Last night, Wikileaks released their “Afghan War Diary”, over 90,000 internal military documents about the war in Afghanistan. They first gave them to three newspapers, who simultaneously wrote stories that appeared in this morning’s editions: the Guardian, the New York Times, and Der Speigel. The documents tell a story of civilian casualties, covert death squads, CIA paramilitaries, cover-ups, Pakistani ISI/Taliban coordination and ultimately failure to deter the momentum of the Taliban nearly nine years from the start of the war.
The period largely covers the Bush Administration’s response in Afghanistan, though some documents reach into the beginnings of Obama’s first term. And so far, observers are straining to find much that’s new in the release. But that doesn’t necessarily lessen the news value of this internal confirmation of a difficult, struggling war effort that’s dragged on for a decade. And given that these are threat assessments and raw intelligence from those fighting the war on the ground, it’s hard to spin them away.
We have plenty of FDLers who can break down the specifics of the documents and their import. I want to note simply the timing. This week, perhaps even today, the House of Representatives will take a vote on the war supplemental, which passed the Senate last week. There’s no reason for anyone opposed to or even mildly skeptical of this war to vote for the funding. The Senate removed practically all the domestic spending from the bill last week, including the teacher jobs fund, summer youth job programs, TANF, the black farmer settlement and border security funding (yes, John McCain voted against funding for border security. I made sure to mention that to both of his possible Democratic opponents at Netroots Nation). So basically, we have an unpaid-for war funding bill with a little bit of disaster relief attached. That will get ping-ponged to the House, and they expect to wrap it up this week.
The release of the documents plays a role here. If 162 members of the House wanted to get some manner of timeline before, they should be itching for one now, with this portrait. At the least they should want some answers about how the passages in these documents around Pakistan, around civilian casualties and drone strikes, or whatever else have been rectified. Republicans and conservative Dems probably have enough votes to override them, but there’s little reason to add to that by any Democrat calling themselves anti-war.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Wikileaks documents delay the war funding vote a bit, as this major story plays itself out.
UPDATE: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange spoke from London about the documents, called them the story of the war since 2004 and that they contained evidence of war crimes. How can any Democrat can turn around and authorize more funding for this, amid this revelation?
UPDATE II: I almost forgot to add an insight to this that I got from Matthew Hoh, the former State Department appointee who resigned his post in Afghanistan and has now spoken out repeatedly against the war. Before the Wikileaks release, he told me after a Netroots Nation panel that the staffers in many House offices did not want to hear his take on the war and its myriad problems because if they understood it, they would have a harder time justifying their members’ war vote. They would literally rather remain in ignorance than know the truth. The Wikileaks release makes that less possible now.