Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wikileaks and Afghanistan.

It is blatantly to this war what the Pentagon papers were to the Vietnam war.

The details emerge from more than 90,000 secret US military files, covering six years of the war, which caused a worldwide uproar when they were leaked yesterday.

The war logs show how a group of US marines who went on a shooting rampage after coming under attack near Jalalabad in 2007 recorded false information about the incident, in which they killed 19 unarmed civilians and wounded a further 50.

In another case that year, the logs detail how US special forces dropped six 2,000lb bombs on a compound where they believed a "high-value individual" was hiding, after "ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area". A senior US commander reported that 150 Taliban had been killed. Locals, however, reported that up to 300 civilians had died.

Other files in the secret archive reveal:

• Coalition commanders received numerous intelligence reports about the whereabouts and activity of Osama bin Laden between 2004 and 2009, even though the CIA chief has said there has been no precise information about the al-Qaida leader since 2003.

• The hopelessly ineffective attempts of US troops to win the "hearts and minds" of Afghans.

• How a notorious criminal was appointed chief of police in the south-western province of Farrah.

Speaking at a press conference at the Frontline Club in central London yesterday, Julian Assange, of Wikileaks, the website which initially published the war logs, said: "It is up to a court to decide clearly whether something is in the end a crime. That said, on the face of it, there does appear to be evidence of war crimes in this material."

The strangest thing about this release is that so little of it is of surprise. The US is killing many more innocents than we are being told about. They are failing in their efforts to "win hearts and minds" in Afghanistan. Pakistan intelligence have links to al Qaeda. Am I a cynic to say that none of this surprises me?

I remember, as the US were preparing to invade that country, reading a Russian general saying that the US could pound those mountains for a decade, just as the Russians had done, but that they wouldn't win a war in Afghanistan.

During the election I always believed that Obama was focusing on Afghanistan simply because he couldn't promise to withdraw from there and Iraq without being perceived as being soft on national security. I always believed him to be too intelligent to buy into the notion of a military victory in that place. To that end, I was pleased when I heard that the US were about to negotiate with the Taliban.

That, at least, showed that the US were prepared to think outside of the box. To search for an exit that didn't demand military victory.

For, reading what I have of the Wikileaks story, only confirms that wars cannot be won in Afghanistan through military means alone. But, we knew that anyway.


Crooks and Liars say this:
But what I find more interesting is trying to determine who might have sent these documents to WikiLeaks - 92,000 classified documents, mostly tactical level reports, over a six-year period. Is this person a military officer who has seen one too many operations go south? A low-level DOD civilian, secretly frustrated at the mismatch between reality and the manufactured news on the television? A poorly-screened defense contractor, taking advantage of stressed out defense personnel to slip messages out to other confederates?

Who is this modern-day Daniel Ellsberg?

But I think we might know who leaked the papers as Bradley Manning has already been arrested after confessing on-line to a former outlaw computer hacker, R. Adrian Lamo, that he had passed the material to Wikileaks.
In a series of online chats in late May with a fellow computer geek, Manning claimed he had leaked a staggering 260,000 classified diplomatic reports, along with secret video of U.S. service members killing civilians, to the whistleblower website Wikileaks.org.
And the leaks contain exactly what UK intelligence analyst Crispin Black said they would:
Diplomatic cables don't usually contain huge secrets but they do contain the unvarnished truth so in a sense they can be even more embarrassing than secrets.
The reason the US government will prosecute Manning with the full force of the law has almost nothing to do with national security and everything to do with the fact that this embarrasses them.

Click here for full article.

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