by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
July 30, 2010
BRAVE MEN AND POISONED BEER
DUMMERSTON, Vt., July 30, 2010 -- One picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes 70,000 pages of words can give you a very strong picture. I'm talking about the Afghanistan War Logs that WikiLeaks released on Sunday.
During the Bush Administration, remember, opponents of the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars were furious because battle images were censored. Shamefully, Bush's people even hid photographs of flag-draped coffins returning from the battlefields.
Protesters wanted Americans at home to have clear idea of what was happening in their name, to their sons and daughters, with their money, in foreign lands.
Now, thanks to WikiLeaks, we have a novel in raw form torn straight from the Afghanistan battlefields - hundreds of thousands of military event reports from January 2004 to December 2009, edited to remove any material that might hurt the fighting today.
The reports put us right in the middle of the war, inside the blood and guns and chaos and terror and anger and hopelessness and confusion and frustration.
(The material is posted at wardiary.wikileaks.org. A useful glossary can be found at www.guardian.co.uk/world/datablog/2010/jul/25/wikileaks-afghanistan-war-logs-glossary.)
If you don't want to read the raw material - and it makes for fascinating reading - then The New York Times, the British daily newspaper The Guardian and the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel have had a few weeks to dig into the material and are publishing stories at a rapid clip.
Random samplings reveal Afghan journalists being wounded, Afghan government officials accepting bribes, and thousands of discovered weapon caches just like this one: "Cache NE of Khowst: s- 2x pistols, 8x fuses, 2x handgrenades."
From the criminal activity file, here's a report of an incident on Nov. 11, 2005: "Task Force Bayonet reported a cache of illegal drugs destroyed in the vicinity of Camp Wolverine... The ANA (Afghan National Army) patrol stopped the jingle truck and searched the truck. The patrol discovered 5,600 kilograms of Hashish during the search. The illegal drugs were confiscated and burned at the scene."
More drugs: "A significant proportion of the ABP (Afghan Border Police) in PB (Patrol Base) JUGROOM were high on opium and having a party. An argument between an interpreter and a number of policemen ensued... a number of shots were fired." One fatality.
Hundreds of incidents of friendly fire are reported. In Army jargon, they're called "green on green," which means Afghans shooting Afghans. Sample: "Received a local national boy who had received a gunshot wound to his stomach. He had been shot during a green on green firefight in Jangalak village."
Or this one: "A water dispute turned violent leaving 6 civilians dead and 2 wounded. 10 other individuals were arrested by police."
Kidnappings appear to be commonplace: "Two of these undercover local national MOI (Afghanistan's Ministry of the Interior) agents were kidnapped sometime within the last 48 hours... From all accounts this involved narcotraffickers and not necessarily Taliban. MOI reported that their operation involved the seizure of 500KG of cocaine. If soley (sic) drug related, the likelihood of finding these agents alive is remote. However the governor did report that he had tried to call the cellphones of the kidnapped agents and the individual who answered told him that he was a Taliban... don't bother trying to find these guys."
America's good friend, Pakistan, makes many appearances. From The Guardian: "A stream ofU.S.military intelligence reports accuse Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency of arming, training and financing the Taliban insurgency since 2004, the war logs reveal, bringing fresh scrutiny on one of the war's most contentious issues."
At least 180 files contain allegations of dirty tricks by the powerful agency with accounts of undercover ISI agents training suicide bombers, bundles of money slipping across the border, and covert support for a range of sensational plots including the assassination of President Hamid Karzai, attacks on NATO warplanes, and even poisoning Western troops' beer supply.
Politicians got us into this mess, and they're not looking too good right now. The White House said the leaks, even though they end in 2009, "could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security." Then it pointed out that most of the incidents happened on Bush's watch - before the Obama "surge" in Afghanistan. As if adding more men to the fire didn't fan the flames higher. Almost literally.
Read these documents and see why our children come home ruined. See what we are doing to other people's children. See where our tax dollars are going, besides propping up Goldman Sachs.
It's a hard read, so don't forget what Kipling said about fighting in Afghanistan: "When first under fire an' you're wishful to duck/Don't look nor take 'eed at the man that is struck/Be thankful you're livin', and trust to your luck/And march to your front like a soldier."
Joyce Marcel (joycemarcel.com) is a journalist and columnist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.