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Biggest story of 2010

WikiLeaks exposed US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and revealed the dark side of imperialism.


The WikiLeaks release of the chilling video "Collateral Murder" in April was one of the most significant news events of 2010. The footage shows the US Apache helicopter, "Crazyhorse 18," slaughtering Iraqis in Baghdad in 2007. One of the first nine victims worked for the Reuters news agency. When the driver of a minivan arrives and tries to pick up the dead and wounded, the helicopter opens fire again killing a second Reuters journalist and two other men including the driver. The radio in the cockpit crackles with the news that two children in the van have been badly wounded. "Ah damn," says a voice from the helicopter. And then: "Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle."

The release of the secret US military video propelled the website WikiLeaks into the headlines. Reuters had been trying without success to get the footage from the US government for nearly three years and now, here it was for all to see on YouTube. Soon, more than 10 million people had watched it. Three months later, WikiLeaks was back in the headlines with the release of more than 76,000 secret US military field reports from Afghanistan. They depicted the grim realities of six years of bloody war. Britain's Guardian newspaper described the war logs as providing "a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and NATO commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency."

In October, WikiLeaks struck again, releasing almost 400,000 secret US war logs from Iraq. They revealed that the US military had ignored hundreds of reports of prisoner abuse, rape, torture and murder by the Iraqi police and military. The Guardian wrote that the reports "describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks." The Iraq war logs also revealed that US forces killed almost 700 Iraqis who came too close to American checkpoints. The victims included pregnant women and people suffering mental disturbances.

On November 28, WikiLeaks began releasing diplomatic cables from 270 US embassies and consulates. The cables confirm what critics have long suspected---that US officials routinely lie, for example, about military actions such as the secret American bombing of Yemen and US special forces operations in Pakistan. The cables show that the US threatens foreign governments who try to investigate or prosecute Americans. US officials warned German authorities, for example, not to enforce arrest warrants against 13 CIA officers involved in the 2003 kidnapping of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who was flown to Afghanistan where he was repeatedly beaten and drugged. It took several months for the Americans to discover the man was not a terrorist. The US also pressured Spain not to pursue the torture of a Spanish citizen at Guantanamo or the killing by US forces of a Spanish journalist in Baghdad.

The cables demonstrate the close relationship between the US government and multinational corporations. For example, they suggest the US supported the drug company Pfizer in its successful efforts to head off a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit in Nigeria for testing an antibiotic on about 100 sick children without the consent of their parents. Eleven children died while others suffered brain damage, paralysis and deafness. US diplomats also held meetings with executives from Shell Oil in which they discussed sharing information about anti-Shell militants in the Niger Delta.

If the WikiLeaks leaks were the big story of 2010, they promise to continue making news in 2011. As the steady release of diplomatic cables continues to expose the dark side of US imperialism, WikiLeaks says it will expose skulduggery in the inner workings of a big American bank.

The 9/11 terrorists attacked the centres of US capitalism in New York and the US military in Washington. Now, WikiLeaks threatens to do the same with potentially devastating effects.

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