the time the war does become an issue, people will forget about the Iraq Warlogs, just how they forgot about the leaks on Afghanistan. No one will remember that operations in Iraq are continuing under the mercenaries that have been injected into the system. No one will remember US efforts to install a permanent base in Iraq.
Obama, who came into office with the promise of transparency – amongst many others – is surpassing his predecessors with regards to filing criminal cases against alleged whistle-blowers. His administration has used the secrecy excuse to avoid reviews of his and Bush’s anti-terrorism war policies. The White House argues that measures have been taken on the ground to counter these very “rogue” activities. Uniforms have been changed, training programs have been revised and commanders have been replaced. And yet the practices continue.
Obama’s call to “move on” instead of doting on the past with regards to the wars comes from a policy of non-accountability. Iraqis still wait today for someone to be held accountable for the rampant violations of basic human rights and international law. A nation is still under siege under the guise of liberation. In the name of the very liberation and freedom that they dream of, Iraqis need a factual deliberation over what exactly went down, under whom, and why. Until then there will be more revelations, with or without WikiLeaks, which will generate shock and awe – and then, utter silence amongst the wails of the tortured and sounds of gun fire.
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