This week, when whistleblower website Wikileaks released over 90,000 classified documents portraying a dismal war in Afghanistan, the White House called editor Julian Assange and his organization a threat to national security. But it is this White House that is a threat to national security. Wikileaks simply helped prove it.
The war in Afghanistan is a disaster, something President Obama refuses to acknowledge and insists on continuing for no discernible reason. Afghanistan’s top commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal voiced his frustration with the mindlessness of our mission and lost his post. His replacement, Gen. David Petraeus isn’t any clearer about our prospects than his predecessor or the president. Who truly puts the nation’s security more at risk? A government that continues to put soldiers in harm’s way with no clear mission or strategy, as the bodies, dollars and questions continue to pile up, or a website that insists the general public should know what their government is up to?
What was it specifically that the Obama administration found among some 90,000 documents that compelled the White House to declare Wikileaks a security risk, mere hours after their release? Did Obama hire an army of speed readers? Or how about the most significant stories to come out of the Wiki-leak: That we pay Pakistan $1 billion a year to help the Taliban; that drone attacks are far less effective than portrayed; that significant civilian deaths are being covered up. Which of these is truly a massive security risk, domestically or abroad? Or do these stories simply “risk” damaging this president’s reputation, or perhaps simply the administration’s preferred war narrative?
Truth be told, the real “risk” is that Wikileaks dared to report the actual news, or what the New York Times calls, “an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.” Ironically, the pro-war, any war hawks in both parties who still refuse to believe that Islamic terrorists target the United States not for our “freedom,” but for what we do in their homelands, are now warning of potential blowback over what Wikileaks has done. You see, dropping bombs and occupying countries for years could never incite hatred—but actually reporting the truth about the war could spark a jihadist revolution, as if jihadists don’t already know what’s going on in their own backyard, something an organization like Wikileaks simply believes everyone else should know about too.
Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald has it right: “WikiLeaks has yet again proven itself to be one of the most valuable and important organizations in the world… there is no valid justification for having kept most of these documents a secret. But that’s what our National Security State does reflexively: it hides itself behind an essentially absolute wall of secrecy to ensure that the citizenry remains largely ignorant of what it is really doing.” The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson writes, “What does it mean to tell the truth about a war? Is it a lie, technically speaking, for the Administration to say that it has faith in Hamid Karzai’s government and regards him as a legitimate leader—or is it just absurd? Is it a lie to say that we have a plan for Afghanistan that makes any sense at all? If you put it that way, each of the WikiLeaks documents… is a pixel in a picture that does, indeed, contradict official accounts of the war, and rather drastically so.”
It is no secret that that telling lies to make sure the “citizenry remains largely ignorant” of what its government “is really doing” is standard operating procedure for Washington, DC. Many Americans rightly see disingenuousness in their government’s selling of programs like, oh, I don’t know, the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP)—something Obama originally told us would cost $700 billion but is now reaching $3.7 trillion due to housing rescue efforts—but it should also be stressed that such duplicity is just as regularly used in foreign policy. Granted, waging war is not identical to domestic politics, but the degree to which government uses supposed “national security” to deceive the public about what is truly happening overseas is something the mainstream media largely ignores. Wikileaks claims it went to great lengths to make sure nothing that might genuinely compromise national security was included in their release, and given that the White House can’t cite any specific risks and only issue blanket condemnations, it is reasonable to assume that Wikileaks has simply released information the administration would rather the public not know—not necessarily for safety reasons, but to save face.
Wikileaks or any other organization that knowingly releases classified information that might actually harm the soldier on the battlefield or compromise war strategy should be held accountable—but so should a government that continues to harm soldiers by putting them on the battlefield with no war strategy, clear mission or definable victory. Wikileaks has tried to hold the government accountable by more accurately informing the public about what’s really going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and hopefully the mainstream media will now follow suit. Our national security depends on it.