WikiLeaks, an international whistleblower organization, sparked condemnation from the U.S. government earlier this month, when it released nearly 400,000 documents on the conduct of American troops in Iraq.
In an August conference, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said the documents put the coalition troops in harms way, claiming that the WikiLeaks staff already has blood on their hands.
The truth of the matter is that there are no reports of the leaks having any effect on the safety of the troops or civilians in the region. During an interview on the radio program “Democracy Now!,” Daniel Ellsberg claimed that the U.S. has not seen any evidence that the documents have affected soldiers overseas.
Ellsberg, who worked in the Pentagon, released classified documents known as the “Pentagon Papers,” about the Vietnam War and distributed them among 17 newspaper publications in 1971.
Americans can now read about untold truths like those that surfaced during the Vietnam War. According to Al-Jazeera, the WikiLeaks reports indicate staggering facts about the U.S. turning a blind eye to torture reports and even indicate the official death toll of the war does not include up to 15,000 unreported civilian deaths.
Julian Assange, the spokesman and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, claimed there is a symbolic aim in releasing the documents. He said he has been working alongside public interest lawyers in the UK to develop lawsuits for 40 wrongful killings and that the documents also reveal evidence of possible war crimes by the U.S. and other coalition forces.
The U.S. is attempting to file espionage charges on several individuals in regard to the release of the documents, particularly on Assange, who said on Democracy Now! that he believes, “This administration is moving toward really aggressively using the Espionage Act.”
We must not fall into the same ignorance we adopted during the Vietnam War. The conduct and presence of the coalition forces in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, must be part of the political discourse.
For this reason, WikiLeaks continues to serve as an icon in its fight against repressing the freedom of the press, its encouragement toward international condemnation and its drive toward inciting investigations that hold those who have committed crimes accountable.
“I’m very glad,” Ellsberg said on the radio program, “that someone is taking the risk and the initiative to inform us better now.”
I am, too.
Nader Hasan is a junior majoring in international affairs and religion.