One of the biggest leaks in US military history has exposed several cover-ups in the war in Afghanistan, including the deaths of hundreds of civilians.
The whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.org published more than 90,000 pages of classified materials covering the war in Afghanistan. The memos reveal the secret efforts of coalition forces to hunt down and “kill or capture” senior Taliban and al-Qaeda figures.
The leak also showed growing evidence that Iran and Pakistan might be supporting Taliban fighters. They also indicate that the Taliban are stronger than ever, in part thanks to alleged support from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – despite billions of dollars in recent US aid to Pakistan. The White House said that although the leaked Pentagon files and field reports were no surprise, they threaten national security.
White House Press secretary Robert Gibbs said WikiLeaks’ decision to publish the documents “has a potential to be very harmful” to the US military and to US allies. The leak “poses a very real and potential threat to those that are working hard every day to keep us safe,” said Gibbs.
Already rumblings on Capitol Hill indicate that the leaks may indeed affect US war policy. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, indicated that the leak could have political consequences for the president.
"However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America's policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan," Kerry said in a statement. "Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent."
It will probably take weeks for experts and news organizations to fully process the massive trove of leaked classified ‘war diaries’ about the Afghanistan war. But for now, the leak leaves all too many questions about the war effort unanswered.
“They didn’t want this to be buried, marginalized, sidelines and treated as just some internet phenomenon. By going to major newspapers in the world that gave legitimacy to their story; it also made it a global story unlike the Pentagon Papers which was covered by The New York Times and Washington Post,” said Schechter.
The story has been covered by media worldwide, which has both embellished the role of WikiLeaks and promoted the story, argued Schechter.
The US government has come out in opposition to the leak, saying it is a threat to US national security.
“We know that truth is always the first casualty in war,” said Schechter. “The United States government has a big apparatus in a sense to manage and muzzle news and information to try and kind of engineer perception of the public and so of course, they tend to emphasize the positive, they downplay the negative. Many journalists have been frustrated by the lack of access to the facts and to the pentagon. They’re kept on a leach, they’re embedded selectively,” said Schechter.
He argued that there is a lack of trust in the Pentagon and the Pentagon’s motives. WikiLeaks and journalists do what they do in support of the truth and democracy.
“The government of the United States, currently the Obama administration, before that the Bush administration, and all of those politicians who wear uniforms who are the Pentagon high command, that they have in fact been lying to the people about the conduct of the war, the purpose of the war and the outcome of the war, and most importantly these documents in their broadest context reveal that these politicians, Obama and before him Bush, knew that the war could not be won and yet they’re expanding the war because they don’t know what else to do,” said Becker.
He argued that the leaders simply do not want to take the responsibility for their failure and have continued to sacrifice American lives.
“So, of course they’d like to indict or criminalize those who have told the truth, but I hope the American people stand up, and I think they will,” said Becker.
He argued that those who stand up at great risk to bring the truth to the people are “the greatest public servants”
“This is in fact the beginning of the end of any public support, as nominal as it is already, for the Afghanistan war,” said Becker