WikiLeaks exposes war crimes, media spin

September 3, 2011

The tens of thousands of cables released by WikiLeaks since August reveal a wide variety of lies told by the US government and crimes in which the US government is complicit or helped cover up. provides a daily rundown, with links, to some of the key cables.

Below are three cables that depict the apparent covering-up of US military war crimes in Iraq; the riding rough-shod over the popular will of nation in Ireland; and the way the US government seeks to divert attention from its crimes with calculated media spin.

US killings in Iraq exposed, no prosecutions

A secret cable from the United States mission in Geneva on May 30, 2007 revealed the mission received a letter from United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston.

The letter raised concerns over five killings of civilians in Iraq by US soldiers for which there were no prosecutions.

Alston's letter said: “I have received information regarding a number of incidents in which there would appear to be significant evidence that members of the armed forces committed such crimes as murder and manslaughter in violation of provisions of the United States' Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

“The crimes would, of course, also constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

The reported killings occurred in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. The letter lists the five incidents in detail, based on US army investigations.

One case involved the killing of a Reuters journalist in August 2003. Palestinian reporter Mazen Dana was shot dead by a US soldier.

Alston explained: “It is my further understanding that the reporter, Palestinian journalist Mazen Dana, was filming outside the prison after having received a proper press permit from U.S. authorities.

“According to the CID report which I have reviewed, the soldier fired at Dana because 'he believed Mr. Dana was a hostile combatant when he raised an unknown device to his shoulder, holding it with both hands. The soldier thought the device was a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) Launcher, but it was later determined to be a news agency videocamera.'”

A US military investigation found the death to be accidental and no charges were laid.

In another case, Alston wrote: “According to information that I have received, video footage by journalist Kevin Sites appears to depict a marine killing an unarmed and wounded Iraqi man in a Mosque at point blank range on 13 November 2004.

“In the video footage, one Marine can be heard yelling 'He's fucking faking he's dead! He's faking he's fucking dead!'

“The Marine then fires directly at the apparently wounded man several times. Immediately following the shooting, another Marine can be heard stating 'He's dead now.'

“My understanding is that the Marine was investigated but not prosecuted.”

Alston concluded: “While I do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, I would note that, if they were accurate they might give rise to concern about the extent to which your Government is consistently imposing effective penal sanctions for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and, more generally, consistently prosecuting and punishing the unlawful use of lethal force.”

Irish government under pressure over US Army use of airport

The Irish foreign department's Chief of International Security Policy, Keith McBean, warned the United States embassy in Dublin that the Irish government was under growing pressure because of the US Army's use of Shannon Airport in County Cork, a December 2, 2004 cable released by WikiLeaks revealed.

In 2003, five anti-war activists where charged with criminal damage for de-arming a US warplane on its war to Iraq. The activists were finally acquitted in 2006.

However, the cable reveals opposition to the Irish government's assistance with the US war machine, by allowing it use of Shannon Airport, ran deep throughout society.

“McBean noted that while there always has been an element of Irish society that objects to the U.S. military's use of Shannon, the government feels increasingly under pressure,” the cable said.

“On a weekly basis, members of parliament question the ministers ...

“Parliamentarians draw on allegations from journalists, activists' web sites and tail spotters to suggest the USG has used Shannon for nefarious purposes.”

McBean said the government was under pressure over allegations the US military used the airport to transport prisoners ― which could make the Irish government complicit in the US's infamous program of renditioning prisoners to be tortured in third countries or in the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

“He cautioned that if it were ever to be discovered that the U.S. was not good on its word or had transported prisoners through Shannon in the context of the war on terrorism, there would be enormous political pressure on the government.

“As for the legal issue, he said that were a plane to include Shannon in an itinerary that also included transporting prisoners, GOI [government of Ireland] lawyers might be forced to conclude that the GOI itself was in violation of
torture conventions.”

The cable says the embassy told McBean the US government “would be in no position to respond to the detailed questions asked about particular planes”.

US PR machine spins stories for world media

“Facing off in a world media environment dominated by themes like Iraq and terrorism, USUN-Rome mounted a month-long blitz that promoted a positive American story,” said a December 9, 2004 cable from the United States mission in Rome released in August by WikiLeaks.

The cable boasted: “For two weeks in November, USUN-Rome's aggressive campaign gained international media attention on hard and soft news topics … USUN-Rome reached targeted audiences in Europe and the Muslim world with the story of U.S. generosity and commitment to reaching internationally embraced development goals.”

The cable said “these efforts reflect the mission's goal of taking the offense to win hearts and minds by making the stories and bringing them to journalists ― and not the other way around”.

In its conclusion, the cable said: “In a world where too often we end up taking the hits, this past month we threw the spears.”

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