Wikileaks will change nothing in Iraq




Three months have passed since the publication of US secret documents by the Wikileaks site, which included 400,000 documents relating to Iraqi political affairs. So far, there has been no serious Iraqi response.

Instead, the two main political forces in the country, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, and Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya list, initially tried using these documents to further their own interests.

The Iraqiya list demanded investigations over allegations that Maliki had commanded squads that killed and tortured his opponents.

Maliki denied these accusations, saying they were "tricks and media bubbles planned to serve certain political goals."But since the two parties joined forces and agreed on the formation of a new government at the end of December 2010, they have both ignored the Wikileaks documents.

Dr Hashem Hasan, professor of journalism and media at the University of Baghdad, stressed that other people, as well as politicians, have used these documents to serve their own interests.As an example, he mentions the news item, broadcast on al-Rai TV at the end of December 2010, which alleged that the journalist Firas al-Hamadani worked for the Israeli Mossad in Iraq.

The channel, run by Mishaan al-Jibour, a former MP charged with corruption and embezzlement by an Iraqi court, claimed that this information came from Wikileaks.Dr Hasan believes Al-Rai broadcast the news as revenge, although he does not expect it to have much impact locally or internationally, as "Iraq is already a country full of sins and violations."

Firas al-Hamadani denies all the accusations against him, and says he will file a lawsuit against Mishaan for fabricating the story.He says Mishaan attacked him, because of an article he recently published in a local newspaper, which exposed Mishaan's role in the assassination of Hussein Kamel, the brother in law of the late Saddam Hussein, and the Iraqi astronomer Hamid al-Azri.

Most observers believe that the many Wikileaks revelations about abuses of power by the Iraqi government, its security forces and US troops, will not lead to any prosecutions.In November 2005, according to Wikileaks, US soldiers described the treatment of 95 detainees held in Baghdad by Iraqi forces as inhumane:

"Detainees were blindfolded in one room and their bodies showed signs of torture and ill-treatment, including cigarette burns and injuries due to severe beatings."One of the detainees claimed that 12 people had died in the previous weeks "as a result of torture and illnesses."

On 16 June 2007, some US soldiers accused Iraqi forces of extracting a confession from one of the suspects "by using chemical substances that cause burns and by cutting his fingers."The victim, who received medical care at a hospital in Mosul, had to have his right leg amputated below the knee and lost several toes from his left foot. He also lost some fingers from both hands.

In August 2009, a US doctor serving in the US army saw "bruises, burns, and visible injuries on the head, legs and neck" of one of the detainees who died in prison. Iraqi police said that the defendant had committed suicide.Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, told al-Jazeera that "the documents published provide enough evidence to file 40 lawsuits of unlawful killings."

Some observers say that it is possible to file such lawsuits in theory, but that in practice it is hard to do. Despite all the evidence of violation and abuse, no legal steps have been taken to date.Saleem Abdallah al-Jibouri, an MP for the Accordance Front, believes the documents will have little impact inside and outside Iraq.

"In order to use these documents as evidence against the perpetrators, they will need to be checked and examined for their accuracy. This won’t happen because it doesn’t serve the interests of the political elite in the country."In Iraq’s recent history, there have been three famous trials, where official government documents were used as evidence.

The first was the al-Mahdawi court case of 1958, which was formed to conduct trials against symbols of the monarchy between 1921 and 1958.The second was the mock trial set up by the Baath Party, after its coup in 1963, which led to the execution of the general and the then Prime Minister, Abdul Karim Qasim.

The third was the special court formed to conduct trials against symbols of the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein between 1968 and 2003.All three trials took place only after the old regimes were deposed. While the politicians were in power, they were protected from prosecution.

Saleem al-Jibouri, who headed the Legal Committee in the last parliament, believes the only real impact of the Wikileaks revelations is that it has reinforced existing convictions that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was involved in "death and torture squads".Although the term is not widely used in Iraq, it is clearly a reference to the anti-terrorism apparatus, which was established by US forces and put under the administration of Prime Minister Maliki.

Jibouri does not rule out the possibility that when the current decision-makers change, these documents could be used to hold people to account."They have exposed how the US military covered up acts of torture by the Iraqi police and army against Iraqi prisoners", he says. "They have revealed that the US was aware of these acts of torture, but ordered its troops not to interfere."

Wikileaks has also disclosed that there were 1,400 shooting incidents of Iraqi civilians at US checkpoints, and that hundreds of civilians were killed. Official statements have denied this, but many Iraqis can testify to losing several family members in this way.With regard to what the documents have called "the secret Iranian role in arming and financing the Shiite militia, and Iran's interference in Iraqi affairs," this is not new.

Many Iraqi officials and politicians made public statements about Iran's involvement in Iraqi affairs long before Wikileaks published documents about this issue.On Iran’s involvement in Iraq, journalist Qays Hassan, says "this is like someone trying to prove that the sun exists." The documents, he says, are of interest to other parts of the world, but not to Iraq.

There has also been no response regarding the alleged statements by the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that "Iraq just needs a dictator."Shortly before publishing the secret documents, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, said they would change the world. So far, there is little evidence they are changing anything in Iraq.

by Fadel Al-Nashmi

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