You may have heard that Wikileaks has released reams of documents discussing how poorly and mismanaged the Afghanistan War has been conducted.
Some news coverage:
The articles published today are based on thousands of United States military incident and intelligence reports — records of engagements, mishaps, intelligence on enemy activity and other events from the war in Afghanistan — that were made public on Sunday on the Internet. The New York Times, The Guardian newspaper in London, and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the material several weeks ago. These reports are used by desk officers in the Pentagon and troops in the field when they make operational plans and prepare briefings on the situation in the war zone. Most of the reports are routine, even mundane, but many add insights, texture and context to a war that has been waged for nearly nine years.
Over all these documents amount to a real-time history of the war reported from one important vantage point — that of the soldiers and officers actually doing the fighting and reconstruction.
The Source of the Material
The documents — some 92,000 individual reports in all — were made available to The Times and the European news organizations by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to exposing secrets of all kinds, on the condition that the papers not report on the data until July 25, when WikiLeaks said it intended to post the material on the Internet. WikiLeaks did not reveal where it obtained the material. WikiLeaks was not involved in the news organizations’ research, reporting, analysis and writing. The Times spent about a month mining the data for disclosures and patterns, verifying and cross-checking with other information sources, and preparing the articles that are published today. The three news organizations agreed to publish their articles simultaneously, but each prepared its own articles.
(click to continue reading A Note to Readers – Piecing Together the Reports, and Deciding What to Publish – NYTimes.com.)
A stream of US military intelligence reports accuse Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency of arming, training and financing the Taliban insurgency since 2004, the war logs reveal, bringing fresh scrutiny on one of the war’s most contentious issues.
At least 180 files contain allegations of dirty tricks by the powerful agency with accounts of undercover agents training suicide bombers, bundles of money slipping across the border and covert support for a range of sensational plots including the assassination of President Hamid Karzai, attacks on Nato warplanes and even poisoning western troops’ beer supply.
They also link the ISI to some of the war’s most notorious commanders. In April 2007 for instance, the ISI is alleged to have sent 1,000 motorbikes to the warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani for suicide attacks in Khost and Logar provinces.
(click to continue reading Afghanistan war logs: Clandestine aid for Taliban bears Pakistan’s fingerprints | World news | The Guardian.)
The White House has swiftly vowed to continue the war and predictably condemned WikiLeaks rather harshly. It will be most interesting to see how many Democrats — who claim to find Daniel Ellsberg heroic and the Pentagon Papers leak to be unambiguously justified — follow the White House’s lead in that regard. Ellsberg’s leak — though primarily exposing 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. It’s not difficult to foresee, as Atrios predicted, 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. What position Democratic officials and administration supporters take in the inevitable debate over WikiLeaks remains to be seen (by shrewdly leaking these materials to 3 major newspapers, which themselves then published many of the most incriminating documents, WikiLeaks provided itself with some cover).
Note how obviously lame is the White House’s prime tactic thus far for dismissing the importance of the leak: that the documents only go through December, 2009, the month when Obama ordered his “surge,” as though that timeline leaves these documents without any current relevance. The Pentagon Papers only went up through 1968 and were not released until 3 years later (in 1971), yet having the public behold the dishonesty about the war had a significant effect on public opinion, as well as the willingness of Americans to trust future government pronouncements. At the very least, it’s difficult to imagine this leak not having the same effect. Then again, since — unlike Vietnam — only a tiny portion of war supporters actually bears any direct burden from the war (themselves or close family members fighting it), it’s possible that the public will remain largely apathetic even knowing what they will now know. It’s relatively easy to support and/or acquiesce to a war when neither you nor your loved ones are risking their lives to fight it.
(click to continue reading The WikiLeaks Afghanistan leak – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com.)
Turns out “Collateral Murder” was just a warmup. WikiLeaks just published a trove of over 90,000 mostly-classified U.S. military documents that details a strengthening Afghan insurgency with deep ties to Pakistani intelligence.
WikiLeaks’ release of a 2007 Apache gunship video sparked worldwide outrage, but little change in U.S. policy. This massive storehouse taken, it would appear, from U.S. Central Command’s CIDNE data warehouse — has the potential to be strategically significant, raising questions about how and why America and her allies are conducting the war.
Not only does it recount 144 incidents in which coalition forces killed civilians over six years. But it shows just how deeply elements within the United States’ supposed ally, Pakistan, have nurtured the Afghan insurgency. In its granular, behind-the-scene details about the war, this has the potential to be Afghanistan’s answer to the Pentagon Papers. Except in 2010, it comes as a database you can open in Excel, brought to you by the now-reopened-for-business WikiLeaks.
Now, obviously, it’s not news that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligences has ties to the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami. That’s something that pretty much every observer of the Afghanistan war and the Pakistani intelligence apparatus has known for the better part of a decade.
(click to continue reading WikiLeaks Drops 90,000 War Docs; Fingers Pakistan as Insurgent Ally | Danger Room | Wired.com.)
Professor Jay Rosen has an interesting point about the organization itself:
If you go to the Wikileaks Twitter profile, next to “location” it says: Everywhere. Which is one of the most striking things about it: the world’s first stateless news organization. I can’t think of any prior examples of that. (Dave Winer in the comments: “The blogosphere is a stateless news organization.”) Wikileaks is organized so that if the crackdown comes in one country, the servers can be switched on in another. This is meant to put it beyond the reach of any government or legal system. That’s what so odd about the White House crying, “They didn’t even contact us!”
Appealing to national traditions of fair play in the conduct of news reporting misunderstands what Wikileaks is about: the release of information without regard for national interest. In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new. Just as the Internet has no terrestrial address or central office, neither does Wikileaks.
(click to continue reading PressThink: The Afghanistan War Logs Released by Wikileaks, the World’s First Stateless News Organization.)
Remind me again why were are even fighting this misguided war? Who are we fighting it for?