As soon as the WikiLeaks Afghanistan exposé came to light, it was obvious the usual suspects would start attacking the messenger than discussing the message. David Aaronovitch was quick off the mark, with others following soon enough – implying WikiLeaks was seriously damaging the war effort in Afghanistan.
The rhetoric has now reached absurd levels. The US defence secretary said the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, had “blood on his hands”; people on Fox News have called it “a terrorist organisation”; and one of the Washington Post’s columnists called it a “criminal enterprise”. The former Bush speechwriter also said he wanted it shut down and Assange to “be brought to justice” by any means necessary, and has previously justified waterboarding. It has been reported that one WikiLeaks editor has already been harassed by US border police.
If any of this comes as a surprise, then you don’t know the twisted and hypocritical minds of neoconservatives well enough. But I’ll come back to that.
To be clear, I’ve always supported the war in Afghanistan (but not Iraq) and think the Taliban are among the most vile terrorist groups on earth.
But the case against WikiLeaks doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Has it endangered the lives of Afghanis? That’s only plausible if you believe the Taliban are short of targets and without their own informants. The documents were already available to every soldier and contractor there.
You know who’s endangered the lives of Afghanis already? Nato forces, which were exposed as having deliberately covered up many examples of civilian casualties. If we were discussing a cover-up of dead Britons there would be (justified) outrage. But because they’re Afghanis, the military establishment can get away with trying to shift the focus back on the messenger than their own failings.
It’s not only now becoming obvious to these people that reducing Afghani civilian casualties can lead to fewer attacks on US troops. Who would have thought eh?
There is obviously a bigger issue here: the mindnumbing shamelessness of the neocon movement and their hypocritical approach to domestic and foreign affairs.
On the one hand they hysterically claim that Barack Obama is subverting the American constitution, on the other they wilfully disregard its focus on freedom to practice religion by opposing the building of mosques. They want to uphold civil liberties and freedom of speech when its Muslims being told to get enlightened (Danish cartoons), but can’t bear to uphold the same rights when the shoe is on the other foot (Tariq Ramadan, “hate literature“, Muslim groups, banning the burqa).
The standard retort is that these people are threatening our existence, so exceptions have to be made. But not only do claims about Europe’s changing demographics fail to stand up, they betray the sort of moral relativism that they always accuse their opponents of. As I’ve shown above, the values of enlightenment and civil liberties these numpties want the west to stand up for are thrown aside the instant their vested interests are threatened.
I don’t know if it’s possible to stabilise Afghanistan through the Nato forces any more. I do know that the Taliban don’t want stabilisation, only complete and bloody control.
But we, the public, deserve to know the truth about what’s being done in our name, and not just because we’re funding these wars and it involves soldiers from our communities. It was the lack of transparency that pushed us into Iraq and destabilised Afghanistan even further.
The question now shouldn’t be whether WikiLeaks has destabilised Afghanistan. It should be why these people, who pushed us into the biggest foreign policy disasters of this generation, are still paid any attention.
Sunny Hundal, editor of the left-wing blog Liberal Conspiracy and other online magazines.