WikiLeaks Documents Reveal Death Count, Torture
The classified reports put the Iraqi civilian death toll higher than reported.
Oct. 23, 2010— -- The whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks released a trove of classified reports that it said documented at least 109,000 deaths in the Iraq war, more than the United States previously has acknowledged, as well as what it described as cases of torture and other abuses by Iraqi and coalition forces.
"The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces)," WikiLeaks said in a statement regarding the documents' release. "The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60 percent) of these are civilian deaths. That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six-year period."
At a news conference in London on Saturday, WikiLeaks said it would soon publish 15,000 additional secret Afghan war documents.
"We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which has continued on since the war officially concluded," said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The new documents covered 2004 through 2009, WikiLeaks said, with the exception of May 2004 and March 2009.
A review of the documents by Iraq Body Count, an advocacy group that long has monitored civilian casualties in the war, found 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths, according to WikiLeaks -- a detail first reported in The Guardian newspaper, one of a handful of international news organizations that got an advance look at the documents.
The U.S. military long has maintained that it does not keep an official death tally, but earlier this month following a Freedom of Information Act request, the Pentagon said some 77,000 Iraqis had been killed from 2004 to mid-2008 -- a shorter period than that covered by WikiLeaks.
Besides the different time periods, the New York Times, which also saw the WikiLeaks documents early, noted that "some deaths are reported more than once, and some reports have inconsistent casualty figures."
Al Jazeera, which also got an advance look at the documents, reported a total of 285,000 war casualties on its Arabic-language website, a number that included both dead and wounded. It also reported that the documents said 681 Iraqi civilians were killed at U.S. checkpoints, 180,000 Iraqis were arrested during the war and 15,000 Iraqis were buried without being identified.
The massive leak of 391,832 documents at 5 p.m. ET yesterday, which WikiLeaks billed as "the largest classified military leak in history," followed WikiLeaks' similar but smaller release on the war in Afghanistan.
The new release was anticipated by the Pentagon, which has warned that publicizing the information could endanger U.S. troops.
"We strongly condemn the unauthorized disclosure of classified information," said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell prior to the documents becoming public.
Morrell said the documents "expose secret information that could make our troops even more vulnerable to attack in the future. Just as with the leaked Afghan documents, we know our enemies will mine this information looking for insights into how we operate, cultivate sources and react in combat situations, even the capability of our equipment. This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed."
Amid such criticism, WikiLeaks said this time it "undertook the arduous task of redacting any piece of information contained that might lead to the identification of any innocent Iraqi."
The Pentagon said the documents it expected would be released include tactical reports from late 2003 to 2010 containing brief unit-level observations of what those units saw on a daily basis.
Those documents included descriptions of attacks on Iraqi security forces and U.S. forces, detainee abuse, civilian casualty incidents, IED blasts, discussions with Iraqis and inquiries into socio-political relations, according to Department of Defense spokesman Col. David Lapan.
Sources that saw the WikiLeaks documents in advance reported no major revelations, but said taken together they could be read as a secret history of the war written from a troop's-eye-view of the conflict.
WikiLeaks collectively referred to the trove as "The Iraq War Logs" and seemed to suggest they did contain revelations.
"There are reports of civilians being indiscriminately killed at checkpoints, such as speeding to get a pregnant woman to hospital; of Iraqi detainees being tortured by coalition forces; and of U.S. soldiers blowing up entire civilian buildings because of one suspected insurgent on the roof," WikiLeaks said in its statement.
"There are over 300 recorded reports of coalition forces committing torture and abuse of detainees across 284 reports and over 1,000 cases of Iraqi security forces committing similar crimes," WikiLeaks added. "There are numerous cases of what appear to be clear war crimes by U.S. forces, such as the deliberate killing of persons trying to surrender."
On ABC's "Good Morning America" this morning, Morrell was asked about the reported detainee abuse from Iraqi forces -- including beatings with rods and torture with boiling water and acid -- and the U.S. Strategy for handing over control to Iraq.
"Let me remind you of the scope of these documents," Morrell said. "It covers a period dating from 2004 to 2010. Obviously we've seen much improvement over that span in terms of the capabilities of the Iraqi army as well as the Iraqi police department."
"Our policy has always been when we witness or find evidence of abuse we are to report it up the chain of command, we're not going to have a guy at the ground level, who's out in the field, conduct an investigation on the site or intervene with their intermediaries in the Iraqi army."
The documents also included evidence of state-sanctioned torture by the Iraqi government, new evidence of Iraqi government death squads, and Iran's involvement in funneling arms to Shiite militias, according to the international news outlets that reviewed them before their release.
ABC News did not begin to review the nearly 400,000 documents firsthand until after their release.
As the details on the documents emerged, the main WikiLeaks site was down for "scheduled maintenance," but the 400,000 documents later could be searched by categories on a specially created Wikileaks page.
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