The End of a Delusion

 Fighting an Invisible Enemy

 

Wikileaks exposes government fictions about the Afghan War

Alas it is no fun being a prophet when the truth of your predictions is so tragic.  The new revelations about the reality of the war in Afghanistan contained in the 92,000 documents published on the Wikileaks website exposes the war in Afghanistan as a classic case of political folly, a phenomenon which occurs when governments pursue a policy that the objective facts suggests is against the national interests, and it fingers Pakistan as the place to watch in the region.  Both revelations support arguments I have made in previous commentaries.

Wikileaks, a stateless website in cyberspace, is dedicated to exposing the lies and crimes of governments and corporations by publishing incriminating classified or confidential internal documents on the internet.  And this is by far the biggest leak of secret US government documents since the Pentagon Papers forty years ago. Although an embarrassed Obama administration is pursuing a criminal investigation with blood in their eyes, I believe leaking these documents is the highest exercise of the responsibility of citizenship in a free society.  It is the 21st century’s version of the Pentagon Papers. 

The Pentagon Papers were leaked to the New York Times as an act of conscience by Dr. Daniel Ellesberg – a Harvard trained PhD in economics and former Marine Corps officer who was a Top Secret military analyst for the RAND Corporation – and they changed the public perception of the war in Vietnam.  In 1996 R. W. Apple, an editor at the Times, recalled that they decided to publish the Pentagon Papers because they “demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance.  They revealed that the government had knowledge, early on, that the war would not likely be won, and that continuing the war would lead to many times more casualties than was ever admitted publicly. Further, the papers showed a deep cynicism towards the public and a disregard for safety of soldiers and civilians.” 

The revelations about the Johnson Administration’s conduct of the protracted conflict gave a big boost to the anti-war movement and signaled the beginning of the end.  The Wickileaks papers have the potential to provoke a similar reaction once we have time to digest their lessons.  From what I have been able to discern thus far by perusing the raw intelligence gathered from combatants on the front lines, and pondering the learned opinions of US intelligence analyst, it is clear that the Bush Administration never gave the war in Afghanistan its full attention because they were distracted by their decision to invade Iraq, an ideologically driven war of choice.  Under the cloak of retaliating against the perps in the 9/11 attack the Bushmen overthrew Iraq’s Sadam Hussein, who played no part in the assault, and let the architect of the attack, Osama bin Laden, who was based in Afghanistan, remain free to create more havoc.

Everything I have been warning about in my writings on the region is verified by these documents.  The killing of innocent civilians, an inevitable consequence of this type of warfare, is fuelling the resistance.  The American backed government does not have the allegiance of the masses; hence we are viewed by many Afghans as the enablers of a corrupt and unpopular regime. The most important revelation is that nuclear armed Pakistan is a divided country in which some parts of the national security apparatus such as the military supports their government’s US policy, and others such as the intelligence service is training and arming Afghan insurgents.   

While evaluating the full importance of these documents is beyond the scope of this commentary, I shall return to this subject again. However some of the benefits are obvious. First, the discourse disclosure of these documents has sparked strengthens our democracy. And the Administration is understandably alarmed because, in spite of massive propaganda designed to convince us otherwise, the Wikileaks papers clearly debunk the illusion that we are winning the war in Afghanistan.  And they strongly suggest that further infusions of US blood and treasure cannot alter this reality.

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Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 27, 2010

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