Obama, speaking from the Rose Garden after a meeting with congressional leaders to discuss funding for the war and other issues, deplored the leak, saying he was concerned the information from the battleground "could potentially jeopardise individuals or operations".
The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said he was appalled by the leaks, telling reporters "there is a real potential threat there to put American lives at risk."
Now, it may or may not be true that this leak put people in Afghanistan at risk, but I find that to be a very interesting point for this president to be making, considering that the policy and execution of his policy absolutely jeopardizes individuals in Afghanistan and around the world. After all, if you put Julian Assange and President Obama together in a room, only one person in that room is ordering heavily armed people into a hostile war zone filled with civilians. And only one of them is executing a policy that increases the likelihood of a suicide bombing campaign directed at the United States and its citizens and that kills thousands of civilians each year.
This is a tried-and-true warmonger move: according to this canard, it's those that oppose the war policy or that take action to show the conflict between societal values and actual policies that endanger everyone, not the brutal, costly policy. I would say I was a bit shocked, but this is the same president that stood up during his Nobel Peace Prize lecture and opined about the necessity of war when he feels it's justified. The President of the United States has tripled the number of troops in Afghanistan, thus putting them in harm's way for a policy that doesn't make us safer and that causes enormous hardship for those caught in the crossfire. Those who support this policy but are attacking WikiLeaks for releasing this data need to take a good, hard look in the mirror before they jump on Julian Assange for "endangering" anyone.
But he went on to say the material highlighted the challenges that led him to announce a change in strategy late last year that involved sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. The policy is due to be reviewed in December.
"We failed for seven years to implement a strategy adequate to the challenge," Obama said today, of the period starting with the 9/11 attacks. That is why we have increased our commitment there and developed a new strategy," he said, adding he has also sent one of the finest generals in the US, General David Petraeus.
Insisting that the strategy "can work", he ended with a plea to the House of Representatives to join the Senate in passing a bill to provide funds for the Afghan war as a matter of urgency.
Help me out here. Somehow, we're supposed to believe that the WikiLeaks information is "proof" that the president was right to initiate a massive escalation. If I were the president, this would be the drop-dead last argument I'd be making, because it begs the question: Okay, well, what's the situation on the ground like now, 7 months into the escalation policy, compared to the time period captured in the War Logs leak?
Short answer: the president should be pining away for the good ol' days depicted in the WikiLeaks report.
Here's a chart from the latest Afghan NGO Safety Office report, showing a massive jump in the seasonal peaks in insurgent-initiated violence since President Obama took office and started his repeated escalations.
Here's a quote from a December 2009 military report, "The State of the Insurgency" (.pdf):
- Organizational capabilities and operational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding
- Strength and ability of shadow governance increasing
- Much greater frequency of attacks and varied locations
Compare that with this quote from the latest "progress" report to Congress:
- Organizational capabilities and operational reach are qualitatively and geographically expanding.
- The strength and ability of shadow governance to discredit the authority and legitimacy of the Afghan Government is increasing.
- Insurgents' tactics, techniques, and procedures for conducting complex attacks are increasing in sophistication and strategic effect.
Lots of change there, apparently. Good work, Mr. President.
Here's a map from that same report that shows that the Kabul government is falling further behind the insurgents when it comes to winning sympathy or support in key regions of the country (a chart that the Pentagon laughably refers to when it wants to show "progress" to Congress, because they know Congress doesn't actually read the reports).
Here's another quote from the same source that compares the level of violence in 2010 to the level of violence at the time depicted in the WikiLeaks material:
Violence is sharply above the seasonal average for the previous year - an 87% increase from February 2009 to March 2010.
Like everyone else, I'm still combing through the documents and reading various summaries and reactions. But I don't even have to get through any of the WikiLeaks material to see that the president's attempt to spin this leak as a justification of his policies is totally bankrupt. The publicly available reports from his own administration prove it--no leak required.
Fed up with this brutal, costly war that's not making us safer? Sign Rethink Afghanistan's petition to politicians to end this war.