So it begins.
The Pentagon warns Wikileaks not to release any more information, as the group is now threatening. Not something to be taken seriously, considering the source.
Then there’s Reporters Without Borders issuing an open letter to Julian Asssange asking him to be far more careful in the future when releasing information and not allegedly risking people’s lives in a place like Afghanistan. It’s a necessary debate:
Defending yourself, you said that it was about “ending the war in Afghanistan.” You also argued that: “Principled leaking has changed the course of history for the better; it can alter the course of history in the present; it can lead us to a better future.” However, the US government has been under significant pressure for some time as regards the advisability of its military presence in Afghanistan, not just since your article’s publication. We are not convinced that your wish to “end the war in Afghanistan” will be so easily granted and meanwhile, you have unintentionally provided supposedly democratic governments with good grounds for putting the Internet under closer surveillance.
The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill calls for perspective and an end to hypocrisy:
Four months before WikiLeaks rocketed to international notoriety, the Robin Hoods of the Internet quietly published a confidential CIA document labeled “NOFORN” (for “no foreign nationals”)—meaning that it should not be shared even with US allies. That’s because the March “Red Cell Special Memorandum” was a call to arms for a propaganda war to influence public opinion in allied nations. The CIA report describes a crisis in European support for the Afghanistan war, noting that 80 percent of German and French citizens are against increasing their countries’ military involvement. The report suggests that “Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the [International Security Assistance Force] role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory.”
On July 25 WikiLeaks published its massive cache of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan. Four days later, Time magazine posted on its website its August 9 cover story, featuring a horrifying image of a beautiful young Afghan woman named Aisha with a gaping hole where her nose once was, under the headline “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan”—echoing the strategy laid out in the Red Cell report [see Ann Jones, “Our Afghan Demons,” page 4].
These two media events unfolded in starkly different ways. While Time has been praised for telling Aisha’s story, WikiLeaks has been characterized as a criminal syndicate with blood on its hands. Former Bush administration speechwriter Marc Thiessen called for the United States to use whatever means necessary to snatch WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, including rendering him from abroad. Others have called for the United States to shut down WikiLeaks and prosecute its members. Michigan Republican Congressman Mike Rogers has called for the alleged leaker, 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, to be executed if he is convicted.
Time managing editor Richard Stengel drew the contrast with WikiLeaks in an editor’s letter accompanying the story, claiming that the WikiLeaks documents, unlike the Time article, fail to provide “insight into the way life is lived” in Afghanistan or to speak to “the consequences of the important decisions that lie ahead.” Actually, the documents do exactly that. WikiLeaks may not be a media outlet and Assange may not be a journalist, but why does it matter? The documents provide concrete evidence of widespread US killings of Afghan civilians and attempts to cover up killings, and they portray unaccountable Special Operations forces as roaming the country hunting people—literally. They describe incidents of mass outrage sparked by the killing of civilians and confirm that the United States is funding both sides of the war through bribes paid to the Taliban and other resistance forces.