Ignoring bad news won't win Afghan War

By News | Last updated: Aug 9, 2010 - 1:12:31 PM

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‘The documents present a powerful indictment against the Pentagon, the Obama administration and the Bush administration for their failure to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan.’
—ANSWER Coalition
( - No government at war wants bad news and no government at war likes to have bad news spread and spread widely. So when WikiLeaks, a group devoted to providing greater transparency in the name of democracy, released 90,000 pages of internal records related to U.S. military actions in Afghanistan from over the past six years., plenty of people were unhappy.

Major news agencies ran stories July 26 and the weekend before that coincided with the release and Wikilinks founder Julian Assange spoke at the Frontline Club in London as the “bad news” hit the front pages, TV networks, blogs and tweets.

While detractors howled about putting American lives at risk and the Obama administration screeched about security breaches and hunting down those who released the info, one thing is certain: The ultimate threat to the lives of servicemen and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq is standing in harm's way to try to fight a war that cannot be won.

The news was grim with reports of assassination squads armed with hit lists, dual agents inside the Afghanistan armed forces and dying civilians making a native population angrier and angrier as a war to free them from “terrorists” brought its own brand of terrorism.

Sixty-two percent of Americans surveyed believe the U.S. war in Afghanistan is going badly, according to a recent CNN poll, and questions about how the Afghan-U.S. partnership and whether Pakistan is a help or hindrance surfaced again.

Sen. Dennis Kucinich told CNN the information was coming at an important time as Congress was considering a bill to allocate another $36 million to the war effort. Sen. Kucinich, who is stridently against the war, said taxpayers need to know the truth about how and what their tax dollars are spent on. And, he adds, “mountains of evidence” are putting prospects of success in Afghanistan in serious doubt.

“The (leaked) documents provide a devastating portrait of the war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, how a secret black ops special forces unit hunts down targets for assassination or detention without trial, how Taliban attacks have soared and how Pakistan is fueling the insurgency,” said Rick Rowley, independent journalist with Big Noise Films, just returned from a six-week trip to Afghanistan where he was embedded with a U.S. Marine division in Marjah.

A former 1960s Army infantry/intelligence officer and CIA analyst for another 27 years warns, “The documentation that the Pakistani intelligence services is working in cross-purposes with the U.S. offensive against the Taliban virtually assures defeat,” according to the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Speaking of media accuracy, some news outlets quickly brought in “experts,” who bemoaned the disclosures and even questioned what might happen to the person or persons responsible for relaying the information. It's interesting that instead of focusing on the accuracy and impact of the information, some mainstream news outlets sounded like hound dogs for the administration, eager to root out and turn in confidential sources. While concern was raised about Wikilinks putting soldiers in jeopardy, the history of war proves administrations are likely to lie about deaths and defeats to keep the war going and soldiers lose their lives as a result. It would be foolish to think that any presidential administration would reveal fully how badly things are going in time of war.

The Bush administration certainly made a name for itself as a regular source of lies from hurtling into war with Iraq after the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center bombing and Afghanistan as part of an effort to remake the Middle East. The media rode into war right alongside the Bush team and the neo-cons, fawning over silver-haired Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In the end the war strategy on both fronts was a disaster for the United States. Billions of dollars have been wasted and tragically thousands of lives have been lost, families have been separated and oft-times broken while servicemen have suffered serious bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder and endured multiple deployments in war zones.

“While I do not condone the leaking of classified material, these documents underscore what we already knew—the policies we have been pursuing in the region under both the Bush and Obama administrations are based on a deeply flawed strategy. In particular, the documents highlight a fundamental strategic problem, which is that elements of the Pakistani security services have been complicit in the insurgency. That, combined with competing agendas within the Afghan security forces, make it clear that there is no military solution in Afghanistan.It is long past time that we reduce our military footprint rather than continuing to pursue a military escalation that depends on unreliable actors. We need a new strategy, beginning with a timetable to draw down our troops from Afghanistan, so we are better able to accomplish our top national security priority of destroying al Qaeda's global network,” said U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin in a statement. He serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“The documents present a powerful indictment against the Pentagon, the Obama administration and the Bush administration for their failure to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan. They provide documentary evidence of the killing of hundreds and perhaps thousands of civilians by U.S. and NATO troops,” said the anti-war ANSWER Coalition.

“The files reveal that the Pentagon set up a secret commando unit called Task Force 373 that is nothing other than a death squad. Task Force 373, made up of Army and Navy Special Operatives, is seeking to assassinate individuals from an assembled list of 2,000 targets.

“And despite rosy-sounding publicity missives coming from the Pentagon, the information released on Wikileaksshows an obvious pattern of intensifying bomb attacks against U.S. and NATO forces. The decision by the Obama administration to send 60,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009 is exposed as nothing other than a decision to send more human beings to their death in an ongoing war that cannot be won, so as to avoid taking the political responsibility for a military setback. That is the rule that all U.S. policymakers abide by. No matter what, they must avoid the appearance of military defeat at the hands of an armed resistance,” said the group.

“The White House condemned the release of the classified documents in the most disingenuous and hypocritical way. It denounced those who provided the files for putting ‘the lives of U.S. and partner service members at risk.' That is turning reality upside down. It is the Obama administration that is putting the lives of U.S. service members and Afghan civilians ‘at risk' every day by continuing a war just so that it can avoid the political backlash for suffering a defeat on its watch,” said the group.

Among the troubling aspects of the documents are incidents in which U.S. and NATO troops shot and murdered unarmed drivers and motorcyclists and how a busload of children was raked with machine gun fire and how mortar rounds hit an Afghan village killing members of a wedding party.

While the administration and war hawks, and chicken hawks, those who want war now but dodged serving in Vietnam, have talked about how these disclosures may hurt morale, it should also be hoped the information will spur Americans to be more engaged and active in bringing this war to a halt. It is ordinary people who pay the price for this war, the poor and unemployed who enlist and re-enlist to get or keep a paycheck and struggling taxpayers whose hard-earned money goes to support the American empire.

“Bad news” is never wanted by a government at war, but acknowledging truth and acting in accord with truth can save lives and divert resources needed to help a country mired in economic hard times. Ignoring truth won't change reality or lead to victory on the ground. It's time to pull out of Afghanistan.