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On Sunday, the Web site Wikileaks posted 75,000 reports written mostly by U.S. forces in Afghanistan during a six-year period from January 2004 to December 2009. The authenticity of the material published under the title "Afghan War Diaries" is not in doubt.
Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, speaking at a TED conference
The New York Times, which received an embargoed version of the documents from Wikileaks, devoted six pages of its Monday editions to several articles on the disclosures, which reveal how the Afghan War slid into its current morass while the Bush administration concentrated U.S. military efforts on Iraq.
Wikileaks also gave advanced copies to the British newspaper, The Guardian, and the German newsmagazine, Der Spiegel, thus guaranteeing that the U.S. Fawning Corporate Media could not ignore these classified cables the way it did five years ago with the "Downing Street Memo," a leaked British document which described how intelligence was "fixed" around President George W. Bush's determination to invade Iraq.
The Washington Post also led its Monday editions with a lengthy article about the Wikileaks' disclosure of the Afghan War reports.
Still, it remains to be seen whether the new evidence of a foundering war in Afghanistan will lead to a public groundswell of opposition to expending more billions of dollars there when the money is so critically needed to help people to keep their jobs, their homes and their personal dignity in the United States.
But there may be new hope that the House of Representatives will find the collective courage to deny further funding for feckless bloodshed in Afghanistan that seems more designed to protect political flanks in Washington than the military perimeters of U.S. bases over there.
Assange on Pentagon Papers
Wikileaks leader Julian Assange compared the release of "The Afghan War Diaries" to Daniel Ellsberg's release in 1971 of the Pentagon Papers. Those classified documents revealed the duplicitous arguments used to justify the Vietnam War and played an important role in eventually getting Congress to cut off funding.
Ellsberg's courageous act was the subject of a recent Oscar-nominated documentary, entitled "The Most Dangerous Man in America," named after one of the less profane sobriquets thrown Ellsberg's way by then-national security adviser Henry Kissinger.
I imagine Dan is happy at this point to cede that particular honorific to the Wikileaks' leaker, who is suspected of being Pfc. Bradley Manning, a young intelligence specialist in Iraq who was recently detained and charged with leaking classified material to Wikileaks.
An earlier Wikileaks' disclosure also reportedly from Manning revealed video of a U.S. helicopter crew cavalierly gunning down about a dozen Iraqi men, including two Reuters journalists, as they walked along a Baghdad street.
Wikileaks declined to say whether Manning was the source of the material. However, possibly to counter accusations that the leaker (allegedly Manning) acted recklessly in releasing thousands of secret military records, Wikileaks said it was still withholding 15,000 reports "as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source."
After Ellsberg was identified as the Pentagon Papers leaker in 1971, he was indicted and faced a long prison sentence if convicted. However, a federal judge threw out the charges following disclosures of the Nixon administration's own abuses, such as a break-in at the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist.
In public speeches over the past several years, Ellsberg has been vigorously pressing for someone to do what he did, this time on the misbegotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ellsberg also has praised Assange for providing a means for the documents to reach the public.