Just days away from crucial midterm elections, WikiLeaks, the whistle-blower website, unveiled the largest classified military leak in history. Almost 400,000 secret Pentagon documents relating to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq were made available online. The documents, in excruciating detail, portray the daily torrent of violence, murder, rape and torture to which Iraqis have been subjected since George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished." The WikiLeaks release, dubbed "The Iraq War Logs," has been topping the headlines in Europe. But in the U.S., it barely warranted a mention on the agenda-setting Sunday talk shows.
"As we mark the end of America's combat mission in Iraq," President Barack Obama said this week, "a grateful America must pay tribute to all who served there." He should have added, "unless you're gay," because, despite his rhetoric, weeks earlier the commander in chief fired one of those Iraq vets: Lt. Dan Choi.
Choi was an Iraq War veteran, a graduate of West Point and a trained Arabic linguist. I ran into Choi the day after he received his official discharge. We were at the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas, a gathering of thousands of bloggers, activists and journalists.
Though Choi had known the discharge was coming, he was still shaken to the core. He took out his phone and showed me the letter he was e-mailed.
Ten years ago, Omar Deghayes and Morris Davis would have struck anyone as an odd pair. While they have never met, they now share a profound connection, cemented through their time at the notorious U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Deghayes was a prisoner there. Air Force Col. Morris Davis was chief prosecutor of the military commissions there from 2005 to 2007.
Deghayes was arrested in Pakistan and handed over to the U.S. military. He told me: "There was a payment made for every person who was handed to the Americans. ... We were chained, head covered, then sent to Bagram [Afghanistan] -- we were tortured in Bagram -- and then from Bagram to Guantanamo."
"When one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it," wrote Joseph Goebbels, Germany's Reich minister of propaganda, in 1941. Former Vice President Dick Cheney seems to have taken the famous Nazi's advice in his new book, In My Time. Cheney remains staunch in his convictions on issues from the invasion of Iraq to the use of torture. Telling NBC News in an interview that "there are gonna be heads exploding all over Washington" as a result of the revelations in the book, Cheney's memoir follows one by his colleague and friend Donald Rumsfeld. As each promotes his own version of history, there are people challenging and confronting them.
President Barack Obama just announced a reversal of a long-standing policy that denied presidential condolence letters to the family members of soldiers who commit suicide. Relatives of soldiers killed in action receive letters from the president. Official silence, however, has long stigmatized those who die of self-inflicted wounds. The change marks a long-overdue shift in the recognition of the epidemic of soldier and veteran suicides in this country and the toll of the hidden wounds of war.
On May 1, the U.S. president addressed the nation, announcing a military victory. May 1, 2003, that is, when President George W. Bush, in his form-fitting flight suit, strode onto the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln. Under the banner announcing "Mission Accomplished," he declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."
That was eight years to the day before President Barack Obama, without flight suit or swagger, made the surprise announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a U.S. military operation (in a wealthy suburb of Pakistan, notably, not Afghanistan).