It’s been a few days now since Julian Assange dropped another bombshell with the revealing of dark and gloomy details of the Iraq War.
The media frenzy is still ongoing, the blogosphere is boasting “we told you so”, and Western politicians are scrambling to deal with the fallout.
But the Wikileaked documents reveal nothing out of the ordinary of what many believed was taking place in Iraq. Wikileaks simply confirmed what we all knew, but ignored for the past seven years.
Nevertheless, Wikileaks certainly has given us much to talk about. Most important to note are:
- Modern warfare/rules of engagement: Whilst the US has attempted to reassure the public that modern wars are less brutal due to military technological advancement, the truth as revealed by Wikileaks depicts a starkly different picture.War is still brutal, entails despicable atrocities, and brings out the most evil in mankind. Technology cannot remove the human elements of war. The emotions that drive a man and woman with a gun or a missile are no different to a medieval soldier and his sword.
- Media: Wikileaks is an embarrassment for mainstream media. Once again the multinational media organisations have been upstaged by activists, reinforcing the need for MSM to re-alter its approach in its coverage of conflicts, particularly those that involve home countries.Indeed, Wikileaks has only validated what the blogosphere has been reporting since US forces first set foot in Iraq in 2003. As independent online media, The Nation, recently tweeted, Wikileaks confirmed what they had already been reporting about Iraq.Whilst major media outlets such as Fox News lead the race to the bottom in news coverage, the blogosphere and independent media are picking up the pieces and proving to be more reliable sources of information.It is the media’s responsibility to tell the truth on war crimes, it is the media’s responsibility to hold warring parties accountable for their actions by divulging them to the public. It has grossly failed to do so in regards to both Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving it to small, but devoted teams of activists to fill the void ala Wikileaks.
- US management of war: Wikileaks should serve as a serious reality check to the US and all great powers that embark on war adventures in the age of mass communication and information technology: You are going to be caught on camera, and your actions will be revealed to wide audiences.The battering Israel’s public image received after the highly publicised Second Lebanon War 2006, Gaza 2009 and the Flotilla killings is a clear indication of the diplomatic consequences states face in war. Accusations of Israeli war crimes were being made as the Gaza War was ongoing.
Equally in Iraq, it is no longer the case where post-conflict analyses by academics reveal the brutal nature of war, but rather the powerful tools of mass media – from Wikileaks to a civilian’s smartphone – that bring us the news as it unfolds.The US has simply failed to manage this reality. Wars cannot be fought as it once was. We live in a highly transparent world, and the US – for reasons of legitimacy as the world’s most responsible superpower – had to be transparent in its investigations into war crimes committed by its forces and/or Iraqi security forces under its watch.
It is extremely doubtful that either American or Iraqi security personnel will face The Hague, diminishing the hopes of many human rights activists.
However, at a crucial time when the US is struggling to maintain its prestige as the world’s reliable superpower in the face of the emerging BRIC giants (Brazil-Russia-India-China), Washington can ill-afford to be seen as a hypocrite in regards to international law.
Losing international legitimacy as a responsible power will render it more difficult for the US to effectively deal with emerging powers that are increasingly becoming more emboldened to challenge American supremacy.
- Human rights: Despite the constant reminders, from Hollywood and more, on the need not to repeat the horrors of World War II, the human rights of civilians during wartime still appear to vanish as soon as a bullet is fired.In an era where international organisations are attempting to regulate war, the facts – as revealed by Wikileaks – show that those regulations count for very little. No US soldier or politician will face war crimes charges, despite having violated many of the international laws on war put in place to safeguard civilians and bring justice.
So do we continue to pursue an effective international law system that restrains conduct of war, regardless of it being routinely dismissed when it matters the most? It certainly puts into question the training methods and programs in the US military. Are rules of engagement and international law not part of the curriculum? What training did the US provide the now notorious Iraqi security forces, who happily torture their own citizens? Will Wikileaks prompt the US and other Western powers to rethink their military training, and place more emphasis on the need to be disciplined in action, and not allow the kind of emotions and recklessness that lead to atrocities? Easier said than done.
- Iran: For the short-term political equation, this is perhaps the most important ramification … a reminder more so for the Arab world. For those Arabs looking to Iran as a reliable counter to Israel, look again. Iran’s actions in Iraq have shown it is as self-interested in expanding its power as the US, and – contrary to its propaganda – it is not the saviour and liberator of the Arab world.Iran champions the Palestinian cause on the one hand, and on the other allows its Iraqi Shia militia proxies to torture and execute Palestinian civilians in Iraq. And any sense of Shi’ite victimhood is now truly evaporated. Instead of reconstructing and mending fences in Iraq, the Iranians have permitted their Iraqi Shia proxies to run on rampage revenge killings that will only fuel anti-Shia sentiments among many Sunni circles in the Middle East. Iran’s hand in Iraq is equally deadly, and severely undermines the sovereignty and stability of the country. Neither the US nor Iran are delivering the war-ravaged country any benefits.
The majority of us were aware the Iraq War was a political and strategic blunder. We knew that the West had condemned the Iraqi population to years of pain, devastation and horror. This is all war has to offer, and Wikileaks has sent us a timely reminder of what we gave Iraq in 2003.