Too Late to Unring the Bell
Vol: 106 Issue: 28 Wednesday, July 28, 2010
When I first heard of the Wikileaks classified document dump, I was horrified. The leaking of wartime classified documents while the nation is still at war is treasonous.
Of course, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks isn’t an American, but an Australian, so treason does not apply to him.
But somebody inside the government leaked the documents to Assange, and right now the government is looking at a 22 year-old Army Private First Class named Bradley Manning. Manning is charged with unlawfully obtaining more than 150,000 diplomatic cables from the State Department.
The first set of charges accuse him of “wrongfully” moving classified information to his personal computer and “wrongfully adding” unauthorized software to a secure computer, both in alleged violation of Article 92 of the UCMJ.
Article 92 says anyone who “violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation” can be punished by a court-martial.
The second set of charges stem from Manning’s alleged transfers of classified information, including the July 12, 2007 Apache video and a State Department cable titled “Reykjavik 13” to an unnamed third parties.
Those transfers violate Article 134 of the UCMJ, the military says, which is a general-purpose prohibition punishing “crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty.”
One of those alleged crimes includes a violation of the Espionage Act, which makes it illegal for anyone with unauthorized possession of information relating to the national defense to share it with anyone else. Another alleges a violation of computer hacking laws.
And then there is the whole ‘treason’ thing — but somehow, ‘treason’ doesn’t seem to be as horrendous a charge as it used to be. If working against the nation’s best interests during time of war were still considered treasonous, half the Congress would be in prison.
Manning Bradley is a kid – but one no doubt brought up in the American liberal tradition of believing everything America does is evil. That is not an excuse.
But given the anti-war rhetoric of the past decade, the only thing that is really surprising is that there haven’t been more traitors within the ranks than there have been already.
Julian Assange is a liberal anti-war activist — and like all liberal anti-war activists, Assange has no moral compunction about releasing information that will get other people killed, provided it serves the ‘greater good’ as he sees it.
So in point of fact, there is zero difference between Assange’s position that sometimes sacrifices have to be made in the cause of freedom and the same position held by a loyal US soldier – with one exception.
To the soldier, one of the sacrifices that may be necessary is that of his own life. Assange doesn’t even risk arrest — as long as he doesn’t come to the US.
In the world of liberal antiwarriors like Assange, the sacrificial lamb is always somebody else. Not just PFC Bradley, who will pay for his involvement in prison, but also the Afghani informants who will pay for their involvement with their lives.
Then there is the entire war effort itself. Suppose you are an Afghani that truly loathes the Taliban and wants a better life. You know where the Taliban are hiding. You also know the Americans will be pulling out for good next year.
And NOW you know that your name could turn up on the internet if you cooperate with the Americans.
So even if you are pro-American, loathe the Taliban and hope to see America win, are you going to warn the Americans that they are walking into an ambush?
Are you going to let the Americans get cut to pieces? Or will you risk your family and take the chance of a midnight visit by the Taliban?
The military on the ground and the US intelligence community both say that the amount of damage done to the war effort by the Wikileaks document dump is ‘incalculable’ – and I believe them.
As I said, I was initially horrified about the leaking of wartime secrets to the public because the intended purpose for the leak is to make the US look bad. And there is no pretty or sanitary or publicly-acceptable way to wage war.
Wars are ugly. Weapons are massive. Targets are elusive. Mistakes are made. Innocent people die. We know that, but we don’t want to know the details.
I love hot dogs. So I don’t wanna know what’s in them. I love freedom. I only want to know that our forces are protecting our freedom. How is above my pay grade. But even knowing what I know about the carnage and brutality of war doesn’t cushion details about innocent civilian collateral damage.
It is said that “war is hell” so nobody should be surprised at how hellish it is, but somehow, we always are. It is clear that Assange and his crew hoped that the document dump would continue to dampen public support for the war.
But the effort may have the opposite effect.
The public has been hearing rumors for years that Iran has been harboring, training and equipping Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters inside Iran and then sending them back to Afghanistan to kill American forces.
And we’ve been reporting on that Pakistan’s ISI has been secretly working with the Taliban (while collecting US aid for helping with the war effort) since early 2002. But somehow, knowing that to be the case puts a different face on it.
The Wikileaks dump establishes that not only have we been fighting Iran by proxy, but that the Obama administration KNOWS it – and continued to press the case for normalizing relations with the Islamic Republic anyway.
And that the government KNOWS that our tax dollars being sent to Pakistan are being used to finance attacks against our own military forces.
Former Acting Director of the CIA, John McLaughlin, understated the case just a wee bit saying in an interview that the revelations of Pakistan’s role as double-agent “just may add an element of tension that is not a welcome addition at this time.”
No kidding. If the war logs are to be believed, Iranian involvement in Afghanistan has steadily widened from 2004 to today, amid record levels of military and civilian casualties and spreading violence.
A threat report originated by Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) headquarters in February 2005, covering Regional Command South, classified secret, says for example that Taliban leaders and former officials of the Taliban government toppled by the US in 2001 outlined a series of attacks in Helmand and Uruzgan provinces.
“This joint group currently resides in Iran. The group consists of eight main leaders, all of whom travel with seven bodyguards,” the report says. “The leaders travel into Afghanistan to recruit soldiers … Initially, the joint group will attack NGOs and GOA [government of Afghanistan] officials … If these attacks are successful, they will start to attack US forces. The group will use hit-and-run tactics using AK-47 assault rifles and IEDs.”
In January 2005 it was reported that Iranian intelligence has delivered 10 million Afghanis ($212,000) to a location on Iran’s border. In the language of the war logs, “Iranian intelligence” usually appears to be a reference to Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Islami – the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
In April, 2008, the Taliban received Iranian-made parts for 20 remote-controlled IEDs to be used against the British in Sangin. Iranian subversion also extended to alleged plans to slip poison into the tea of Afghan government officials instead of using the messier and harder to replace suicide bombers.
The above are just a few samples at random out of more than 90,000 secret classified cables. But the portrait they paint is disturbing.
If the Wikileaks document dump has a silver lining, it is in the revelation that the United States is engaged in a war it cannot win because it is fighting the wrong enemy.
By way of analogy, if this were WWII we’d be pursuing diplomatic relations with Germany while sending foreign aid to Italy with an eye towards winning the war by defeating pro-Axis Abyssinian guerillas. (And it would be 1952.)
The Obama administration can argue that it ‘inherited’ the war in Afghanistan, but that only underscores how fruitless and brain-dead Obama’s aspirations to charm Iran into the civilized world was, when the leaked documents show that HE KNEW at that time that Iran was fighting a proxy war with us in Afghanistan.
So in a sense, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange did America a back-handed favor, despite the undoubtedly brutal retaliation he exposed US intelligence sources in the region to from the Taliban. Iran’s involvement is out there on the table where everybody can see it – the Obama charm offensive with Iran is over.
Neither can Obama continue to pour American blood and treasure into an empty pit in Afghanistan with no hope of victory as long as Iran can conduct operations against the US with impunity. Something will have to give.
The document release only leaves a couple of workable options for the Obama administration. Either it pulls out completely and turns it over to the Taliban. Or it widens the war to eliminate the Iranian threat.
The one option that it has relied on so far – shrugging its collective shoulders and blaming it on the Bush administration – that one won’t fly anymore. There is an old Persian proverb that lays out the problem for both Obama and Ahmadinejad.
He who knows he who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool, shun him;
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child, teach him.
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep, wake him.
He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise, follow him
Iran knows that we know that Obama knows. The only question remaining — from Iran’s perspective — is whether Obama is a fool, a child, asleep or wise. The curtain is drawn back. We can’t unring the bell.
And neither can Iran.