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Wikileaks – the documents, the people – a guest post

August 2, 2010

A friend of ours wrote a couple of pieces on the Wikileaks issue.  I was going to write something – but she does it so well, I’m not going to re-invent the wheel.  Megan at Veritably Bare – this is part one of her posts.   Part two will go up tomorrow.  And yeah, we are all pissed as HELL at the total disregard shown by Wikileaks to the Afghan people and the NATO troops.

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I haven’t seen any of my military blog-friends post about the whole Wikileaks releasing 90,000 classified documents to the media and then to the world at large (if you have and I missed you, I’m sorry. Life is a little hectic around here lately). I’m not one to avoid sensitive subjects, so I’m busting down the door here. The documents provide detailed information about the Afghanistan war from 2004-2009 and Wikileaks promises that more documents will be released as soon as they scrub “personal information” from them.

This has been weighing heavily on me since the story broke. I’ve talked with friends on Facebook and I’ve had long discussions with other folks in comment sections on non-military blogs. It is a hot topic of conversation in our household as we try to make sense of it and worry about the inevitable fallout from the leaks.

I would like to open this up for discussion here, but I have a few things to say before we begin.

Politicians benefit from citizens being polarized. They gain when we are unable to have real conversations about real issues, they profit from us demonizing each other. It is extremely easy to slap a label and all of its stereotypes on people who disagree with us. Let’s all agree that we aren’t going to do that here, today, aight? No slandering each other, no pointing fingers at one administration or another. This is a serious issue that deserves thoughtful discussion. Let’s not allow it to devolve into petty snarky bickering that only serves to distract us from the real business at hand. If we do, the politicians have won! And really, no one wants that.

Respectful disagreements are welcome here. Namecalling, insulting, virtual eye rolling, and finger pointing (and a host of other -ings) are not.

I have always loved Wikileaks. I think an organization which serves as a clearinghouse of sorts for whistleblowers is desperately needed in the world today. Since serious investigative journalism bit the big one in the major news outlets, Wikileaks has provided a much needed service to institutions in many nations. Rooting out corruption in government is in the best interest of citizens.

That said, when this story broke, my heart froze and I immediately wanted to start banging my head on something to dull the fear that overtook my brain. There is absolutely no way that in 90,000 documents (over 200,000 pages) of classified information, all of the stuff that can hurt our troops and the Afghan people was scrubbed out. Last year I attended memorial services for men who gave a smidgeon too much information on unsecured lines of communication.

The amount of information that has just been delivered to the hands of the enemy (the Taliban–the ones who throw acid in the faces of little girls who dare to go to school and who set fire to women who stand up for their rights and slaughter young women who were raped)–will be used against us. There’s a reason so many of the details of war are kept classified. Now the enemy knows which of their tactics are most effective, exactly how many of our troops were wounded–where, when and how. They know our routes, tactics, and equipment.

That’s not all they know. When my husband was deployed, the Afghan interpreters used code names and worked far from their homes. To protect their families, their real names were never spoken. They were incredibly brave men who risked their lives to help international forces. We attempted to start a humanitarian project to send clothes, toys and school supplies to the children in my husband’s region. We were unable to do so because if the kids were caught with even an ink pen from the Americans, they and their families were tortured by the Taliban. It would seem that Wikileaks didn’t scrub enough from their documents and they now know the identities of Afghan informants.

I might need to invest in a helmet because I’m not sure how long I can suppress the urge to bang my head on stuff.

Not only will these people pay an enormous price for their courage, now the Afghan people are going to trust us even less than they did before. So much for hearts and minds.

I see this as a failure on the part of several different institutions. First, the label “classified” is abused by the people who have the power to apply it. It is used to cover up a variety of misdeeds on the parts of individuals, groups, and sometimes whole institutions. Its overuse is a clear example of the kind of corruption that Wikileaks attempts to spotlight. When classification is abused, it devalues the label and makes all classified information less safe. Thanks a lot, powers that be. I truly think that all wrongfully classified information should see the light of day. Fuck those asscovering sons of bitches who abuse their privilege.

That said, some information is deserving of its classified status. Wikileaks could have/should have done better. They need to fully understand the line between falsely classified information and information that will cost lives. They will not succeed in the role they have chosen for themselves if they cannot differentiate between the two and choose to protect lives when necessary.

Next, who leaked this? Does anyone really believe that a PFC–even working as an intel analyst–would have access to that much information? Really? If so, I see this as a failure of his entire chain of command. If my staff-sergeant husband can be held responsible when one of his PFCs drives drunk while he’s on pass over a 4 day weekend, I’m pretty sure PFC Manning’s chain should be held responsible for something of this magnitude which occurred while he was serving in Iraq. Really, though, I don’t think the PFC did this, but he will probably pay the price just like SPC Lynndie England and a few other lower enlisteds paid the most for Abu Ghraib.

I am having trouble reconciling what I think about all of this. On one hand, I am glad that some of the stuff that has been released is of the “abusively classified” persuasion. But more than that I’m scared shitless about the stuff that needed to stay secret. I am worried about those Afghan families that will pay for their courage with blood. I am worried for my friends who are in Afghanistan now and for my husband and his comrades who will be back there soon. The release of this type of information in such huge quantities will not be without repercussion.

I am afraid that the shock wave will be felt most keenly on the front lines as usual, and the ripple that reaches the Fuckers on High will not affect them in the least. I am afraid that the American public in general doesn’t care about any of this and that they were glad to see the headlines change back to LiLo and Gibsongate. I am afraid that none of this will bring about any positive change. I am afraid that the sector of the population that is cheering the leak don’t have a fucking clue about the bloodshed it will cause, and I’m afraid the people who are screaming treason will succeed in silencing whistleblowers of all types.

I am even more afraid to send my husband back to war.

Megan at Veritably Bare

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One Comment leave one →
  1. sreysaw permalink
    August 3, 2010 9:37 am

    Great post. Thank you very much for your clear, reasoned arguments!

    On the point of our allies in Afghanistan (and Iraq), this Op-Ed makes many good points: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/31/opinion/31topping.html?_r=4

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