In the past 11 years of the so-called war on terror, Australian troops have been sent to two US-led wars. The West has killed more than a million Iraqis and tens of thousands of Afghans, and displaced millions more. Our government backed the NATO intervention in Libya and is currently supporting everything short of military intervention in Syria.
These wars are only possible through lies. We’re lied to about the reasons for going to war, and the reality of the carnage we cause is concealed from us. We’re told by our governments that a country must be invaded and occupied, either for our security or to “help” the people we’re bombing. But the truth is that wars only serve the interests of power and profits.
The corporate media amplifies the lies of the 1%. It perpetuates a cartoonish view of the world: us and them, good guys and bad guys. This provides cover for Western corporations to profit enormously from “reconstruction” contracts in the countries we’ve destroyed, and from the exploitation of their natural resources.
But as Julian Assange has said, “if wars can be started by lies, peace can be started by truth”. Imagine if our media showed us the everyday realities of war, as much as they subject us to the everyday banality of celebrity lives. Could we still be persuaded that what we are engaged in is a “humanitarian intervention”?
WikiLeaks’ Collateral Murder video is shocking, not because the wanton killing of civilians is rare in our wars, but because we in the West rarely witness it. “Embedded” journalists ensure we only see a sanitised version of events, not video footage of human beings blown to pieces by our 30-mm cannon rounds.
And what if our media, instead of demonising the official enemy of the day, reported on the West’s history of funding dictators and fundamentalists to further its own agenda? Would any of us still believe that our security is our governments’ number one motivation?
WikiLeaks’ pioneering work can help us break this cycle of lies and perpetual war. After British authorities threatened to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, protesters gathered outside. One of them, UK Veterans for Peace activist Ben Griffin, was asked why he was there supporting Julian Assange.
Griffin told Democracy Now that he started to speak out about the true nature of war when he came back from Iraq, but: “People always said to me, ‘Where’s your evidence?’ People say to other veterans in my organization, ‘Oh well, what do you know? You’re just a soldier.’
“And Julian provided us with all the evidence we need: the ‘Collateral Murder’ video … the Afghan War Logs … which describe torture and death on a daily basis; the Iraq War [Diary], which again highlights the real numbers of those killed in Iraq ... So this guy, for me, has done a great service to the world in showing us the true nature of the wars that our governments ask us to fight in.”
This is why the warmongers are so afraid of WikiLeaks. A 2010 Australian Department of Defence report of an inquiry into the Afghan War Logs, shows the government feared the release would undermine public support for the war.
It was particularly worried that revelations about Australia’s relationship with Matiollah Khan, a corrupt warlord accused of torture, mass murder, rape and abduction, would discredit our “mission” in Afghanistan. Dutch forces refused to work with him, but Khan is a highly valued Australian ally.
The Afghan War Logs contain evidence of Khan’s involvement in protection rackets and the drug trade, as well as an incident “where his brother was given what appears to be special treatment by US troops”.
Khan has earned more than $45 million from NATO and Australian contracts, and he’s just one of the warlords empowered by the US-led occupation of Afghanistan. The Australian government cannot afford for us to look too closely at these sorts of facts, lest we question its claim that “our mission” is to bring democracy and good governance to Afghanistan.
US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks show ALP and Coalition politicians falling over themselves to curry favour with Washington. In 2006, then Labor opposition leader, and now Ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley promised that Australian involvement in the war in Afghanistan would continue “until hell freezes over”.
Rudd government officials repeatedly assured US diplomats that Australia would be in Afghanistan for the “long haul”. A cable from 2007 quotes then deputy PM Julia Gillard describing the recent deaths of three Australian soldiers as “bad luck” and assuring the US that Australia was "resolved" to continue its mission. Since then, 34 more Australians have died and Australia’s “mission” remains the same: supporting the US alliance at any cost.
WikiLeaks cables also show how Australia has consistently worked with the US to target Iran, which has become the focus of renewed warmongering since war in Iraq officially ended. Contrary to the current US-Israeli narrative, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. Israel and the US, on the other hand, have a combined nuclear arsenal estimated to be greater than that of any other state.
But at the behest of the US, the UN has imposed sanctions on Iran that threaten to have similar devastating effects as the sanctions which killed more than half a million children in Iraq. As well as supporting the UN sanctions, Australia began introducing autonomous bilateral sanctions against Iran in October 2008.
A cable from 2009 quotes a Rudd government official as saying that “Australia wants the most robust, intrusive and debilitating sanctions possible". When the US sought to ramp up UN sanctions against Iran a few months later, US Ambassador Bleich confidently reported in a cable: “Australia can be counted as a strong supporter of whatever course the United States chooses to pursue.”
These are just a few examples of the machinations and motivations of warmongers upon which WikiLeaks has shone a light. Please read WikiLeaks’ releases for yourselves – not through the filter of the mainstream media. It’s up to us to use the remarkable trove of information, which WikiLeaks has given us to challenge the lies and spin of those who start wars and murder millions in our name.
We’ve already seen what a difference WikiLeaks can make towards ending conflict. In Iraq early last year, the US government was set to keep US troops in the country beyond the deadline set for withdrawal. Iraqi President Al-Maliki agreed that US troops would not be subject to Iraqi law and so could effectively stay there with impunity.
But in May last year, WikiLeaks released a cable containing evidence that US troops had executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a five-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. After that, it was impossible, even for US puppet Maliki, to allow them to stay with impunity, and those US troops were withdrawn.
We owe a great debt to courageous individuals like Assange and alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning. They’ve put their life and liberty on the line to give us the truth.
As Afghan anti-war activist Malalai Joya has said: “The silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people.” Our silence will let our governments off the hook. It will give them a green light to repress anyone who stands up to the military industrial war machine. We must continue to raise our collective voice in support of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and to demand an end to the occupation of Afghanistan.
[Linda Pearson is a member of the Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition and the Sydney Stop the War Coalition. The two groups have organised the “Rally for #Assange and #WikiLeaks: Don’t Shoot the Messenger” protest on October 6, 2pm at Sydney Town Hall. For more details visit here.