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Senior Vice-President for Research and Innovation, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Michigan State University

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wikileaks' Afghanistan docs: Pentagon Papers 2.0

It's deja vu all over again... This time, I'm sure no one who is informed will be surprised about the real situation in Afghanistan (the people who would be surprised are probably not going to follow this Wikileaks story anyway). I don't know how it was in 1971, but it seems the Pentagon Papers had a big impact on public opinion.

NYTimes: A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.

The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.

The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday.

The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001. ...

Julian Assange, meet Dan Ellsberg. See here for more on Ellsberg, including an interview in which he compares Afghanistan and Vietnam.


vonjd said...

Wikileaks, New York Times and Spiegel will surely change world history this time too

Roger Bigod said...

Not the same at all. The Pentagon Papers were the result of a study to analyze mistakes. One conclusion was that there had been systematic dishonesty, much more than most people would have suspected. There's nothing here that hasn't come out piecemeal -- the ISI support for the Taliban, the corruption and inefficiency of the Afghan gvmnt, the huge number of civilian casualties. And the sources are low-level. I think it's cool that the material was published, but it's not earth-shaking.

JAK said...

NYT op-ed makes basically the same point as R. Bigod: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/27/opinion/27exum.html?_r=1

I understand that the media (particularly the big 3 newspapers that got previews) have an interest in making this a big deal. But the more I hear about the content, the less I think that the comparison with the Pentagon Papers is a good one.

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