The Wikileaks discussion heats up. The latest argument from Washington says that informants’ lives are in danger because the leaked documents contain the names of Afghans who have cooperated with us. Admiral Mike Mullen says that Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, may already have blood on his hands:
Mr Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.
It’s a reasonable objection, especially if voiced by the intelligence officials who recruited the informants, or by the informants themselves.
It’s not reasonable, though, coming from the United States government, a government that has proven it doesn’t care that much about saving anyone’s life:
- We’re completely open about recruiting collaborators throughout Afghanistan. Americans go into a town, assemble a shura, and persuade people to cooperate with them. It’s anyone’s guess how long we’ll stick around. When we move on to the next town, the Taliban come in and do as they like with the people who worked with us.
- Again and again, for nine years, we’ve used air power to bomb civilians as we go after our enemies. Each time we apologize, conduct an investigation, hand out some guilt money if we feel like it, and say we won’t let it happen again. Then it happens again.
- We’ve tortured people to death if we don’t like them, or if they won’t cooperate with us. The government tells us that doesn’t happen anymore. We have to take their word for it. We know they’d like to do it, but they’ve been caught once, and they don’t want to be caught again.
Now when Pfc Manning and Wikileaks blow the curtain back on the government’s habitual secrecy, the government’s suddenly concerned about protecting informants’ lives. As long as they can conduct the war any way they want, behind the national security veil of secrecy, they don’t care much about Afghan lives. We say we want to protect civilians, but standard operating procedures for treatment of prisoners, use of air power, and recruitment of allies take precedence. When someone draws the curtain back to let the sun shine in, the people in charge scurry around until they come up with a good reason to close the curtains and restore the shadows.
We’ve placed informants’ lives at risk! Let’s see if that one works. What we want most of all is secrecy. If we have to say we’re interested in protecting lives even when we obviously aren’t, that’s what we’ll say. If we have to say we want to protect our intelligence sources and make Pfc Manning into a criminal, let’s do it.
Whose hands are already soaked in Afghan blood, since 2002?
Now our leaders wonder why citizens have become so cynical.