How Many Lives Will WikiLeaks Save?
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Moreover, it appears that no one took the trouble to tell him that in the early Sixties we young infantry officers already had plenty of counterinsurgency manuals to study at Fort Bragg and Fort Benning. There are many things one cannot learn from reading or writing manuals — as many of my Army colleagues learned too late in the jungles and mountains of South Vietnam.
Unless one is to believe, contrary to all indications, that Petraeus is not all that bright, one has to assume he knows that the Afghanistan expedition is a folly beyond repair. Thus, it is not encouraging that he regaled a Washington Post reporter yesterday (Sunday) in Kabul with stories about “incipient signs of [you guessed it!] progress in parts of the volatile south” and “nascent steps” to reintegrate low-level insurgents.
According to the Post, Petraeus has been “burrowing into operations here [Afghanistan] and traveling to the far reaches of this country,” and “has concluded that the U.S. strategy to win the nearly nine-year-old war is ‘fundamentally sound.’” Does this not sound very much like the approach taken by Gen. Abrams in his August 1967 cable from Saigon?
It is rubbish, and it is hard to believe Petraeus does not recognize it as such. Moreover, it is virtually impossible to believe that Ambassador Karl Eikenberry (see below) shares that rosy view. This, of course, is precisely why the ground-truth of the documents released by WikiLeaks is so important. We need, among other things, to hear more from Eikenberry, and we will not get anything useful from some public speech.
And it’s not just the WikiLeaks documents that have caused consternation inside the U.S. government. Investigators reportedly are rigorously searching for the source that provided the New York Times with the texts of two cables (of 6 and 9 November 2009) from Ambassador Eikenberry in Kabul. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “ Obama Ignores Key Afghan Warning.”] To its credit, even today’s far-less independent New York Times published a major story based on the information in those cables, while President Barack Obama was still trying to figure out what to do about Afghanistan. Later the Times posted the entire texts of the cables, which were classified TOP SECRET and NODIS (meaning “no dissemination” to anyone but the most senior officials to whom the documents were addressed).
The cables conveyed Eikenberry’s experienced, cogent views on the foolishness of the policy in place and, implicitly, of any eventual decision to double down on the Afghan War. (That, of course, is pretty much what the President ended up doing.) Eikenberry provided chapter and verse to explain why, as he put it, “I cannot support [the Defense Department’s] recommendation for an immediate Presidential decision to deploy another 40,000 here.”
Such frank disclosures are anathema to self-serving bureaucrats and ideologues who would much prefer depriving the American people of information that might lead them to question the government’s benighted policy—in this case toward Afghanistan.
As the New York Times/Eikenberry cables show, even today’s FCM may sometimes display the old spunk of American journalism and refuse to hide or fudge the truth, even if the facts might cause the people to draw “an erroneous and gloomy conclusion,” to borrow Gen. Abrams’s words of 43 years ago.
Polished Pentagon Spokesman
Remember “Baghdad Bob,” the irrepressible and unreliable Iraqi Information Minister at the time of the U.S.-led invasion? He came to mind as I watched Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell’s chaotic, quixotic press briefing on Aug. 5 regarding the WikiLeaks exposures. The briefing was revealing in several respects. Clear from his prepared statement was what is bothering the Pentagon the most. Here’s Morrell: