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Saturday, October 23, 2010


Wikileaks: garbage in, garbage out

It goes without saying that there's lots of good information in the latest Wikileaks document dump. First-hand reports by the soldiers involved of killing of civilians at checkpoints, for example. But there's also more than a fair dose of "garbage in, garbage out," because the source for all the material is the U.S. military, and the U.S. military is nothing if not self-serving.

One example is the reported increase in civilian deaths caused by the invasion of Iraq. The basic report, that the U.S. was lying through its teeth when it claimed not to do body counts, demonstrates for the umpteenth time how much trust one can place in the pronouncements of the U.S. military (i.e., none). But as noted in the Guardian, the lying continues even in these reports, because these reports record a grand total of zero civilian casualties in the two assaults on Fallujah, a laughable claim. And, as we know from years of observation, the U.S. military routinely records every possible death it can as "enemy" rather than civilian, in a classic case of "guilty until proven innocent," even when those deaths include reporters.

A second example, now widely reported and no doubt instant conventional wisdom, is that the three American hikers were arrested in Iraqi territory. But if you look closely, the "evidence" for that is essentially non-existent. Secret aerial footage? Nothing of the sort. Just a report from some Iraqi colonel. But was he there? No, the only people who claim to have witnessed the capture claimed that, from some unspecified distance (but not too close because they were "following" the hikers, and clearly not close enough that the three knew they were being followed), managed to "know" that the three were "several yards" on the wrong side of an unmarked border. Please.

Then we have the also widely reported claims that Iran has been extensively involved with the war in Iraq. Even the Washington Post was obliged to note, though, that 'The Guardian noted that sources for some of the reports on Iran were described as "untested or of low reliability.'" That's quite an understatement, though. Because if you read the extensive analysis in the Guardian of the alleged Iranian involvement, you'll find that virtually every example is based on hearsay and conjecture. Here's a typical paragraph:

A week later, on 7 November 2005, an intelligence report says the IRGC smuggled 12 boxes of ammunition and two boxes of rockets to unknown individuals in Amara, a city close to the border in south-east Iraq where Britain had the lead responsibility within the multinational coalition. The rockets are possibly surface-to-air missiles, the report says. But the source does not know the intended recipients of the munitions, the log admits, and does not make clear whether he saw the shipments or only heard about them.
Caveat emptor!

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