The banality of imperialism

Submitted by martin on 2 November, 2010 - 10:28 Author: Martin Thomas

The biggest-ever "leak" of official documents in history has filled in the picture of brutal US floundering in Iraq.

391.832 files - daily reports by US military units to their commanders from 2004 to 2009 - have been passed on to WikiLeaks and then analysed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London.

The leaks include no sensations. Units wrote their reports so as to present themselves as behaving properly and following orders. Some of the reports we now know to be attempts to cover up incidents which have since - because of other whistleblowing - led to court-martials.

It is the accumulation of detail that overwhelms. For example, the reports include 13,963 "Escalation of Force" cases, where US units decided to open fire in response to unexpected events.

The US units record themselves as having killed 832 people in such cases. 681 were civilians. Only 120 - according to the US military's own reports - were anti-US fighters.

Fifty families were shot at when US soldiers at checkpoints got twitchy, and at least 30 children were killed.

Iraq Body Count, which adds up the figures from all the casualty reports available from Iraq - since the US military stonily refused to do so - says that the leaked reports identify more than 15,000 civilian deaths that never appeared in media reports or public records. Adding on that 15,000 gives Iraq Body Count a total of around 122,000 civilians killed since the 2003 invasion.

In the reports, US troops informed their commanders of 1,365 claims of torture by Iraqi security forces between 2005 and 2009. Nothing was done about the big majority of those reports. How could it be? The torturers were the USA's next-best thing to workable allies in Iraq.

Why did all this happen? By 2003 the US administration was drunk on military swagger after its triumph in the Cold War and the easy US victories, or apparent victories, in Kuwait (1991), Bosnia (1995), Kosova (1999), and Afghanistan (2001). It was intoxicated with the idea of reshaping the world on US-friendly, world-market-friendly lines by "short and sharp" blasts of US firepower.

The arrogance, hubris, and triumphalist blundering of the Bush regime translated on the ground into a huge US military machine lurching around, killing thousands of innocent Iraqis, and crushing the fibres of Iraqi society.

The US army floundered in a society where the US invasion plan had allowed ordinary civil administration to break down - in fact, helped to break it down - and the USA's allies proved to be exiles with little popular base; the USA's enemies, to be dominated by sectarian religious-fundamentalist gangs more hostile to each other than to the USA.

Saddam Hussein's dictatorship deserved to be overthrown? Yes, but the way it was done, and by whom, led to horrors on a level with those of the dictatorship itself.

Iraq Body Count:
Bureau of Investigative Journalism Iraq War Logs site:

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