Why are we still in Afghanistan?
This week's release by WikiLeaks.org of a massive archive of 92,000 previously secret U.S. military documents -- a new generation's Pentagon Papers -- puts the lie once again to the tired refrain that the war in/on Afghanistan bears little resemblance to that in/on Vietnam. Instead, despite surface differences, the two unpopular conflicts possess many obvious and frightening similarities.
Among them are the facts that, once again, America's political and military elite is backing a corrupt, ineffective and highly unpopular puppet regime in a far-off, unnecessary and costly war -- all the while issuing rosy public assessments that severely conflict with the private, far more dire internal ones. Once again, embarrassed government officials are blaming the messenger -- this time Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks' version of Daniel Ellsberg -- when that message hits the front pages. And once again, instead of admitting mistakes and failures, the American President Barack Hussein Obama (like the American President Lyndon Baines Johnson before him) is trying to "defend his war strategy" and "reassert control over the public debate" on an unwinnable war.
As I recall, when the next election rolled around that didn't work out too well for LBJ...
Once again, the Democratic president's own Democratic supporters -- including a number of leading lawmakers, like Senate Foreign Relations Committee head John ("How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?") Kerry -- have begun to intensify their scrutiny of Obama's policy and the endless and massive bills to finance it amidst the ongoing Great Recession.
The White House, however, responded only by intensifying its scrutiny of WikiLeaks founder Assange, who supplied The New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian in Britain with classified documents dating from January 2004 through December 2009, and then noted at a press conference that he'd "like to see this material taken seriously and investigated, and new policies, if not prosecutions result from it."
So would I -- but there's little chance of that happening, at least in the near future. Instead, we can expect more of the same from both Obama and the Democrats, along with more unbelievable denials by Pakistani officials of what we all know to be true: that its military spy service is "running with the hare and hunting with the hound," as President Zardari's spokesman Farhatullah Babar felicitously phrased it. While it may have been true that the Pakistanis were working with the Afghan Taliban insurgents while being paid by American to combat them during the tenure of President Zardari's predecessor Pervez Musharraf, "We believe that era is over," Mr. Babar now says.
That's reassuring, isn't it? -- Musharraf only ran Pakistan from 1999 to 2008!
While officials in both Washington and Islamabad protested the WikiLeaks leak, an official in Kabul said his boss, Afghan president Hamid Karzai "was not upset by the documents and did not believe the picture they painted was unfair," and "offered no pushback to accounts in the reports that describe how the war effort has been hurt by corruption and the questionable loyalty and competence of the Afghan government, police and army," according to the New York Times account.
Not surprisingly, the emphasis in Afghanistan was on "other problems outlined in the documents," including civilian deaths caused by the American and NATO militaries. The most recent NATO strike killed 52 more Afghan civilians.
Asked whether there was anything in the leaked documents that angered Mr. Karzai or that he thought unfair, President Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omar replied, "No, I don't think so... The president's initial reaction was, 'Look, this is nothing new.'"
No, sadly, it's not --instead it's the same old story, one we've heard before many times about conflicts in many lands... But it's ironic that the only government telling the truth about the WikiLeaks secret history of the Afghanistan War is that country's corrupt and criminal president. Meanwhile, our own president seems intent on trying to redirect our attention to Julian Assange -- this generation's "Most Dangerous Man in America."
Or is that now Barack Obama?