The faux outrage over the Wikileaks revelations related to Pakistan’s closeness to the Taliban should be dismissed as propaganda (a point reinforced by Tariq Ali in the Guardian yesterday).
Here’s founder Julian Assange’s modus operandi:
We have clearly stated motives, but they are not antiwar motives. We are not pacifists. We are transparency activists who understand that transparent government tends to produce just government. And that is our sort of modus operandi behind our whole organization, is to get out suppressed information into the public, where the press and the public and our nation’s politics can work on it to produce better outcomes.
The most concerning part of this week’s Wikileaks was the American media’s reluctance to expose the full extent of the revelations:
The possibility that the leaked documents might lead to more discussion of civilian casualties was frequently raised as a concern in U.S. media. The Washington Post editorial tried to minimize the documents’ revelations on this issue: “The British newspaper in turn highlights what it says are 144 reported incidents in which Afghan civilians were killed or wounded by coalition forces. But the 195 deaths it counts in those episodes, though regrettable, do not constitute a shocking total for a four-year period.” That point of view was echoed on CBS Evening News by correspondent Lara Logan:
“Well, the issue of civilian casualties is a major one. And the U.S. has taken a lot of criticism because of this. However, what’s interesting to note is that according to the documents, 195 Afghan civilians have been killed. But also according to the documents, 2,000 Afghan civilians have been killed by the Taliban, which is more than 10 times the number said to be killed by U.S. and NATO forces. And very little is being made of that. If the coverage would indicate that it’s more of an issue for the U.S. to kill Afghan civilians than it is for the Taliban to do so.”
The suggestion that this tally of 195 Afghan civilian deaths is comprehensive is absurd on its face, given that the WikiLeaksGuardian noted, that number “is likely to be an underestimate as many disputed incidents are omitted from the daily snapshots reported by troops on the ground and then collated, sometimes erratically, by military intelligence analysts.” Estimates of civilian casualties vary, but several thousand noncombatant Afghans were killed by U.S. and coalition forces during these years of the war. As for Logan’s point about who bears more responsibility for civilian killings, there have been various attempts to make such determinations. In 2008, for instance, U.N. monitors counted over 2,000 civilian casualties; when responsibility could be determined, 41 percent of the deaths were attributed to U.S./NATO forces.