The controversy over the 92,000 classified war documents leaked to major newspapers through WikiLeaks hardly presented a bump in the road for congress, which passed $59 billion in supplemental defense funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on Monday. This is not surprising because 1) congress has shown absolutely no backbone in contesting the war spending proposed by either a Republican or Democratic White House since 2002 and 2) the Wikileaks story, like everything else, has been politicized and so far neutralized by Washington and its dutiful mainstream media so that short of revelations that President Karzai himself has been stoned out of his mind bringing down U.S helicopters with Iranian-manufactured MANPADs (surface-to-air missiles), every pundit and lawmaker with a microphone this week has been resigned to dismiss the contents of those 92,000 pages as “old news.”
“Based on what we’ve seen, I don’t think that what is being reported hasn’t in many ways been publicly discussed, either by you all or by representatives of the U.S. government, for quite some time,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told the press on Monday. Sure, I can remember plenty of “public discussion” over the Taliban taking down Chinooks with heat-seeking missiles, and an entire Marine company being thrown out of Afghanistan (but not officially disciplined) for covering up the killing spree of 19 Afghan civilians in March 2007. But that’s just old news. My favorite is from Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who not surprisingly lost his one nerve from Monday to Tuesday, saying two days ago that the documents “raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan,” and then yesterday warning reporters that it’s all a bunch of raw data with no context. Huh?
Not that the leaks haven’t produced some much needed panic on Capitol Hill, mostly over Pakistan, whom the American taxpayer has been foolishly larding with billions of dollars for decade, the most recent overture coming in the form of $500 million (part of a $7.5 billion, 5-year aid package) announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week. But the notion that our aid is in part going to the Pakistani Intelligence Services (ISI), which is in turn aiding the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, did not deter everyone. “I argue that the revelation of this WikiLeaks, you know, thousands and thousands of documents, is evidence that we need to work to continue to build (Pakistan’s) democratic institutions,” insisted Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif. When slap-chop Republicans weren’t busy taking this angle, they were blaming WikiLeaks for harming national security with revelations they insist “everyone knew about anyway.” Go figure.
But while Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul attempted valiantly to use the WikiLeaks storm as leverage for their last-ditch resolution to withdraw from Afghanistan for good, congress caved — on the withdrawal, (vote: 65-356-9), and the spending (vote: 308-114). Four Republicans did vote with Kucinich and Paul on the withdrawal: Reps. John Duncan (Tennessee), Rep. John Campbell (California), Rep. Tim Johnson (Illinois) and Rep. Walter Jones (North Carolina), all staunch conservatives but long-time war critics. Eleven Republicans voted against the final spending bill.
With familiar shills in the media declaring the Wikileaks story as “nothing new here, move along,” (The Daily Show last night captured one British talker calling it a ‘tempest in a teacup’), our wobbly lawmakers get enough cover to duck the war question through another round of staggering taxpayer spending. For now. Wikileaks’ Julian Assange says more damning documents are on the way. Karzai with a Kalashnikov? We’ll have to wait and see.