Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was interviewed for the entire show of Democracy Now! today. I've chosen a few key passages to highlight which, to me at least, present the most important counter-arguments to the White House and Versailles media narratives that try to minimize, dismiss and stigmatize what the documents reveal and Wikileaks' actions in releasing them. The clarity and straight-forward logic of Wikileaks' position stands in stark contrast to everything Versailles, including the increasingly contorted and self-contradictory Obama Administration:
The Most Important Revelations
It's not the individual facts, so much as it is the broad panaroma of them all, which in turn enables us to grasp the individual facts much more realistically by understanding the broader context in which they occur:
AMY GOODMAN [Introducing a pre-recorded clip]: I began by asking Julian Assange what he thought of the most important revelations in the 91,000 documents he published on Sunday, the biggest leak in US history.
JULIAN ASSANGE: So, everyone's asking for a specific revelation that is the most important-you know, a massacre of 500 people at one point in time. But, to me, what is most important is the vast sweep of abuses that have occurred during the past six years, the vast sweep of sort of the everyday squalor and carnage of war. If we add all that up, we see that in fact most civilian casualties occur in incidences where one, two, ten or twenty people are killed. And they really numerically dominate the list of events, so it's, of course, hard for us to imagine that. It's so much material. But that is the way to really understand this war, is by seeing that there is one sort of kill after another every day going on and on and on in all sorts of different circumstances.
There is evidence that warrants investigation. This should be taken very seriously:
AMY GOODMAN: You have said you feel there is evidence of war crimes here. Can you talk about that? And specifically, what are the examples that you feel are the most important?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah. Yeah, well, these reports can be quite terse, so I wouldn't want to prejudge the issue and say for sure that a war crime has committed-been committed. But some are deeply suspicious, and there are examples which have been not mentioned in the Western press but, as we've discovered, have been mentioned elsewhere that are almost surely war crimes.
As an example, in the material, there's a Polish My Lai. Polish troops were hit by an IED and the next day went to the closest village, which I guess they felt had supported the IED attack, and shelled the village. Similarly, we see something like Task Force 373, a special forces assassination squad so secretive that it changes its military code name every six months, working its way down the JPEL, Joint Priority Effects List, kill or capture list, usually a kill list. And we have seen events where it has performed secret missile strikes on a house, from within close proximity, and ended up killing at least seven children, and a number of other incidences. The report itself about that says at the beginning that the information about 373 being involved in that event, together with the use of the HIMARS missile system, this ground-to-ground missile attack, is to be kept secret even from other people in the coalition of forces which equal ISAF, I-S-A-F.
Pentagon Starts Criminal Investigation of Leaks--NOT War Crimes
It's no longer news that the Obama Administration--like the Bush Administration before it--sees leaks as bad, and war crimes as... well, just not that important:
AMY GOODMAN: The Pentagon has announced it is starting a criminal investigation to find your sources. Your response to that?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes. We are concerned that the United States has not announced that it is going to conduct criminal investigations into the large number of previously undisclosed civilian casualty events that are revealed by this material. Why is it that an investigation is announced to go into the source, before an investigation is announced to deal with the potentially criminal conduct that is revealed by this material? The rest of the world is taking note. There's fourteen pages in Monday's Guardian newspaper, nearly-more than one-third of the entire paper dedicated to this issue; seventeen pages in Der Spiegel, the most influential publication in Germany. So, Europe is certainly taking note of the tenor that is coming out of the White House and to concrete reactions coming out of this material. It's clear what the European population wants to see, and hopefully that's also what the US population wants to see, which is a clear response to deal with the problems that are occurring in Afghanistan, not a clear response to try and stifle or cover up further allegations of abuse.
Old News? It's the "Old News" Meme That's Old News
Past changes in policy haven't made much difference on the ground, despite rhetoric to the contrary, and the one month overlap with Obama's "new policy" announced on Dec 1, 2009 shows no sign that it's any different this time around:
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, I'd like you to respond quickly to the responses of the administration, of the Obama administration: one, that this is old news, that it goes until December '09, exactly when the Obama administration changed its policy with the surge.
JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah, so, this is a bit of rhetorical trickery by the White House. The material goes to December 31, '09, so it's valid up to the beginning of 2010, for a six-year period. So it does cover a sweep of the war which hasn't yet turned around. Now, Obama's policy change came in on the 1st of December, so there is, in fact, an overlap. We can see some of what happens. But looking back through the data at successive policy changes-for example, the policy changes introduced by McChrystal-what we don't see is a real change to how things happen on the ground. So a policy change is just words, but what actually happens on the ground, well, we can see it from this data. Very little happens. The US military and the soldiers in Afghanistan are a very, very big ship to turn around. Their interaction with that environment and with the Taliban and with the local population has its own dynamic that is independent to the policies that are tried-that people try and push down from on high. We can see that, as an example, when McChrystal tried to introduce more metrics, more measurements, of how civilian casualties were occurring. Fields pop up in the database around that time. But we see that troops that are causing civilian casualties simply don't fill out that field, or they lie about whether the casualties have occurred, or they misrepresent whether it was a civilian casualty versus an insurgent casualty. That sort of-that culture and interaction between Taliban and US forces and other elements operating in Afghanistan is very difficult to change. And so, we don't expect that the situation, as it stands now, some seven months after this data stopped being collected, would be that different to the previous six years, which we can see in the material that has been released.
National Security Threat? "Nonsense" Says Assange
Assange patiently de-constructs the claim:
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, the charge that WikiLeaks releasing these documents is a threat to national security and people on the ground in Afghanistan?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, this is a nonsense. First of all, whenever we hear this term, "threat to national security," what are we talking about? It's time people stop responding to that question, unless it's well phrased. Do we mean the national security, the security of the entire nation of the United States? It is clearly an obvious nonsense that-probably almost any kind of information could be a threat to the national security of the United States. Now, do we mean threats to a few soldiers in Afghanistan? That is a more reasonable question and a serious one. Well, the material is seven months old. It doesn't talk about particular movements of soldiers now or any ongoing sort of operation that's going to occur, so it's not of tactical significance. But it is of significance for investigators. It is of significance for understanding the broad sweep of what is happening in Afghanistan. Remember, it is this data that the US military uses internally to monitor the situation, that it uses to develop those aggregate figures about civilian casualties, Taliban, the ratio between killed and wounded, the ration between killed and detained over time. Now, all that original reporting, unmassaged by the Pentagon press office, is available to academics, historians and the general public to understand that war.
The whole thing is well worth listening to or reading. The title Democracy Now! gave to the story is most significant: "WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange: 'Transparent Government Tends to Produce Just Government.'"
Indeed. What could be simpler? Or more truly American?