Last week NATO Allies met in Kabul, committed to staying in Afghanistan until 2014, and declared the lack of targeted attacks on the conference as a sign of success. This week WikiLeaks released thousands of pages of classified material on Afghanistan, exposing the violent situation on the ground and many of the secrets used to create an image of a country, relatively, on the mend.
WikiLeaks received much media attention in April when it released a 2007 classified helicopter video footage of civilians and two Reuters journalists being shot down as ‘insurgents’ because a camera was mistaken for a gun outside of Iraq. You can watch the graphic video here. As a result of the video release, soldiers present during the attack came forward and wrote a Letter to Iraq. Here is a video of Ethan McCord recounting the events of that day:
Private First Class Bradley Manning is awaiting court martial. He is accused of releasing the 2007 video. It is now also being suggested that he leaked these new Afghanistan documents.
This new WikiLeaks release spans the years 2004-2010 and was given to the New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Speigel several weeks ago and embargoed until Sunday. The more than 91,000 reports detail much corruption, failings and unnecessary deaths that the initial New York Times article seemed light handed. The new information radically changes what we think is happening in Afghanistan, and obligates us to renew our efforts to end the occupation now. The Taliban is stronger than ever, still supported by the Pakistani government, and rampant corruption and civilian casualties are everywhere. The leaked documents make many question whether we can truly “win” this war.
Rather than denying the evidence, Congress is looking for a scapegoat to distract us from the facts. President Obama is now claiming that the same reports were the impetus for sending more troops to Afghanistan and a change in policy, yet the new policy did not address or fix the systemic problems in Afghanistan.
“Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence,” said Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose writings exposed the Soviet Union Gulag system of forced labor camps. Now the lies are exposed, now we can clearly see the whole picture and must act to stop the violence. Many Afghan civilians live this violence. There are no lies great enough to justify us allowing this war to continue when we have the power to end it. Whether the released documents are sufficient to prove war crimes, it does prove that this war has been allowed to go on for too long and another year or four will only raise the death toll and the horrors that Afghan civilians, and our troops, face.
Call your member of Congress and demand they stop funding the war as a first step. Read some of the highlighted reports yourself and talk about it with others in your community. Brainstorm ideas to get people discussing and debating these wars and what they mean. I will write another article in the next few days with ideas for action and more resources. Thomas Edison said “If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves,” let us live up to that and end the war in Afghanistan.
What You Can Do
As you read this, the House of Representatives is gearing up to vote on spending another $34 Billion to fund the war on Afghanistan. Call your Representative NOW to stop funding this war, at 1-888-493-5443 (a special number set up by the Friends Committee on National Legislation to keep track of the number of calls made) and tell them to stop spending your tax money on war. If it is after business hours, you can find your Representative’s direct phone number by punching in your zip code here then leave a message for them to hear tomorrow morning – constituent calls are tallied by issue, for and against, and overwhelming numbers can sway their vote.
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