The latest release by Wikileaks
of the Iraq War Logs is the largest leak in U.S. history and reveals in
extensive detail what Iraq Veterans Against the War has been saying
since our founding in 2004. The U.S. has presided over a bloody
occupation for seven years where war crimes are a common offense,
civilian casualties have been grossly under-reported, and corporate
contractors run amok.
IVAW Statement on the Iraq War Logs - A Call
The recent Wikileaks release--The Iraq War
Logs--has shed important light on the high rate of civilian death and
widespread atrocities, including torture, that are endemic to the war in
Iraq. As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are outraged
that the U.S. government sought to hide this information from the U.S.
public, instead presenting a sanitized and deceptive version of war, and
we think it is vital for this and further information to get out.
Members of IVAW have experienced firsthand the realities of war on the
ground, and since our inception we have spoken out about similar
atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are asking the U.S. public to
join us in calling on our government to end the occupations and bring
our brothers and sisters home.
The U.S. government has been claiming for years that they do not keep
count of civilian death tolls, yet the recent releases show that they
do, in fact, keep count. Between 2004 and 2009, according to these
newly disclosed records, at least 109,032 Iraqis died, 66,081 of whom
were civilians. The
Guardian reports that the Iraq War Logs show that the U.S.
military and government gave de facto approval for hundreds of reports
of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi soldiers and police
officers. These recent revelations, along with the Afghan War Diaries
and Collateral Murder footage, weave a picture of wars in which the
rules of engagement allow for excessive violence, woven into the fabric
of daily life with the U.S. military presence acting as a destabilizing
and brutalizing force. The Iraq War Logs, while crucial, are reports
produced in real time and themselves may be slanted to minimize the
culpability of U.S. forces. Still, they represent an important part of
evidence in assessing the reality of the Iraq war, evidence that can
only be improved by the further release of documents and information and
corroboration by individuals involved. To this end, our members are
reviewing both Wikileaks' Afghanistan War Diaries and the Iraq War Logs
to identify incidents we were part of and to shed more light on what
IVAW has been
speaking out about these atrocities and abuses since our inception. Our
organization is comprised of over 2,000 veterans and active duty troops
who have served since September 11, 2001. We demand immediate withdrawal
of all occupying forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, reparations for the
people of those countries, and full benefits for returning veterans,
including mental healthcare. At our March 2008 Winter Soldier hearings
in Maryland, more than fifty veterans and active-duty service members
publicly testified about the orders they were told to carry out in these
countries, sharing stories of excessive violence, trauma, and abuse.
Josh Stieber and Ethan McCord, two IVAW
members who were in the unit captured in the Wikileaks "Collateral
Murder" video, have spoken out about how the incidents caught on film
are not isolated cases of 'a few bad soldiers' but rather, part of the
nature of these wars. "There has been little accountability in the
wars that my friends and I once thought represented everything that was
noble about our country," wrote Stieber in anticipation of the Iraq War
Logs. In an open letter, Stieber calls for policy makers to "take
accountability for these wars and the full truth about them."
As veterans, we know that the violence
documented in the Iraq War Logs traumatizes the people living under
occupation. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also have been marked by
staggering rates of military trauma and suicide among the troops tasked
with carrying out these orders. Last year, 239 soldiers killed
themselves and 1,713 soldiers survived suicide attempts; 146 soldiers
died from high-risk activities, including 74 drug overdoses. A third of
returning troops report mental health problems, and 18.5 percent of all
returning service members are battling either Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder or depression, according to a study by the Rand Corporation.
Our Operation Recovery campaign, launched on October 7, seeks to end the
cruel and inhumane practice of redeploying troops suffering from
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, Traumatic Brain
Injury, and other mental and physical wounds--a practice that underlies
the continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Critics attacking Wikileaks founder
Julian Assange's character are attempting to use ad hominem arguments to
detract from the real issues and divert public attention from the
content of the Iraq War Logs. We urge honest and thorough discussion of
the content of these documents, and we think this discussion must not be
sidelined. Furthermore, with past Wikileaks revelations, U.S.
administration and military authorities were quick to vilify Army
Specialist Bradley Manning who is being accused of leaking these
documents to the public. Yet we insist that it is the right of the U.S.
public to have accurate information about wars that are being fought in
our name and funded by our tax dollars, and we support the public
sharing of this information. Exposing war crimes is not a crime.
Government deception is inexcusable. Authorities
have kept this information secret in the name of 'national security,'
but what they really are afraid of is public opinion, which they know
will turn against them if the truth about these wars gets out in the
mainstream. An accurate count of Iraqi dead, acknowledgment of torture,
and full disclosure of the role of private contractors are facts that
should be made public in a democracy. We believe that real national
security is created where government transparency and accountability,
free press, and an end to spending on illegal wars and occupations are
the norm. Continued silence and secrecy is a grave threat to the
security of the Iraqi and Afghan people, and we demand openness,
accountability, and real discussion of these revelations.
We grieve for the Iraqi and Afghan lives
that were lost and destroyed in these wars. We also grieve for our
brothers and sisters in arms, who have been lost to battle or suicide.
The Iraq War Logs bring home part of the harsh reality of these wars, a
reality that we--as veterans--live with everyday. We demand a real end
to both wars, including immediate withdrawal of the 50,000 "non-combat"
troops who remain in the Iraq. The Iraq War Logs underscore the
urgent need for peace, healing, and reparations for all who have been
harmed by these wars. The first step is to bring our brothers and
Iraq Veterans Against the War