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Apr. 13 2010 - 4:36 pm | 3,140 views | 3 recommendations | 10 comments

WikiLeaks Editor Lies to Stephen Colbert, World; WikiLeaks Necessary Nonetheless

Logo used by Wikileaks

Dude, you're dripping intellectual dishonesty all over my snow globe.

WikiLeaks head honcho Julian Assange went on The Colbert Report last night with the intention of shoring up his organization’s reputation in the wake of its disastrous handling of the Apache video. But as the Jawa Report notes, Assange simply dug himself into a deeper hole by lying about both the video and the manner in which WikiLeaks chose to present it. Among other things, the fellow implies that the men in question carried a single weapon among them when in fact there were at least three visible and one of them was an RPG.

As I’ve noted, WikiLeaks is an incredible and unprecedented resource that’s almost certain to continue bringing forth documents of great potential value to the thinking citizenry, which must have access to a sampling of such things as classified U.S. government documents if it is to gain a sufficient idea of what is being done in its name but without his knowledge, and occasionally without the knowledge of even his highest elected representatives. It would have been a fine thing for the public to have learned of MKULTRA, Tuskagee, COINTELPRO, Operation Ajax, and other state-sanctioned acts of malevolence early enough to have put an end to them, rather than years later and by way of such things as the Church Commission or delayed declassification. WikiLeaks could very well be the institution to blow cover for some future government-administered action with an effect contrary to the demonstrably fundamental ideals and intents of our republic; our intelligence community in particular has not acted in such a way as to have earned the public trust.

Because anyone may see the information released by WikiLeaks for himself and evaluate it for accuracy and implications, the dishonest manner in which certain of the organization’s administrators chose to package this particular piece of information ought not to dissuade anyone from taking seriously the information itself, nor any information it may release in the future. And though criticism of those particular administrators is well-deserved, critics should also keep in mind that WikiLeaks is likely to come through with important discoveries regarding those nations and non-state actors for which even greater criticism is even better-deserved. In the few years that it has been in existence, this institution has served as an overall benevolent force for the citizenry’s legitimate aspirations to know what is being done for them, through them, and to them.


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    Well said. Wikileaks should be a clearing house of information that governments may attempt to suppress.

    However, whenever a source is anonymous and unofficially released, one should be very careful that there aren’t sins of omission or tampering.

    I don’t fault Wikileaks. I fault the dishonest idiots who posted this stuff.

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    I just looked at the full video, even downloaded it and looked at it closely…. at the most I saw, one… maybe two AK-47s, the second was hard to tell and I am not sure… What they called a Rocket Prop. Grenade (RPG) was the cameraman. I also watched the Colbert Report in question and Mr. Assange admitted that they packaged the edited video with bias. Other than that I have seen better interviews, and the presentation in general did not increase my confidence in Wikileaks.org. Not to mention that Colbert identified the site as Wikileaks.com.

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      Actually, there is indeed an RPG being held by one of the men; most people (including myself) didn’t see this when the video was first released, but it was eventually pointed out by the blogger I link to above. Although it is visible only for a second or two, the object is clearly identifiable as an RPG upon inspection, so much so that I felt compelled to make a correction regarding my initial statement that there was no RPG in the video.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    The 11:39 uncut Assange interview is on the Colbert website. I’m not sure how it played out in the broadcast, but..

    5:46 Colbert: What were these men doing in the streets, carrying rifles and rocket propelled grenades

    Assange: It appears that there are two men, one carrying an AK-47, one carrying a rocket propelled grenade although we’re not 100% sure of that.

    Assange: The permission to engage was given before the word RPG was ever used, and before the cameraman ever pulled up his camera and went around the corner

    Assange does not imply that only one man was carrying a weapon, and acknowledges the RPG. The official military investigation reveals 1 AK-47, and 1 RPG, which is consistent with Assange’s claim

    TheJawaReports makes a fuss that Assange is playing word trickery (“sn’t technically lying when he says the “word RPG” isn’t used, but this is a distraction meant to fool the casual observer into thinking that the order to fire was given before weapons were seen.”) The point that Assange was making was not that the order to fire was given before weapons were seen, but that it was given before the RPG/camera was identified peering/aiming around the corner.

  4. collapse expand

    I didn’t think it was necessary for Wikileaks to dramatize the event so much, though the information they provided was useful. Such as the providing the names of the journalists and following up to show that the children were doing OK. Although they are still effected by the wounds they received after being shot up by the US Military.

    What I think is being overlooked in this discussion is that the US Military has a record now of behaving inappropriately, even in a war zone. Examples would be the Marine who through a puppy off a cliff, the Abu Ghraib torture photos, Gitmo tortures, hiding prisoners from the Red Cross, shooting up random cars in Iraq, killing pregnant women in Afg. and digging out the bullets, throwing grenades at goats, dragging Iraqi kids behind walls and kicking them in the balls and beating them with sticks, etc, etc. There is just too much abuse to humanity to be tolerated in my opinion.

    • collapse expand

      The apologists conveniently ignore eyewitness accounts and reports by unembedded journalists:

      there is no reason at all to believe or to conclude that any of the people in that picture are armed insurgents. I mean, you can see two men with Kalashnikovs, but this is 2007 in Baghdad. This is the height of the civil war, when dozens of bodies a day were being picked up from the street, when sectarian militias filled the Iraqi security forces, the police and the army. Every neighborhood in Baghdad organized its own protection force. And it was legal at the time for every household to own a Kalashnikov in Iraq, and every household I ever went to did. So the presence of two men, dangling at their sides Kalashnikovs, in a crowd of civilians who have no weapons at all, I mean, is absolutely no—I mean, it’s—the whole thing is ridiculous.

      And let’s not be naive about how Our Honorable Troops are trained to cover up their mistakes:

      [Jason] Washburn [a corporal in the US Marines who served three tours in Iraq] testified on a panel that discussed the rules of engagement (ROE) in Iraq, and how lax they were, to the point of being virtually nonexistent.
      “During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot,” Washburn’s testimony continued, “The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond. Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry ‘drop weapons’, or by my third tour, ‘drop shovels’. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent.”

      Jason Wayne Lemue is a Marine who served three tours in Iraq: “By my third tour, we were told to just shoot people, and the officers would take care of us.”

      Regardless, as Jonathan Schwarz put it:

      I have no idea whether any of the people shot were armed, or insurgents, or armed insurgents. There will inevitably be long dreary arguments about this between U.S. liberals and conservatives, complete with 5,000-word blog posts analyzing the video frame by frame.

      But here’s the thing: even if everyone but the journalist and children were armed insurgents, no one else on earth cares. That’s because, when another country invades yours, you’re allowed to fight back. And if you invade another country and start slaughtering people, you don’t somehow make yourself the good guy by proving that they were trying to fight back.

      As James Fallows noted, “imagine the reaction in the US if the people on the ground had been Americans and the people on the machine guns had been Iraqi, Russian, Chinese, or any other nationality.” This story would still be on the NYT front page, people in Washington (esp. Republicans) would be outraged and calling for investigations, etc. etc. But of course Americans are exceptional and always have an excuse for killing innocent Others, especially the Muslim variety.

      The truth is that:

      Powerful states, like the United States, do not generally try to kill particular civilians. Rather, they carry out murderous actions that they and their educated classes know will slaughter many civilians, but without specific intent to kill particular ones. … It is more similar to walking down a street knowing that we might kill ants, but without intent to do so, because they rank so low that it just doesn’t matter.
      There is no good term for this form of moral depravity, arguably worse than deliberate slaughter, and all too familiar.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    Are you saying the two journalists were in fact insurgents and were part of a plan to attack US forces? Plus was the van filled with weapons or did the men who tried to help the wounded man armed? Can you jusify the killing of children if they are in the presence of two unarmed men and armed dead people? Does the military train its men to take a sociopath’s position and attitude at the sight of wounded and possibly dead children that “…that’s what happens when you take children to a war zone?” Where exactly is a region of Iraq that is not a war zone? Or can we just assume that Americans who have little interaction with the average Iraqi just hate them and project all their fears and anger over being there on the people. I watched another video of some soldiers pinned down by snipers on a balcony. Instead of retreating and finding another position. They sighted someone in a window…so they called in a missile that quite accurately blew the shit out of that apartment…but he was not the sniper…so the called in a much bigger bomb…bom boom went the building…not the sniper…so they called in a mine clearing vehicle that fires a net like series of bombs down the street…this blows up the neighborhood…our guys are safe…lots of dead bad guys in their minds and lots of relatives devoting themselves to killing the occupiers.

    We need to get our asses out of that country because the only thing we have accomplished was to free the Kurds, a good thing and turn the rest of the country over to Iran…a very bad thing.

    • collapse expand

      No, my post does not address the nature of those killed, really, and is mostly meant to address the methods of certain bloggers and Wikileaks admins in depicting this incident in a particular way. I do not approve of the actions taken by the U.S. forces in this incident, and the shooting of the fellow with the van is particularly egregious. I also don’t think these men were anti-U.S. insurgents, and in fact the RPG increases the strength of my view – there was a U.S. armored vehicle just around the corner, and these men don’t seem to have been interested in it, other than the photographer who snapped a photo; if they were insurgents, the guy with the RPG probably would have been at least stalking it, if not trying to hit it with a grenade round. I’m just not cool with the admins calling this “Collateral Murder” and failing to point out certain important aspects of the video, and I’m also not happy with certain liberal bloggers – including a couple that I’m always citing as the best commentators in this country – failing to update with that info. They don’t need to change their views of the incident simply due to an RPG being present, just like I really haven’t myself, but it’s just good journalism to provide all the facts one can. Additionally, the conservatives who identified the RPG are themselves intellectually dishonest to an incredible extent, and I’ll be calling them out on certain matters soon.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Mr. Brown,

        Thank you for clarifying this for me, is there a site that has the complete unedited version because while watching the video I could not understand why the chopper was reporting 5 to 6 armed men when I could only see one. I have seen several of these videos some night shots taken from a mile away where they take out people but most are clearly up to no good. However it is an oddly disturbing way to wage a war.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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    I'm the author of Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design, and the Easter Bunny; my second book, Hot, Fat & Clouded: The Amazing and Amusing Failures of America’s Chattering Class (Being a Partial Record of the Incompetence of Our Republic's Mainstream Pundits, Most of Whom Deserve to be Exiled or at Least Have Their Cars Vandalized), will be released in 2010. I'm a contributor to Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, Skeptic, and The Onion, and my work has appeared in dozens of other publications and outlets. I also serve as director of communications for Enlighten the Vote, a political action committee dedicated to the advancement of the Establishment Clause.

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