Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsburg and Nic Robertson discussed “The Afghanistan War Logs” leak, Monday evening.
Part One (7:16):
Part Two (5:33):
Part Three (5:23):
The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, discussed the whistleblowing site’s most recent leak of over 90,000 U.S. military records on “Larry King Live” at CNN, Monday evening.
Sunday evening, The New York Times (NYT), the London Guardian and German weekly Der Spiegel revealed WikiLeaks granted them access to the documents spanning from 2004-09. It is being called the largest leak since Daniel Ellsburg leaked the Pentagon Papers, which exposed U.S. government secrets of its war in Vietnam.
Mr. Assange, earlier today, said the leak exposes “evidence of war crimes” committed by the U.S.-led coalition under the Bush and Obama Administrations. Mr. Ellsburg later joined the broadcast in support of WikiLeaks.
Nic Robertson, senior correspondent at CNN International, referenced an intelligence source saying the leak is “old bad news in a new bad time”—mainly of Pakistan intelligence puppeteering the Afghan militant resistance networks. Later in the episode, Mr. Ellsburg remained to participate in a panel discussion with former NATO Europe Supreme Allied Commander and retired U.S. General Wesley Clark, former military intelligence officer and fellow whistleblower Anthony Shaffer and Rolling Stone contributing editor Michael Hastings—whose recent exposé of the counterinsurgency doctrine in Afghanistan displayed its only foreseeable result as “perpetual war“.
In response to the common red herring question as to WikiLeaks’ being ‘allowed’ to leak documents, Mr. Assange responded to a reporter at an afternoon London press conference:
Well, it’s a matter about whether the coercive power of the state should be used to stop people sharing information, who have no direct connection to the source of the information. You can’t use the coercive power of the state to stop people spreading rumors, to stop people discussing political life, and sophisticated U.S. jurisprudence understands that. And that is why you have things like the First Amendment, which takes the press outside the legislative process, because in the end it is the communication of knowledge which regulates the legislature, which creates the Constitution.
Earlier in the day at Democracy Now!, Rick Rowley—an independent journalist with Big Noise Films who just returned from a trip to Afghanistan, embedded with a division in the extended Marja Surge—summarized the progression of Washington’s mission toward a secret war of extrajudicial assassinations, night raids and mass kidnapping:
Well, I mean, what these documents show—prove—is that the U.S. military has been whitewashing the war in Afghanistan for years and that most of the media has been along for the ride. They’ve systematically covered up civilian casualties. They’ve covered up the successful attacks by the Taliban and their significance. And they’ve covered up the violent criminality of the security forces that we’ve created there, security forces that are preying on Afghan civilians. I mean, the picture that emerges from these documents is, on the one hand, of an insurgency that is resilient and adapting and that is winning the war on the ground, and, on the other hand, of an Afghan state that we’ve constructed there that looks less like a government and looks more like a patchwork of warlords and criminal gangs that’s extorting the local population and that has become more hated in many parts of the country than the Taliban who they replaced.
A third interesting thing that these documents do is they put flesh on a process that we’ve been tracking, along with reporters like Jeremy Scahill, for some time, of a transition to what some people call a special forces war, an entirely covert and classified war that’s conducted with drone strikes and midnight raids and targeted assassinations, where everything is classified, there are no media embeds, and there’s very little accountability. I mean, I think that is the trajectory that this war is taking right now.
Now, the White House has responded. They haven’t denied anything here. They haven’t even denied the conclusions that people are drawing about how terrible the war has been there. Their response has been that this is old news, we knew about this a long time ago, and that, in fact, Obama’s war, Obama’s surge, the new war that began in December 2009, has changed everything. Well, I came back from Afghanistan ten days ago. And while I was embedded with the Marines in Marja and elsewhere in the country, I can tell you that this picture matches perfectly with what’s going on on the ground there right now. In Marja, which was supposed to be the poster child of this new campaign, Marja—you know, it’s a small farming community where two Marine divisions were sent in to try to prove that this war was still winnable. Those two Marine divisions have been pinned down for months. We were there at the beginning of an operation called Operation Cobra that was sending in reinforcements, a couple extra Marine companies, to try to, you know, push out their security perimeter. But it’s the—Obama’s surge has completely derailed. They haven’t brought security to Marjah. They have one to three kilometers of security around their forward operating bases.
And the biggest disaster is that the government that they were—that they’ve brought in and tried to stand up, the famous government in a box that was going to roll out right after the Marines cleared the ground, has disappeared. The officials refused to deploy from Kabul and disappeared. Only the mayor comes in, Mayor Haji Zahir, who’s brought in by helicopter by the Marines and, like, set down in the middle of shuras and meetings that they set up and then bundled back into a helicopter and flown out. And this guy, Haji Zahir, he’s an expat who lived in Germany for years and spent five years in jail for attempted murder in Germany. I mean, that’s the caliber of people who we’ve brought in to make the leaders of this new—of the Afghanistan that we’re building. I mean, it is an abject failure, as far as a nation-building operation on the ground. And, you know, whether you’re talking about the last ten years of the war or 2010, I mean, the picture doesn’t change.
Gareth Porter, investigative journalist at Inter Press Services and scholar on geopolitics, highlighted the confirmation of Pak intel’s role in the insurgency as “the most politically salient issue”.
As for general rundowns of media and White House reaction, the NYT’s “At War” blog, Greg Mitchell at his Nation blog and Andrew Sullivan at his Atlantic blog put together solid rundowns, if one is so compelled, but beware—as there’s plenty of premature hyperbole yelled around.