As Mr. Marsh welcomes President Obama back to Earth, I wish to welcome Mr. Marsh to reality. The accusations and assumptions made in his Monday column (“Thank you, WikiLeaks,” Nov. 8) were disheartening, disconnected and an injustice to the thousands of military and civilian personnel directly impacted by the leak. Furthermore, much of the information, a practical regurgitation of previous CBS News reporting, stems from unverified field reporting and is just plain wrong.
I’ve been a military professional for a decade, serving overseas for over four of the years since Sept. 11, 2001. In my most recent assignment, I served as the Department of Defense supervisor for all interrogation and intelligence operations on Camp Cropper’s High Value Detention Facility in Baghdad, Iraq. My facility housed the worst of the worst — or the best of the best, depending on your perspective. During my residency, I was acting supervisor for over 1,000 coalition interrogations and debriefings conducted by dozens of military and civilian personnel from U.S. and coalition agencies. I was also tasked with my own cases, conducting dozens interrogations of High Value detainees. The professionalism of our personnel or the legality of our action was never in question. Our men and women are highly trained, extremely disciplined, and committed to the ethical conduct of their duties. To claim that our military and civilian leadership condones acts of abuse, torture and mistreatment is irrational. Reports of abuse, whether at the hands of U.S. or international forces, are taken extremely seriously in confinement and on the battlefield. There are strict procedures and timelines for reporting such accusations up the chain, and anyone who fails to do so is a criminal and subject to prosecution. Our military did not excuse the acts at Abu Ghraib, nor have we even encouraged outward violations of the Law of Land Warfare.
The United States does not condone torture.
Nor does the United States government consistently deceive the public, contrary to what aluminum-hatted conspiracy theorists may suggest. I recognize that war is a disgusting and difficult aspect of human existence. Because of this, many choose to ignore reality and chime in their two worthless cents about situations with which they have no practical experience, not understanding the sacrifices necessary. Throughout the fog of war, certain information must be kept from the world’s prying eye. Intelligence is a valuable asset, and even the most mundane of field reports can provide information on the tactics used by coalition forces to combat insurgent and terrorist organizations. Normally, each document is judged individually to determine whether it meets classification criteria. Even though much classified information may seem useless to the eyes of the average American, trained professionals can use this information to gain the advantage to kill our soldiers and undermine our strategy.
Documents are not made secret because the White House has some grand conspiracy against the American people. In opposing the release of the WikiLeak documents, President Obama was not embracing a mighty government cover-up or trying to keep the American people ignorant. (Though even with the release, I doubt that many Americans have read even one of the documents for themselves.) Obama is fulfilling his responsibility as the Commander-in-Chief to protect the men and women in harm’s way. This responsibility is not taken lightly, and though we all may want increased transparency from our civilian leadership, we must not sacrifice the safety and security of our personnel.
So what cover-up was supposedly unmasked by the released documents? The fact is there wasn’t any. The national news media has found very little information worth reporting, focusing primarily on civilian death numbers and alleged abuse at the hands of Iraqis, often misrepresented. As Mr. Marsh detailed the 66,000 civilian deaths in the Iraq campaign, he failed to mention that the vast majority of these deaths were at the hands of other Iraqis during intense sectarian violence that swept the nation as U.S. support for our involvement waned. With the leak, the American public gets to know that some Iraqi prison guards are bad people (who would have guessed?) and civilians sometimes die in combat zones; meanwhile, foreign intelligence services and operational terrorist cells now have access to 400,000 documents detailing our reporting and collection methods, training, operational tactics and procedures. So what “greater good” did the release serve?
There are those who misrepresent our actions for personal and political gain: beauty queens who pray for peace from high in the clouds while claiming others don’t do enough. We should not mistake their pomposity for fact. Iraqis and millions around the world appreciate our efforts in the Global War on Terror; we sometimes forget that, like it or not, we bear the burden of finishing this fight. We owe it to the Iraqi dead. We owe it to our lost brothers. We owe it to the world’s posterity. Are we perfect? Hell no. But we’re not villains either.
Alex Hawke is a sophomore in Berkeley College.