Wikileaks don't stop the war

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Will the Afghan War Diaries change our strategy?

By Guest Blogger Amy Watts

By now you've probably heard about last Sunday's Wikileaks release. At most, it's been called the most important military leak-ever. At the very least, it's the most complete picture the public has about our military actions in Afghanistan.

The set of about 92,000 documents posted online is referred to as the Afghan War Diary and is a database of reports from military and intelligence personnel on the ground. Even spending a few minutes in the Afghan War Diary is enough to make you question the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, regardless of your feelings about the war up to this point.

If the reports disturb you, take into account that U.S. Special Forces and top secret operations are excluded. Something tells me the addition of these reports wouldn't be any prettier. While it is rather overwhelming to read individual reportsbecause they are riddled with military abbreviations and coordinates, Irecommend you try because it is the cumulative effect of the reports that willreally strike you.

Delve in and read incidents about 60 civilians killed in anairstrike, a civilian wounded because he was suspected to be a suicide bomberbut later found that he had no explosives on him, Afghan National Policedemanding bribes for cars to pass a checkpoint, “unknown battle damageassessment” after close proximity air strikes, the use of Predator drones.

Thelist of death and destruction goes on and on. Abbreviations of who is called our enemy are many in thereports: Anti-Afghan Forces, Anti-Coalition Militia, Insurgents, Taliban,Military Age Male, Fighting Age Male. It makes you wonder about all the confusion,mistrust, and fear on all sides of the conflict and how our military actionsbreed more of this in the region.  

This isn't the first time this summer we've gotten important "leaks" from Afghanistan. First, McChrystal and company's loose lips with Rolling Stone Magazine gave the unmistakable impression that the war is not going as we are led to believe it is.

Now, 92,000 reports do the same.

I don't think it's a mistake that the Afghan War Diary was released this past Sunday. Two days after the release, the House had the final vote on the $33 billion supplemental budget that mainly goes to fund the surge in Afghanistan. I had high hopes that the War Diary would make our legislative branch demand the opportunity to ask some questions before considering the $33 billion.

Unfortunately, the supplemental budget moved through the house with only 114 members of Congress voting against it. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. If members said they didn't have time to read the healthcare bill at around 1,000 pages, what makes me think they'd attempt the 92,000 documents before signing off on more war money?

I bet the whistle blower had high hopes too. Bradley Manning is suspected of releasing a video from Iraq that appeared on Wikileaks a few months back. If convicted, he'd face 62 years in prison. If someone has determined that 1 video equals 62 years in prison, what do 92,000 reports equal? The Afghan War Diary leaker risked life behind bars to make these documents public, to tell us something important, to cry out for change. How will we respond?

The White House responded with a statement from General James Jones, National Security Advisor. The gist of the response: The War Diary covers the years from 2004-2009--and don't you remember how Obama changed strategies in December of 2009?!

Thanks, James Jones. I think we all feel better now. In fact, this is perfectly in line with all the other times the Obama administration told us to look forward and not backward.

Well, I am looking forward and you know what I see? More money just allotted for the surge of troops strategy and an even more upsetting Afghan War Diary part deux if we don't seriously push our fellow citizens and Congressional members to take heed of what's in this one.


Guest blogger Amy Watts is a Program Associate at Pax Christi USA and serves as their staff point person on the Afghanistan War.

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.