July 26th, 2010

Wikileaks on Afghanistan

The story du jour—and for probably quite a few more jours—is the Wikileaks dump of classified information on the war in Afghanistan.

Revealing previously classified information about ongoing wars has become a sort of cottage industry, with the word “classified” taking on lesser and lesser meaning as time goes on. This is mostly because there are virtually no consequences for the perpetrators of such leaks, and no shortage of outlets willing to disseminate them, encouraged by the United States’ lack of an Official Secrets Act such as is the law in Britain (I’ve already written extensively on issues related to the question of whether this country should pass a similar statute).

What do the most recent leaks actually reveal? Not much (see also this). Anyone who’s been paying attention to the Afghan situation already knows that the government of Pakistan and especially its military intelligence arm has ties to the Taliban, and that civilians have been killed in this war, which are the main facts revealed by the present leaks.

Just about everyone paying attention also knows that a central issue is that the goal of our continued presence in Afghanistan has not been clearly defined. The original reasons we went there were related to the 9/11 attacks and fact that their masterminds were being sheltered by its then-rulers, the Taliban. Now the whereabouts of many of the former are unknown, and the Taliban are not officially in charge, although they’re still highly influential and perpetually resurgent. Our commitment there—by both the Bush administration (after the initial push), and the Obama administration today—has been what I could crudely call half-assed, and the definition of what success would actually look like is murky.

Are we still nation-building there? Are we still looking for the elusive (and perhaps deceased?) Bin Laden, and won’t leave till we get him? Is Pakistan an ally in name only? These are the questions that need to be asked, and answered, posthaste, ones that I’m afraid will not be answered by this administration, which used the Afghan War as a campaign weapon to demonstrate macho hawkishness in the “right” war, and to bludgeon Bush for fighting the “wrong” one.

24 Responses to “Wikileaks on Afghanistan”

  1. Bill West Says:

    Publishing such material is illegal under Title 18 Section 798.

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00000798—-000-.html

    “Necessary Secrets” by Gabriel Schoenfield covers it.

  2. colagirl Says:

    I hope they throw the book at whoever leaked the material. But they probably won’t. As you said, neoneo, the leakers almost never face consequences.

  3. Mr. Frank Says:

    The lefties thought such things were just fine when Bush was president. I wonder how they feel now.

  4. Tom Says:

    I was pissed off by the Pentagon Papers and the NYT, and 40 years later, what’s changed? Still the good ol’ NYT, and just a different name than Ellsberg. They are all alike, these sanctimonious weasels; they answer to a higher authority*, which grants them grounds to be lawbreakers, to be judge and jury. In short, to be totalitarian in mindset. Us grunts, though, we’ve got to respect the laws, especially their laws, when they’ve torn the civil fabric enough to be able to promulgate them.

    *With apologies to Hebrew National Hot Dogs for the use of its slogan!

  5. gs Says:

    The material should not have been released and the leaker(s) should be prosecuted. In the highly unlikely event that something extremely egregious is found, they should be pardoned.

    But now that the material is released, it will be interesting to learn how much of it was classified because releasing it would do serious harm to national security, and how much of it was classified because the serious harm would be to political and bureaucratic careers.

    (I spent part of my Vietnam-era hitch in a military think tank, so my comment is not completely speculative.)

    And I was gobsmacked to read the Washington Post’s claim that almost a million Americans hold Top Secret clearances. Back in the day that level of clearance was supposed to be unusual, not, so to speak, one on every block.

  6. expat Says:

    These releases will be used by the peaceniks and Merkel opponents here in Germany to force a troop pullout and to further damage her government. And of course, to reinforce all the predjudices about incompetent war-loving Americans. Davids Medienkritik may hav to get active again.

  7. vanderleun Says:

    The only consequences these insects will ever face will have to be freelance. Governments won’t lay a glove on them.

  8. Occam's Beard Says:

    They are all alike, these sanctimonious weasels; they answer to a higher authority”

    They should be helped to answer to that higher authority post haste.

  9. Tom Says:

    But O.B.: Their higher authority may be themselves, as the AA meeting can be the individual atheist alcoholic’s Higher Power if need be.

  10. NeoConScum Says:

    Funny. The sleazebags responsible for this–EEeeekkK–’outing’ have revealed that we have Special Ops and civilians get killed in War. Horrors!

    Focus: War’s purpose is: To Kill People and Break Stuff. Yet, Pravda..err..NyTimes treats it as gaspingly important NEWS..!

    Bunny Hole Alert..! Alliiicccceeeeee…!

  11. jon baker Says:

    this is one of those areas where computers have made us more vulnerable. Previously, someone would have had to physically take those files- or take pictures of them. Now someone, an insider, can illegally download them onto a stick and carry thousands of files off base in their pocket.

  12. IgotBupkis Says:

    > United States’ lack of an Official Secrets Act such as is the law in Britain (I’ve already written extensively on issues related to the question of whether this country should pass a similar statute).

    Without having read any of your piece, I consider such laws very dangerous. All too often the “Official Secret” is something that is embarassing to the current admin. Then it usually stays secret because it would embarrass someone currently in power even once there’s been a change.

    Gee, I can’t imagine what politician would try and use such a law that way… :-S

    I seem to recall that the OSA was used, for example, to obstruct RFIs regarding the case depicted in the movie “In The Name of tthe Father”.

    I’d also guarantee you, you’ll shudder (or should) when you think about such a law in the hands of Hillary, Obama, Pelosi, and Reid.

    > What do the most recent leaks actually reveal? Not much

    Another example of why it is that I don’t think an OSA is needed. It’s the government. They’d like to classify the fact that “people of other nations actually have sex”, if they could.

    99% of what’s “classified” is classified because some idiot was within reach of a stamp that said “classified”. Had the stamp been in another room, it wouldn’t be “classified” info at all.

    That’s not to suggest that there should not be punishments and/or restrictions on widely publishing information of some narrow varieties — but it should usually be limited to that which would cause — or likely cause — substantial injury or harm to a largely innocent party. And that does not mean “embarrassment” to an involved political official.

  13. Norris Hall Says:

    As you state…there isn’t much in the documents (so far) that is new news. The documents just illustrates what we have already known
    1. That a lot of civilian casualties are being counted as “insurgent kills”
    2. That a lot of civilians are being killed
    3. That the Afghan people don’t particular care for the Coalition Forces
    4. That the Pakistanis are playing both sides of the field for power and for money

    Like all wars that start out with clear goals….that then get watered down as time progresses this war is no different.
    We went there to get Osama…and now we are there trying to rebuild a corrupt failed state.

  14. expat Says:

    It has already started here. Hans-Christian Ströbele, super moral Green parliamentarian, is calling for parliamentary hearings over the leaks. That assures him of a loud voice on all this week’s talk shows. He has a chance once again to tell everyone that war is bad and that Germans more than any others have learned the lessons of WWII. This same Ströbele did a Lynne Stewart when he was representing the RAF. He received some sort of punishment or reprimand, but people still take him seriously.

    I’d bet that the Wikileaks crew have scrubbed the material of anything that could be shown to harm operations because they don’t want to be held responsible. What they do want is to raise the noise level of peaceniks and skeptics about Afghanistan and get a few marches going. In other words, they want to send the Taliban a message to hang on because the West will be leaving soon with its tail between its legs.

  15. jhankey Says:

    In the past I was invovled in the intel field. I had to sign many agreements that clearly delineated the laws and punishments I was subject to for any breach of security. They will burn a low level idiot ( PFC Manning, formerly Specialist 4th class), but never a political big fish.
    What is strange to me is thetype of material released. Most of it is the stuff Manning would see working maybe in a brigade level or above military intel shop. It’s the “State Department cables” that is odd. How would he obtain those? That should be a discrete channel of communications.

  16. Dan Says:

    I’m not paranoid enough (yet) to believe the administration leaked the information, but I smell a rat in that the criticism–if you can call it that–has been milquetoast soft. It serves Obama well to have a media buzz that doesn’t provide intelligence to our enemies but instead causes fear of another Vietnam-style quagmire and a rush to get the hell out. As in the case of Vietnam, the skids will be greased to literally throw our allies under the bus by later denying them aid to resist a takeover by the Taliban. Will Wikileaks be around to document the torture and beheadings of Afghans foolish enough to remain behind after the US leaves? Of course not!

  17. Tom Says:

    It’s real simple: All gov’ts have secrets, need secrecy. Yep, that secrecy can be abused, but to not protect secrets means zero secrecy. Which leaves the decision on whether or not, and how, to report is left in the hands of the Jornolists. That is not where I want to go. We need an OSA.

  18. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    During Vietnam I had a Top Secret clearance and had to read the Top Secret message board each day. It surprised me that many of the things I read that were classified TS, would show up in the Stars and Stripes newspaper or Time and Newsweek. From that experience I learned that too many things were classified TS.

    I agree with IgotBupkis who said, “99% of what’s “classified” is classified because some idiot was within reach of a stamp that said “classified”. Had the stamp been in another room, it wouldn’t be “classified” info at all.”

    Much of this dump (the corruption of the Afghanis, the double dealing of the Pakis, etc.) was known by anyone who was reading the milbloggers or Col. Ralph Peterson. I knew when Obama named Afghanistan as the “good War” that he had no idea of the difficulties there. Transforming Afghanistan into a stable, peaceful nation is several orders of magnitude more difficult than Iraq.

    Afghanistan can be roughly compared to Vietnam. We have committed to a task that will require far more wllingness to either be ruthless or commit to years of blood, money, sweat, and tears to achieve the transfromation that we desire. We succeeded in doing just that in South Korea but failed in Vietnam. Since Vietnam we have lost our will to prevail in wars because we insist on trying to fight them with one hand tied behind our backs.

    COIN, IMO can work. The problem is it just takes a whole lot of time, money, and bloodshed. This nation’s political system does not lend itself well to prosecuting war in that fashion. This intel dump shows just one more reason why that’s true.

  19. Artfldgr Says:

    Wikileaks documents: N. Korea sold missiles to al-Qaeda, Taliban

    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/07/wiki_n_korea_sold_rockets_to_a.html#more

    and who runs the Norks?

    same old same old…

  20. Tom Says:

    I despise terming Vietnam a failure, a defeat. It was the Democratic Congress that lost it; nay, gave it away to the butchers and caused the loss of so many good lives and untold suffering for the “re-educated” and the dislocated. Kerry, Dodd and other responsibles continue to “lead us” today. The corruptocrat Ruling Class.

  21. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Tom, Vietnam was a failure because our leaders lost their nerve or did not recognize the seriousness of the threat that communism presented. It took a leader like Reagan who was willing to name the enemy and stand up to them to bring the USSR down. Unfortunately, communism did not die with the USSR. It is still alive and well in too many places around the world.

    Our disgraceful desertion of South Vietnam was brought about by those such as Kerry, Jane Fonda, Congressional lefties, and the nattering nabobs of negativity in the media. Too many of those people are still doing their work undermining our ability to defend ourselves. They have also been willing to forget that which you mentioned, the slaughter of 2,270,000 people in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos after the war ended. For more data about the death toll of cummunism and other absolutist governments from 1900 to 1998 see this:
    http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/WSJ.ART.HTM
    Very sobering reading.

  22. expat Says:

    Speaking of Kerry, he can’t even figure out how his new foreign-built untaxed yacht would play with his constituents. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t read the minds of foreign foes. At some point, even Harvard profs should be able to figure out they are represented by a moron.

  23. Richard Aubrey Says:

    One of the results of such leaks is the deaths of some of those who helped us and the future reluctance of others to help us.
    Feature or bug?
    You decide.

  24. Denisha Kowis Says:

    apparently the term “cables” is back in vogue relating to wikileaks. Do people really still send “cables” aren’t they just “emails”?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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