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Did WikiLeaks Endanger Lives?

By James Cerveny

10 August, 2010

The U.S. government and many pro-war commentators have rushed to condemn WikiLeaks’ release of over “90,000 classified” documents. They claim that WikiLeaks “has blood on its hands” (Robert Gates) and has acted “irresponsibly” (Hamid Karzai). They aver that last week’s leaks endanger “national security”, coalition soldiers, and Afghan/Pakistani informants.

The absurdity of these arguments is breathtaking. One hardly knows where to begin in addressing these ludicrous and — in most cases — knowingly dishonest assertions. Let’s take these issues one at a time.

Civilian Casualties

To begin with, civilian casualties, which everyone agrees are an inevitable result of any war of occupation (hence the damnable euphemism “collateral damage”) endanger our national security far more than any leaked documents. It is an indisputable fact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been a boon for terrorist recruiters, fed by hundreds, if not thousands, of desperate souls who now hate the United States after their loved ones have been senselessly slaughtered during these unnecessary wars.

Harmful for the Troops

Second, WikiLeaks not only took great care to redact potentially harmful information (holding back more than 15,000 documents for this very reason) but prior to releasing the documents, sought to engage the White House in its efforts to vet the material. (Source: “Afghan Leak: WikiLeaks’ Assange denies ‘blood on hands’”, BBC News Canada, 7/30/10)

According to Julian Assange, military procedures for source protection were poor and the leaked material was available to every soldier and contractor in Afghanistan. “We are appalled that the US military was so lackadaisical with its Afghan sources. Just appalled. We are a source protection organization that specializes in protecting sources and have a perfect record from our activities,” Assange said.

It is clear, then, that if anyone has “blood on their hands,” it is the US government. There is no rhyme or reason for a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that, contrary to the focus of coalition military activity, Al Qaeda now operates largely out of Pakistan. As General McChrystal has stated, the battles in Afghanistan are tribal in nature and the agendas are local. (Source: “Thank God for the Whistleblowers”, Robert Scheer, Truthdig, 7/27/10), paraphrasing McChrystal.

Indeed, the US government has demonstrated that concern for its soldiers is, to put it mildly, not a top priority.

Dangers to National Security

Finally, interventionism and its inevitable blowback are far greater dangers to security than basic truths. Among the truths revealed by the leaks (which, of course, the US government wishes to conceal) is that Stinger rockets given to the Mujhadeen by America during the Soviet war are now being used against American troops. (Source: Scheer article)

Even more astonishing evidence of blowback is revealed by the words of our own officials. In an article by Ralph Lopez in his blog, “War Is a Crime”, dated 7/28/10 he states:

Last month a report from the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by John Tierney (D-MA,) concluded definitively that up to 20 percent of funds for contracts to transport U.S. military supplies are knowingly and systematically paid to insurgents in “protection money” in order to avoid Taliban attack. The report confirms that knowledge of the practice is widespread and well-documented up the chain of command, due not least to private contractors themselves reporting to the military that massive extortion payments were being paid to insurgents through warlord intermediaries who control almost every stretch of key road and highway. The report states:

“HNT Contractors Warned the Department of Defense About Protection Payments for Safe Passage to No Avail….While military officials acknowledged receiving the warnings, these concerns were never appropriately addressed.

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admits that a large percentage of this “protection money” goes to fund the Taliban. As she testified to Congress seven months ago:

“You offload a ship in Karachi and by the time whatever it is – you know, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfasts or anti-IED equipment – gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money.”

The sums involved are staggering. To quote Lopez again, paraphrasing the House Subcommittee report:

The magnitude of the Department of Defense funds going to the insurgency, which inevitably pays for massive quantities of weapons, explosives, and fighters’ salaries, may equal or exceed the amount gained by the Taliban from the opium trade. The report places the range taken in from truck convoy protection payments at between $100 million to $400 million per year. Taliban profits from the opium business are estimated at around $300 million per year.

The government’s whining about the dangers caused by the leaks is nothing but crocodile tears. Demonizing WikiLeaks is a classic case of projection by now a second administration in complete denial regarding its hubris, incompetence, and indifference to human suffering.