The much anticipated Wikileaks document dump of 400,00 classified U.S. military documents, which cover events during the Iraq war from 2004 to 2009, is upon us: The Guardian and the New York Times have both just published their assessments after reviewing the files.
Both newspapers seem to highlight the same broad takeaways from the documents: Iraqi civilian deaths were higher than the Bush administration suggested, the United States largely ignored prisoner abuse conducted by Iraq’s security services, and Iran played an extensive role in training and arming the anti-U.S. insurgency — even raising fears in the military that it may be planning to provide chemical weapons to Shiite insurgents.
One big winner out of the document dump may be Iraq Body Count, an organization whose methods for counting Iraqi civilian casualties in Iraq were consistently criticized by the Bush administration as being unrealistically high.
There’s one more issue that, while certainly not as important as other considerations, I’m curious about: After weeks of preparation and hype, why would Wikileaks and major news outlets settle on 5 p.m. on Friday as the time to release these documents? Presumably, the New York Times and the Guardian are savvy enough to know that a Friday afternoon isn’t exactly the time to attract the largest possible readership. Just one more sign that, while Wikileaks may aspire to revolutionize journalism, its media strategy leaves something to be desired.