Wikileaks’ Iraq War Logs: The U.S. Government’s Crisis of Legitimacy

Further to the Pentagon’s response to the Wikileaks Iraq War logs, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior military adviser to President Obama, apparently had no qualms about posting the following in Twitter–posted without remorse, apology, or disgrace over the release of documentation (from his own troops) of multiple U.S. war crimes:

Another irresponsible posting of stolen classified documents by Wikileaks puts lives at risk and gives adversaries valuable information.
2:19 PM Oct 23rd via web
Retweeted by 100+ people

The U.S. government, which has no end of lectures on human rights directed at other states, and even tries to gloss its occupations as humanitarian endeavors (surely by now everyone has heard that the brutality of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan is all about saving little girls and protecting their school books), suddenly goes silent over some of the most damning revelations, in fine detail, about its human rights violations. When the state spokespersons are not saying that the Wikileaks release is “irresponsible,” “stolen,” and the documents “classified,” they are saying there is nothing new here. Nothing new? Then that makes the question even more compelling: why have you failed, for so long, to act to prosecute the obvious cases of war crimes committed by your troops? That confirms that higher ups in the Pentagon and the U.S. Government have been fully aware of the crimes–nothing new–and chose not to act and, indeed, even tried to cover up those crimes by not disclosing this information.

The same logic is applied to the person accused of leaking the documents, Bradley Manning. The emphasis in the state’s rhetoric is on his alleged “criminal” actions. Yet, one might think that if documentation of war crimes is found, that for moral reasons, and in line with international humanitarian law, and concern for the laws of war, that such information must be released. Knowing the details, having the information, and then refusing to disclose it is the same as concealing that information and covering up a crime, which is a crime itself. If anything, one not only has a right to disclose such information, it is one’s duty–and no war crimes tribunal will say otherwise. This is especially true when higher ups claim full knowledge–the “nothing new” chorus line–and clearly refused to do anything about it. Let’s look at the alleged transcript of Bradley Manning’s online chat with Adrian Lamo, and we’ll see these themes and concerns repeated–here are some extracts:

  • if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… say, 8-9 months… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?
  • crazy, almost criminal political backdealings… the non-PR-versions of world events and crises

Not only is a soldier not required to obey an order whose execution would constitute a war crime (and that soldier becomes responsible for a war crime if he executes the order), a soldier cannot be required to conceal evidence of war crimes. If disclosure of war crimes itself becomes a criminal act–then that effectively negates and nullifies the various treaties and conventions to which the U.S. is a signatory. It would be bad faith, to say the least, to sign on to conventions about crimes of war, and crimes against peace, only to have a backup apparatus that makes commitment to such conventions fully impossible, and even criminal.

As for putting “lives at risk,” one would think that if people are (a) concerned about the safety of civilians, and, (b) that troops not be put in harm’s way…that the only logical position would not be one that is anti-Wikileaks, but one that is anti-war. Putting lives at risk is mere rhetorical hygienic tissue for the Pentagon–that is one of the things that is routinely the least of its concerns. It is in the business precisely about putting lives at risk. Yet states, including those with long careers in war-making (such as the U.S.), sign onto such conventions in order to cover their actions with legitimacy, to don the cloak of civilization.

So why does the U.S. government even bother to proffer such manifestly nonsensical positions? Who does it think it will convince and impress, when around the world only condemnation of its actions in Iraq, and praise for Wikileaks, has been resounding? The answer is no one apart from the already converted. The emphasis of the state is on monopolizing violence, and monopolizing claims to the legitimate use of violence. When the state’s spokespersons have to emphasize the key themes of legitimacy–inverted as criminality, irresponsibility, and disclosure of classified materials–that means such positions are no longer assumed to be taken for granted: they no longer go without saying because they come without saying, to borrow Bourdieu’s phrasing. These notions now must be stated because we have entered the realm of orthodoxy, one opposed by Wikileaks heterodoxy. And when ideas become orthodox, they are no longer hegemonic, the state is in trouble.

So instead of addressing the issues–because the state cannot–what the Mullens do is to try to convert the challenge into one of pompous defense of the rights of state versus, presumably, leftists with an anti-American agenda–but by no means conceding a basic issue of human rights. The intent here is to deny justice. Supporters of the imperial state get all the reassuring cues they need from the Mullens of the situation (indeed, he was frequently “retweeted”)–everything is OK, we are right, just talking about what’s in the documents is tantamount to treason; the criminals are Wikileaks, and not those who sprayed unarmed civilians with helicopter cannon fire.

Mullen’s tweet is the sweet sound of the imperial state falling to pieces. The following videos are different instances of statements attacking Wikileaks, primarily by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, but also Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The video at the bottom–from when Wikileaks released the Afghan War Diary–is well worth watching in full. Morrell gives us a display that rivals anything ever delivered by Donald Rumsfeld, to the extent that it is utterly implausible, untenable, absurd, and wildly unhinged. It is worth watching, ethnographically, straight into his eyes, of someone choking and gasping for credibility, clutching at straws, and making a complete ass of himself.

Pentagon and Iraq Condemn Wikileaks | Assange says Wikileaks Iraq War Logs are over redacted, almost making a “travesty” of the documents

The Pentagon Reply: Geoff Morrell

Hillary Clinton: “We should condemn the disclosure of classified documents…”

Geoff Morrell’s Bizarre Press Conference in August, after the release of the Afghan War Diaries:

10 thoughts on “Wikileaks’ Iraq War Logs: The U.S. Government’s Crisis of Legitimacy

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Wikileaks’ Iraq War Logs: The U.S. Government’s Crisis of Legitimacy « ZERO ANTHROPOLOGY --

  2. Pingback: Wikileaks' Iraq War Logs: The U.S. Government's Crisis of … | The Daily Conservative

  3. Ishtar


    There is a big story yet to be told. A story of whisblowers on corruptions inside the US army and Embassy Iraq. A big black market for the US troops weapons within a project called “Beer for Bullets” A story of lies as usual. Please read this Iraq log about “kidnapping” here:

    Click to access 13.pdf

    Iraqi and US troops, special forces, unmanned planes, and many other personnel and equipments were involved to resecue 2 US contractors kidnapped. The problem is that they were not kidnapped, but advised by 2 US officials to pretend to be kidnapped. The resecued contractors were taken to the US Embassy, then to a military camp and detained for 3 months. They were whisleblowers. You can say the US army did the kidnapping actually with the help of the US embassy in Baghdad.

    Does this make sense to you? pls. read the amazing story of the two guys and the theatrical resecue here in this pdf:

    Click to access Vance-Ertel-AC.pdf

  4. Ishtar


    The dots of this story are connected for the first time by yours truly. So you can be sure that Z.A. is the first English speaking outlet to refer to the connection between the “kidnapping” report and the whisleblowing story. Last summer, I was investigating Iraqi security companies and eventually read about the story of Vance and Ertel who worked for SGS, an Iraqi security group involved in suspicious activities. I wrote an investigative article in 4 parts for my Arabic blog. Then yesterday, while translating some of the Iraq war logs into Arabic, I came across this “kidnapping” stuff. It was easy then to make the connection.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Finally, I had the chance to read everything. Yes, it seems almost certain to me that the two documents are connected. It seems that while no one else has linked the war log record with the lawsuit, the actual details of what Vance and Ertel went through has been published…but not in many places at all, and in fact it’s just this one story that seems to have been republished creating the illusion of more than one major expose:

      It is also clear that the U.S. employed torture against U.S. citizens in retaliation for alleged whistle blowing, which yes, is pretty damning and shocking. I would write something about this but don’t know if I will have time this week. You have written about this in Arabic, if I understood. I don’t want to increase your workload, but if you translate it, I would just publish your piece instead.

  5. Ishtar

    I really can not at this stage translate all 3 long parts of an article. I would advise that you re-post my comments and your response as a separate topic (after correcting my wrong spelling of -whistleblowing :), and leave it to readers to check the links and come out with their own conclusions. The story is full of threads:

    1- The suspicious work and connections of Iraqi private security company.

    2- The mysterious roles played by US contractors in Iraq.

    3- The struggle between different US agencies with each other: CIA v. FBI, State Department v. DoD etc.

    4- corruption inside US Embassy and US army in Iraq. The focus of the interrogations was really about “what did you tell them in Washington?”

    5- Torture of detainees, even if they were Americans.

    6- The military report written about the operation of freeing of the “kidnapped” was not true. I mean they were not kidnapped actually, unless the army was not told the truth by the Embassy when troops and equipments were moved to undertake this operation.

  6. Pingback: Torturing the Whistle Blowers: The Case of Vance and Ertel in Iraq, Substantiated by Wikileaks’ Iraq War Logs « ZERO ANTHROPOLOGY

  7. Pingback: Complex and Explosive Wikileaks v. World Leaders v. Pentagon v. Media War « Streams of consciousness

  8. Pingback: Slaying Of The Gmork or Growing A Foundation On Love « Streams of consciousness

Comments are closed