It takes the Guardian’s investigation’s head, David Leigh, to unpack the significance of the Wikileaks revelations and explain why the story matters. The job of good journalism is to expose flawed wars, not to protect the figures backing an immoral and illegal occupation:
The Afghan war logs story has proved to be a global journalistic phenomenon. The Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel last week made history by simultaneously releasing stories about this huge classified US military archive.
The logs hold 92,000 field reports, many of them ugly and grim. The three papers mined revelations about the cruel toll on civilians in the nine-year conflict, and about futile firefights which have cost the lives of so many western soldiers.
The media trio did this work while WikiLeaks, a hitherto little-known organisation, simultaneously posted virtually the entire raw archive online, holding back only a small number of files which it thought might endanger local informants.
The project appeared to take the Pentagon by surprise. As the revelations swamped the world’s headlines, calls grew for investigations into the civilian killings. There were diplomatic storms over allegations of Pakistan backing for the Taliban. Damage control efforts by the White House did not improve until the weekend. We then saw the spectacle of generals, with gallons of innocent civilian blood on their hands, orating that WikiLeaks had potentially failed to do enough to protect local Afghans.
Some media organisations, who had not got the story themselves, then joined in. One disappointed paper deliberately provided the Taliban with a to-do list: it drew their attention to specific Wikileaks documents they might inspect in order to take reprisals. The low point was perhaps reached by Channel 4 News, which respectfully quoted a “spokesman” for the bearded murderers, as he uttered promises of revenge on alleged informants. It felt like PR for the Taliban.