British troops in Iraq seem to have been monitoring Al Qaida’s top commander Abu Musab Al Zarqawi as he was commuting from Amara to Basra, back in March 2005. According to classified documents released by the website WikiLeaks last weekend, the British helicopter that had him at range was forced to return to base because it ran out of fuel.
This single twist of fate gave the Jordanian terrorist another 15 months of life, during which he orchestrated a bloodbath between Sunnis and Shiites and reportedly was behind the February 2006 bombing of Al Askari Mosque in Samarra.
Had the Brits not run out of fuel — pathetic as it may sound — then Iraq would have been spared Zarqawi’s mad killing campaign.
This report, among others, can be found in one of the 400,000 documents released by WikiLeaks recently. The Iraq War Logs, now posted in a very user-friendly manner on the website, mirror what US troops were thinking, doing, and saying during their service in Iraq, covering the period January 2004 to December 2009.
These reports, which have ripped through forest fire on all four corners of the globe, record 109,032 deaths in Iraq during those six years, 66,081 civilians, 23,984 insurgents, 15,196 Iraqi government forces, and 3,771 coalition forces.
This means that for six years, 31 Iraqis were dying per day in Iraq, — while the rest of the civilised world was watching — five times more than the death toll for Afghanistan, for example, during the same period. The website, Iraq Body Count, has already raised its estimate of Iraqis killed during the war from 107,000 to 122,000 based on the WikiLeaks documents.
The range of what these documents reveal is wide and difficult to digest — more so for ordinary Iraqis and Americans who were dragged into this senseless war, seven years ago. One report shows that at least six Iraqis died while in custody, apparently, under beating, burning, and lashing of fellow Iraqis.
Another document shows that an eight-year-old Iraqi girl was killed at a checkpoint in Baghdad. Throughout the new documents, which are being described as the largest governmental leak in history, page after page shows that the US troops knew exactly what kind of malpractices were taking place in Iraqi prisons; turning a blind eye to all of them.
In one log, documents reveal that the Americans suspected Iraqis cutting off the fingers of Iraqi prisoners, and burning them with acid. One of the most notorious documents says that 17 men in uniform were confronted by troops from the Iraqi Army in October 2006.
When asked to identify themselves, they said they were a special unit reporting directly to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki. That special unit, Iraqis are now saying in retrospect, might have been one of the numerous death squads that mushroomed in the Iraqi capital that winter, striking at mosques, neighbourhoods, and individuals within the Sunni community.
The WikiLeaks documents raise a fundamental question on what kind of state — if the word actually applies — was Nouri Al Maliki running between 2004 and 2009? This was the same man brought to power by the Bush White House and maintained by the Obama Administration.
This regime, after all, was supposed to look, sound, and act very differently from that of Saddam Hussain. The WikiLeaks papers show that apparently, very little differentiates the former Iraqi president from the current Iraqi prime minister. They also remind us of how much of a failed state Iraq has been, thanks to the entire legacy of George W. Bush.
Hiding them for too long would have been similar to trying to hide an elephant, and pushing with the “It was the Iraqis who did it, not us” argument, as some American commentators are doing, is absolutely ridiculous.
Even if the Americans did little of the abuses in the period revealed through WikiLeaks, everybody in the Bush administration is responsible for the chaos and absolute collapse of humanity in Iraq since 2003: US officers who saw the crimes and did nothing about them, soldiers who pulled the triggers then lied about it; Donald Rumsfeld for sending men with low morals or dignity to Iraq. And finally, Bush himself for sending American troops into a senseless war that has cost hundreds of lives on both sides
If one were to dig for one single positive element in the WikiLeaks story it would be that it serves as a red alert for remaining US troops, those to stay behind after 2011, reminding them that they are being watched by the international community.
The slightest misconduct will be seen through the lens of a microscope and one day — perhaps not overnight — that misconduct will get ‘leaked’ to the entire world.
Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.