Friday, August 13, 2010

US Military Strategy, Not Wikileaks, Placed American Allies At Risk in Afghanistan and Iraq

I've been reading some really incredible--that is, unbelievable--comments about Wikileaks on the internet, to the effect that it is not journalism, that it is irresponsible, that it has placed US allies at risk, etc. Not exactly the response to Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers...

It made me realize the phenomenon of displacement and projection at work. Wikileaks should be applauded for exposing the failures of the US military--including the inability of the military to keep secrets, such as the names of sources. Why were any names in any cables? What happened to calling sources "Agent XYZ"?

In any case, Wikileaks is obviously journalism by any definition. The Wikileaks website meets every definition of journalism--because it is a journal of leaks published online, with additional commentary adding value and perspective to the published information. If that's not journalism, nothing is. The Wikileaks website is an online journal.

Second, when the Washington Post published its series about CIA contractors, titled "Top Secret America," critics charged that the Washington Post put American lives at risk, as well as turning locations into potential terror targets. So, what's the difference? None whatsoever, IMHO.

Third, the Wikileaks controversy points out that US military strategy has placed our allies in danger--not Wikileaks. It still boggles my mind that nine years after the attacks of September 11, 2001 Osama bin Laden has not been captured either "dead, or alive." The US government, it is documented, has provided money, equipment and ammunition to the Taliban (and presumably Al Qaeda operatives) in Afghanistan, through protection rackets as well as Pakistani government ISI-subsidy and material support. US-funded NGOs routinely pay protection to the enemy, as do US contractors hauling fuel and supplies.

Guess what? This is "trading with the enemy." It is illegal under existing US law. Yet no one seems to have been prosecuted. No firms have been blacklisted. And attacks on US soldiers, sailors and marines--not to mention charity workers--funded by the US Government, continue unabated.

Instead of cutting off all aid and assistance to the enemy, a US "hearts and minds strategy" (which lost the Vietnam war) has been redoubled. That is, the US is paying to be defeated, paying to send a fundamentalist imam to raise funds for a victory mosque in lower Manhattan, paying tribute to every enemy and potential enemy of the United States--in exchange for more attacks.

The US government admits that we cannot protect our allies by attacking Wikileaks...what kind of "credible deterrence" is that? The answer should be: Let the Taliban or Al Qaeda try to harm our friends. Any attack on a US ally will be met by the complete destruction of a Taliban village. They should be more afraid of us than we are of them, the names of US allies should be considered a "roll of honor," and Ronald Reagan's "make my day" should be the attitude.

Instead, the response from the Pentagon on down has been one of cowardice, fear, and whining. No wonder we are losing in Afghanistan. We are more afraid of the Taliban, than they are of the USA. That is why Wikileaks has done a great public service to the American public--the document release has finally made clear that the US government, and US military, is endangering the lives of US soldiers, US allies, and indeed, American civilians at home and abroad--through a policy of appeasement and capitulation to the forces of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism and extremism that destroyed the World Trade Center on 9/11.

When Wikileaks made public details of this incredibly dangerous, ill-conceived, and unwise strategy, American powers-that-be, including mainstream media outlets that should pursue further investigations of US government failures, instead turned on the messenger and attacked Wikileaks for doing the job they have manifestly failed to do.

After nine years of war, expenditure of trillions of dollars, and deaths of thousands of soldiers, friends of America should be the pride of Afghanistan--not forced to cower in shadows, because America plans to abandon them to their enemies.

If the US can't protect our sources, we don't stand any chance of victory. It is the complaints against Wikileaks which undermine the war effort. The correct response would have been: "No problem, we can protect our guys."

The worst response yet is in an email that I received from "Reporters Without Borders." Whatever credibility this organization might once have had, they have now lost in my mind, by sending out a fatuous, stupid, craven, cowardly, dishonest, shameful email that reads like something composed by a GS-9 level federal civil servant attempting to CYA:
United States

Open letter to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange: “A bad precedent for the Internet’s future”

Julian Assange

Dear Mr. Assange,

Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organisation, regrets the incredible irresponsibility you showed when posting your article “Afghan War Diary 2004 - 2010” on the Wikileaks website on 25 July together with 92,000 leaked documents disclosing the names of Afghans who have provided information to the international military coalition that has been in Afghanistan since 2001.

Wikileaks has in the past played a useful role by making information available to the US and international public that exposed serious violations of human rights and civil liberties which the Bush administration committed in the name of its war against terror. Last April’s publication of a video of the killing of two employees of the Reuters news agency and other civilians by US military personnel in Baghdad in July 2007 was clearly in the public interest and we supported this initiative. It was a response to the Obama administration’s U-turn on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. The White House broke its word in May 2009, when it defied a court order and refused to release photos of the mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan is highly dangerous. It would not be hard for the Taliban and other armed groups to use these documents to draw up a list of people for targeting in deadly revenge attacks.

Defending yourself, you said that it was about “ending the war in Afghanistan.” You also argued that: “Principled leaking has changed the course of history for the better; it can alter the course of history in the present; it can lead us to a better future.” However, the US government has been under significant pressure for some time as regards the advisability of its military presence in Afghanistan, not just since your article’s publication. We are not convinced that your wish to “end the war in Afghanistan” will be so easily granted and meanwhile, you have unintentionally provided supposedly democratic governments with good grounds for putting the Internet under closer surveillance.

It is true that you said that “a further 15,000 potentially sensitive reports” were excluded from the 25 July mass posting, that they were being “reviewed further” and that some of them would be released “once it was deemed safe to do so.”

Nonetheless, indiscriminately publishing 92,000 classified reports reflects a real problem of methodology and, therefore, of credibility. Journalistic work involves the selection of information. The argument with which you defend yourself, namely that Wikileaks is not made up of journalists, is not convincing. Wikileaks is an information outlet and, as such, is subject to the same rules of publishing responsibility as any other media.

Reporters Without Borders has for years been campaigning for a federal “shield law” protecting sources, one that would apply not only to the traditional media but also to the new Internet media without exception. This is why we condemn all forms of harassment of Wikileaks contributors or informants – such as the recent arrest of Wikileaks researcher Jacob Appelbaum – by government agencies and immigration officials. We also condemn the charges brought against US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking the video of the Baghdad killings. However, you cannot claim to enjoy the protection of sources while at the same time, when it suits you, denying that you are a news media.

The precedent you have set leaves all those people throughout the world who risk their freedom and sometimes their lives for the sake of online information even more exposed to reprisals. Such imprudence endangers your own sources and, beyond that, the future of the Internet as an information medium. A total of 116 netizens are currently in prison in a dozen countries because of the comments they posted online. Can you image the same situation in the country of the First Amendment?

Wikileaks must provide a more detailed explanation of its actions and must not repeat the same mistake. This will mean a new departure and new methods.

We look forward to your reply,


Jean-François Julliard
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general

Clothilde Le Coz
Reporters Without Borders representative in Washington DC

Lucie Morillon
Responsable du bureau Nouveaux médias
Reporters sans frontières
tel : +33 1 44 83 84 71
Skype : rsfnet
Twitter : luciemorillon
Memo to Jean-Francois Juilliard or Reporters Without Borders: There are NO "RULES OF PUBLISHING RESPONSIBILITY" in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Freedom of the press is exactly that, freedom of the press.

You have demolished your credibility entirely. You just don't know what you are talking about. So, please remove me from your email list.