When I used to cover the Soviet Union during the 1980's, thoughtful Russians got real news from typed news letters called "samizdats" that were surreptitiously passed from hand to hand.
Today, as North America's mainstream media increasingly parrots the government party line and self-censors like the Soviet media, the internet has become our version of the "samizdat."
The release over the internet of 92,000 US military field reports from Afghanistan by WikiLeaks has sent official Washington into an uproar. The leak story dominates the talk of this town and has pushed chatter about the steady weakening Obama presidency into the background.
WikiGate reports reveal the ugly underbelly of a war merchandised to the public as a noble mission to liberate oppressed women and clean up a nest of terrorists menacing America. The leaks have embarrassed and outraged Washington and its NATO allies. Comparisons to the famed Pentagon Papers of the Vietnam War era that undermined public support for that disastrous conflict are inevitable.
The Obama administration and the Pentagon insist release of these old reports from 2004-2009 "endanger our boys." Nonsense. The only thing the truth endangers are the politicians who have hung their hats on the Afghan War and, perhaps, some paid Afghan informers who are most likely well known to the Taliban and its allies.
The facts revealed by WikiLeaks are indeed shocking: wide-scale killing of civilians by US and NATO forces; torture of prisoners handed over to the Communist-dominated Afghan secret police; American death squads; endemic corruption and theft; double-dealing and demoralization of Western occupation forces facing ever fiercer Taliban resistance.
Readers of my column will know much of this. I've been reporting on the untruths and propaganda about the Afghan War since 2001 when, as an old Afghan hand, I wrote to warn the US not to get involved in Afghanistan. WikiLeaks has done the world a service by confirming what critics of the Afghan War have long been saying. Its founder, Julian Assange, has become the Scarlet Pimpernel of the internet.
The most interesting part of WikiGate deals with Pakistan's supposedly "duplicitous" behavior in aiding the US-led war while maintaining secret links with Taliban and its allies.
The US government and media have been furiously blasting Pakistan while downplaying the atrocities - and, charges WikiLeaks, "war crimes" - committed by Western forces.
Here's the bottom line on Pakistan's "duplicity." After 9/11, the US threatened to "bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age" unless it turned against Taliban, a religious, anti-Communist movement, opened Pakistan to US military forces and intelligence operations, and sent 120,000 Pakistani troops to aid the US war effort in Afghanistan. This was told to me be a former head of ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service whose directors I have regularly met with since 1985.
Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf says his nation was forced to give in to Washington's threats of all-out war against Pakistan. if it did not accept all US demands that resulted in Pakistan becoming a semi-occupied nation.
Musharraf was compelled to abandon Taliban, which served as Pakistan's proxy army in Afghanistan battling the still active Afghan Communist Party-Tajik Northern Alliance. Russia and Iran also backed the Northern Alliance. Islamabad had used Taliban to counter intensifying efforts by India to extend its influence into Afghanistan.
Pakistan was thus forced by the US to act against its own vital strategic interests. Southern Afghanistan has long been Pakistan's sphere of influence and was seen as giving wasp-waisted Pakistan strategic depth in a major war with India.
This column revealed that in 2007, Pakistan and India concluded that the US and its dragooned allies would be defeated and driven from Afghanistan. Both old foes began implementing a proxy war to control strategic Afghanistan.
Pakistan adopted a dual-track policy: accepting semi-occupation by the US and $1 billion annually from Washington and paying lip service to the US-led war, while keeping open links to Taliban and tribal militants.
Taliban was a Pashtun tribal movement. Fifteen percent of Pakistanis, and much of its military, are ethnic Pashtun.
This was obvious and basic common sense. No one should have been surprised - particularly not Washington.
The Obama administration and US media are heaping blame for the growing fiasco in Afghanistan on Gen. Hamid Gul, former director general of ISI intelligence agency. Gul led the anti-Soviet struggle in Afghanistan in the 1980's and was one of America's most formidable allies. I knew Gul well. He was not anti-American, though some of his theories strain credulity. Gul claims, for example, that the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington were a plot between Israel's Mossad and rogue elements of the US Air Force.
Gul is an ardent Pakistani patriot at a time when so many Pakistani politicians and generals have been bought by Washington like bags of Basmati rice. Many of the false charges against Gul came from the Communist-led Afghan secret police who have sought to discredit or even kill Gul for over two decades.
What Washington really wants is a totally obedient, obsequious Pakistan, not real ally. This is self-defeating, imperial bullying. The interests of the two nations must at times diverge.
Trying to make Pakistan into a satellite state will result in that enormously important, nuclear-armed nation of 170 million one day exploding with anti-American hatred, as was the case in Iran in 1979. The US-led war in Afghanistan is putting the two nations on a collision course. Over 90% of Pakistanis already say that their nation's primary enemy is the United States, followed by India.
Here in Washington, the US Congress just ignored the WikiLeaks scandal and voted yet more billions to fuel the Afghanistan War. Politicians are petrified to oppose this nine-year war lest they be accused of being anti-patriotic, the kiss of death in hyperpatriotic America where flag-wavers root for foreign wars so long as their kids don't have to serve and they don't have to pay taxes to finance them.
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