Author Topic: Garani: Manning's Afghan massacre video that WikiLeaks never released  (Read 6264 times)

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Manning's Afghan massacre video that WikiLeaks never released

The verdict is in and the sentencing phase has begun in the trial of Bradley Manning, the young Army private who transferred more than 700,000 pages of classified data to WikiLeaks.

He could face over 135 years in prison for espionage and theft crimes.

But now the debate is shifting from how guilty he was to what harm he may have caused. The prosecution’s first witness on Wednesday seemed determined to continue that trend.

Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Carr said the military had been “hit in the face” by the leaks, which he said had harmed the US mission in places like Afghanistan by eroding the trust the military had with the local populace.

“We were very concerned that folks might choose not to talk to us anymore because the information that came out could be detrimental to their livelihood,” the general said.

Yet the talk of trust between the US military and the local Afghan population may sound hollow to many who spent time in that war-torn nation.

    The relationship had already been damaged by the numerous airstrikes and night raids that caused thousands of civilian deaths — how many has never been adequately documented, but researchers estimate the total number of civilian casualties to be close to 20,000.

One such incident, an airstrike near the village of Garani, in Farah province, in May 2009, figured prominently in Manning’s trial. He was charged with having leaked a video of the raid, which, according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, "documented a massacre, a war crime."

The Garani airstrike allegedly killed as many as 147 villagers, making it the worst civilian casualty incident up to that time.

The US military never acknowledged the full scale of the tragedy, insisting that 20 to 30 civilians had died, along with 60 to 65 militants. They did, however, issue a report documenting procedural errors that could have led to the deaths.

The substance of the video was not at issue in the trial. Instead, the prosecution focused on timing. The charge sheet alleged that Manning had leaked the video shortly after his arrival in Iraq in October 2009. Manning pleaded guilty to transferring the file in the spring of 2010.

The prosecution apparently failed to connect the dots, and the military judge acquitted Manning of leaking the video. That was one of just two counts — of the total 22 counts lodged against him — for which he was found not guilty. The other was the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.

The Garani video was never actually released. According to Assange, a disgruntled ex-employee of WikiLeaks destroyed it.

In the chat logs between Manning and Adrian Lamo, the internet hacker in whom Manning confided and who turned him over to the authorities, Manning insisted that the Garani video was no big deal.

“It’s not nearly as damning … it was an awful incident, but nothing like the Baghdad one,” Manning said in the chat, referring to the “Collateral Murder” video released by WikiLeaks in April 2010.

That video was perhaps the most talked-about piece of material Manning gave to WikiLeaks.

It showed the deaths of civilians in a Baghdad suburb in 2007 during an attack by a US Apache helicopter. Two Reuters staff were killed along with several others, including children.

Reuters says it had been trying to get the video under the Freedom of Information Act since 2007, with no success.

This is, in fact, the crux of the matter, according to David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center of Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University. If the government does not release material legally, then journalists and officials have no other recourse but to break the law.

“We live in an era of over-classification of virtually all information dealing with national security and foreign policy,” Schanzer told GlobalPost. “We have to have legal methods of exposing government wrongdoing.”

Many argue that the tsunami of details included in WikiLeaks’ Iraq and Afghanistan war diaries brought little of substantive value to the public debate.

Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security who also served as an Army officer in both Iraq and Afghanistan, said as much shortly after the diaries were published in 2010. Writing in the op-ed pages of The New York Times, Exum said he had a hard time understanding “what all the fuss is about.”

“Most of the major revelations that have been trumpeted by WikiLeaks’s founder, Julian Assange, are not revelations at all — they are merely additional examples of what we already knew,” he said.

We did not need WikiLeaks, for example, to tell us that Karl Eikenberry, the retired Army general who served as the US ambassador to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2011, distrusted Karzai and wasn't a fan of the troop surge advocated by the military command in Afghanistan. That information was on the front pages of major newspapers, along with classified cables that Eikenberry sent to Washington.

The leak of those cables has not been prosecuted. This is part of what Schanzer called a “gentleman’s agreement” between the media and the government, in which trusted reporters or media outlets are given access to carefully controlled amounts of classified information that someone in the government wants to float in the public sphere.

WikiLeaks, however, blew the gentleman’s agreement out of the water, which may account for the zeal with which the government has prosecuted Manning.

But it also deluged the public with so much raw information that almost no one could make sense of it.

More than three years ago, journalist Glenn Greenwald, then writing for, predicted that WikiLeaks would have much less influence than anticipated.

“It’s not difficult to foresee … that media coverage of the latest leak will be about whether or not it should have been published, rather than about what these documents reveal about the war effort and the government and military leaders prosecuting it.”

That does, in fact, appear to be the case.

The Manning-Lamo chat logs show a deeply troubled young man, struggling with issues of sexual identity and aghast at the materials he sees in his job as a military intelligence analyst.

“It’s important that it gets out,” he wrote. “I feel for some bizarre reason it might actually change something.”

He later said in a statement, "I had information that needed to be shared with the world. I wrote that the information would help document the true cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Manning did not end the wars, but his trial could yet lead to a real debate on government secrecy.

“I would like these episodes [of Manning and Snowden] to initiate a broader discussion and lead to more vigorous duty for people within the government to disclose government wrongdoing,” said Duke University’s Schanzer.




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Re: Garani: Manning's Afghan massacre video that WikiLeaks never released
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2013, 15:18:07 PM »
Related link:


Afghan Villagers Describe Chaos of U.S. Strikes

FARAH, Afghanistan — The number of civilians killed by the American airstrikes in Farah Province last week may never be fully known. But villagers, including two girls recovering from burn wounds, described devastation that officials and human rights workers are calling the worst episode of civilian casualties in eight years of war in Afghanistan.

“We were very nervous and afraid and my mother said, ‘Come quickly, we will go somewhere and we will be safe,’ ” said Tillah, 12, recounting from a hospital bed how women and children fled the bombing by taking refuge in a large compound, which was then hit.

The bombs were so powerful that people were ripped to shreds. Survivors said they collected only pieces of bodies. Several villagers said that they could not distinguish all of the dead and that they never found some of their relatives.

Government officials have accepted handwritten lists compiled by the villagers of 147 dead civilians. An independent Afghan human rights group said it had accounts from interviews of 117 dead. American officials say that even 100 is an exaggeration but have yet to issue their own count.

The calamity in the village of Granai, some 18 miles from here, illustrates in the grimmest terms the test for the Obama administration as it deploys more than 20,000 additional troops here and appoints a new commander, Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, in search of a fresh approach to combat the tenacious Taliban insurgency.

It is bombings like this one that have turned many Afghans against the American-backed government and the foreign military presence. The events in Granai have raised sharp questions once again about the appropriateness and effectiveness of aerial bombardment in a guerrilla war in which the insurgents deliberately blend into the civilian population to fight and flee.

Taliban insurgents are well aware of the weakness and are making the most of it, American and Afghan officials say. Farah, a vast province in the west, contains only a smattering of foreign special forces and trainers who work among Afghan police and army units. Exploiting the thin spread of forces, the insurgents sought to seize control of Granai and provoke a fierce battle over the heads of the civilian population, Afghan and American officials say.

After hours of fighting and taking a number of casualties, the American forces called in their heaviest weapon, airstrikes, on at least three targets in the village.

The rapid mass burial of the victims and the continuing presence of insurgents in the area have hampered investigations. Journalists were advised against visiting Granai. Villagers were interviewed here in Farah, the provincial capital, where they came to collect compensation payments, and in the neighboring province of Herat, where some were taken for treatment.

Much of the villagers’ descriptions matched accounts given by the United States military spokesman, Col. Greg Julian, and the provincial police chief, Col. Abdul Ghafar Watandar. But they differed on one important point: whether the Taliban had already left Granai before the bombing began.

There was particular anger among the villagers that the bombing came after, they say, the Taliban had already left at dusk, and the fighting had subsided, so much so that men had gone to evening prayers at 7 p.m. and returned and were sitting down with their families for dinner.

The police chief said that sporadic fighting continued into the night and that the Taliban were probably in the village until 1 a.m.

Whatever the case, American planes bombed after 8 p.m. in several waves when most of the villagers thought the fighting was over; and whatever the actual number of casualties, it is clear from the villagers’ accounts that dozens of women and children were killed after taking cover.

One group went to a spacious compound owned by a man named Said Naeem, on the north side of the village, where the two girls were wounded. Only one woman and six children in the compound survived, one of their fathers said.

Another group gathered in the house of the village imam, or religious leader, Mullah Manan. That, too, was bombed, causing an equally large number of casualties, villagers said. Colonel Julian, the American military spokesman, said that the airstrikes hit houses from which the Taliban were firing. The enormous explosions left such devastation that villagers struggled to describe it. “There was someone’s legs, someone’s shoulders, someone’s hands,” said Said Jamal, an old white-bearded man with rheumy eyes, who lost two sons and a daughter. “The dead were so many.”

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A joint government and United States military delegation visited Granai last week but came back sharply divided in their conclusions. The Afghan government said that 140 civilians were killed and 25 wounded, and that 12 houses were destroyed.

The United States military said the Afghan numbers were far too high. This week, a senior military investigator, Brig. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III of the United States Army, arrived to conduct an in-depth inquiry for the region’s overall military commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus.

An independent Afghan organization, Afghanistan Rights Monitor, said Wednesday that at least 117 civilians were killed — including 26 women and 61 children — drawing on interviews with 21 villagers and relatives of the dead. The group criticized both the Taliban for fighting among civilians, and the United States military for using excessive force.

The police chief, Colonel Watandar, confirmed much of the villagers’ accounts of the fighting. A large group of Taliban fighters, numbering about 400, they estimated, entered the village and took up positions at dawn on May 4. By midmorning, the Taliban began attacks on police posts on the main road, just yards from the village, they said.

The fighting raged all day. The police called in more police officers, Afghan Army units and an American quick reaction force from the town of Farah as reinforcements.

By midafternoon, the exchanges escalated sharply and moved deeper into the village. Taliban fighters were firing from the houses, and at one point a Marine unit called in airstrikes to allow Marines to go forward and rescue a wounded Afghan soldier, said Colonel Julian, the United States military spokesman. After that, Taliban fire dropped significantly, he said.

A villager named Multan said that one house along the southern edge of the village was hit by a bomb and that one Taliban fighter was killed there. But villagers did not report any civilian casualties until the American planes bombed that night.

Tillah, the 12-year-old girl, whose face bears the scars of a scorching blast, still twisted in pain from the burning in her leg at the provincial hospital in Herat, where she and other survivors were taken to a special burn unit. Her two sisters, Freshta, 5, and Nuria, 7, were barely visible under the bandages swathing their heads and limbs.

The three girls were visiting their aunt’s house with their mother when a plane bombed the nearby mosque, around 8 p.m., Tillah said. That is when they fled to Said Naeem’s seven-room home.

“When we reached there we felt safe and I fell asleep,” Tillah said. She said she heard the buzzing noise of a plane, but then only remembers coming to when someone pulled her from the rubble the next morning.

A second girl, Nazo, 9, beside her in another hospital bed, said she saw two red flashes in the courtyard that kicked up dust seconds before the explosion.

“I heard a loud explosion and the compound was burning and the roof fell in,” she said. Seven members of the family with her died, and four were wounded, her father, Said Malham, said.

“Why do they target the Taliban inside the village?” he asked wearily. “Why don’t they bomb them when they are outside the village?”

“The foreigners are guilty,” he continued. “Why don’t they bomb their targets, but instead they come and bomb our houses?”