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Wikileaks on Afghanistan: Empire of graveyards

About Obama's "right war," from The Guardian (UK):

A huge cache of secret US military files today provides 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.

Nobody could have predicted...

The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers' website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and more than 1,000 US troops.

Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama's "surge" strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US naval personnel captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.

The war logs also detail:

  1. How a secret "black" unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for "kill or capture" without trial.
  2. How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.
  3. How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones [always good for a laugh in Versailles] to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.*
  4. How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

And now, the militaristic, pathetic, and delusional White House responses:

In a statement, the White House said the chaotic picture painted by the logs was the result of "under-resourcing" under Obama's predecessor, saying:

Oh, right. This is the idea that we have to send more troops so we can withdraw them.

"It is important to note that the time period reflected in the documents is January 2004 to December 2009."

Oh, OK. Remind me again when Obama was elected?

The White House also criticised the publication of the files by Wikileaks: "We strongly condemn the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations, which puts the lives of the US and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security. Wikileaks made no effort to contact the US government about these documents, which may contain information that endanger the lives of Americans, our partners, and local populations who co-operate with us."

Would Richard Nixon please pick up the white courtesy phone? Daniel Ellsberg is on the line. As if the cost of the war -- to the people of Afghanistan, to this country, and to the world -- weren't infinitely greater than the cost of telling the truth about it.

NOTE * Which I'm sure means that drones will never be used domestically. I mean, just because the bases are here doesn't mean the drones won't stay over there. Let's be reasonable, here, people.

NOTE You can donate to Wikileaks here. The source material is here. Looks like their servers are under pretty heavy load right now...

UPDATE The Times has an interesting note on method:

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.

UPDATE And Der Speigel has a note on sourcing:

The reports, from troops engaged in the ongoing combat, were tersely summarized and quickly dispatched. For the most part, they originate from sergeants -- but some have been penned by the occasional lieutenant at a command post or ranking analysts with the military intelligence service.

And then there's this:

But such shows of optimism seem cynical in light of the descriptions of the situation in Afghanistan provided in the classified documents. Nearly nine years after the start of the war, they paint a gloomy picture. They portray Afghan security forces as the hapless victims of Taliban attacks. They also offer a conflicting impression of the deployment of drones, noting that America's miracle weapons are also entirely vulnerable.

Miracle weapons, eh? The German for that would be wunderwaffen, yes?

UPDATE Sean Paul points out that there are unredacted names in the released material. Ugh.

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carissa's picture
Submitted by carissa on

Exactly who I thought of when I read the WH response.

TaosJohn's picture
Submitted by TaosJohn on

What, you mean the Taliban are shooting them down?

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

I keep thinking that I need to put up a post every day, about the ongoing wars. I double-thought that after talking with my son (who has a close friend in the IVAW movement, and is no fool). And then I realized that, finally, what distinguishes our current wars is that they are not played out on the evening news and, even if they were, the evening news is not what it used to be.

I still think I OUGHT to post on the ongoing war once a week, at least.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Now it is up to the rest of us. Can this country and world respond?

from World Can't Wait newsletter:

Just one of the incidents:

"Patrolling on foot, a Kentucky-based squad from 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, known as "Red Currahee", decided to flag down the approaching bus, so their patrol could cross the road. Before sunrise, a soldier stepped out on to Afghanistan's main highway and raised both hands in the air.

"When the bus failed to slow - travelers are often wary of being flagged down in Afghanistan's bandit lands - a trooper raked it with machine-gun fire. They killed four passengers and wounded 11 others." Afghanistan war logs: Secret CIA paramilitaries' role in civilian deaths.

And yet the chickenhawks will be on Meet the Press, banging the drum for Iran war, too.

MsExPat's picture
Submitted by MsExPat on

is fascinating. They were also behind the release of that video showing the murder of the two Reuters journalists, "Collateral Murder." There's a good New Yorker article with the backstory on that, and on WikiLeaks Australian founder, Julian Assange. (Minor detail that intrigues me: the surname Assange is not French but Chinese. "Assange" is the Aussie corruption of Ah Sang).

I'm extremely impressed with the Wikileaks model--seems like it is doing exactly what the Intranets are supposed to make possible, not to mention NGOs.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

The American people are not stupid. They know that “professional” media is the place where truth goes to die. Whether it’s the wingnuts at the National Review or the fauxminists at Ms. Magazine, the fact that “amateurs” can still post whatever they want on the Interwebz is the only thing stopping oligarchical propaganda from completely taking over every media outlet.

I sure hope we can keep the Internet free. The last thing we need is a bunch of paid propagandists being our only news sources. That would put us in the same category as Soviet Russia.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

My first thought when I saw this, using deadly Reaper drones [in Afghanistan] by remote control from a base in Nevada, was,

"Well, no wonder they just seem to be shooting at random most of the time. Can you imagine the latency involved?!"