Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Dispatches: Iraq's Secret War Files
I saw this program a while ago and have never forgotten it. Although I was initially quite skeptical because of the 'conspiracy-esque' title of the program, the work to bring all the data together to give us a very real picture on what was happening in Iraq at this time, could not be doubted. Facts and firgures can always be interpreted in different ways, but the human cost, again, can not be doubted.
Originally aired on 25 Oct 2010, Channel 4
Dispatches exposes the full and unreported horror of the Iraqi conflict and its aftermath. The programme reveals the true scale of civilian casualties, and allegations that after the scandal of Abu Ghraib, American soldiers continued to abuse prisoners; and that US forces did not systematically intervene in the torture and murder of detainees by the Iraqi security services.
The programme also features previously unreported material of insurgents being killed while trying to surrender.
Channel 4 is the only UK broadcaster to have been given access to nearly 400,000 secret military significant activities reports (SIGACTS) logged by the US military in Iraq between 2004 and 2009. These reports tell the story of the war and occupation which the US military did not want the world to know.
Initially, the Americans claimed that they were not recording casualty figures and President Bush stated that America would do its utmost to avoid civilian casualties. In the files, Dispatches found details of over 109,000 deaths; 66,000 of these were civilians; 176,000 civilians and others were reported as wounded.
Under rules of engagement, known as escalation of force, anyone approaching the US military was warned to slow down and stop. The analysis reveals more than 800 people were killed in escalation of force incidents: 681 (80%) of these were civilians; a further 2,200 were wounded. Thirteen coalition troops were killed during these incidents. Dispatches found 30 children had been killed when shots were fired near civilians by US troops at checkpoints.
Over a six-year period, the data records the imprisonment of 180,000 Iraqis: one in 50 of the adult male population. Dispatches found more than 300 reports alleging abuse by US forces on Iraqi prisoners after April 2004.
The Americans effectively ignored the torture and murder of many detainees by Iraqi security forces. Dispatches has found evidence of more than 1,300 individual cases of the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Iraqis in police stations and army bases: witnessed or reported on by American troops. Dispatches reveals that US troops were ordered not to investigate Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence.
The data shows that the Americans were aware of the horrific level of violence inflicted by Iraqi sectarian militias: over 32,500 murders; more than 10,000 shot in the head; nearly 450 decapitated; over 160 were children.
One of the reasons given for the invasion of Iraq was the suggestion of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The US told the UN Security Council in 2003 that Iraq 'harboured' the terrorist network. However, in the leaked data there are only seven reports mentioning Al Qaeda in 2004, and none of these refer to Al Qaeda killing anyone. By 2008, there are 8,208 reports mentioning Al Qaeda attributing to it the deaths of 45 coalition soldiers, 486 members of the Iraqi Security Services and 1,291 civilians.