The moment Julian Assange of WikiLeaks released the 92,000 plus reports that are a daily diary of the war in Afghanistan, it was inevitable that they would be compared with the Pentagon Papers. The Washington Post does a good job of sorting out the similarities and the differences noting on the one hand that, unlike the Pentagon Papers, there are no high-level documents here that raise basic questions about the credibility of Presidents Obama and George W. Bush and their top advisors. However just like the Pentagon Papers, the Wikileaks Afghanistan War Logs will (likely) fuel political opposition in the U.S. to American troops continuing combat operations in Afghanistan.
The Guardian describes the revelations as being, ...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.
•This leak will harm national security. (As if those words still had some kind of magical power, after all the abuse they have been party to.)
•There’s nothing new here. (Then how could the release harm national security?)
•Wikileaks is irresponsible; they didn’t even try to contact us! (Hold on: you’re hunting the guy down and you’re outraged that he didn’t contact you?)
•Wikileaks is against the war in Afghanistan; they’re not an objective news source. (So does that mean the documents they published are fake?)
•“The period of time covered in these documents… is before the President announced his new strategy. Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the President ordered a three month policy review and a change in strategy.” (Okay, so now we too know the basis for the President’s decision: and that’s a bad thing?)
The New York Times publishes some of the reports so as to give the reader a sense of what's in the more than 90,000 reports and describe the leaks as, ...a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.
Glenn Greenwald wonders if the same Democrats who have said of the Daniel Ellsberg leak of the Pentagon Papers back in 1971 was heroic and necessary will follow the White House lead. He paints an ironic picture as the original Pentagon Papers exposed the amoral duplicity of a Democratic administration -- occurred when there was a Republican in the White House. This latest leak, by contrast, indicts a war which a Democratic President has embraced as his own, and documents similar manipulation of public opinion and suppression of the truth well into 2009.
Julian Assange's motives for doing this seem pretty clear from the following statement he made to Der Spiegel before publishing the Afghan logs, "They will change our perspective on not only the war in Afghanistan, but on all modern wars. This material shines light on the everyday brutality and squalor of war. The archive will change public opinion and it will change the opinion of people in positions of political and diplomatic influence."
These documents illustrate why the US military campaign in Afghanistan has achieved so little success. The release also focuses on Pakistan’s intelligence service, which has provides strategic support to the Taliban, helping it coordinate attacks against US troops and assassinate Afghani leaders. All the while claiming to be an ally of the US. Go listen to the NPR Q&A on what WikiLeaks is all about.
The toll on Afghan civilians is well documented and stands as one of the major failures of the Afghan war effort. It's hard to read all of this and not wonder exactly what is the point of all this war, bloodshed and destroyed lives? Stateless terrorists will always find a place to train and plot their terror. Even if the NATO allies could magically transform Afghanistan into a western style democracy there would be little if any decrease in terrorist activities - in fact the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created more terrorists than existed after the World Trade Center bombings of Sept11, 2001.
Interview With Environmental Artist Franke James (part the 2nd) - Here's the second part of my freewheeling interview with environmental artist and activist Franke James. We discuss the pro-active philosophy that guides...