The late I. F. “Iffy” Stone was a talented and insightful columnist whose beat was the Washington political arena, and he operated on a premise that every investigative reporter would do well to emulate.
“Governments lie,” he was often quoted as saying — the message being that behind every official statement is the possibility of a cover-up. And there's an important role for a watchdog press to make public information passed to them by whistle blowers, who at risk of careers, freedom, and even their lives, feel duty bound to reveal secrets that should not be kept from the people. During the Vietnam war era, Daniel Elsberg, a former military analyst for the Pentagon, made public the infamous Pentagon Papers, which along with growing anti-war sentiment, was instrumental to bringing an end to the war.
The most high profile whistle blower today is Pfc. Bradley Manning, who passed thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, an organization which, among other things, acts as a clearinghouse for secret and potentially incriminating documents. Much of this sensitive documentation has to do with the war in Iraq, and reveals much that Americans have no cause to be proud of. It is by now common knowledge that justification for the war was totally flawed; no weapons of mass destruction were found, and the Saddam Hussein regime had nothing to do with the 9/11 tragedy.
The leaked documents further underscore the immorality of the conflict. Of the 109,232 Iraqis killed between Jan. 1, 2004 and Dec. 2009, 66,081 were civilians. The files detail numerous incidents of prisoner abuse and torture by Iraqi police under the supervision of U.S. forces. An additional 1,200 Iraqis were killed during two major battles in 2004. These deaths were reported, not by Americans, but by an international monitoring group knowing as Iraqi Body Count.
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These are only a few of the thousands of state secrets funneled into the files of Wikileaks. Manning has been charged with treason, and faces life imprisonment and a possible death sentence. At his pre-trial hearing, he stated that he was obeying the dictates of his conscience; that the American public should be made aware of the abuses arising from the implementation of our foreign policy, and of the disconnect between our democratic and humanitarian ideals and our treatment of the innocent people who happened to be in the way of our war of aggression.
We need the Bradley Mannings. Somebody must have the courage and integrity to point out that The Emperor Has No Clothes.