Wikileaks on Hiding the War; and, American Security? Rethinking Afghanistan Pt. 6

The Taliban now claim that they killed one US sailor and captured another in Logar Province as the US mounts a massive manhunt for the survivor.

The Afghanistan war now has its own Pentagon papers— 90,000 documents leaked to Wikileaks and then to The Guardian and two other newspapers, which show a pattern of covering up the killing of Afghan civilians on the part of NATO and the US.

Of course, leaks aren’t necessary to know about bombings of civilians. The Afghans complain bitterly about such strikes. The Pentagon is investigating an air strike this weekend that is said to have killed 45 civilians. BBC reports of a relative of the victims, Haji Rahim, that he said, “They can see something as small as an insect just four inches on the ground, so how were they not able to see all of those women and children when they bombed them?”

The Guardian’s war logs links are here. The Wikileaks page is here.

Part 6 of Rethinking Afghanistan, directed by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films, asks the question of whether the war actually makes the United States safer.

Sen. Jim Webb and others recently raised this question, of the lack of clarity of war goals in Afghanistan and the failure of the White House and the Pentagon to make the case for increased US security coming out of it.

Ivo Petovski at the Guardian subjects the domestic security and ‘war on terror’ justifications to careful scrutiny and comes up empty-handed.

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Posted in Afghanistan | 16 Responses | Print |

16 Responses

  1. Thank you Professor Cole for bringing this to our attention, along with all the links. One thing you mentioned in “Engaging the Muslim World” (which is awesome, by the way) was that, in your contact with Muslims, “democracy” has always meant independence from foreign occupiers. Add in what we know about Afghanistan’s history and it is pretty clear that Afghan anti-NATO fighters can hold out longer than their enemies.

  2. Dear Professor Cole

    One of the items commented on in the Wikileaks papers is that the opposition in Afghanistan have been using MANPADS against Nato aircraft. It was the introduction of these weapons that finally broke the Russians.

    As a great fuss has been made of delivery of more helicopters to Afghanistan by MoD in UK, to avoid needless casualties from road travel, the extent of the MANPADS deployment needs to be explained. Dinging a Chinook loses you 30 troops at a time.

    If it is substantial then it is time to go time. (Pakistan makes their own indigenous Stinger However, local indigenous version of Stinger missiles fielded by the Pakistani Army was used in the Kargil War and shot down an Indian Air Force Mi-8 Helicopter[citation needed] and a MiG-21 aircraft[citation needed], as well as damaging a Canberra reconnaissance aircraft[citation needed]. Pakistan has begun phasing out its inventory of the original American made models completely. The Pakistan indigenous Stinger missile is said to contain an improved IR seeker to better follow its intended target.)

  3. Julian Assange for Nobel Peace Prize. Wouldn’t it be great if Obama, in shame, would offer his prize to Assange? I know this does not work this way, but at least the gesture would count. But of course Obama has long sold his soul for power and glory.

    I’d really like to propose Assange for the next peace prize. But of course they wouldn’t even read my letter. Prof. Cole, I am sure I have more power to approach the Nobel Committee.

    • Iceland–the location of one of Assange’s bunkers, and where he seems to do most of his work–heard your call last month, when they unanimously passed a comprehensive free speech bill that included what, in his surprise TED appearance earlier this month, Assange called a Nobel Prize for free speech.

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      • It’s not clear on how officially “Nobel” the prize will be, but, considering Assange’s connections in Iceland–and the fact that the whistleblower bill is no doubt at least indirectly inspired by Assange–it seems fairly obvious that he would be the first recipient of such an award.

        Also, see link to for a more detailed look at the bill. It’s quite impressive, and definitely gave me a new appreciation for Icelandic politics.

  4. Prof Cole, I disagree with the “Pentagon Papers” analogy (I know, it’s just a headline).
    The great secret of the PP was this: every U.S. president from Truman to Nixon had been advised at the highest level that the goals of the stated policy in Indochina could not be achieved. The war continued nevertheless because of the profound political cowardice of each succeeding “leader.”
    We may be in a similar situation with respect to the nine-year-old Afghan war. However, it’s not clear that this batch of leaks makes the point.

  5. It seems that american goverments in act of censorship close wikileaks with this documents, so this is all about so called US democracy and freedom of word, but what can we expect from puppets of AIPAC

  6. This is going to be an absolute disaster.

    What I’m baffled by is not the Administration’s response at the shocking and damning leak, but at their venom at the ones who leaked it!

  7. Afghanistan is surely a case where the cure is worse than the disease.

  8. WikiLeaks, Assange, are international heros. They not only focus attention on the Afghan disaster, and, if only he would notice, give Pres O extra reasons to get out of that country and to avoid wars. As well, maybe he will ponder on the fact that the more lies, shunning of truth & transparency that governments are guilty of, the more deseperate people become for truth and honesty and the more open to groups like WikiLeaks and other whistle blowers.

  9. David Lapan, deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations, told NBC News on Monday that a special assessment team looking over the WikiLeaks Afghanistan war logs has found nothing that could damage national security. Moreover, he said, none of the documents reviewed so far carries a classification level above “secret” — the lowest category of intelligence material in terms of sensitivity.

    link to

    But National Security Advisor James Jones and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs contradict David Lapan by stating that WikiLeaks’disclosure of a massive trove of classified military records documenting the Afghan War “could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.”

    link to

    So I don’t know if I should believe the Defense Department or the State Department and the White House. But if the Defense Department is speaking the truth, which is probably the case since it has more to lose than either the State department or the White House if the safety of our troops is compromised, then Bradley Manning shouldn’t be sent to prison for the rest of his life for leaking so-called classified documents to WikiLeaks. Maybe I’m wrong, but the State Department and the House White seem to care more about protecting the wealth of our war profiteers than they do in protecting the lives of our troops.

  10. Excuse me if I sound a bit bilious here, but what kind of plan does the leave-the-country-NOW-fraction have for Afghanistan? “Go home and let them fight their civil war alone” on which moral grounds?

    Was going there in the style it was done after 9/11 ever justified in the first place? What has changed since then (the civil war for sure isn´t new)? So it´s justified now to say “in the light of what we learned in the meantime (where exactly was the unpredictable part?) after we further sunk another country in the region further into chaos, we better go home now” because of what extra information? Because war can be a very ugly business and wrong decisions can have especially disastrous consequences here? Surprise!
    To prevent further loss of lives concerning US troops who are increasingly fed up with being in Afghanistan. That is the direct consequence of what happens to their morale when this kind of talk gets broad attention in their home country. They want to know what they risk their life for. If public opinion runs massively against it, US involvement in Afghanistan will end, that´s no more and no less then a self-fulfilling prophecy. The question of right and wrong, in my eyes, remains untouched by this. Don´t you think you owe the country a third option after all you´ve done to it in the first place? I think the US does.

  11. “Was going there in the style it was done after 9/11 ever justified in the first place?”

    In my view, no. I don’t think the United States should start a war unless we are determined to win it. That determination was not present in the Bush Administration, which was more concerned with Iraq than Afghanistan. And there was no broad public support for doing what was necessary the war in Afghanistan. In particular, Bush’s obsession with Iraq was shared pretty much universally by people on the political right. To mention one specific, we had only a limited number of special forces who could speak Arabic. Since winning the war in Afghanistan was not considered to be a vital national interest, those special forces were pulled out of Afghanistan and sent to Iraq. Or consider the problem of development aid. One of the advantages the United States had in Afghanistan is that the tremendous disparity in wealth is that we could afford to effectively buy off the Afghan people. So how much effort did the Bush Administration put into figuring out how to do this effectively, which is *not* easy? The fact that the Bush Administration forgot to include any development aid for Afghanistan in its 2003 budget request provides a clue.

    In 2009, the leaked McCrystal report made clear that the window of opportunity for us to achieve victory in Afghanistan had passed. McCrystal came up with a plan to delay defeat and hope that the Afghan government would use the delay to step up to the plate and win the war for us, but he didn’t cite any evidence that that would happen. Obama agreed, and that’s a defensible decision even though it amounts to gambling on a long shot. The odds are, though, that it won’t pay off. The fact of the matter is that (as folks on the right used to like to remind us), elections have consequences. We can’t simply decided to undo all the decisions of the the Bush years, however attractive that might be.

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