White House pretends Afghan WikiLeak is “old news”
WikiLeaks-published documents on Afghan war might be old for US army, but Americans are learning about it for the first time, Brian Becker, the Director of the American anti-war A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, pointed out.
Brian Becker gave an interview to our Washington bureau, explaining why he believes the documents were released and who did it.
RT: Detailed accounts of the war in Afghanistan, thousands and thousands of documents have been met by criticism from the White House, which said it is going to endanger out troops in Afghanistan and by skepticism from a lot of people. What’s your take on this?
Brian Becker: I think what the Obama’s White House is presenting is disingenuous and hypocritical. They’re the ones sending US soldiers and marines to kill and to be killed. They’re the ones putting people’s lives at risk and in fact taking those lives in a war that they know cannot be won. But they have not told the truth about that. The WikiLeaks cache of documents, those 92,000 documents, paint a grim portrait that indicates that the leaders – the politicians and the leaders on uniform, the military – know that this war is a lost cause, and yet they’re surging tens of thousands more troops because they, the leaders, don’t want to take responsibility for a defeat in Afghanistan just like Nixon didn’t want to take responsibility for what he knew was a military setback in Vietnam.
I know it’s a current argument that the US military may have leaked this in order to blame Pakistan or to blame others. I don’t think that’s really what’s going on. I think that there are voices within the US military, just as there were during Vietnam, who had become disillusioned with the war and are releasing these documents to paint a picture that tells something quite different from the official version with the hope that the American people will – as they did during Vietnam – become opponents of the war and help change the policy. I understand the point of view of the Pakistani government, because the Americans are blaming Pakistan for every setback and putting on incredible pressure. At the very same time, they use drone airplanes to go and kill Pakistani civilians as if it doesn’t matter, as if they have every right to do it. But I don’t think that’s what really motivated the leakers, the whistleblowers who generated this cache of documents. I think it’s because they want the war to end.
RT: What motivated these whistleblowers?
BB: Well I think that people are skeptical now and no longer trusting in their government. And they believe that the people have been lied to. As we were lied to in Iraq! When there were no weapons of mass destruction. We were lied to about the real purpose of the war in Afghanistan.
Here we are nine years later after the start of the Afghanistan war – a war that seems endless, a war that has no discernable outcome – what’s victory defined as? And so you see a cynicism, a skepticism developing within the military – within the enlisted officials. They are now pumping documents out just as Daniel Ellsberg put out the Pentagon papers from within the Pentagon in the 1970. He had turned against the war.
RT: Many people said these documents do not constitute anything, since the information was already public and known to the administration. Is that true?
BB: It’s true and not true because of course the administration knew that they were losing the war and the documents paint that picture, so in one sense that’s true. But there is something very strange and hypocritical about the pronouncements that “this is nothing new”. If you went back in 1970 and looked at the NY Times coverage of the Pentagon papers which also used classified documents to tell the story of Vietnam, the Pentagon and the media said the same thing: “this is old news, nothing relevant here.” But what was new was that the American people were learning about it for the first time. That’s what’s new. That’s what makes it a catalyst for anti-war opposition.
RT: Are you saying that this war in Afghanistan is unwinnable as these documents are saying?
BB: In its broadest context these documents prove that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won and that the leaders of the US government know that it cannot be won, but they don’t want to tell the American people the truth because they don’t want to take responsibility. They don’t want it to be known in history that, on our watch – Obama or Petraeus – the great United States lost a war against an armed insurgency in Afghanistan.
RT: The previous leak for WikiLeaks on Iraq. Did it really have any impact on US strategy in Iraq or anything in Iraq? Do you believe that this might have any impact on the US strategy in Afghanistan?
BB: I think the documents by themselves, just like you mentioned the release of that terrible assault on the Reuters news reporter and other Iraqi civilians in April 2007, people who were murdered in cold blood, it created a stir for a little while in the US, but the corporate media downplayed it. This could just be a blip and not a big deal. It really depends on what the political forces inside the US want to do with this information.
The White House wants to make it go away saying it’s not a big story, not a big deal, but it’s up to other people, and there is a growing number of them. Up to those who oppose the war in Afghanistan to grab hold of these documents and say to the American people – “why are we spending a billion dollars every two or three days for a war without purpose?”
RT: What kind of effect will it have on US relations with both Kabul and Islamabad and those between Islamabad and Kabul?
BB: I think there are some forces within the US military that are willing to take advantage of the documents just as some of the Pakistanis have said, to put additional pressure on Pakistan. They want Pakistan to function more or less as a puppet regime of the US.
And of course Pakistan is a big country, a proud people. They don’t want to be anybody’s puppets. So there is going to be a growing tension and a growing clash between the US and Pakistan because this circle cannot be squared. Pakistan has its own national interests. It doesn’t want to be a client regime for the United States, and yet this is what the Americans want.
In terms of Kabul, I think the [Khamid] Karzai government is fundamentally a client regime, a puppet government. He can only go so far. He tries to distance himself from the occupation in order to have any credibility with the Afghan people who are against the occupation but the can only do so much. He is their puppet.
RT: What options are there for the Afghanis and the Pakistanis?
BB: Ultimately the only solution will be when the Afghan people determine their own destiny. No one else can shape the outcome for Afghanistan.
For Pakistan – the people in Pakistan with the multi-layered political trends and tendencies – they too have to be able to be free to chart their own destiny without drone attacks, American intervention or the CIA dictating policy to them.
RT: At a Congressional hearing recently, at the House of Representatives, the US lawmakers referenced WikiLeaks in their speeches. What do they have besides what the public has?
BB: The sad state of affairs in American democracy is that the Congress, the 435 members of the House of Representatives and one hundred senators, the greatest chamber of democracy in the world, we are told, has really degenerated into nothing more than a talk shop for politicians who run every two or six years for seats that cost millions of dollars of corporate spending in order to get elected. Once in office they do very little except talk, talk, talk. Congress and only Congress, according to the US Constitution, has the right to declare war. But they didn’t declare war in Afghanistan. In that sense it’s an illegal war. Only Congress has the right to allocate money and yet when the Pentagon and the White house tell them allocate the money and allow the authorization of an undeclared war to go on and on and on, you see politicians from both parties essentially saying “OK”.
RT: Do you think after this huge leak there should be an investigation into human rights abuses in Afghanistan?
BB: Yes and I think more than investigations there should be criminal prosecutions. The US lectures the rest of the world and says “you must be a country, a government that lives by the rule of law, not by people. That means no human being is above the law”. But if US Generals, US politicians, or soldiers and marines on the ground, commit crimes, carrying out heinous acts against civilians – like we know they’ve killed so many civilians in Afghanistan (and this is a policy and was a policy) – those people from the top up, not just soldiers, must be held accountable. So there should be a human rights investigation. There should also be a criminal prosecution and indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
RT: How is this affecting the situations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the vis-à-vis of the US between these two countries?
BB: The US is sort of stuck. It looked at Afghanistan and all of the surrounding former southern republics of the Soviet Union as a great pie. A piece of real estate that they could take and make military bases. In Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan… In other words it would be a US sphere of influence and everybody would have to go along with the new power of the US in the region. But it turned out to be a fantasy, because through military occupation, instead of dominating the people, the US by its mere presence with foreign occupation troops has become a catalyst. An igniter of armed insurgency against the US. That can only end when the US leaves and lets the people of this country and this region make their own destiny free from foreign occupation.