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Classified war docs published
July 25, 2010 2:59 PM   Subscribe

The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel have been given access to approximately 92,000 classified Afghanistan war documents provided to WikiLeaks.
posted by lackutrol (186 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems like a seminal moment for Wikileaks. I wonder if this has anything to do with Bradley Manning, and what effect it will have p his case...
posted by Weebot at 3:16 PM on July 25, 2010


On his case, rather. iPad, you are officially relieved of your metafilter commenting duties.
posted by Weebot at 3:17 PM on July 25, 2010 [23 favorites]


I hope that regardless of our opinions surrounding WikiLeaks (pro or con), people can keep focused on the fact that even if these documents weren't leaked and we weren't reading them, the actions recorded within them are done so by "our side" and aren't fiction.
posted by Doug Stewart at 3:18 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Bloody errors at civilians' expense, as recorded in the logs, include the day French troops strafed a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight. A US patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers, and in 2007 Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack."
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:25 PM on July 25, 2010


Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks
posted by homunculus at 3:34 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Powerful stuff. This is the TOR leak, right?
posted by mr.marx at 3:35 PM on July 25, 2010


There's a Political Advisor at the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Kristjan Guy Burgess?
posted by biffa at 3:37 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just thought I'd link to the splash pages for each of the publication's features, so to easier navigate these massive, multi-article affairs.

New York Times

Guardian

Der Spiegel (English)
posted by Weebot at 3:39 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm SO excited to read all this stuff...I thank a wide variety of other peoples' religious figures for Assange I just hope he can stay one step ahead of the CIA.
posted by nevercalm at 3:42 PM on July 25, 2010


Early in the series: this is gonna be easy.

A little later in the series: why isn't this easy?

Later still: this is not gonna be easy.

Recent documents: how can we shut this down without looking like foolish losers?
posted by telstar at 3:44 PM on July 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


I need a refresher: who is currently running Pakistan?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:46 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reading through, this is yet more proof of what a quagmire the US has gotten itself into. Which is about what you'd expect, isn't it? It's a big turd we've tied into a Gordian knot.
posted by Red Loop at 3:50 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd love to think the public would take this and never accept another war unless it's to prevent genocide, but we'll probably just get used to copious amounts of information about Bad Things and get back to wondering if Mel Gibson will ever work again. Are the main tv news channels covering this at all in depth?

Respective governments and military bodies are just going to have to get used to not being able to manage their own PR though, which is hopeful and worrying at the same time.
posted by shinybaum at 3:51 PM on July 25, 2010


Awesome. That is all.
posted by grounded at 3:57 PM on July 25, 2010


Interesting timing in Australia. Last night we watched the most vacuous and depressing general election debate in all known history. After 45 minutes of immigrant-bashing racism formed into catchphrases and delivered with the tone of a management training seminar, there was a brief chat about trivial gossip and side issues, like the possibility of further economic crisis and the war in Afghanistan. Neither candidate said anything except how important it was to keep plugging away at that mysterious mission. I can't imagine that there was any point in World War II where Churchill, Roosevelt, or Stalin felt it necessary to defensively insist: "We do have a mission."
posted by stammer at 4:07 PM on July 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


I understand the Pakistanis trying to play both sides, and keep a hand in everything to try to maintain some kind of control over the region; but can anyone tell me how much of the ISI collaborating with the Taliban is about money? Like maybe, drug money? From what I can tell, these generals don't necessarily want a dominant Taliban— unless it just keeps Afghanistan crippled, I suppose. They've left their own tribal areas alone mostly out of necessity, right? What is in their interest to help the Taliban? Is it functional? Is it religious for some of them (like Gul)?
posted by Red Loop at 4:16 PM on July 25, 2010


Oooh I do love it when I fire up the internets in the morning and find Assange as dropped some more docs.

Assange TV interview with Channel 4.
posted by Jimbob at 4:16 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


but can anyone tell me how much of the ISI collaborating with the Taliban is about money? Like maybe, drug money? From what I can tell, these generals don't necessarily want a dominant Taliban— unless it just keeps Afghanistan crippled, I suppose. They've left their own tribal areas alone mostly out of necessity, right? What is in their interest to help the Taliban? Is it functional? Is it religious for some of them (like Gul)?

I think a major motivation for under-the-table Pakistani military collaboration with the Taliban is that the Pakistani officer corps believe that the US will eventually abandon them, at which point they'll need to deal with the Taliban by themselves. They're essentially hedging their bets by maintaining ties to the Taliban, in the hope that when the US deserts them they'll be able to compromise instead of fighting a hopeless and bloody counterinsurgency on their own soil.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:27 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


PS: I'm sure there are other motivations, but I think that's probably the most important one.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:28 PM on July 25, 2010


Damn, this is huge. The Guardian is describing it as the biggest leak in intelligence history, bigger than the Pentagon Papers. It's hard to know where to begin. One of the first things that jumped out at me was this one:

US covered up fatal Taliban missile strike on Chinook: Surface-to-air strike over Helmand shows Taliban had strong anti-aircraft capabilities earlier than previously thought

I've wondered at times that we don't hear about more surface-to-air attacks.
posted by homunculus at 4:32 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, this is huge. Thank goodness for Wikileaks, and for major news organizations willing to go with the story. The White House won't be able to sweep this under the rug.
posted by languagehat at 4:46 PM on July 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


We today learn of nearly 150 incidents in which coalition forces, including British troops, have killed or injured civilians, most of which have never been reported... Reading these logs, many may suspect there is sometimes a casual disregard for the lives of innocents.

Maybe if they hate our freedoms or something.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:54 PM on July 25, 2010


I've wondered at times that we don't hear about more surface-to-air attacks.

Especially as the Soviets suffered greatly at the hands of Mujahideen handheld SAMs, as supplied by the USA.

Looking forward to delving into this tomorrow.
posted by knapah at 4:58 PM on July 25, 2010


I think a major motivation for under-the-table Pakistani military collaboration with the Taliban is that the Pakistani officer corps believe that the US will eventually abandon them, at which point they'll need to deal with the Taliban by themselves. They're essentially hedging their bets by maintaining ties to the Taliban, in the hope that when the US deserts them they'll be able to compromise instead of fighting a hopeless and bloody counterinsurgency on their own soil.
The other argument I've read is that the ISI/Pakistani military planners see Afghanistan as a potential hinterland for support/tactical retreat if they ever get in an open war with India - so they need to keep the Taliban sweet and the Indians out. Obviously, Good knows what's going on amid the smoke and mirrors, but the India angle would certainly factor in ISI strategy you'd think.
posted by Abiezer at 5:09 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sadly, anyone reading the papers regularly and truly listening to the comments from military and political leaders over the past years knew the rough outlines of all this. Perhaps the now-indisputable nature of these facts will lead to a change of policy.
posted by twsf at 5:13 PM on July 25, 2010


A couple of questions do pop into my mind now having glanced through some of the articles.

- How much of this is relatively new information (e.g. that Pakistani intelligence officers have been playing both sides), versus information that confirms previous suspicions and simply adds nuance and color to them (e.g. the conclusion that the war was egregiously under-resourced)? I imagine that answer won't be immediately forthcoming, considering the size of the leak.

- Will the media story be simply about the leak itself or about what was leaked? Wikileaks has been much more savvy this time around by collaborating with these press outlets. I feel this might be a response to how the Apache video wasn't as effectual as it could have been, putting a lot of attention on the fact that the leak was leaked in the first place, rather than the fact that the U.S was killing journalists and children.

- What effect, if any, will this have on future Afghan war policy? I imagine that the White House isn't too pleased at the moment about the fact that this war (and Iraq, to a lesser extent) has become such a rich source for what will be looked back upon as historic pieces of journalism (Wikileaks, Rolling Stone, the whole Bradley Manning saga, etc). That said, the fact that you can fire the head of the Afghan effort without changing any policies shows how powerful inertia is with regards to our war efforts.

- I wonder if anyone is going to have a Mike Gravel moment with this leak. Anyone want to take bets on when/if this will be out into the Congressional record, and by whom?
posted by Weebot at 5:17 PM on July 25, 2010


Between this and the recent Washington Post expose on the U.S. Intelligence Network, I'm unusually impressed with journalism lately.
posted by Man Bites Dog at 5:22 PM on July 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


From the earliest days of Pakistan--for logical reasons--the Pakistani military has been obsessed with the country's geospatial dilemma: its frontier with India is, essentially, indefensible. India, with its vast population and resources, could overrun the majority of the country in a short time, at least until it reached the mountainous areas of the northwest, i.e., Pashtunistan. Pakistani military doctrine has therefore focused on the FAT and Afghanistan to provide "defense in depth," a theoretical redoubt to which Pakistani forces could retreat and carry on resistance agains the forces of its Hindu adversary. The relocation of Pakistan's capital to Islamabad in the north from Karachi in the south is mute evidence of the power of this doctrine.

Consequently, the Pakistani military has sought to play a defining role in the internal affairs of Afghanistan to facilitate "defense in depth." Through the ISI, the elite army intelligence corps, Pakistan was the primary conduit for US support of "freedom fighters" during the anti-Soviet period and thereafter worked with the incipient Taliban before and after its takeover of Afghanistan. ISI has had strong links with all of the "playas" in the Afghan quagmire and has obviously been playing a double game with the US since 2001, and certainly long before that. (President Zia, your flight is ready, sir. . .)

Whether "defense in depth" is anything more than a fantasy is a matter of considerable debate. But the Pakistani military will not give it up, and it is not plausible that it will give up its role as broker of Islamic influence in Afghanistan just because Hilary Clinton demands that it do so.

If further evidence is necessary, the leaks show again that the "mission" in Afghanistan cannot succeed. It is a continuing tragedy that the Obama administration is reinforcing the expensive failure shown in the documents. "Deficit hawks," please take note.
posted by rdone at 5:32 PM on July 25, 2010 [22 favorites]


I understand why this is a big deal in the sense of a security breach, but I haven't read, so far, anything that is surprising.

There must be a lot that's worse than this backed up somewhere that hasn't been copied to CD and leaked.
posted by selton at 6:10 PM on July 25, 2010


> Sadly, anyone reading the papers regularly and truly listening to the comments from military and political leaders over the past years knew the rough outlines of all this.

I was just telling my wife that this is the big difference between this and the Pentagon Papers: back then, the revelations were genuinely surprising to most people.
posted by languagehat at 6:25 PM on July 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


To unravel the US and Afghanistan, you have to go back to the Carter administration. Prior to that, the problems in the region were local to the region, particularly the long simmering conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. The evolution of the conflict in Afghanistan is outlined in Steve Coll's Pulitzer prize-winning book, Ghost Wars.

In a nutshell, Carter and Bryzinsky started up the mujadin in Afghanistan to give the Russians a headache. This was done secretly as proxy warfare. It succeeded all too well and triggered the first (Russian) invasion of Afghanistan. Carter was driven from office and the war taken over by Reagan before the US role in triggering the mess became public. Then, courtesy of Reagan, Bush I, the Iran-Contra gangsters, the Saudis, Pakistan's US-backed nuclear weapons program (funded through BCCI which in turn enmeshed the Bush family with Noriega's drug running thus necessitating the invasion of Panama), into the end of the first (Russian) Afghan war with a complete power vacuum dropped more or less into the Pakistani's lap. They made a deal with the Taliban as the only viable force to end the musical-chairs civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal.

Simultaneously, the Iranian revolution triggered the rise of militant Islam. The Iranian revolution, followed by the occupation of the Holy Mosque in Mecca marked the emergence of a new, militant Islam. Later, the US/Pakistani-backed resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (in parallel with the Iran-Contra manipulations and BCCI/AQ Khan's nuclear program) made the new militancy the fastest growing political re-alignment in the Muslim world.

It's all jumbled up and not well understood by Americans. This partly due to the now-exposed secret operations whereby the US became a major sponsor of international terrorism via proxies like the mujadin and the Contras. But it is also due to a willful inattention to foreign policy as a part of the domestic political process. Never was any of this mess laid out before the public or debated in the course of political campaigns.

It was complex, but not impossible to understand. What failed was the willingness on the part of the political establishment to even pay attention. Instead, we had sideshows like Charlie Wilson's War, in which a US Congressman became the paid agent of foreign interests and a prime sponsor of the Pakistani nuclear proliferation program. Of course all that most people know about that is as a comedy starring Tom Hanks...

So maybe this document dump by Wikileaks is a start. But the foundations for understanding this mess have been around for a long time and are still mostly uncontemplated by both the public and policy makers in the US.
posted by warbaby at 6:28 PM on July 25, 2010 [31 favorites]


rdone, is that just your take on the matter, or do you have some cites?
posted by wilful at 7:19 PM on July 25, 2010


rdone, is that just your take on the matter, or do you have some cites?

The aforementioned Ghost Wars by Steve Coll has a fair bit on the ISI's involvement in Ghost Wars, albeit primarily from the perspective of the CIA's dealings. Ahmed Rashid's Taliban and Descent Into Chaos delves deeper into Pakistan's involvement.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:32 PM on July 25, 2010


>: ""and in 2007 Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack.""

Kinda puts a new spin on the whole "you forgot about Poland" thing.
posted by chaff at 7:33 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The dedicated WikiLeaks website for the leaked documents is up now: Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010
posted by homunculus at 7:49 PM on July 25, 2010


Thirty-plus comments, and I'm the first one to express concern about Wikileaks and to suggest that this may not, in fact, be a good thing?

Perhaps I'm being excessively influenced by the New Yorker profile on Assange (and my own biases about the absolute value of free information), but I'm skeptical of all this. Essentially, I'm certain that nobody posting on MeFi, nor anyone in the press, is capable of reading these documents in their entirety. And even if anyone could, the sheer volume of the information makes it impossible for any non-expert to reasonably understand what the totality of the documents mean.

And most importantly, even if we could understand these documents, we have absolutely no ability to contextualize them.

This is admittedly an unfair analogy, but the rapid 'hallelujah' response in favor of Wikileaks sounds an awful lot like unthinking conservatives eating up Breitbart's Sherrod fiasco. I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that there isn't a single commenter here that has enough knowledge on the situation to follow this leak.

More importantly, absolutely none of us are going to be reading the whole leak. We're all going to read the headlines, or maybe the more curious among us will read WikiLeaks' take on the whole story, but we aren't really using this information to really understand for ourselves what's going on.

I mentioned the Sherrod incident, but the current controversy about Journolist seems apropos here, as well. Basically, any context or nuance involved in this situation are going to be completely lost because none of us can really digest the information in its entirety, and anyone who wants to spin it in whatever way they want will do precisely that. Because these are 'leaked' documents, those people will seem to have a fair degree of credibility. And I can't imagine a situation more ripe for propaganda.

Intentionally, I have not argued for or against the veracity of the notion that these documents suggest that Pakistan was playing both sides or was working against our interests. I don't have the time to read these documents, and even if I did, I'm far too undereducated and under-experienced to understand what they mean.

They were written specifically for people who actually did understand what they meant, and (ideally) had enough background knowledge to see them in a context. In other words, there were probably very legitimate reasons for them to be classified.

So why, MeFi, is it a good thing that they've been leaked?
posted by graphnerd at 7:57 PM on July 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Between this and the recent Washington Post expose on the U.S. Intelligence Network, I'm unusually impressed with journalism lately.

But it's a pity the WaPo reporting generated so little reaction.
posted by homunculus at 7:59 PM on July 25, 2010


we have absolutely no ability to contextualize them
Not sure how you arrive at this conclusion - anyone with a passing knowledge of history and historiography will be well aware of the difference between individual (or even series of) documents and the larger picture, but more information can only help in constructing a more accurate context. Specialist input is always welcome, but it's a gross underestimate of your fellow citizens to imagine we can't peruse as much as we can manage of this and set it against our own prior knowledge of this war and wider Western military praxis. And that's without getting into its value to independent researchers on the region or related policy who may not have privileged access to official documents or inside briefings. Idiots will spin it how they will, but that's the case whether the rest of us can see the raw data or not.
posted by Abiezer at 8:07 PM on July 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


This war is making a group of people rich. Certain Afghans, Pakistanis, and Americans are profiting hugely from it, and "stay the course" will be shouted long and hard.
posted by Danf at 8:10 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Essentially, I'm certain that nobody posting on MeFi, nor anyone in the press, is capable of reading these documents in their entirety. And even if anyone could, the sheer volume of the information makes it impossible for any non-expert to reasonably understand what the totality of the documents mean.

This is the key to Wikileaks. It is a wiki. Applebaum made clear in his keynote the other day that they are improving systems to let people analyze, cross-check, and map data banks like this. "This shouldn't be released because mere mortals like you could never understand it!" is a complete cop-out.

Why is it good that this was leaked? Because someone out there was trying to keep it hidden. It's that simple. Why were they trying to keep it hidden, and what possible way could life be better for us (apart from the bliss of ignorance) or the people of Afghanistan if it had stayed hidden? Governments operate by taking away the few tools we ever had to criticize and understand war, whether by embedding journalists or pretending they lost videos, or whatever. That's why this is important.
posted by Jimbob at 8:17 PM on July 25, 2010 [26 favorites]


There's a Political Advisor at the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Kristjan Guy Burgess?

Indeed there is, but he does not appear to be related. His father was British born.
posted by dhartung at 8:21 PM on July 25, 2010


Was writing a post to answer to graphnerd, but Jimbob said it already.
posted by carping demon at 8:23 PM on July 25, 2010


So why, MeFi, is it a good thing that they've been leaked?

In my view, and perhaps I'm being wildly optimistic here, is if even just a few people who are on the side of things that are generating, executing, participating in, spinning the result of or in any way involved in either these events or others like them might think twice about how they act and respond because of the thought that it might come to light through some totally strange and random chain of events, maybe even with their name tied to the effort, this will be a good thing.

I'm cynical enough to know that if any change does occur here as a result of this, it will be temporary (either in years or maybe one generation, a la Church or Pentagon Papers) and the US government will find a new way to either control the flow of information or a much improved way to shape and manage the narrative. Attempting to have the upper hand in the information is like any other part of war....there are measures, countermeasures, further countermeasures....the only hope is to stop war, which will only happen when it stops being profitable. And so it goes.
posted by nevercalm at 8:24 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jimbob: "This shouldn't be released because mere mortals like you could never understand it!" is a complete cop-out.

I understand where you're coming from, and in many ways, I really do want to agree with you. Yet at the same time, I'm just very wary of sentences like "It's that simple." I don't believe that anything is ever "that simple", and I do very much believe that there are circumstances under which secrecy is entirely valid.

This is definitely an extreme-and possibly illegitimate-example, but the government has, for over sixty years, tried to keep the specifics of the Manhattan Project hidden. And I think that most people would agree that it's entirely unreasonable to suggest that they should have done anything different.

In other words, the very fact that a person or institution is trying to keep information hidden does not make any leak of said information a good thing. It's never 'that simple'.

----

But I really don't intend to troll this discussion, argue with any particular individual, or derail the whole conversation. I apologize if I'm coming across that way, but I do think that it's good to try to break the echo chamber and present different ideas. So sorry if this (or my previous post) comes across as just argumentative.
posted by graphnerd at 8:28 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why is it good that this was leaked? Because someone out there was trying to keep it hidden.

Valerie Plame might disagree.
posted by Cyrano at 8:30 PM on July 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


graphnerd--
Of course with 90,000 documents, anyone brave enough to seriously analyze it all will have months and years of work ahead of them. But I think you're assuming all the documents are written in the same style, for the same couple of agencies, all with some meta-context in mind as they're written. Why is it impossible that some of these documents are written with a general audience in mind, as a one-off summary of certain events? Surely because there are so many documents, some of them must surely have been written for public consumption.
posted by zardoz at 8:31 PM on July 25, 2010


This is definitely an extreme-and possibly illegitimate-example, but the government has, for over sixty years, tried to keep the specifics of the Manhattan Project hidden.
Valerie Plame might disagree.

And this is where this goes deep - And no, I don't completely agree with this point of view - but if you follow the rabbit all the way down the hole, you have to start wondering...if governments knew that as soon as they developed some new weapon of mass destruction, the information would be public and the enemy would have it in weeks, would they bother developing it? And if such weapons of mass destruction, therefore, weren't in the hands of governments, would we need undercover agents to investigate their proliferation?
posted by Jimbob at 8:37 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


zardoz: I'm confused by what you mean. If they were written for public consumption, wouldn't they have been released, making the leak unnecessary?

(Obviously, I'm ignorant about the actual content of the documents, so please forgive me if I'm missing something here.)
posted by graphnerd at 8:38 PM on July 25, 2010


How do we know this isn't Breitbart all over again? Assange has an anti-war agenda. As editor he is the final decision maker on what items get posted to the site and what items are not. We are looking at selected raw intelligence reports gathered by an unknown person during a significant low point of the conflict. He is choosing to release and highlight specific items to promote his agenda of abandoning Afghanistan to continued civil war.

Some bleak statistics: 800+ civilians die each year from landmines, many of which date back to Soviet Occupation. Last year UNAMA tracked 2500 civilians deaths and attributed 1630 as directly caused by anti-government forces and 596 as attributed to the pro-government forces. The number two killer of civilians in Afghanistan last year was the USSR, which has been out of the country since 1987. Meanwhile 1600 civilians got butchered in a variety of ways by the Taliban and their narco-warlord allies. Assange hasn't posted the interoffice memos where Taliban leaders debated how to reduce civilian casualties or take steps to better protect non-combatants because those debates don't occur and that should give you some reassurance that despite our faults we are trying to actually do the right thing here.
posted by humanfont at 8:38 PM on July 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Jimbob: And this is where this goes deep - And no, I don't completely agree with this point of view - but if you follow the rabbit all the way down the hole, you have to start wondering...if governments knew that as soon as they developed some new weapon of mass destruction, the information would be public and the enemy would have it in weeks, would they bother developing it? And if such weapons of mass destruction, therefore, weren't in the hands of governments, would we need undercover agents to investigate their proliferation?

That's good food for thought, but IMHO, that's just so very unreasonable that it isn't worth considering (at least relative to the pros and cons of Wikileaks). If we could start from scratch, and everyone knew that those were the rules and how things would operate, of course they wouldn't bother to make those weapons. But those weapons do exist, just as the situation in Afghanistan does exist, just as the myriad of causes of the infamous helicopter attack in Iraq did exist.

And I do recognize that you acknowledged that you don't fully believe what you suggested, so I'm not arguing with you personally, but the whole logic of Wikileaks and the related cyber/libertarian-utopian strain of thought seems to be based much more in an ideal situation than the actual world.
posted by graphnerd at 8:44 PM on July 25, 2010


But it's a pity the WaPo reporting generated so little reaction.

Only one other person I talked to at the office the day after this broke knew anything about it. However, at least 6 or 7 people asked me if I had heard the latest clips from the Mel Gibson tapes. Which, sadly, I had.
posted by Man Bites Dog at 8:46 PM on July 25, 2010


I was at a COIN class with a Pak Army Colonel. We asked him why they kept playing footsie with the Taliban. He denied any knowledge, said they had higher casualties than us (ISAF), which is true. I asked him why they didn't just forget Kashmir already, and he turned into Dr. Strangelove, practically.

I think this points to one avenue of escape; we'll pull out of there, pointing the finger at Pakistan. And rightly so.
posted by atchafalaya at 8:48 PM on July 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


the India angle would certainly factor in ISI strategy you'd think

A critical missing theme here is Kashmir. India and Pakistan have been in direct conflict and sometimes even open war over Kashmir as long as they have been separate countries. It is the casus belli for all the other friction, nuclear sabre-rattling and the rest of it. It predates the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and odds are it'll outlive them both. Factions within the ISI (it is, as I understand, many tribal allegiances from a monolith as an organization) have been working with hardcore Muslim militants on both sides of the border in Kashmir for decades.

I won't pretend to have any intimate knowledge of how these networks function, but I'm quite certain that the connections being exploited by the Taliban were formed in the various Kashmiri conflicts.

A quick Google search digs up this Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder.

Also this:
By 1996, small Arab groups in Afghanistan had linked up with the warring Taliban, cemented ties with Pakistani religious radicals, particularly groups associated with the Jamiat-e-ulema-Islam, a political party closely allied with the ISI. The purpose for Pakistan was to unleash an uprising against Indian-occupied Kashmir, long contested by the two subcontinent rivals. Guerrillas for Kashmir were recruited from the same talent pool of JUI seminaries supplying young fighters for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance.

To avoid Indian detection, the ISI conducted much of the training for its Kashmir campaign in Afghanistan, with the cooperation of the Taliban. In turn, several camps were placed under bin Laden's control for the use of the terrorist network he was creating for his own longer term goals: to force the United States out of the Middle East, in particular Saudi Arabia, home of the Islamic shrines in Mecca and Medina. It was those bin Laden camps that the U.S. hit with cruise missiles in 1998, in an effort to destroy the Saudi radical and his terrorist allies after they had been linked to the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Unfortunately, the camps were virtually empty when the missiles hit, although a dozen Pakistani nationals were killed.

(source)

posted by gompa at 8:49 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


grafnerd - it's a collection of military documents from a relatively limited span of time. Unlike the Pentagon Papers, which were a historical policy study, these are just a window, not the complete scene. As I noted above, the context has been openly available for a long time, but it never became a topic of informed public discussion. Maybe this will drop out of sight like a stone in a pond. If so, too bad.

But if it does lead to informed debate and the formulation of a policy that resolves the all to painfully apparent contradictions of our military mission without a endpoint in Afghanistan, that could be a good thing. Lord knows we've been involved for almost a decade in two wars without any clearly stated war aims. So maybe success at this point would be disentangling ourselves without causing political collapse in Pakistan.

Though if you look at how we got to where we are today, it's likely that the best we can hope for is staving off for a while a brushfire nuclear war in that region. If that occurs, the best solution may be to nuke it from orbit. It would be the only way to be sure.

The thing to bear in mind is that Pakistan and India have been in conflict for a long time, like the total duration of the Pakinstani nation. And, thanks to US idiocy, greed, shortsightedness and ideological frenzy, we have to sleep in a bed largely of our own making.
posted by warbaby at 8:51 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Rock on, Mendax!
posted by unliteral at 8:53 PM on July 25, 2010


I think this post may well answer some of graphnerd's and humanfront's concerns.

Oh, and humanfront: comparing 90,000 documents reviewed for weeks by third parties with Brietbart's cut-and-dump smear job is the height of false equivalencies (well, this week, at least). Best not to stink up your valid concerns with such rhetorical missteps.
posted by kipmanley at 8:55 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


if governments knew that as soon as they developed some new weapon of mass destruction, the information would be public and the enemy would have it in weeks, would they bother developing it?

North Korea? We knew they had a working weapon a couple of seconds after they did.

And if such weapons of mass destruction, therefore, weren't in the hands of governments

They are. Have been for almost 100 years counting chemicals and gas.

Non-proliferation includes not just the making of new stuff but also the shifting around of the stuff that already exists. And I'm all for making as much of the stuff that currently exists go away as possible. But the shifters sure as hell aren't trying to do it in the open, so burning the people who are undercover trying to stop them doesn't seem like a really good idea.

I'm not arguing that some things currently in the dark don't need to see the light. Just that exposing a secret just because it's a secret might not always be a good thing, and that Wikileaks comes off as the howitzer shooting the fly on this one.
posted by Cyrano at 8:56 PM on July 25, 2010


Basically, any context or nuance involved in this situation are going to be completely lost because none of us can really digest the information in its entirety, and anyone who wants to spin it in whatever way they want will do precisely that.

All information about the war in Afghanistan is subject to spin, especially information released through official channels. The difference with this latest leak is that everyone with an Internet connection now has access to an enormous body of primary source material, giving us the ability to do some serious analysis and fact-checking of our own. Far from obliterating context and nuance, this leak gives us the opportunity to restore some of the context and nuance that our governments (and news reports that rely on embedded journalists and government press conferences) tend to omit.

Assange hasn't posted the interoffice memos where Taliban leaders debated how to reduce civilian casualties or take steps to better protect non-combatants because those debates don't occur and that should give you some reassurance that despite our faults we are trying to actually do the right thing here.

Let's say for the sake of argument that "we" are indeed doing "the right thing" in Afghanistan. What's wrong with helping ordinary people understand the cost, in human lives, of doing the right thing? I mean, even if Wikileaks has selectively released the worst reports it received, no one is accusing them of making any of this stuff up. These incidents actually happened, and the documents themselves are internal reports, not antiwar propaganda. All the leak does is give the public more information so that we can make a more informed choice about whether to support the war. What's the problem with that?
posted by twirlip at 9:06 PM on July 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


kipmanley-

Thanks for that link. I wouldn't say that it completely answers my concerns, but it is good to see that Wikileaks seems to be working against the really problematic issues surrounding 'Collateral Murder'.
posted by graphnerd at 9:07 PM on July 25, 2010


Why is it good that this was leaked? Because someone out there was trying to keep it hidden. It's that simple.

Reasons these documents may have been intended to be kept hidden:

A. They contain information which is illegal, a coverup, etc.
B. They describe legitimate techniques or practices which, if made public, would endanger US troops or US policy.
C. Overclassification; not classified for any good reason.

I don't think we're in any position to gauge, at this time, how many docs fall into each category, or how egregious or dangerous each item is. But it seems there are docs in class A in the corpus, and, Wikileaks's claims of minimization notwithstanding, it is likely that there will be class B items too. If it turns out ten or twenty fall into A, and ten or twenty fall into B, is the result a net good? What if it's only one or two of A? Making this determination, at its core, requires placing values on the potential loss of lives and limbs of soldiers versus the informed discussion and potential governmental reform that result from the leak.

I think we all hope that it is, in fact, a net good -- e.g., that it is all As and no Bs (or even better, all Cs). But we may not know for years, if ever. So, Jimbob, I disagree; it is not simple to say that it is good that they were leaked. It may be good; but we're probably never going to know for certain.
posted by event at 9:27 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gen Petraeus scraps McChrystal's plan to take Kandahar
posted by homunculus at 9:39 PM on July 25, 2010


Nato probes reports raid killed 45 Afghan civilians: International forces in Afghanistan say they are urgently investigating reports as many as 45 civilians died in an air strike in Helmand province on Friday.
posted by homunculus at 9:40 PM on July 25, 2010


The fact alone that three independent news organizations have been able to not only pore over the evidence for weeks, but run their own investigations amongst however many resources, should tell you something about the veracity and verifiability of these documents.

It's interesting that people are already drawing their own parallels to Breitbart.
posted by vanadium at 10:13 PM on July 25, 2010


How do we know this isn't Breitbart all over again?

How about you come up with 92,000 very explicit data points--a great many of those documented down to specific geographical locations--creating a cohesive narrative before making empty accusations.

This is far, far beyond anything even Breitbart's wet dream could ever even hope to fathom, much less accomplish.
posted by vanadium at 10:24 PM on July 25, 2010


So, we've got a lot of pricey, ineffectual, underfunded, acronym-spouting would-be nation builders without much of a clue as to what it will take to make Afghanistan a functional state (or at least a functional lithium mine) up against a bunch of inbred misogynist medieval religious fanatics and narco-warlords in an essentially ungovernable geography where people now pine for a return to the relative stability of revolutionary Marxism.

I can see how when looking at this, you might start to think, "Now, Iraq, that's a war we could win."
posted by klangklangston at 11:20 PM on July 25, 2010 [15 favorites]


Assange has an anti-war agenda.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by furtive at 11:23 PM on July 25, 2010 [19 favorites]


Really people. 90,000 primary source documents from inside the military, pored over and analyzed by the best newspapers in the world and available free to anyone with an internet connection. And all some people here can think of is the poor US military and their righteous intentions being misrepresented

If there's another 90,000 unreleased reports that make the war look all rainbows and unicorns, then the Pentagon's 27,000-person PR staff can spend some of their $5 billion budget and do their best to get that important information into public hands
posted by crayz at 11:36 PM on July 25, 2010 [24 favorites]


Breitbart was rebutted by the simple action of releasing the entire tape, which made his out-of-context editing obvious. The US military-industrial complex is welcome to do the same.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:46 PM on July 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I wouldn't say that it completely answers my concerns, but it is good to see that Wikileaks seems to be working against the really problematic issues surrounding 'Collateral Murder'.

Like the problematic issue of shooting unarmed journalists, civilians and children from an Apache attack helicopter? You're right, it is good to see Wikileaks working against that.
posted by formless at 11:58 PM on July 25, 2010


My last comment was probably a bit too snarky. Sarcasm always feels better when you're doing it then after.

Wikileaks provides a valuable service. Are they a threat to the Pentagon and other intelligence services around the world? Yes. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Because sometimes our government is wrong. And as long as there are whistleblowers willing to leak evidence documenting these wrongdoings, then Wikileaks provides a valuable service to citizens throughout the world.

Sometimes you can't change an organization or system from the inside, and it requires outside influence. Sometimes filing complaints up the chain of command reaches a brick wall.

For example, recently in Seattle a police officer was videotaped stomping on a suspect and shouting a racial slur at him. The video was submitted to a local Fox affiliate, Q13. They refused to air the video because of their close relationship with the police. So he submitted it to an another station.

My point is the system isn't always in the right, and sometimes going through normal channels doesn't work.

We need alternative publication systems for whistleblowers and others who document abuses. Wikileaks serves that purpose.
posted by formless at 12:15 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The fact this information is out there for people to see the reality of the situation in Afghanistan is a good thing. There has been a lot of negative talk on the internet lately that Wikileaks is a damp squid - including negative chat from inside the Wikileaks camp. This release gives me hope that Wikileaks can continue to undertake the role that Assange has in mind and the concerns over transparency and ultimate aims can be reconciled.

I understand some of the concerns outlined here and I appreciate that it seems simplistic to say that this is a good thing - but I would come back to this point - for those of us who are citizens in participating countries - this is being done in our name with our money.
posted by numberstation at 12:29 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have the time to read these documents, and even if I did, I'm far too undereducated and under-experienced to understand what they mean.

I wouldn't call myself an expert on the inner workings of Pakistani's military, intelligence and political elite. I also have questions about how WikiLeaks verifies the information it filters and publishes.

But the fact that the military and White House have issued a number of "clarifications" and outrage pieces in the New York Times implies very strongly that the information in this leak is not only very damaging, but, worse for them, is utterly true — in a profession where involuntary truth is damning.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:35 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why is it good that this was leaked? Because someone out there was trying to keep it hidden.

In 3 hours a US SEAL team is going to take out a legitimate target. Terrorists in Iraq about to kill more Iraqi families for the sake of terror. The US is trying to keep it secret. Tell me why this is bad?

I understand the above is different from the current wikileaks issue. And I fully support this wikileaks exposure. But people are going to have to give more than teenage level justifications when arguing for it.
posted by cucumber at 12:59 AM on July 26, 2010


From the FP link
"Wikileaks is not the solution to our secrecy problem -- that requires a change in our own policy -- but I think it can serve a useful purpose as long as it exercises a modicum of editorial responsibility."
According to the Guardian link A small amount of information has been withheld from publication because it might endanger local informants or give away genuine military secrets. So this can only be a good thing. The public needs to know what the government is doing in its name.
Humanfont could you stop trolling please.
posted by adamvasco at 1:20 AM on July 26, 2010


Did I miss something? How is he trolling?
posted by atchafalaya at 1:48 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that there isn't a single commenter here that has enough knowledge on the situation to follow this leak.

I am up for this, and I do not think you need to be some superhuman to be able to read these things as an informed outsider. I've spent my adult life keeping up with world history, armchair generaling, current events, military history, etc., and am absolutely certain that I am not too n00b to make sense of much of this stuff.

What do politicians, soldiers, intelligence analysts have above us plebs aside from access to this secret information?


I don't think we're in any position to gauge, at this time, how many docs fall into each category, or how egregious or dangerous each item is.

I do not know the source(s), but can only assume these were inside guys (soldiers, government officials) who felt the need to do the right thing and come clean. With that as the starting point, we can safely assume they will focus on leaking the stuff that the public should hear (cover-ups, over-classified stuff) rather than legitimate security secrets (code to the general's safe, etc).
posted by Meatbomb at 1:52 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Event Title:DEMONSTRATION
A: MOSTLY PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION (UNCLEAR NATURE OF PROTEST)
100540Z, SOMEBODY SHOOTING FROM THE DEMONSTRATION AT THE ANP, 3 x LN WIA EVACUATED TO GHAZNI
R: 100550Z, ANA DISPERSED DEMONSTRATION, DEMONSTRATION APPEARS TO BE OVER
R: 100730Z, DEMONSTRATION APPEARS TO SPINNING UP AGAIN
R:100800Z APPEARS TO BE FUNERAL, 16 x LN WA, 6 x LN KIA, 1 x LN WIA AND TAKEN BY DEMONSTRATORS

Civilians killed: 6.
Civilians wounded: 16.
Other casualties: 0.
posted by stammer at 2:02 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Guardian has mapped what it considers to be 300 key incidents
with mouseover to link to the full log entry. There is also a spread sheet and glossary.
posted by adamvasco at 2:21 AM on July 26, 2010


In 3 hours a US SEAL team is going to take out a legitimate target. Terrorists in Iraq about to kill more Iraqi families for the sake of terror. The US is trying to keep it secret. Tell me why this is bad?

First, I don't think Wikileaks has ever leaked information about what US SEALs are about to do in three hours.

Secondly, this is about the big picture. Why are those guys in Iraq terrorists? What has happened to make them terrorists? Could it, maybe, perhaps, have something to do with western foreign policy in their region over, I don't know, the last century? How much do we know about that foreign policy? Enough to be sure those SEALs should really be there? Have the terrorists killed more, or less Iraqi families than our troops have? We've only, in the last week or so, had documents released detailing decisions that were made by elected US officials in regards to Vietnam!

Call me when Wikileaks starts sending out Twitter updates saying "Hey you guys behind the school in Fallujah, Uncle Sam's on the way!"
posted by Jimbob at 2:22 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


There has been a lot of negative talk on the internet lately that Wikileaks is a damp squid - including negative chat from inside the Wikileaks camp.

Well, I think the term you want is "damp squib", but having read that "Wikileaks Insider" crap on Cryptome, it's pretty clear the author has nothing to do with Wikileaks, is not in any way an insider, and they have offered no authentication whatsoever to try and prove that they are.
posted by Jimbob at 2:25 AM on July 26, 2010


I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that there isn't a single commenter here that has enough knowledge on the situation to follow this leak.

How is our ability to understand the leaks signficantly different from news reports, press releases and political statements on Afghanistan? We are expected to be sufficiently informed to be able to parse those with sufficient understanding, with what is effectively information from only one side of the equation. How does it make things more difficult to have more information about the actions of our governments and of their consequences?

cucumber, back at your largely irrelevant question: In 3 hours a US SEAL team is going to take out a non-legitimate target. Americans in Iraq about to kill more Iraqi families for the sake of terror. The US is trying to keep it secret. Tell me why this is bad?
posted by biffa at 2:34 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Reasons these documents may have been intended to be kept hidden:
....
B. They describe legitimate techniques or practices which, if made public, would endanger US troops or US policy.


We had an interesting situation in regards to a leak of information form Iraq related to defence against IEDs. Basically, the technology US troops had was ineffective. The terrorists knew this. The guys on the ground knew this. But the people back home didn't know this, didn't know that their sons and daughters were at greater risk than they had been led to believe. There's every reason to believe keeping things secret is endangering people as much as it's protecting them.
posted by Jimbob at 2:42 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The NY Times leads on the suspicions about Pakistan, which is something the adminsitration is apparently already on record about, and which the European newspapers relegate to the fifth or sixth "story" to come out of the leak. The Whitehouse actually flagged up these paragraphs from the Guardian story on Pakistan as "helping to put these documents in context":
But for all their eye-popping details, the intelligence files, which are mostly collated by junior officers relying on informants and Afghan officials, fail to provide a convincing smoking gun for ISI complicity. Most of the reports are vague, filled with incongruent detail, or crudely fabricated. The same characters – famous Taliban commanders, well-known ISI officials – and scenarios repeatedly pop up. And few of the events predicted in the reports subsequently occurred.

A retired senior American officer said ground-level reports were considered to be a mixture of “rumours, bullshit and second-hand information” and were weeded out as they passed up the chain of command. “As someone who had to sift through thousands of these reports, I can say that the chances of finding any real information are pretty slim,” said the officer, who has years of experience in the region.

If anything, the jumble of allegations highlights the perils of collecting accurate intelligence in a complex arena where all sides have an interest in distorting the truth.
posted by caek at 2:45 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jimbob: "Why is it good that this was leaked? Because someone out there was trying to keep it hidden. It's that simple."

Jimbob: "if governments knew that as soon as they developed some new weapon of mass destruction, the information would be public and the enemy would have it in weeks, would they bother developing it? And if such weapons of mass destruction, therefore, weren't in the hands of governments, would we need undercover agents to investigate their proliferation?"

This really is a very idealist and simplistic view of the situation. If everyone in the world were working from the same rule book, being straightforward and honest, then sure. But the world is not at all like that, and you can't just pretend like it will be if you leak documents. That said, I personally don't know how good or bad it is that these documents were leaked; I hope it helps in some way, and doesn't in fact endanger the lives of anyone.

klangklangston: "a bunch of inbred misogynist medieval religious fanatics and narco-warlords"

I think the situation of poor Afghanis is bad enough without throwing in "inbred", don't you? Unless you're literally saying that they have a country-wide problem with mental deficiency due to inbreeding? Abject poverty and self-perpetuating cultural ignorance over millennia are big enough stumbling blocks.
posted by Red Loop at 3:13 AM on July 26, 2010


This really is a very idealist and simplistic view of the situation.

I know it is - I started that comment that the caveat that I didn't neccessarily believe this. But, in that fair, even world it might just work. And I can't see how keeping things from the public that don't need to be kept secret is doing anything to increase fairness and eveness.
posted by Jimbob at 3:17 AM on July 26, 2010


Jimbob: You are correct on the squib remark but good to see I am not alone.

I'm not so certain as to your other remarks though. I agree there is a strong possibility that the Wikileaks insider is absolute rubbish but it begs the question why would someone go to the trouble of suggesting such discord within WL? It does not diminish the reality when ninety thousand documents are released to the world does it? Seems a pretty futile attempt to destabilise the organisation if you ask me.
posted by numberstation at 3:18 AM on July 26, 2010


humanfont: " Assange hasn't posted the interoffice memos where Taliban leaders debated how to reduce civilian casualties or take steps to better protect non-combatants because those debates don't occur and that should give you some reassurance that despite our faults we are trying to actually do the right thing here."

Your conclusion does not even remotely follow from your initial assertion. Just because the other side are 'baddies' doesn't automatically make us the 'goodies'.
There are millions of people in countries all around the world who are subject to repressive and even despotic regimes, civil war, casual violence and murder. Western governments don't give a shit about any of them, except for those who happen to be being repressed in a geopolitically strategic location. Claims that we're there to save people from the bad guys are just a smokescreen, the neocon hawk equivalent of 'won't someone think about the children.'
Patriotism is not blinkered cheerleading of your own country's involvement in a war. It is questioning the rationale, the means, the method of the war, to ensure that the lives of people of any nation are only risked as a last resort. Open scrutiny of the decisions of the government and the army is one of the methods that can help bring about the end of cavalier military intervention for ideological purposes, and the wikileaks documents are a major contribution in this direction
posted by Jakey at 5:01 AM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Imho, all these leaks show that some U.S. soldiers are not confident that the government will properly disclose classified material of an entirely political nature. We can only fix that by creating stronger disclosure channels for U.S. service men, perhaps :

I'd suggest that every U.S. senator should have the right to several staffers with top secret security clearances.* Any person holding a security clearance has the right to disclose information they hold to their senator's cleared staffers, who then hold the power to disclose the information to their senator. Information passed to the staffer may not be redacted, but the cleared staffer may redact information before information their boss. Finally, senators themselves cannot be prosecuted for disclosing classified documents, although they'd usually grant the president the power to object.

I'm fairly confident this far more powerful disclosure channel would plug all these recent leaks by giving service men the power to feed fairly uncensored information to a civilian authority. We'd thus eliminate the chances for leaking information that might endanger operations because the executive branch has two opportunities to request redaction, once form the senator's staffer, and once by the senator themselves.

* A senator might ask for new security clearances for political aids. Or they may simply hire new staffers from among people who already hold security clearances, if for example all their natural political aids cannot gain clearances. Of course, the executive branch may not revoke the clearance of staffers hired from among people already holding clearances.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:54 AM on July 26, 2010


Patriotism is not blinkered cheerleading of your own country's involvement in a war

It generally is.
posted by pompomtom at 5:55 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


So why, MeFi, is it a good thing that they've been leaked?

Presumably in the interest of not allowing the Powers That Be to sweep the details under the rug. If information is available transparently, it's a lot harder to manipulate it to further someone's specific agenda. But that's not to say that all information should be available to everyone, certainly a lot of careers could be harmed (i.e., Valerie Plame) and it seems to me that it'll only be in hindsight that we'll be able to tell if that was worth it or not.

That said, I have no real opinion of WikiLeaks as a project and understand its aims - but also share some of the qualms of "Is it going to unnecessarily hurt somebody to have this shit public?" and moreover (especially after reading the New Yorker profile), Assange comes off as kind of an ass to me. Not a malicious ass, but not someone I want to hang out with. Thankfully, I don't have to hang out with him, so I'm fine with him going about his assery and me sitting here in the peanut gallery hoping that this does more good than harm.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:09 AM on July 26, 2010


I have no real opinion of WikiLeaks as a project and understand its aims - but also share some of the qualms of "Is it going to unnecessarily hurt somebody to have this shit public?"

How many people might be hurt by not releasing the material? If the material shortens the occupation's duration by just one day, how many lives might that save? You can't do hypothetical utilitarian calculations separately from politics. You have to choose a side; you have to have a goal. The progressive goal now is to end the occupation of Afghanistan. This helps.
posted by stammer at 6:18 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic : - Wikileaks May Have Just Changed the Media, Too.
posted by adamvasco at 6:21 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


the government has, for over sixty years, tried to keep the specifics of the Manhattan Project hidden. And I think that most people would agree that it's entirely unreasonable to suggest that they should have done anything different.

Nope.

There's nothing about designing or building a simple fission bomb that eludes foreign governments. There's no useful military secret about the Manhattan Project.*

To the extent that any secrets are still being kept about the Manhattan Project, they would only be things being kept from the US public. How much it cost. How many people were killed in industrial accidents enriching the uranium and reacting the plutonium. How much environmental damage was inflicted, and where.**

To the extent that there remain secrets from the Manhattan Project, they are emphatically not of the variety "If our enemies knew this, they could build simple Hiroshima- or Nagasaki-type bombs." They know how to do that already. To the extent that secrets remain, they're entirely of the variety "If the US public knew this, they wouldn't like it."

*The inner secrets of modern Teller-Ulam multistage weapons are a different story.

**These concerns are also part of why people want to declassify parts of what goes on at places like Groom Lake. The legitimate secrecy about the aviation technology expanded to secrecy about everything there, and people at least complain of having been injured in work there but receiving no compensation because their injuries don't officially exist, and of work conditions that are obviously and needlessly unsafe that persist because they're swept under the security carpet and the military and contractors don't give a shit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:22 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


What Wikileaks is doing right now is the craziest story of my lifetime, I'm riveted by every new development. This is one of those unprecedented history in the making moments that you know you'll be talking about with kids 30 years from now.
posted by The Straightener at 6:23 AM on July 26, 2010


The progressive goal now is to end the occupation of Afghanistan. This helps.

I hope you're right.

On the same end, how many careers is this going to ruin? How many of those losses are justified? Will this actually hasten the end of American occupation in Afghanistan? Will it make it more difficult for the intelligence community to do their jobs effectively? Will it backfire and endanger troops or civilians? It's too early to tell.

I honestly believe that it'll only be in hindsight that we'll be able to see if the WikiLeaks experiment "worked" in ending the war in Afghanistan.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:25 AM on July 26, 2010


Interesting thoughts from Jay Rosen, including the utterly chilling possibility that this story, like the Washington Post report on our headless security state, is just too big to react to.

God but I'm really starting to hate the too big to meme.
posted by kipmanley at 6:27 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Goddamn it, MY money was spent on this fucking nightmare, so as the one of the many citizens paying the bill, I want to see the invoice, to know how my taxes were spent. Really, who needs any kind of justification beyond that? Have my fellow Americans all been beaten so hard with the apathy hammer, that they might somehow think that the release of this information is somehow TMI? If I'm going to have blood dripping from my hands, I want to know WHY, perhaps this information can be used to generate a specific, detailed fucking list of war crimes so we can know how much justice will be rendered onto those guilty of this atrocious blunder, these wars without armies or objectives or accounting.

Where the fuck is Bill Hicks when you need him...
posted by dbiedny at 6:28 AM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Will it make it more difficult for the intelligence community to do their jobs effectively?

Hope so!
posted by stammer at 6:28 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the Manhattan Project: my grandfather worked on it and no one in our family has any remote clue of what he did. Never discussed. No one would even think of asking him either. You're just about as likely to get a straight answer about that as you are to get the man to, oh, I don't know, recite the OED word for word from memory. It's kind of weird having a family member who is in on a pretty hush-hush kind of thing, but from what I can tell, it wouldn't really enhance my life in any way to know exactly what he did.

This story has no point.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:28 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have my fellow Americans all been beaten so hard with the apathy hammer, that they might somehow think that the release of this information is somehow TMI?

If I learned anything from The West Wing it's that sometimes, the world doesn't need to know that we have a military space shuttle* because it does more harm than good to have all information available all the time.

At the same time, I know that flat-out cover-ups are bullshit.

As I say, I do hope that WikiLeaks is a force for good any that it is a net gain to have this kind of transparency, but I also do wonder if this is a kind of Pandora's Box. We can't ever unknow this shit and I honestly hope that's for the best.

If it even makes us think twenty minutes longer about going to war next time, I would consider that a success.

* Plot point in TWW. I can neither confirm nor deny existence of any actual military space craft.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:32 AM on July 26, 2010


I just have to say one thing: if you're afraid of the truth, you're doing it wrong.

There is not a truth existing which I fear... or would wish unknown to the whole world.
--Thomas Jefferson

posted by atypicalguy at 6:56 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your money made this nightmare in the 1980s when we spent hundreds billions to radicalize a previously quiet forgotten backwater of the world with world class backpacking and climbing. There are hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan, most of whom just want to do their job, some of whom are psychos doing awful things and a great many of whom are committed to actually helping Afghanistan recover from the horrors of the last 40 years. The US government sought to create Vietnam for the Soviets. Instead they created Cambodia complete with killing fields and genocide. Now we are engaged in a fight, a bloody messy terrible fight to try to figure out how to undo all the damage we've done over there. We are fortunate that unlike the Russians we don't have a superpower over there funneling billions of dollars a year and advanced technology like Stinger missiles to our enemies. I hope that those responsible for the acts brought to light have already been punished for their actions. If not, I think that there are questions and investigations which should be pursued.
posted by humanfont at 7:15 AM on July 26, 2010


If I learned anything from The West Wing it's that sometimes, the world doesn't need to know that we have a military space shuttle* because it does more harm than good to have all information available all the time.

Wasn't the military space shuttle about the US breaking an international treaty it had signed up to? And then putting military objectives above civilian lives? If not it should have been (but I only watch the west wing through osmosis while my SO cycles through the box sets).
posted by biffa at 7:21 AM on July 26, 2010


> They were written specifically for people who actually did understand what they meant, and (ideally) had enough background knowledge to see them in a context. In other words, there were probably very legitimate reasons for them to be classified.

You know, that's exactly what my dad used to say when we had arguments about Vietnam: "Son, the president and the generals know things we don't, and we have to trust that they know what they're doing." It's no better an argument today. Your faith in the authorities and their need for secrecy and their appreciation for context is touching, but I don't share it.
posted by languagehat at 7:36 AM on July 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


I'm certain that nobody posting on MeFi, nor anyone in the press, is capable of reading these documents in their entirety. And even if anyone could, the sheer volume of the information makes it impossible for any non-expert to reasonably understand what the totality of the documents mean.

...

I don't have the time to read these documents, and even if I did, I'm far too undereducated and under-experienced to understand what they mean.


graphnerd
, it seems like you may be projecting here
posted by jtron at 7:43 AM on July 26, 2010


This is an overwhelming burst of information, and I'm having a hard time grasping the implications just because it's SO MUCH. Even the NY Times and Guardian's filtered websites are overwhelming in their scope. I sympathize with Graphnerd in that I don't know what I personally can gather from it. But thank GOODNESS that this information *has* been exposed.

This has been a war that we have been able to sweep under the rug and pretend isn't happening. Maybe this explosion of information will stick it into people's consciousness a little bit more and we'll have to start asking ourselves why we're still OK with this war.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:50 AM on July 26, 2010


I'm sure this is a gold mine of information for the Taliban, a group I do not support. I don't think Bush was wrong to attack the people who made (and will continue to make) attacks like 9/11 possible. I think this act of treason is the final slap in the face I needed to realize that I am a conservative, and fundamentally cannot support the liberal mindset. It is wrong.
posted by Xezlec at 7:53 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


So let's see... take a general who was just fired in a very public and humiliating way... who has a penchant for leaking things to the press... and who was in charge of the very area that these documents all deal with....
posted by crunchland at 8:01 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm sure this is a gold mine of information for the Taliban, a group I do not support. I don't think Bush was wrong to attack the people who made (and will continue to make) attacks like 9/11 possible. I think this act of treason is the final slap in the face I needed to realize that I am a conservative, and fundamentally cannot support the liberal mindset. It is wrong.

Whoa.

Most of the 'Taliban' as existing today are hugely different to the Taliban government of Afghanistan in 2001. The current 'Taliban' are a multitude of groups that share only a few core beliefs.

1) Total opposition to the occupation of their country 2) distrust of a military force that repeatedly kills Afghan civilians and 3) a strong belief that their victory is inevitable (a belief backed up by history).

The best recruiting tool the Afghan militants have ever had is the continuing occupation of their country, and the deaths of their innocent countrymen.

They will already know these people have died and will have used the tangible evidence of severed limbs and dead children for their recruitment drives...

This won't have much impact.
posted by knapah at 8:03 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


This won't have much impact

upon the Afghan militants, I mean.

It may well help more people in the West critically reflect on what their governments are doing in their name around the world, and hopefully help people begin to question the entire strategy of this misbegotten venture.
posted by knapah at 8:05 AM on July 26, 2010


"I think the situation of poor Afghanis is bad enough without throwing in "inbred", don't you? Unless you're literally saying that they have a country-wide problem with mental deficiency due to inbreeding? Abject poverty and self-perpetuating cultural ignorance over millennia are big enough stumbling blocks."

I am saying that they have the problems that come from having a small, tight-knit tribal population where nominally official duties like that of policing or administering a school take a back seat to local allegiances in a way desperately harmful to the idea of nation building. But yes, there's also the implication that those engaged in terrorist attacks tend to be deficient bunglers—the US public has too much a view of terrorists everywhere as masterminds cunningly effecting schemes, whereas they tend to fuck them up stupidly again and again and we only hear about the rare successes.

And so long as we're chiding, it's Afghans for the people. Afghanis are their money.
posted by klangklangston at 8:09 AM on July 26, 2010


1) Total opposition to the occupation of their country 2) distrust of a military force that repeatedly kills Afghan civilians and 3) a strong belief that their victory is inevitable (a belief backed up by history).

Wolverines!

Which is only a joke up to a point.
posted by biffa at 8:14 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wolverines!

Which is only a joke up to a point.


Exactly. I have long found it strange how conservatives who claim they would be willing to die to defend their patch of earth from invaders find it hard to comprehend that other people feel the seem way about their own land.
posted by knapah at 8:18 AM on July 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think you left out another of their core beliefs: that the US opposes Islam and that Islam cannot coexist with the US. Given the way Islam has been practiced in the region, that may well be correct. And while we "critically reflect", they will continue to attack us and execute their own people for things like homosexuality.
posted by Xezlec at 8:23 AM on July 26, 2010


"How many people might be hurt by not releasing the material? If the material shortens the occupation's duration by just one day, how many lives might that save? You can't do hypothetical utilitarian calculations separately from politics. You have to choose a side; you have to have a goal. The progressive goal now is to end the occupation of Afghanistan. This helps."

That's not really a progressive goal, so much as it's a goal of a lot of people who label themselves progressives. It's an anti-war goal, fomented by people who believe military force is always wrong, the US is always wrong, or both. And as a goal, it's an incredibly weak one—isn't it more progressive to demand something close to a modern state in Afghanistan? Or even a return to their moderate development prior to the rise of the Taliban? Women went to school and became doctors then.

If this shortens the occupation by one day, how many lives will that save? You have no idea. Probably not many, given that not many die on any given day in Afghanistan from military action—16 deaths still makes the news, like it did last week. And because the Karzai government has no hope of retaining power without US military involvement, no hope of distributing aid or completing any of the infrastructure projects, and because the Taliban are basically a coalition of tribal heroin warlords and religious nihilists, there's no real hope that they'll suddenly show up with shovels and hammers to fill the gap. Instead, we'll probably see a huge wave of reprisal killings, which "progressives" will ignore because at least it's not us over there anymore. "Progressives" can go back to concerning themselves about the wording of womens' rights treaties in UN committees, treaties the Afghan government won't ever be a party to.

Simply pulling out isn't progressive. It's an inane isolationist goal, a conservative goal, really. To put things back the way they were.

I do agree that these leaks are good for progressives, though. I do think it's important to focus criticism on all the things we've done wrong, because if we want to have even a slight chance of making things better for the poor and oppressed in Afghanistan, we need to make sure that we don't bomb wedding caravans or prop up petty would-be dictators.
posted by klangklangston at 8:27 AM on July 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


So why, MeFi, is it a good thing that they've been leaked?

There are two types of secrets: the ones you keep for military reasons, and the ones you keep for propaganda/morale reasons. Very few of these secrets were militarily significant...it's almost all stuff that was kept secret to keep the public passive.

We haven't seen this war like we saw Vietnam or WWII. We aren't seeing death. The practice of only using embedded reporters makes it easy to sanitize the war. You don't see photos of dead Americans. You rarely see photos of dead civilians or even enemies. You don't see unfiltered information about civilian causalities very often. What was shocking about the leaked helicopter attack video wasn't the methods (which were insanely civilized by the standards of war) but the simple fact that we were seeing people die.

With all our foreign military actions, it's easy to forget that Americans are actually compassionate people that don't like to see suffering. Compared to people who live in much of the world, we're pretty soft. That characteristic could be balancing out our crazy xenophobic nationalistic tendencies. We don't want to make people suffer and we don't want people we love to die for a stupid cause. The Pentagon learned this from the experience in Vietnam.

This war is engineered to shield us from the truth. A permanent military class does the fighting. The government controls information in and out of the war zone. The public is told what it needs to hear to keep us calm. The media falls in line so it can maintain its access and not offend its viewers. The Pentagon knows we'd freak the hell out we had to see dead soldiers and parents crying over their dead children every single day.

The funny (though not 'ha ha' funny) part is that this is a 'clean' war by historical standards. There aren't big free fire zones where we shoot everything that moves. Before a helicopter opens fire, it has to get clearance from someone who isn't in mortal danger and should thus be a little less eager to kill. If they really need to sanitize this war in order to keep the public on board, the case for war is *really* weak.

So yeah, insofar as it educates people about what we're doing, it's very good that this stuff is being leaked. Even if we decide to stick with the war, at least we're doing it with our eyes open.
posted by pjaust at 8:28 AM on July 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


The Indian press is reacting to the news about the ISI. It will be interesting to see what impact all this has in India. The Hindustan Times: ISI paid Taliban to kill Indians in Kabul: Wikileaks.
posted by homunculus at 8:36 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wikileaks founder rebuts White House criticism

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange: more revelations to come
posted by homunculus at 8:45 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


So why, MeFi, is it a good thing that they've been leaked?

I feel like this is almost an irrelevant question, like asking why is file sharing a good or bad thing. It doesn't matter; technology has enabled it, and it's going to happen, regardless of the arguments on either side, from this point on. What this means and how the world may change because of it is I think the better question, and I don't think anyone knows the answer. These leaks indicate that the game has been changed in terms of control of classified information. And if not Wikileaks disseminating it, then somebody else in the future. Though, I anticipate that Assange will probably soon die in some spectacularly violent fashion in order to send a strong message to those who will attempt to continue the operation after his death.
posted by The Straightener at 8:52 AM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think you left out another of their core beliefs: that the US opposes Islam and that Islam cannot coexist with the US. Given the way Islam has been practiced in the region, that may well be correct.

I'll grant you that some of them probably believe that the US opposes Islam, and to some extent, with good reason. The US and its allies have been involved in many attacks in predominantly Islamic countries over the last fifty years, mainly in pursuit of oil security, but these are easily portrayed as anti-Islamic.

And while we "critically reflect", they will continue to attack us and execute their own people for things like homosexuality.

These wars have increased the threat of terrorism. That comes from the mouth of the former head of Britain's Security Service (MI5).

Of course there's no doubt that Iraq and Afghanistan are not paragons of social justice and freedom of choice, but to imply that this was the reason the US and its allies went to war is blatant revisionism.

The US and UK clearly don't care about repressive behaviour unless it suits them to.

They're both huge trading partners of China, allies of Saudi Arabia, and many times over have supported morally reprehensible regimes to further their geopolitical aims.

I know I won't convince you, but please at least consider the fact that most people involved in fighting against Coalition forces in Afghanistan are not that different to those who would have fought against the Soviets had they invaded Texas.

(Also, bin Laden attacked the US because of his violent disagreement with US foreign policy - as evidenced by his numerous statements about US military bases on 'holy' soil, unquestioning support for Israel etc etc.)
posted by knapah at 8:53 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wasn't the military space shuttle about the US breaking an international treaty it had signed up to? And then putting military objectives above civilian lives? If not it should have been

I don't remember the treaty, but the military objectives bit involved the fear of China getting pissed and launching their own shuttle and all hell breaking loose. It was put forward in a pretty reasonable "Guys, if this leaks, we're totally fucked" kind of way and very well laid out in the show. Granted, civilian lives were at stake - the show did a pretty good job of weighing the "Is it worth saving actual lives right now if it causes a potential catastrophe later?" plotline.

And in any case, it did put forth a convincing argument about why some information shouldn't be leaked.

But it was a TV show, not reality. Also, it seems to me that finding out shit that already happened (i.e. WikiLeaks) is important and way less "dangerous" than finding out shit that's being planned - which, if leaked, could have future ramifications. The more I really think about it, the more I think that exposing what's already happened is absolutely for the best. I guess my trepidation comes in if WikiLeaks starts exposing plans as opposed to reports on events that already occurred. But that hasn't happened yet, so hey, I hope this all works out for the best and that the information that's out there now makes people think harder about the reality of the situation and what we need to do to get out of there.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:56 AM on July 26, 2010


Why is wikileaks keeping the identities of the leakers secret? Why do they get to have secrets? Why does Assange get to pick and choose which leaks are posted? I guess some secrets can be kept.
posted by humanfont at 8:56 AM on July 26, 2010


Tangentially, secrecy and the STS-119 shuttle flight:

"... Houston, we are seeing a whole lot of damage on the right wing, in the chine area and back on the right wing in the tiles....."
posted by hank at 9:09 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why is wikileaks keeping the identities of the leakers secret? Why do they get to have secrets?

Journalists have an interest in keeping their identities secret, because people who have or share information that damages America's interests usually get labeled terrorists and become targets — even American citizens — or "commit suicide" by being shot in the back of the head, etc.

Why does Assange get to pick and choose which leaks are posted?

Why do newspaper editors get to pick and choose which stories are posted? You may as well rail against the NYT for their management policies and procedures.

I guess some secrets can be kept.

I don't know if you're trolling or what, but part of the problem highlighted in the war logs is that the US government has indeed been keeping secrets from us for the last eight years about actions that are heinous and immoral, and, in the end, probably not doing much to help secure our country.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:10 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


isn't it more progressive to demand something close to a modern state in Afghanistan?

This is, for the record, klang, one of two rhetorical trump cards inevitably played by Canada's Conservative government in defence of its military mission in Afghanistan. (The other is: Don't question the mission or you hate the troops and you're against freedom.)

There's a kernel of truth there. It is certainly progressive to advocate by any effective means at your disposal for such a state's emergence, to aid and abet its development, and to provide tools, skills, expertise, materiel and money to support its development.

But what if military occupation and counterinsurgency across borders you can't properly map and can rarely understand in support of a morally bankrupt and hopelessly corrupt puppet government which (as is reported by David Samuels with his usual verve in the current Harper's) is itself closely linked with factions of the Taliban - what if this turns out to be a wholesale failure in achieving these aims? What if nearly ten years of such action have actually left you worse off than where you started? At what point do you acknowledge that no goal is noble enough to support a complete failure of strategy all on its own?

I would be ecstatic at the prospect of a peaceful, democratizing, liberalizing Afghanistan. (I would be equally ecstatic to find the same thing emerging in Pakistan.) I would support any government, organization or multinational force with an effective strategy for building such a thing. But this ISAF contraption and its Karzai adjunct that we've built just isn't that machine. Never was, never will be.

If Afghanistan is ever a healthy democratic nation, it will be because the Afghan people (with help but likely not leadership from the democratic West) made it so. It will not be made so by a foreign military force, no matter how delicate and sensitive in its ops and well-intentioned in its goals. I have been saying this since 2002. My dad's retired Cdn air force and my brother's ex-Cdn navy and now works for a contractor building drones for use in Afghanistan; he travels to Kandahar regularly. This is something I've discussed often, and I'm reasonably sure I've heard every possible argument in support of The Mission. For eight years I have heard arguments that we simply need to get smarter in our bombing and stealthier in our intel and more ambitious in our institution-building and and and and and . . . and yet we're no closer to the goal than we were in 2002.

The game's over. We played poorly. We lost.
posted by gompa at 9:21 AM on July 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


Why does Assange get to pick and choose which leaks are posted?

He's indicated (in one of the Guardian articles linked above - the one homunculus posted about White House reaction) that he's not leaking anything that could compromise military security. As in, he's choosing not to leak anything that could cost someone their life. I hope he's right. So, there's the picking and choosing. An information free-for-all could cause a lot of damage to security - for everyone. He's also indicated that he won't leak anything involving future planning for these same reasons. He's trying to disseminate information, not to provoke more violence.

As I've said, I definitely have qualms that the wrong information getting out could put some people in serious jeopardy. The man definitely has some tricky judgment calls to make as to what people should know and what's going to put someone at risk. It's difficult to tell how he's making these calls as he's apparently not getting in touch with the US government in any capacity (probably because they would just tell him not to publish anything), but hopefully he and his staff know what they're doing.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:30 AM on July 26, 2010


Julian Assange spoke to journalists at the Frontline Club in London about the leaks and about his group's goals in releasing them: Part I, II.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:17 AM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


WikiLeaks report fictitious, says Pakistan's ex-spy chief Hamid Gul
posted by homunculus at 11:33 AM on July 26, 2010



ISI paid Taliban to kill Indians in Kabul: Wikileaks
posted by infini at 11:36 AM on July 26, 2010


Umm... guys? I thought we did have a sooper seekrit military spaceship?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:39 AM on July 26, 2010


ProPublica: Why Wikileaks' War Logs Are No Pentagon Papers

A quick summary:

1) Not as historically significant; no major revelations not previously reported in some form, although these previous reports were in many cases ignored by the public (although not by those of us here on MeFi who've been ranting about Pakistan's double-dealings to anyone who would listen since at least as far back as 2006).

2) Pentagon Papers revealed that the Johnson administration and other administrations dating all the way back to Truman had knowingly lied to the public on a number of key issues, including in denials of involvement in a 1963 coup against South Vietnamese premier Ngo Dinh Diem and active plans to escalate American military engagement in the conflict even prior to the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.

3) Pentagon Papers revealed a top-down view of the war, from the level of policy maker's (where most devastating secrets were kept) down to the level of the troops on the ground; this leak provides the opposite view, consisting in ground-level intelligence reports.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:38 PM on July 26, 2010


That's an excellent summary, but your link is borked; here's the correct one.
posted by languagehat at 12:46 PM on July 26, 2010


Oops. Thanks languagehat!
posted by saulgoodman at 12:59 PM on July 26, 2010


saulgoodman try 2001
posted by adamvasco at 1:01 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


well, see there--we've known about it even longer!
posted by saulgoodman at 2:05 PM on July 26, 2010


I think this is pivotal event in the journalism industry. A newspaper wouldn't publish 92,000 documents.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 2:52 PM on July 26, 2010


My comments regarding secrets are meant to show the ridiculousness of some of the anti-secrecy comments on this thread. Furthermore this is just like Breitbart, climategate and all the other "leaks". We have a lot of junk selectively quoted and rolled out for influential media organizations. Thousands of low level memos, the equivalent of office gossip and snarky emails with no context and the most provocative passages highlighted.
posted by humanfont at 3:41 PM on July 26, 2010


The DoD's taken this battle to Twitter.
posted by gman at 3:52 PM on July 26, 2010


If the stuff is so hot, why is Assange the Lady Gaga of the stuff?
posted by mr.marx at 4:08 PM on July 26, 2010


Report Finds Link Between Civilian Deaths And Recruitment For Insurgency In Afghanistan
posted by homunculus at 4:14 PM on July 26, 2010


klangklangston, your entire argument is founded on a pile of shit. Namely, that the United States chooses it's allies based on their moral attitudes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

You don't even have to leave Afghanistan to discover this. When the Mujahideen movement was getting off the ground in the late 1970s to overthrow the secular Afghan government, we funneled billions of dollars along with our ally Saudi Arabia (truly a pillar of women's rights) to hardline, women-hating, freedom-despising, atheist-slaughtering mad men. Why? Because US policy makers decided that anything would be better than marxism in Afghanistan.

In Iran, a fledgling democracy in the early 1950s, women's rights were on the rise, until the US supported Shah was propped up to protect our oil interests, and overthrow their democratically elected government. Why? Because US policy makers decided that anything would be better than an independent democracy in Iran.

In Iraq, a socialist-leaning country long supported by the United States (because anything would be better than a strong Iran), women had rights that were simply unheard of in the rest of the Arab world. When we demolished the Iraqi government in 2003, women's rights disappeared with it. Why? Because US policy makers decided that anything would be better than Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

And now, barely thirty years later, we're standing on the same soil. US policy makers are sitting around a table somewhere in DC, discussing the future of a country they have probably never visited, thinking, "We must do something. Anything is better than the Taliban in Afghanistan."

I hope you'll notice the pattern. It's getting comical at this point to even have to point it out, because only the most numbskulled pretend patriots can possibly ignore it. But let me go ahead and spell it out for you: there would very likely be more freedoms in the Middle East if we had left it alone. Even if the scary communists had taken over every bit of land from Pakistan to Iraq to Greece, there might not be any "islamic threat" to speak of, and certainly not one hostile to the United States. It has nothing to do with isolationism, and everything to do with real faith in freedom and democracy. The central principle of both is the right of a people to govern themselves. Only Afghan citizens have the right decide when they want a democracy, or if they want to overthrow the government, or if they are ready to get rid of the Taliban. Not you or me, or the Marines, or the Air Force, or the most well-intentioned socialist or greediest military contractor.

If you've got any respect for democratic ideals, you cannot force someone else to share them. There is no more abject state of hypocrisy.
posted by atypicalguy at 4:41 PM on July 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


And as a goal, it's an incredibly weak one—isn't it more progressive to demand something close to a modern state in Afghanistan? Or even a return to their moderate development prior to the rise of the Taliban? Women went to school and became doctors then.

Hail Red Army!
posted by stammer at 4:45 PM on July 26, 2010


Furthermore this is just like Breitbart

For the record, you're saying the logs are entirely fabricated. You don't specify by whom, but let's play devil's advocate and say you're right.

You should know that you have three global newspapers almost wholly disagreeing with you. Each took some time to run this past their reporters in the field before going to press. The NY Times took a month to fact-check. To date, the US government has strongly condemned the releases, while not denying any of its contents:

To establish confidence in the information, The Times checked a number of the reports against incidents that had been publicly reported or witnessed by our own journalists. Government officials did not dispute that the information was authentic.

At this point, calling this "just like Breitbart" is your opinion, and not very informed opinion at that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Breitbart and the climategate stories also received widespread coverage in those same newspapers. It is easy to take a page document store parse out a few choice ones, leave in the junk and reduce the number of counter examples. None of the climate gate emails were faked, they were just taken out of context and meaning was injected in beyond the authors intent.

The papers you hold in such high regard have been taken in time and again. Why is this the time they get it right?
posted by humanfont at 6:41 PM on July 26, 2010


You have to choose a side; you have to have a goal. The progressive goal now is to end the occupation of Afghanistan. This helps.

No, you don't, and no, it doesn't. "Choosing sides" is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place; the real world is too complicated for that. While I think getting out of Afghanistan *is* a worthy goal, simply supporting that result without concern as to how, precisely, it's to be accomplished, is foolish. As both Afghanistan and Iraq have shown us, the devil is in the details.

Will it make it more difficult for the intelligence community to do their jobs effectively?

Hope so!


I'm completely confused by this. Why wouldn't we want an effective intelligence community? You know, just because one hates corrupt cops doesn't mean the solution is a total lack of police.

Also, while I don't share humanfront's concerns that the leaks are themselves going to be spun by Assange for anti-war ends, I do think he raises a good point: we shouldn't start letting our BS detectors run at half power because we've come to see WikiLeaks as pure, distilled Truth -- if I had any kind of intelligence job, I would have been thinking up ways to use that site to spread disinformation from the moment it went live, and it's only a matter of time until its astroturfed, hard, if it hasn't happened already.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:37 PM on July 26, 2010


He's indicated (in one of the Guardian articles linked above - the one homunculus posted about White House reaction) that he's not leaking anything that could compromise military security. As in, he's choosing not to leak anything that could cost someone their life. I hope he's right. So, there's the picking and choosing.

Oh, well good. As long as Assange is the one deciding what information is a potential tactical threat, I'll sure rest easy. After all, he certainly has a thorough understanding of our military situation, a keen, cautious eye for detail, and was picked for this position precisely because of his qualifications in that regard. Oh, wait, nothing I just said is true at all.

In fact, the opposite is true. He's a radical ideologue with a deeply-vested interest in the US losing the war. He is not a fan of the idea that secrecy can be good, and is likely inclined to err in the other direction when uncertain. While I'm sure he makes a token effort to keep out the most obvious kinds of threats, I can promise you that an enemy who wants to win can mine critical information out of a lot of really non-obvious places. That's why DoD tries to err on the side of caution when classifying information. Read about the history of intelligence. You'll be amazed at some of the things that have proven useful to an enemy.

To underscore my point, the latest news reports state that the leak discloses certain people's identities who will now, no doubt, be targeted specifically by the enemy. This leak will end the lives of human beings. That is not OK. Assange doesn't get to make that choice (or even risk it).
posted by Xezlec at 7:42 PM on July 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Choosing sides" is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place

Choosing the wrong side, you mean. If, for example, the US Democrats had chosen to side against the war, there's a good chance that "we" (more importantly, the people of Afghanistan) wouldn't be in "this" mess. Instead, in the interest of openmindedness, they have decided not to commit either way, but to have a go destroying a country and just see how it all shakes out. Can't rush to judgment ont hese things.

Why wouldn't we want an effective intelligence community?

Because "we" don't reflexively identify our own interests with the interests of the United States government.

You know, just because one hates corrupt cops doesn't mean the solution is a total lack of police.

You seem to think some corrupt intelligence agents are spoiling the reputation of noble institutions. I think the preponderance of evidence suggests that a few, possibly mythical, heroic agents, backed by a massively overfunded PR apparatus, are tricking people into giving the benefit of the doubt to organisations that are by design anti-democratic.
posted by stammer at 7:59 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


This leak will end the lives of human beings. That is not OK

But you're okay with war ending lives of human beings. Because the US government, among others, says that the war is cool. And they're going to stay the course, no matter what. Glad we cleared that up.

That's why DoD tries to err on the side of caution when classifying information.

Talk about people with vested interests. Recent history hasn't taught you that often they classify information to cover their own asses? To avoid legal scrutiny?

But I have to admit, you have made your position clear. Unaccountable politicians, military, contractors and businesses, who are legitimately covered by secrecy, are the good guys who only have the best interests of the people of Afghanistan at heart, while the general public who might want to know a bit more about what's been going on are aiding the enemy.
posted by Jimbob at 8:05 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


But you're okay with war ending lives of human beings.

Unlike the deaths that result from this leak, the war itself wasn't caused by one man's whim (despite what you may believe). We were attacked.

Talk about people with vested interests. Recent history hasn't taught you that often they classify information to cover their own asses?

There's a pretty huge difference between classifying too much and not enough. Besides, this isn't a case of someone revealing a cover-up of some specific misdeed, which would be forgivable, or even commendable, depending on circumstances. Most of the public-policy-related information in there is probably already known, and not surprising (news flash: war kills people). This is a case of a blanket release of huge amounts of data, much of which likely has some relevance to the current military situation.

Unaccountable politicians, military, contractors and businesses, who are legitimately covered by secrecy, are the good guys who only have the best interests of the people of Afghanistan at heart,

I don't give a rat what's "in their heart" or how "good people" they are. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I care about practical reality. The reality is that losing this war will have severe negative consequences for everyone.

while the general public who might want to know a bit more about what's been going on are aiding the enemy.

Maybe not the general public, but clearly certain individual members of it are aiding the enemy. We just saw that. This is an aid to the enemy. Are you really trying to claim that it somehow isn't? Also, is stealing 91,000 classified documents really "maybe wanting to know a little more"?
posted by Xezlec at 9:18 PM on July 26, 2010


Is it me, or does Julian Assange look like one of the Matrix albino twins minus the dreads?
posted by scalefree at 9:33 PM on July 26, 2010


"If Afghanistan is ever a healthy democratic nation, it will be because the Afghan people (with help but likely not leadership from the democratic West) made it so. It will not be made so by a foreign military force, no matter how delicate and sensitive in its ops and well-intentioned in its goals. I have been saying this since 2002. My dad's retired Cdn air force and my brother's ex-Cdn navy and now works for a contractor building drones for use in Afghanistan; he travels to Kandahar regularly. This is something I've discussed often, and I'm reasonably sure I've heard every possible argument in support of The Mission. For eight years I have heard arguments that we simply need to get smarter in our bombing and stealthier in our intel and more ambitious in our institution-building and and and and and . . . and yet we're no closer to the goal than we were in 2002."

Are we no closer to the goal than we were in 2002? I don't think that's true at all. I think that we've been excellent at destabilizing a country that had values abhorrent to liberal ideals and removing the Taliban from power. Even in terms of creating the institutions necessary for a functional state, we can't be said to have made no progress at all, or even no meaningful progress.

But how long should building a functional state take? How long does it take?

I do agree that there's plenty of progress left to be made, that the progress we have made is fragile and often fleeting, and that we need active criticism of our efforts (and the coalition's efforts). But as much as the argument that in order to have a functional state it must organically arise from the people governed is appealing romantically, I don't think that's necessarily true either. There doesn't seem to be a tremendous amount of evidence to support that notion any more than there is the idea that client states can evolve to self-govern effectively.

So, given that there's no way to know which strategy will be more effective, and given that the results won't be known for at least a generation, I think it's reasonable to differ on whether taking an active or passive role is justifiable. I do think that removing the Taliban was a positive goal, I do believe that leaving Afghanistan in its current state would very nearly immediately restore the Taliban to power, so I do believe that continued presence in Afghanistan has a positive effect in not returning the Taliban to power; the other goal, that of being able to leave without returning the Taliban to power, is not showing real progress now, though I do think it is and should be a progressive goal. As for how it should be effected, I wish I knew.
posted by klangklangston at 10:14 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reality is that losing this war will have severe negative consequences for everyone.

Aren't we already losing this war and sufferring severe negative consequences? I do not understand what a realistic win is supposed to look like.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:20 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's a radical ideologue with a deeply-vested interest in the US losing the war.

To be fair, the US seemed to be doing its best to lose the war well before WikiLeaks came along.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:22 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Choosing the wrong side, you mean.

Well, I think you're kind of making my point. There's a whole spectrum of goals and methods between "Go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq without any plan for how to wage that war or how to get out, and then stay there forever" and "Do nothing, but if we have to do something, drop everything and get out at the first chance you get." So when does it kick over to "the wrong side," exactly? Just because something gets us closer to withdrawing doesn't inherently make it a good thing. I wouldn't think this is a particularly controversial position to take. Let's leave the "pick a side -- you're either with us or against us; the ends justify the means" stuff to the Republicans.

If, for example, the US Democrats had chosen to side against the war, there's a good chance that "we" (more importantly, the people of Afghanistan) wouldn't be in "this" mess. Instead, in the interest of openmindedness, they have decided not to commit either way, but to have a go destroying a country and just see how it all shakes out. Can't rush to judgment ont hese things.

It's an ancillary point, but I'd say that where the Democrats went wrong wasn't in being too "open-minded," but in trying so hard to not seem like they were "cowardly" or "unpatriotic" to the electorate that they supported a bogus war in the hopes of looking tough and propping up their own political careers. It was utterly cynical; "open-minded" didn't enter the equation.

Because "we" don't reflexively identify our own interests with the interests of the United States government.

That's a perfectly valid position to take, as long as it's accompanied by the realization that there are plenty of people who do reflexively identify their interests with that of their government/religion/political party, and who are no more likely to refrain from spying on/kidnapping/assassinating/blowing up you or whoever than we are, should a given foreign national be a less than ardent True Believer.

You seem to think some corrupt intelligence agents are spoiling the reputation of noble institutions.

I think no such thing. I do, however, think intelligence gathering activities are necessary, and simply suggesting that they should just ... not work smacks of a woeful denial of reality.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:51 PM on July 26, 2010


I should append that by saying that I'm uncomfortable with the phrase 'US/Canada/ISAF/Whatever losing the war'. They will experience a cost in, tragically, the lives of their service people, and regrettably, the financial burden carried generations of future taxpayers regardless of whether or not the mission succeeds. But should it fail either by a pullout of the participants or the inability of the Afghan government to cohere and become functional, I would hesitate to say NATO & Co. 'lost' anything - aside from standing or reputation, which to me is a negligible loss as many of the actors have been eroding suchlike for a good long while already. ISAF can most certainly fail in their mission, but whatever way it all shakes out the losers of war will not be those with flags sewn on their shoulders.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:52 PM on July 26, 2010


"klangklangston, your entire argument is founded on a pile of shit. Namely, that the United States chooses it's allies based on their moral attitudes. Nothing could be further from the truth."

That's sophomoric nonsense—my argument was in no way predicated upon choosing allies based on their moral attitudes. I concede openly that we almost always choose allies based on real politik considerations, though that doesn't preclude also choosing allies based on moral considerations (or legal or social, etc.).

"You don't even have to leave Afghanistan to discover this. When the Mujahideen movement was getting off the ground in the late 1970s to overthrow the secular Afghan government, we funneled billions of dollars along with our ally Saudi Arabia (truly a pillar of women's rights) to hardline, women-hating, freedom-despising, atheist-slaughtering mad men. Why? Because US policy makers decided that anything would be better than marxism in Afghanistan.
"

Yes, and? Wait, do you think that somehow disproves the statement that e.g. women's equality in Afghanistan is or should be a progressive goal? I mean, did you just get a copy of some Noam Chomsky book and feel the need to vent, or is this going to be actually relevant at some point? That the US government has multiple foreign policy goals does not in any way impact what the ideals of progressivism or liberalism should be.

"In Iran, a fledgling democracy in the early 1950s, women's rights were on the rise, until the US supported Shah was propped up to protect our oil interests, and overthrow their democratically elected government. Why? Because US policy makers decided that anything would be better than an independent democracy in Iran."

You realize, of course, that there are more sophisticated ways to view foreign policy than simply being against anything the US does, right? I mean, yes, of course the support we gave to the Shah was venal and self-interested. It was also broadly wrong and regressive. But because I'm not a moron, I also find it possible to not support the current government in Iran. You know, because I'm able to realize that my views stem from general ideals like, you know, not stoning to death homosexuals or women whose chadors slipped.

"In Iraq, a socialist-leaning country long supported by the United States (because anything would be better than a strong Iran), women had rights that were simply unheard of in the rest of the Arab world. When we demolished the Iraqi government in 2003, women's rights disappeared with it. Why? Because US policy makers decided that anything would be better than Saddam Hussein in Iraq."

You forgot Pinoche, Mugabe and the Contras. Oh, wait, you think that every US foreign interaction is the same because we are bad and we support bad people. Lemme guess—you also complain that US aid isn't distributed fairly and is unduly biased toward supporting US interests, unable to see that we still manage to do a lot of good with it. And you think that by trotting out some litany of fuck-ups that this undermines statements on what we should be doing, implying that, like I mentioned above, we're constitutionally unable to act on ideals because we only make things worse.

And seriously, describing Iraq as a "socialist-leaning country long supported by the United States" is idiotic. Socialist-leaning so much as you want to pretend the Bathists were Scandinavians waiting for snow, long supported except, you know, that last decade before the invasion, what with the other invasion that you might have heard of because it was on CNN a little.

Invading Iraq was a huge practical mistake, a failure of traditional American pragmatism needed to temper the idealistic (even ideals I sometimes disagree with) neo-con political program. It was a huge practical mistake in large part because we were already engaged in a fairly justifiable war against Afghanistan, which makes more sense on nearly every level.

"I hope you'll notice the pattern. It's getting comical at this point to even have to point it out, because only the most numbskulled pretend patriots can possibly ignore it. But let me go ahead and spell it out for you: there would very likely be more freedoms in the Middle East if we had left it alone."

Well, no, not likely. But I'm sure the condescension felt great to type. In order to justify that premise you have to argue an unsupportably broad view of US and Western actions, and argue that in the absence of Western involvement that secular liberal democracy was likely to arise. But really, viewing the US and Western actions negatively based on the fact that they were US and Western actions is facile idiocy; they were good or bad for their own reasons, and it's not inconsistent to recognize that and support the good actions while condemning the bad. You make the same mistake every moronic critique of USAid makes, seeing the idea of aid tainted on the whole because of some systemic and serious problems.

"If you've got any respect for democratic ideals, you cannot force someone else to share them. There is no more abject state of hypocrisy."

This is rank bullshit, and if you read any of this comment, you need to know that you are absolutely incontrovertibly wrong here about both the historical record and the nature of democracy.

The historical record is pretty clear—We can and did force both Japan and Germany to embrace democratic ideals, Japan from feudalism, Germany from post-democratic fascism. Not only that, but this presumes that Afghans do not share democratic ideals, which is also first-world condescending bullshit. Further, in the examples you gave, in each situation we were explicitly acting against the expression of democratic ideals. It's also fairly insulting to those in Afghanistan or Iraq who have fought and risked their lives for democratic ideals. That there are plenty of rapacious politicians and warlords does not mean that democracy is nonexistent, nor that democratic ideals are purely a first-world invention and have to be forced upon people.

And as for the nature of democracy, if we suppose a pluralistic democratic society, there will always be factions inherently illiberal and anti-democratic. Mouffe would argue that by the historical gravitas of democratic institutions, their legitimacy allows them to become "zones of contention" in which positions annihilating to democracy can be safely argued without risking the whole of the system. But participation in these zones still does require the implicit acknowledgment of the legitimacy of them, even before the specific (as no rquirement exists for annihilating groups to be coherent) arguments against these institutional forms. Arguments about democracy (or anything, really, but democracy is salient) are therefore forced to embrace at least some of the ideals of democracy or be excluded, and that exclusion is backed by the state's explicit claim to monopoly on legitimized force.

Ergo, you can force democratic ideals without hypocrisy, and we have done it. You can argue that doing so in these cases is bad for whatever reason (impractical, immoral), but making a blanket injunction is stupid, and dressing your language with bullshit like "pretend patriot" just shows how little of an actual argument you have.
posted by klangklangston at 11:12 PM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The historical record is pretty clear—We can and did force both Japan and Germany to embrace democratic ideals, Japan from feudalism, Germany from post-democratic fascism.
Bollocks - Japan from a militarist interlude in a constitutional monarchy (feudalism went out with the Meiji Restoration) already making concerted efforts to 'modernise'; Germany having long democratic traditions of its own submerged beneath the fascist state but hardly obliterated.
Many if not most of the Afghans who shared similar ideals to Western 'progressives' supported the Najbullah regime, which was toppled by similar forces to those that constitute the Taliban today, only as we all know armed by covert US agencies.
posted by Abiezer at 12:19 AM on July 27, 2010


Besides, this isn't a case of someone revealing a cover-up of some specific misdeed, which would be forgivable, or even commendable, depending on circumstances. ^
How US marines sanitised record of bloodbath.
How would covering up a misdeed ever be commendable?
Also I believe that the 90,000 documents belong at least in part to the American people who are paying for this misadventure as it helps show them the cynicism by which they are being led. This comment kind of sums it up.
posted by adamvasco at 12:41 AM on July 27, 2010


I mean, yes, of course the support we gave to the Shah was venal and self-interested. It was also broadly wrong and regressive.

Is that what you call destroying a democracy for profit, installing a police state, and plunging a whole society into the dark ages?

But because I'm not a moron, I also find it possible to not support the current government in Iran.

There we go! Now, the choices of the Iranian people aren't to your liking - but just broadly wrong and regressive, right? No need to fret over their moral standing.

You know, because I'm able to realize that my views stem from general ideals like, you know, not stoning to death homosexuals or women whose chadors slipped.

Oh, so now we do care about morals. At what year did that become important, do you think? 1950? 1970? 1990? In fact, it doesn't matter, because your opinion in the affairs of Iranians is meaningless. Unless you think that you should ask Khomeini's permission before you grab a porkchop sandwich, or get approval from Ahmadinejad for your new haircut.

If you claim to have a principle, like abhorring the execution of homosexuals or punishing women with beatings and jail time for dishonor, you can't at the same time say nothing to your current ally Saudi Arabia without erasing your credibility. Aren't we seriously questioning whether we can stand to let the injustices of Saudi Arabia continue? Or are we back to being "broadly wrong?"

And seriously, describing Iraq as a "socialist-leaning country long supported by the United States" is idiotic

The history of US and British support for Saddam goes back to the late 50s. That Saddam was abandoned when he either ignored American orders not to invade Kuwait, or mistook the words of Ambassador Glaspie that America doesn't get involved in Arab-Arab border disputes is, either way, not at all surprising. When Saddam murdered his own people, there no danger of the withdrawal of our support. As long as he was doing as instructed, we gave him money, weapons, and political support to do whatever he wanted.

Article 13 of the 1970 Iraqi Constitution states, "National resources and basic means of production are owned by the People. They are directly invested by the Central Authority in the Iraqi Republic, according to exigencies of the general planning of the national economy." Article 19 states, "Citizens are equal before the law, without discrimination because of sex, blood, language, social origin, or religion. Equal opportunities are guaranteed to all citizens, according to the law." How many Arab states even pretended to have those values in 1970, or in the present day?

Not only that, but this presumes that Afghans do not share democratic ideals, which is also first-world condescending bullshit. Further, in the examples you gave, in each situation we were explicitly acting against the expression of democratic ideals. It's also fairly insulting to those in Afghanistan or Iraq who have fought and risked their lives for democratic ideals. That there are plenty of rapacious politicians and warlords does not mean that democracy is nonexistent, nor that democratic ideals are purely a first-world invention and have to be forced upon people.

You still don't get it. What do you think an "insurgent" is? It's an Iraqi or an Afghan resisting Western rule, claiming his or her right to self governance. Whatever the form of government they choose for themselves - democracy, theocracy, tribal oligarchy, totalitarian military junta - is none of our business. If you force them to choose your exact definition of democracy, it's entirely self-defeating.

You claim that you care about pragmatism, but for some reason when it comes to non-allies, force is a legitimate option for enforcing morality. When states that share the exact same values are obeying our orders, force isn't an option. It's obvious that these beliefs have no inherent value, but are useful as a political tool to enforce our will on other states, which is a view that is totally incompatible with democracy.

viewing the US and Western actions negatively based on the fact that they were US and Western actions is facile idiocy

As I have made clear, it is the lack of standards that make our influence ineffective, and often counter productive. Since the US has made cynical and calculated moves, especially in response to controlling oil resources and anti-communist hysteria, no one can keep a straight face when we say freedom or democracy. Just like I can't keep straight face when you say the word "principle," since that's just a fleeting emotion you have before deciding to ignore it in favor of "real politik." The only thing that America seems to respect is force or capitulation, and everyone acts rationally in light of those facts.

And as for the nature of democracy, if we suppose a pluralistic democratic society, there will always be factions inherently illiberal and anti-democratic. Mouffe would argue that by the historical gravitas of democratic institutions, their legitimacy allows them to become "zones of contention" in which positions annihilating to democracy can be safely argued without risking the whole of the system. But participation in these zones still does require the implicit acknowledgment of the legitimacy of them, even before the specific (as no rquirement exists for annihilating groups to be coherent) arguments against these institutional forms. Arguments about democracy (or anything, really, but democracy is salient) are therefore forced to embrace at least some of the ideals of democracy or be excluded, and that exclusion is backed by the state's explicit claim to monopoly on legitimized force.

Let's decode that postgraduate thesaurus abuse into a coherent sentence: you think that if a majority of the population doesn't want democracy anymore, then the state should use force to keep the democracy intact. Do you have any fucking clue about what you are saying?

Ergo, you can force democratic ideals without hypocrisy, and we have done it. You can argue that doing so in these cases is bad for whatever reason (impractical, immoral), but making a blanket injunction is stupid, and dressing your language with bullshit like "pretend patriot" just shows how little of an actual argument you have

Your argument is internally incoherent. You've said the ideals of democracy should be sacrificed for real politik, but not sacrificed to give a nation the chance of governing itself. And the cherry on top is that you think force should be used not only by a government to suppress the will of it's own people, but also to impress our will on foreign citizens in sovereign nations.

May I ask: if you ever had a brain to think with, what do you use it for now?
posted by atypicalguy at 3:13 AM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


And most importantly, even if we could understand these documents, we have absolutely no ability to contextualize them.

[...]

They were written specifically for people who actually did understand what they meant, and (ideally) had enough background knowledge to see them in a context. In other words, there were probably very legitimate reasons for them to be classified.

So why, MeFi, is it a good thing that they've been leaked?


Some leaks taken out of context are more equal than others.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:04 AM on July 27, 2010


more equal than others.

You see, these leaks are equivalent because the University of East Anglia regularly bombs children.
posted by pompomtom at 5:14 AM on July 27, 2010


So the looming global catastrophe that is global warming - woops, that's been changed to "climate change" now, hasn't it - is equal to the war in Afghanistan.

Gotcha. Fantastic logic.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:20 AM on July 27, 2010


Sorry, Uncanny, are you in favour of transparency, or against it?
posted by pompomtom at 6:03 AM on July 27, 2010



Will it make it more difficult for the intelligence community to do their jobs effectively?

Hope so!

I'm completely confused by this. Why wouldn't we want an effective intelligence community?


Right. We've had a lot of faulty intelligence, and it's gotten us into some pretty deep shit. I can't see how the solution to that is to make the intelligence worse. Shouldn't we try to improve the system rather than casting it off entirely? The system as it exists is totally borked, that's for sure, but making it harder for good intelligence to be gathered isn't going to make it better.

While I'm sure he makes a token effort to keep out the most obvious kinds of threats, I can promise you that an enemy who wants to win can mine critical information out of a lot of really non-obvious places. That's why DoD tries to err on the side of caution when classifying information. Read about the history of intelligence. You'll be amazed at some of the things that have proven useful to an enemy.

I agree with you entirely. If you read my comments about Assange's choosing what to leak as an endorsement of him, that's not my position at all - I was merely pointing out what had been noted in the Guardian article. He's obviously doing what he believes is the right thing, but I'm really skeptical of both his motives and the way he's going about it. Knowing just a small amount about how intelligence has been used in WWII (my only background in the subject), I am indeed fearful that his attempts at transparency in the war will indeed backfire and lead to more problems on both sides rather than an increased effort to end the US occupation.

To underscore my point, the latest news reports state that the leak discloses certain people's identities who will now, no doubt, be targeted specifically by the enemy. This leak will end the lives of human beings. That is not OK. Assange doesn't get to make that choice (or even risk it).

Agreed, entirely. Even if lives aren't harmed and careers are merely destroyed - that's not a choice that should be left up to him. Documents are classified for a reason - and while ending the war is a worthy goal, there's a human cost to doing so. Assange is a civilian not trained in intelligence or military strategy. He's not employed by any government. Making the call on outing people is, frankly, above his paygrade.

That's why DoD tries to err on the side of caution when classifying information.

Talk about people with vested interests. Recent history hasn't taught you that often they classify information to cover their own asses? To avoid legal scrutiny?


Yes, absolutely this is ONE reason why documents have been classified. But to pretend like it's the ONLY reason is not only acting in bad faith (which, yes, the DoD has earned at this point) but is missing the point that part of what goes in the decision to classify information is indeed keeping it under wraps to protect people's careers and/or lives. I would be very wary of information getting out that put troops or intelligence officers (on either side) in harm's way just for the sake of "transparency."

Unaccountable politicians, military, contractors and businesses, who are legitimately covered by secrecy, are the good guys who only have the best interests of the people of Afghanistan at heart, while the general public who might want to know a bit more about what's been going on are aiding the enemy.

That is absolutely not what anybody, other than you, has said.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:04 AM on July 27, 2010


> I do believe that leaving Afghanistan in its current state would very nearly immediately restore the Taliban to power, so I do believe that continued presence in Afghanistan has a positive effect in not returning the Taliban to power; the other goal, that of being able to leave without returning the Taliban to power, is not showing real progress now, though I do think it is and should be a progressive goal. As for how it should be effected, I wish I knew.

Good morning, Vietnam!

Seriously, don't you see the problem here? You're essentially advocating an indefinitely prolonged occupation of a country with no immediate relevance to our national interests because you think our presence there is helpful to many of the locals. I'm don't mean to in any way diminish the importance of our presence there for a lot of good people, but the same was true of Vietnam, and in fact our withdrawal caused death, imprisonment, and ruined lives for many, many people. Do you think we should have stayed in Vietnam? If not, why Afghanistan? Frankly, I'm surprised at your (forgive me) bleeding-heart attitude on this; I thought of you as a more hard-headed person. I too hate the thought of what will happen to women, rationalists, and others once we leave, but we can't stay there indefinitely, and nobody asked us to invade in the first place.
posted by languagehat at 6:26 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why WikiLeaks turned to the press
That WikiLeaks went to the press with the Afghanistan war logs shows old-fashioned news organisations still have a role to play.
posted by adamvasco at 8:04 AM on July 27, 2010


Wikileaks Has Betrayed Bradley Manning, Says the Guy Who Ratted on Bradley Manning
posted by homunculus at 9:03 AM on July 27, 2010


Joshua Foust:
Adam Serwer, a staff writer for the American Prospect, tweeted this morning, “Former Military Intelligence Officer sez of wikileaks, ‘Its an AQ/Taliban execution team’s treasure trove.’”

This is a very real worry — despite Assange’s assurances that his organization is withholding 15,000 documents to “redact” or change any names, what assurances can we have that WikiLeaks will do a good job?

Can an organization whose sole purpose is exposing secret information really do a good job safeguarding the lives it endangers through exposure? They really cannot. The New York Times admitted as much, saying they took much greater pains not to provide readers the means to uncover the identities of anyone in the reports they mention (some of these efforts, like not linking to WikiLeaks, are almost cutesy on the Internet, but are nevertheless honest). “At the request of the White House,” the Times editors say, “[we] urged WikiLeaks to withhold any harmful material from its Web site.”

Small comfort, since WikiLeaks is barely trying. The materials in question mostly consist of immediate incident reports — seemingly downloaded directly from CIDNE, a massive reporting database the military maintains in Afghanistan and Iraq. These reports are about as accurate as first reports from a crime scene: often accurate in atmosphere, but usually wrong on details.

The military is rightly accused of overclassifying material, but in this case we have some idea of why: even with the names removed from these reports, you know where they happened (many still have place names). You know when they happened. And you know an Afghan was speaking to a U.S. soldier or intelligence agent. If you have times, locations and half the participants, you don’t need names to identify who was involved in a conversation — with some very basic detective work, you can find out (and it’s much easier to do in Afghanistan, which loves gossip).

If I were a Taliban operative with access to a computer — and lots of them have access to computers — I’d start searching the WikiLeaks data for incident reports near my area of operation to see if I recognized anyone. And then I’d kill whomever I could identify. Those deaths would be directly attributable to WikiLeaks.
posted by lullaby at 9:07 AM on July 27, 2010


"For WikiLeaks to do this, it's transparently callous in its attitude toward him," Lamo said, referring to Manning.

Un-fucking-believable.
posted by twirlip at 9:27 AM on July 27, 2010


Daniel Ellsberg describes Afghan war logs as on a par with 'Pentagon Papers'
posted by homunculus at 11:20 AM on July 27, 2010


Military Disputes Its Own WikiLeaked Missile Report
posted by homunculus at 11:33 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now we are engaged in a fight, a bloody messy terrible fight to try to figure out how to undo all the damage we've done over there.

This is so insanely illogical I don't... even.. what the fuck are you talking about? Have you even heard of the phrase "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it" ?
posted by odinsdream at 3:58 PM on July 27, 2010


Sorry, Uncanny, are you in favour of transparency, or against it?

All for it. Don''t you get a twinge of schadenfreude when all the cockroaches react to the sudden bright light?

[but on the other hand... be careful what I wish for...]
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:56 PM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


In other news: Pentagon Can't Account For Nearly $9 Billion In Iraq Funds
posted by homunculus at 6:22 PM on July 27, 2010


House Approves Money for Wars, but Rift Deepens
posted by homunculus at 12:54 AM on July 28, 2010


Bubble Boys: The WikiLeaks documents put an underreported war back on the nation’s radar. It doesn’t matter that the pundits are yawning.
posted by homunculus at 10:23 AM on July 28, 2010


There we go! Now, the choices of the Iranian people aren't to your liking - but just broadly wrong and regressive, right? No need to fret over their moral standing.

You did watch the same election results the rest of us did, right?
posted by JHarris at 6:47 PM on July 28, 2010


A plan to kill American geologist with poison beer: The Wikileaks documents contain a claim that Pakistan and Afghanistan insurgents were working to poison alcoholic drinks in Afghanistan. While that's unproven, one US adviser in Afghanistan tells the Monitor he was almost poisoned that way in 2007.
posted by homunculus at 10:25 PM on July 28, 2010


You did watch the same election results the rest of us did, right?

I did. And if the Iranian people decide that the vote was fraudulent, they get to decide on what terms they resolve that injustice. They can choose to slowly dismantle the government with demonstrations and court battles, like the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, or to wage open civil war.

I imagine after seeing what happened to Iraq, the last thing they want is a US led military solution. US military involvement would not only cause widespread destruction, but would also cast the legitimacy of any new government into doubt.
posted by atypicalguy at 9:22 AM on July 29, 2010


Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban
posted by homunculus at 11:16 AM on July 29, 2010


Analysis of Civilian Casualties in WikiLeaks Afghan File Reveals Media Bias.
posted by adamvasco at 12:03 PM on July 29, 2010


1 Soldier or 20 Schools in Afghanistan? Let’s take a chunk out of our bloated military budget in Afghanistan and use it to invest in building schools there instead.
posted by homunculus at 12:35 PM on July 29, 2010


Wikileaks source suspect Manning transferred from Kuwait to Quantico, VA
posted by homunculus at 8:35 PM on July 29, 2010


Taliban hunt Wikileaks outed Afghan informers
posted by homunculus at 8:24 AM on July 30, 2010


Gates Assails WikiLeaks Over Release of Reports

WikiLeaks founder 'disappointed' by Gates' remarks
posted by homunculus at 2:12 PM on July 30, 2010


WikiLeaks Posts Mysterious ‘Insurance’ File
posted by homunculus at 2:17 PM on July 30, 2010


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