WikiLeaks: A backgrounder
US Invasion of Iraq in 2003:
News reporting of the 2003 Iraq Invasion in India and Russia:
Iraq War Leaks- in capsule:
News reporting of Iraq War Leaks in India in terms of India-UK-US diplomatic relation
India and US:
India and UK:
News reporting in Russian newspapers in terms of Russia-UK-US diplomatic relation
Russia and US
Russia and UK
The following essay is an analysis of how the Iraq War leaks published by Wikileaks was reported by the media in Russia and India in-terms of the relationship both these countries share with the United States and the United Kingdom. The essay also analyses if diplomatic relations had any impact on the content of reportage.
It begins by giving a brief explanation of what is Wikileaks, then it goes on to put forward snippets of the 2003 Iraq invasion and how the event was portrayed by the media in India and Russia. Thereafter, light has been thrown on the India-UK-US and Russia-UK-US relations, finally followed by an analysis of the news coverage. While looking at the diplomatic relations, the past terms and the present scenario of the bilateral relations has also been looked upon.
For the purpose of analysis only stories appearing in newspaper and news portals are being scrutinized. Both while looking at the coverage of 2003 Iraq invasion and Iraq war leaks, a total of three news stories appearing in three different newspapers/portals has been analyzed.
Also, columns and articles penned by political analysts has been looked upon to get a wider purview of the bilateral relations of the countries.
WikiLeaks: A backgrounder
As explained by the authors in Beyond WikiLeaks, ‘Wikileaks’ was founded in 2006 as an online platform for whistle-blowers and for publishing information that is censored by public authorities and private actors (Brevini, Patrick, 2). The goals of Wikileaks has been defined as to harness the speed, interactivity, and global reach of the internet to provide a fast and secure mechanism to anonymously submit information, and to make that information accessible to a global audience (Beyond Wikileaks, 2013). The authors in Beyond Wikileaks further inform that in its first few years of existence, WikiLeaks electronically published a range of documents of varying significance that had mixed media impact (Brevini, Patrick, 3)
As per the official website of WikiLeaks this is how they elicit their functioning (wilileaks.org)-
‘Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists. One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth. We are a young organisation that has grown very quickly, relying on a network of dedicated volunteers around the globe. Since 2007, when the organisation was officially launched, WikiLeaks has worked to report on and publish important information. We also develop and adapt technologies to support these activities’ (Wikileaks.org, 2015).
Mentioning about the anonymity of its sources the official website states that WikiLeaks has never revealed its sources, thus implying that safety and anonymity of informants is of prime importance for the organization (2015). It goes on to say-
‘What we can say is that we operate a number of servers across multiple international jurisdictions and we do not keep logs. Hence these logs cannot be seized. Anonymization occurs early in the WikiLeaks network, long before information passes to our web servers. Without specialized global internet traffic analysis, multiple parts of our organisation must conspire with each other to strip submitters of their anonymity’ (wikileaks.org, 2015).
A part in the ‘about’ section of Wikileaks also finds mention of the awards the website has been conferred with. Some of them include the 2008 Economist Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression award; the 2009 Amnesty International human rights reporting award (New Media).
The authenticity of every story is also testified before it is published in the website and they assess all news stories and test their veracity (Wikileaks.org, 2015).
And as per the founders this is how the website vouches for authentic content:
‘We send a submitted document through a very detailed examination and procedure. Is it real? What elements prove it is real? Who would have the motive to fake such a document and why? We use traditional investigative journalism techniques as well as more modern technology-based methods. Typically, we will do a forensic analysis of the document, determine the cost of forgery, means, motive, opportunity, the claims of the apparent authoring organisation, and answer a set of other detailed questions about the document’ (wikileaks.org, 2015)
US Invasion of Iraq in 2003:
Bassam Romaya in ‘The Iraq War a philosophical analysis’ has termed the Iraq invasion as one of the most controversial international conflict of recent times thus arguments about the various sides of the war, the ethical and moral aspect continues till date (Romaya, 2).
Eliciting about the unfolding of events of the war Romaya informs the war was formally inaugurated by the United States on March 19, 2003. Three weeks into the invasion, the conflict was transformed into a military occupation, shortly after the overthrow of the Iraqi Ba’ath Party (Romaya, 3).
According to the view of the American government and their allies, as a legitimate, defensive response to the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which the Saddam Hussein government allegedly had in its arsenal (Danju, Maasoglu, 682). The journal ‘The Reasons Behind U.S. Invasion Of Iraq’ explaining further about the arguments of the war says, Saddam Hussein’s government was immediately perceived as a threat and an affront to the international community in the wake of the September 11, 2001 bombing of the world trade centre (Danju, Maasoglu, 682). America has found a casus belli to go to war under the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ slogan (Danju, Maasoglu, 682). What the United States of America alleged was there had been a strong linkage between Saddam Hussein and international terrorism and the first priority of the United States government is to protect its citizens and its political and economic interests; its national security is always paramount (Romaya, 5). Also, what political argument Danju and Maasoglu gave was, the United States significantly supports democratic governments around the world and the Baathist regime was seen as totalitarian and undemocratic thus consequently, regime change in Iraq became the U.S. priority and the only way to achieve that was through the use of force (The Reasons Behind U.S. Invasion of Iraq, 682). Therefore, the Iraqi regime was a threat to the national security of America, and America and its allies had to launch a pre-emptive strike at the heart of the Baathist outfit and remove the existential threat that it represented to America and the free world. (Danju, Maasoglu, 683).
After nearly a decade of relentless battle the ‘Status of Forces Agreement’ between the Iraqi government and the United States that was approved in December 2008 concluded that the combat forces must withdraw by 30 June, 2009 and the remaining US forces must be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011 (Romaya, 2). The dates were provisionally set according to the security scenario of that particular period (Romaya, 2).
News reporting of the 2003 Iraq Invasion in India and Russia:
The Iraq invasion by US received an extensive coverage by news media all across the globe. Similarly, it has continued to throng the Indian and Russian media as well. Contemplating, particularly the coverage in the print media, following could be discerned.
In one of the news reports featured in the newswire Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) the headline stated that former Australian prime minister John Howard was embarrassed about the deployment of troops in the 2003 US-led invasion to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (IANS, 2014). The article further stated the reason of that is ‘existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as a mere excuse for the war and goes on to say that even after more than a decade of the conflict, no proof has ever been found of a WMD arsenal in Iraq (IANS, 2014).
The Kashmir Monitor newspaper in one of its articles called the reasons behind waging the war as a fiction (2011). It further mentioned about non-existence of any proof of WMD, simply because the weapons themselves did not exist in any shape or form (Kashmir Monitor, 2011).
Another Indian newspaper, The Times of India went on to quote and emphasise on the number of deaths in the very first paragraph of one of its articles further eliciting the ramifications of the US invasion of Iraq (2014). This news report, for depicting the disapproval of common people of the war, mentioned about a website arrestblair.org that offered a bounty of £2,150 to anyone who could arrest the erstwhile Prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair for crimes against peace (The Times of India, 2014).
Throwing light on the coverage of US invasion of Iraq in Russia, a story appearing in The Moscow Times in its very first line begins by stating, ‘flip through Russian newspapers or surf the television channels and one thing becomes clear: no one supports the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq’ (2003). The report further criticises the Bush administration for its disregard of international law and order, and goes on to selectively quote voices who have criticised the war. Meanwhile state-owned Russia television’s “Vesti” program having a banner over the war coverage on its website reading simply “U.S. Aggression”, also found mention on the report (The Moscow Times, 2003).
This news report also quoted Alexei Pankin, editor of the Sreda media journal who said, “Everybody wants this war to be over quickly, and it is clear that America will win. But everybody wants America to be dealt as many blows in the face as possible. There is a feeling of surprising satisfaction with the fact that the U.S. military machine hasn’t turned out to be as mighty as advertised” (The Moscow Times, 2003).
The news story however provided a one liner quote of the then chief editor of BBC Russian Service’s Moscow bureau, Konstantin Eggert, who mentioned there’s no reporter who fully supports the war (2003). However, this quote of Konstantin Eggert was written in an indirect speech and was placed towards the end of article.
As of recently while reporting the recent interview of former Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair where he said supporting the US led invasion of Iraq a mistake, the Moscow News published it under the headline- ‘Britain’s Blair says 2003 Iraq invasion played role in Islamic State rise’ (2015). The news primarily focused on how it was the 2003 invasion of Iraq which led to the rise of Islamic State. The report in the Moscow News also mentions about certain unnamed critics who according to this newspaper believes that, ‘US decision to disband Saddam Hussein’s army after the invasion created a huge security vacuum exploited by al Qaeda, which was eventually replaced by Islamic State’ (Moscow News, 2015).
Again quoting anonymous former Iraqi army officers, members of the Sunni Muslim minority this news story goes on to claim that, Shi’ite-led government backed by Western powers, are senior strategists in Islamic State (2015). The topic of Islamic State thronged major content of the news but only at the end this story quoted Tony Blair who said, “I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he’s not there than that he is there” (Moscow News, 2015).
Iraq War Leaks- in capsule:
On 22nd October 2010, Wikileaks released apparently one of the biggest classified military leaks of war in history till date. As stated in the Wikileaks website it leaked 391,832 reports titled as ‘The Iraq War Logs’ which document the war and occupation in Iraq. The data stretches from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army. (WikiLeaks.org, 2010).
The official Wikileaks website states the following on the content of the leaks:
‘ The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 ‘civilians’; 23,984 ‘enemy’ (those labelled as insurgents); 15,196 ‘host nation’ (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 ‘friendly’ (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths. That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six-year period. For comparison, the ‘Afghan War Diaries’, previously released by WikiLeaks, covering the same period, detail the deaths of some 20,000 people. Iraq during the same period, was five times as lethal with equivalent population size.’ (WikiLeaks, 2010) .
According to reports published in newspaper The Guardian, leaked data had details of more than 100,000 people killed in Iraq following the US-led invasion, including more than 15,000 deaths that were previously unrecorded. (2010)
The report titled ‘Iraq War Logs Reveal 15,000 Previously Unlisted Civilian Deaths’ quoted the following startling figures (The Guardian, 2010)-
‘The logs record a total of 109,032 violent deaths between 2004 and 2009. It is claimed that 66,081 of these were civilians. A further 23,984 deaths are classed as ‘enemy’ and 15,196 as members of the Iraqi security forces. The logs also include the deaths of 3,771 US and allied soldiers. No fewer than 31,780 of the total deaths are attributed to the improvised landmines laid around Iraq by insurgents. There were 65,439 successful improvised explosive device (IED) blasts in the period, according to the logs, with another 44,620 IEDs found in time and disarmed’ (The Guardian, 2010) .
However, the Iraq Body Count (IBQ), which was a London-based group that monitors civilian casualties gave a contradicting view. According to IBQ the data leaked by Wikileaks cannot be vouched for (2010). A statement of IBC quoted in a The Guardian news story (2010) said the following-
‘ The data (of Wikileaks) cannot be relied upon as a complete record of Iraqi deaths. IBC, for example, had previously calculated that up to 91,469 civilians were killed from various causes during the period covered by the leaked database. While detailing the 15,000 previously unknown deaths, it also omits many otherwise well-attested civilian fatalities caused by US troops themselves. Nor does the Pentagon data cover any of the initial invasion fighting throughout 2003; IBC has identified 12,080 purely civilian deaths in that year’ (The Guardian, 2010).