Wikileaks and more

By Lynn Koh
Oct 24, 2010

While the substantial coverage of the Wikileaks Iraq memos in the New York Times is welcome, I'm somewhat surprised at the rhetorical acrobatics the newspaper used.  Most apparent, of course, is their decision to personally attack Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.  While the criticisms of him may be valid, Times writers seem to have dug out their thesaurus in order to heap opprobrium on Assange at the same time that they seem unable to string together the phrase 'war crimes'. 

Certainly, the Times does its part to suggest that the U.S. must get out of Afghanistan, by comparison with Iraq.  One article claims that the conditions which led to the 'success' of the surge in Iraq are not replicable in Afghanistan (conditions which, it should be noted, include ethnic cleansing); while another article mentions that checkpoint killings of civilians turned Iraqis against US armed forces (suitably euphemized as 'the American presence') and are turning Afghans against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

But, the ability of the newspaper to place responsibility for most of the violence solidly upon Iraqis themselves demonstrates that, while public opinion turned against the Iraq war, the anti-war movement has been mostly unsuccessful in explaining the US role in fostering sectarianism and preventing genuine political reconciliation.  Less than one week ago, the Times ran an article ("Sunnis in Iraq Allied with U.S. Rejoin Rebels") which discusses the failure of the Awakening Councils to remain allied with both the US and Iraqi governments.  This alliance was forged prior to the surge and, much more than elevated troop levels, led to the moderate drop-off in violence in Iraq.  Several observers noted, however, that this was a fragile situation; and indeed, I would argue that political reconciliation is impossible whenever nationalism is a real political force and an occupying power seeks to intervene in the political process in its favor.  Contrary to all cheerleading about the surge, we are likely to see the chickens coming home to roost, with the blame in US media predictably falling on the Iraqis yet again.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Lynn Koh is a long-time activist in the anti-war movement, and is a labor organizer in the Bay Area.

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