Paul Thomas writes that the leaked papers reveal the horrors of Iraq, but America focuses its fury on the man who put them online.

The numbing revelations in the vast cache of leaked United States Government documents relating to the occupation of Iraq prompted this cry of anguish from distinguished British journalist Sir Simon Jenkins: "What on Earth are America's friends to say?"

A good question, since the picture of lethal carelessness and institutionalised callousness that emerges fits neatly with the narrative that the US's critics and enemies have pushed since the outset.

Furthermore, the documents undermine perhaps the only justification for the Iraqi adventure that had stood the test of time - that it terminated a barbaric regime.

As Jenkins writes: "The idea that the invasion liberated Iraqis from kidnap, torture, rape and summary execution is shown to be a sick untruth."

One might also ask, what on earth is America to say? Not much, it seems.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Pentagon chose to attack the leakers rather than address what they revealed. The military spokesman who suggested the leakers "may have blood on their hands" has probably nailed a spot in all future dictionaries of quotations devoted to doublethink or unconscious irony.

Some conservative commentators demanded "non-judicial action" against WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange - i.e, that he be incarcerated without trial at Guantanamo Bay.

The New York Times ran a profile portraying Assange as a friendless paranoiac. An interview with CNN's Larry King descended into bickering because King seemed more exercised by the unproven sex abuse charges which Assange is facing in Sweden.

Assange may be a sexually predatory control freak, and perhaps even unhinged. But unless he fabricated these 400,000 documents, his personality and personal conduct would seem to be beside the point.

The leaked material, which doesn't cover the 2003 invasion and associated conflict, documents 109,000 violent deaths, 66,000 of which were suffered by civilians.

There are enough obvious omissions and errors - for instance journalists slain by US forces are lumped in with enemy combatants, and there's no mention of civilian casualties resulting from the ferocious assaults on Falluja in 2004 despite extensive eye-witness reports to the contrary - to suggest the true figures may well be higher.

You would've thought these revealed truths were the story, not office politics at WikiLeaks or murky allegations which were dismissed by Stockholm's chief prosecutor, then reinstated on appeal.

And given the powerful enemies Assange has made and the timing of these charges, you wouldn't have to be a conspiracy theorist to entertain his claim that he's the target of a smear campaign.

The revelations caused barely a ripple in the mid-term election campaign which culminates next week.

That's not so surprising when you consider the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate in North Carolina's 7th congressional district. Former marine lieutenant Ilario Pantano pumped 60 M16 rounds into two Iraqi men detained at a checkpoint near Falluja in 2004.

He got off charges of pre-meditated murder even though the defence didn't dispute that the victims were unarmed, that there were no weapons in their car, or that their bodies were found in a kneeling position having apparently been shot in the back. The reason? Insufficient evidence.

Local Republicans describe Pantano as "a war hero". The latest polls show he's likely to become the first Republican to win the district since 1871.

So what does America's apparent indifference signify? Probably that it is war-weary and defensive about the havoc it has wreaked in the name of freedom.

It might also suggest that American Exceptionalism - the belief that America is uniquely blessed and virtuous - now extends to its suffering.

Other societies have had to endure terrorism, although admittedly not in the form of a single devastating, traumatic event on the scale of 9/11.

Britons had to endure three debilitating decades of Irish Republican terror which caused as many deaths as the 9/11 attacks. It's worth noting that throughout its campaign the IRA received crucial financial and moral support from Americans of Irish heritage.

Americans may feel that 9/11 justified overwhelming retaliation, but the leaked documents confirm that their extravagant revenge played into al Qaeda's hands, with ominous implications.

As American scholar David Lake observed in his 2002 essay Understanding Terrorism in the 21st Century: "Extremists seek to provoke a response from the target that, through its disproportionate and indiscriminate nature, punishes the broad population of which the terrorists are part.

"In doing so, the terrorists are really aiming to change the preferences and beliefs of moderates in their own societies."