WikiLeaks “Afghan War Diaries” – by Stephen Lendman
Calling itself “the intelligence agency of the people,” WikiLeaks is “a multi-juristidictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive material to communicate to the public” that has a right and need to know – to then use responsibly for better government in a free and open society, absent in today’s America run by warlords, criminal politicians, and corporate bosses, spurning the rule of law for their own gain.
On July 26, WikiLeaks published “The Afghan War Diaries,” its modern day Pentagon Papers, top-secret documents eroding support for the Vietnam War, The New York Times saying 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” – what Julian Assange has done on Afghanistan, revealing Bush and Obama administration lies and duplicity about their illegal war of aggression, America’s longest. More on that below.
Releasing over 75,000 of nearly 92,000 reports, they represent a small fraction of millions of US files uploaded to WikiLeaks databases, more to be regularly released, “high quality material,” according to Assange.
They’re chronologically listed in over 100 categories, covering the period January 2004 – December 2009, describing lethal US military actions, including numbers internally killed, wounded, or detained by geographical location, units involved, and major weapons used.
Since the Pentagon Papers, they comprise the “most significant (comprehensive) archive about the reality of war,” with no resolution or opposition in Congress, providing “a comprehensive understanding of the war (and) modern warfare in general.”
Accounts come mainly from soldiers and intelligence officers, but also from US embassies and other sources revealing corruption and criminality across Afghanistan, including coverups, collusion, distortion, and duplicity – a sordid story needing telling to shock a comatose public to action, and revive a badly needed anti-war movement.
As expected, the White House reacted sharply and deceptively, National Security Advisor James Jones saying:
“The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk and threaten our national security,” ignoring the war’s illegality; its duplicitous, mindless, shameless destructiveness; a brutal quagmire; waged under false pretenses; and its shocking human costs on both sides; Afghan civilians mostly, but also NATO casualties, including deaths, mutilations, disabling injuries, PTSD, suicides, deadly toxins exposure, and proper care at home denied.
In several Nation magazine articles, Joshua Kors highlighted how US soldiers are treated, his April 26, 2010 article titled, “Disposable Soldiers: How the Pentagon is Cheating Wounded Vets,” mistreating them, misdiagnosing their needs to deny care and disability pay, providing substandard care, abandoning them when no longer needed, the major media not reporting it, how they’re now sanitizing WikiLeaks revelations, downplaying their importance, omitting important truths – about illegal wars and crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, both Bush and Obama administrations culpable.
The Constitution’s Article 1, Section 8 grants Congress only the power to declare war, appropriate funding, and “provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the” nation.
The UN Charter is also explicit, explaining under what circumstances violence and coercion (by one state against another) are permitted. Articles 2(3) and 33(1) require peaceful settlement of international disputes. Article 2(4) prohibits force or its threatened use, and Article 51 allows the “right of self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member….until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security.”
In other words, justifiable self-defense is permissible. Articles 2(3), 2(4), and 33 absolutely prohibit any unilateral threat or use of force not specifically allowed under Article 51 or authorized by the Security Council.
Three important General Assembly resolutions concur, unconditionally prohibiting “non-consensual military intervention:”
— the 1965 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty;
— the 1970 Declaration on the Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations; and
— the 1974 Definition of Aggression – “the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations….”
Under Bush and Obama, Washington violated these laws by attacking and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, two nations posing no threat to America, willful aggression, what the Nuremberg Tribunal’s Justice Robert Jackson called “the supreme international crime,” enforceable under the Constitution’s “supremacy clause” (Article VI, clause 2), under which international laws and treaties automatically become US ones.
Then since October 2001, US forces (including CIA operatives) committed appalling crimes of war and against humanity, in violation of the four Geneva Conventions, the US War Crimes Act, the UN Torture Convention, the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Genocide Convention, the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment and Principles, US Army Field Manual 27-10, and other US and international laws – using weapons of mass destruction to massacre millions (mainly civilians), cause vast devastation and destruction, and continue oppressive occupations illegally.
WikiLeaks documented the evidence, lifting the fog of war, revealing its true face, the human carnage, shocking atrocities, rampaging death squads against civilians, murdering women and children wantonly, torturing randomly arrested victims, operating freely under a media blackout.
Partnered with NATO, America’s military/industrial/media collaborators misportray US wars as humanitarian, hiding their imperial purpose – state terrorism against millions, showing an utter disregard for the law, truth, humanity or justice.
Even now after WikiLeaks revelations, media reports focus largely on their legality, political impact in November, and how congressional Democrats and the Obama administration may be harmed. They say nothing about nine years of duplicitous lies, shocking war crimes, no accountability, and two illegal wars, demanding they end, their grotesque harm stopped, and hundreds of billions for war profiteers used for homeland needs to revive a sick economy, harming millions as a result.
Undaunted, the White House vowed to keep fighting, continue America’s longest war, its occupation and violence in Iraq, defying popular sentiment against them, discounted for imperial gain and expediency – what the media won’t explain.
Civilians are willfully targeted, those killed or wounded called insurgents, the numbers affected downplayed and misreported, embedded journalists an echo chamber for Pentagon/NATO lies and distortion.
Reports cover most Army units, not Special Forces, top-secret European ones, and other International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) except in combined operations, including assassinations and killing of civilians, including women and children, the media calling them militants or saying nothing at all.
Downplaying the revelations, The New York Times described “an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war,” portraying a bleaker picture than reported, yet collaborating with the White House to sanitize it, clearing it in advance before publishing, its usual practice for sensitive materials to keep readers misinformed, an article like this one impossible to clear its censors.
Der Spiegel published an interview with Julian Assange on his motivation for publishing. He said it eclipses everything released so far about the war and modern warfare, shockingly detailed to influence public opinion and political decision-makers – by “shin(ing) light on the everyday brutality and squalor of war,” in hopes the mood will shift to end it.
“Reform can only come (when) injustice is exposed. To oppose an unjust plan before it reaches implementation is to stop injustice.” America’s most dangerous men wage wars, not whistleblowers who expose them, their motives, false promises and crimes. Asked why he established WikiLeaks, he said:
“We all only live once. So we are obligated to make good use of the time (and) do something….meaningful and satisfying. This is something that I find meaningful and satisfying. That is my temperament. I enjoy creating systems on a grand scale, and I enjoy helping people who are vulnerable. And I enjoy crushing bastards. So it is enjoyable work,” more than ever vitally needed.
Headlining “Afghanistan war logs: Massive leak of secret files exposes truth of occupation,” London Guardian writers Nick Davies and David Leigh discussed numerous incidents of tens or “hundreds of civilians killed by coalition troops,” covert units hunting leaders for “kill or capture,” the “steep rise in Taliban bomb attacks on NATO,” and the paper’s full war logs investigation, exposing real war, not a sanitized version omitting the human toll, vast destruction, corruption and drug-dealing, collusion and deceit, key unreported incidents happening daily, an “unvarnished picture,” lifting the fog of war.
The Guardian said “Washington fears it may have lost even more highly sensitive material, including an archive of tens of thousands of cable messages sent by US embassies around the world, reflecting arms deals, trade talks, secret meetings, and uncensored opinions of other governments.”
Interviewed on Democracy Now, Daniel Ellsberg was “very impressed,” calling the release the first “in 39 or 40 years, since I first gave the Pentagon Papers to the Senate,” saying he hopes it will inspire others to come forward and reveal what they know despite the considerable risk.
The documents were released in advance to the Guardian, Der Spiegel, and New York Times, revealing “a contemporaneous catalogue of conflict,” classified secret, encyclopedic but incomplete, in total presenting a very disturbing picture, including many accounts of coalitions forces willfully targeting civilians, killing or injuring them, unreported until now.
Other reports cover hundreds of border clashes between Afghan and Pakistani troops, armies supposedly allies, Special Forces killing Taliban, Al Queda leaders, and civilians, mindless slaughter on both sides, and numerous incidents of lethal friendly fire, taking NATO, American and Afghan forces lives – the main concern then concealing the evidence, weapons used, and crimes committed, embedded journalists saying nothing, including about regular demonstrations against America’s presence and the corrupted Kabul government, Hamid Karzai a US stooge.
The documents also discuss Pakistan’s ISI (its Inter-Services Intelligence) linkage ‘to some of the war’s most notorious commanders,” sending 1,000 motorbikes to warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani for suicide attacks in Khost and Logar provinces. In addition, Islamabad’s involvement “in a sensational range of plots, from attempting to assassinate President Hamid Karzai to poisoning the beer supply of western troops.”
Even the White House admits that elements of Pakistan’s army are linked to Afghan militants, endangering US troops by providing them safe havens.
As revealed, “this is not an Afghanistan that either the US or Britain” are about to turn over to the Kabul government. “Quite the contrary. After nine years of warfare (a Guardian editorial wanting it indefinitely extended), the chaos threatens to overwhelm. A war fought ostensibly for the hearts and minds of Afghans cannot be won like this.”
Neither can one fought for imperial gain, Afghan and American hearts and minds be damned. The first casualty also – the truth, WikiLeaks courageously exposing it to arouse a groundswell of public outrage and opposition, demanding the (Iraq and Afghan) wars end, and wasted billions diverted to homeland needs, people ones, including economic development creating jobs and futures, not handed to war profiteers and Wall Street bandits.
A Final Comment
In his 1995 book, “In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam,” former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara said “we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why” about a war that shouldn’t have been fought and couldn’t be won, what he told Lyndon Johnson privately, what the public never knew and few know now.
It’s no less true about Iraq and Afghanistan, General Stanley McChystal not sacked for deriding his superiors but for losing an unwinnable war, his Chief of Operations, Major General Bill Mayville saying: “It’s not going to look like a win, smell like a win or taste like a win,” an assessment McChrystal and others know, what major media accounts won’t report, what WikiLeaks hopes to change by inspiring a crescendo of antiwar sentiment, what can’t come a moment too soon.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.