WikiLeaks files show 'truth' on Iraq war: Assange

October 24, 2010 - 0:0

LONDON (AFP) – WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange said Saturday that 400,000 classified U.S. military documents leaked by the whistleblowing website showed the “truth” on the Iraq war.

“This disclosure is about the truth,” Assange told a news conference in London. “The attack on the truth by war begins long before war starts and continues long after a war ends.
“We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war and which has continued on since the war officially concluded.”
The mass of documents released late Friday offer a grim snapshot of the Iraq war, including showing the abuse of Iraqi civilians by Iraqi security forces.
The heavily redacted logs appear to show that the U.S. military turned a blind eye to evidence of torture by the Iraqi authorities.
Assange said they showed the war had been “a bloodbath on every corner”.
The United States warned that the release of the documents could endanger the lives of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians, while the Iraqi government said the logs “did not contain any surprises”.
In an announcement which could further concern the U.S., WikiLeaks' spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the website would soon release a further batch of 15,000 secret files on the war in Afghanistan.
Wikileaks enraged Washington by releasing 92,000 documents on the Afghan war earlier this year.
The files published Friday contain graphic accounts of torture and civilian killings, giving a grisly picture of years of bloodshed and suffering following the 2003 U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
In one document, U.S. military personnel describe abuse by Iraqis at a facility in Baghdad that was holding 95 detainees in a single room where they are “sitting cross-legged with blindfolds, all facing the same direction.”
It says “many of them bear marks of abuse to include cigarette burns, bruising consistent with beatings and open sores... according to one of the detainees questioned on site, 12 detainees have died of disease in recent weeks.”
Other reports describe Iraqis beating prisoners and women being killed at U.S. military checkpoints.
WikiLeaks made the files available several weeks ago to selected newspapers and TV channels and then, just before their publication, invited journalists for a three-hour lock-in preview in London.
Britain's Guardian newspaper said the leaks showed “U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.”
It added that “more than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents,” going on to say that “U.S. and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.”
The Guardian said WikiLeaks is thought to have obtained the material from the “same dissident U.S. army intelligence analyst” who leaked 90,000 logs about the war in Afghanistan this year. WikiLeaks has not revealed its source.
Al-Jazeera also concluded that the major findings of the leaked papers included a U.S. military cover-up of Iraqi state-sanctioned torture and “hundreds” of civilian deaths at manned American checkpoints.
Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers told the London news conference that some of the deaths documented in the reports could have involved British forces and could now be the subject of legal action in British courts.
“Some of these deaths will be in circumstances where the UK have a very clear legal responsibility,” he said.
“This may be because the Iraqis died while under the effective control of UK forces -- under arrest, in vehicles, helicopters or detention facilities.”
A spokesman for the Iraqi rights ministry said: “The report did not contain any surprises, because we had already mentioned many things that happened, including at Abu Ghraib prison, and many cases involving U.S. forces.”
Photo: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (R) listens as colleague Kristin Hrafnsson speaks during a news conference on the internet release of secret documents about the Iraq War, in London on October 23, 2010. (Reuters photo) -