Taliban Use Wikileaks to Hunt, Murder Named Afghans

by Joshua Foust on 7/30/2010 · 92 comments

Yesterday, The Times, which is, sadly, behind a paywall, ran a report by Tom Coghland that was very worrying:

After the disclosure in this newspaper yesterday that the WikiLeaks Afghan “war logs” contained possibly hundreds of named Afghan intelligence sources for US forces, The Times has uncovered many new cases.

One example from 2006 described an encounter between US officers and an Afghan. The Times has redacted the report to ensure that no individual or their relatives could be targeted.

Yesterday the account of Mr [X]’s meeting was accessible to anyone on the internet with the thousands of others published by WikiLeaks. When The Times sought to track down Mr [X] to ask his response, he was found to be dead.

He was killed by the Taleban two years ago after being suspected of spying for American forces. Twenty-eight other named Afghan individuals in just a few hundred files examined in detail by The Times on the site are, however, thought to be alive.

That is clearly not Wikileaks’ fault. But it does demonstrate the extreme risk many Afghans took in choosing to oppose the Taliban domination of their homes. I should note The Times, along with the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel (and, frankly, every major paper that’s covered this story) has chosen to redact the Afghan names contained in the Wikileaks data. Despite withholding some 15,000 incident reports for “safety reasons,” thousands of documents in the archive do identify Afghans by name, family, location, and ideology.

The Times (firewalled again, I’m sorry) asked Wikileaks founder Julian Assange what he thought of it:

• He claimed that many informers in Afghanistan were “acting in a criminal way” by sharing false information with Nato authorities.

• He said the White House knew that informants’ names could be exposed before the release but did nothing to help WikiLeaks to vet the data.

• He insisted that any risk to informants’ lives was outweighed by the overall importance of publishing the information.

Mr Assange said: “No one has been harmed, but should anyone come to harm of course that would be a matter of deep regret — our goal is justice to innocents, not to harm them. That said, if we were forced into a position of publishing all of the archives or none of the archives we would publish all of the archives because it’s extremely important to the history of this war.”

Leaving aside the immaturity and callousness of such a stance—we didn’t mean to hurt anyone but instead of thinking through the consequences of our actions, we though, hey, fuck it, let’s publish anyway, it’s war!—Assange is giving us a wonderful lesson in why things are classified during war. His cavalier attitude toward the safety of the people he exposes to mortal danger, as if a really terrible context like a war provides justification for adding further risk to their lives (and his repeated, and thus far unsupported, accusations that Afghans who help us are criminals), is beyond immaturity and callousness, though—it is monstrous.

Julian Assange is the worst sort of moralist, one whose sense of justice is so selective (secrecy is of utmost concern for Wikileaks’ sources and employees, but not the government), and his comprehension of consequences so short-sighted and defined by ideology rather than fact, that he doesn’t care who he has to offer up to murderous bastards to satisfy his sense of moral outrage. It is the same morality that leads the ELF to destroy car dealerships using chemical explosives out of a concern for the environment.

Anyway, so the Taliban are doing exactly what I said they would do, in my pieces for PBS and CJR: they are vowing to hunt down and murder anyone who is identified in the Wikileaks archive as having worked for the U.S.

Exclusive: The Taliban has issued a chilling warning to Afghans, alleged in secret US military files leaked on the internet to have worked as informers for the Nato-led coalition, telling Channel 4 News “US spies” will be hunted down and punished.

Speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location, Zabihullah Mujahid told Channel 4 News that the insurgent group will investigate the named individuals before deciding on their fate.

“We are studying the report,” he said, confirming that the insurgent group already has access to the 92,000 intelligence documents and field reports.

I hope Julian Assange sleeps well at night. His victims certainly won’t.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 88 comments }

Michael Drew July 30, 2010 at 6:39 am

Greenwald has resorted to the “So what if he unnecessarily endangered lives – we’re dropping bombs on them!” Even to someone who is unequivocally opposed to the U.S. ever causing a single death anywhere through its own action, how does that make Assange’s choices any better?

Joshua Foust July 30, 2010 at 6:41 am

My argument is, it doesn’t. “War is shitty” is not an excuse to enable the murder of civilians in the war just because you don’t like it. I count Greenwald as among the blind ideologues desperate to cover the fact that they NEVER cared about Afghans in any way, they only cared about their own emotional well-being.

Michael Drew July 30, 2010 at 7:55 am

Agreed. “It doesn’t” is the right answer.

Additionally, Assange has been referencing the publishing decisions of the NYT, etc. in his public explanations of his choices, suggesting he took similar precautions when he didn’t, and essentially free-riding on their, at least until now, better reputation on questions of reporting potentially harmful information. I am interested to see how far the Times is willing to let this story move in the direction it seems to be headed while staying as closely associated with Assange as they have chosen to be. Not that the choice to associate so closely can be undone at this point, but likely any reputational damage could be repaired by a public break and/or statement of criticism of Assange. I wonder if that was dealt with in the negotiations that led to the joint actions, however.

-http://twitter.com/MikeDrewWhat

SDProg July 30, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Are we talking about Glenn Greenwald here? If so, he said yesterday on his twitter that, “@attackerman Understood – but even WikiLeaks’ most ardent defenders (myself included) have criticized the careless failure to redact names “

SDProg July 30, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Also, two days ago Greenwald said, “WikiLeaks should’ve been much more careful w/redactions – but hearing lectures from Endless War advocates about Afghan lives is a bit much.”

quell July 31, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Any murder of civilian informants is the fault of the custodians of the classified data– the US government.
Those names are the RESPONSIBILITY of the US government that apparently let Manning walk 92000 files on r/w media out of a “SECURE” SECRET facility.
You, Joshua Foust and the rest of these asshole war pimps can stop whining about Assanges “moral obligation” and get the fuck in there and extract any burned contracts.
Presumably they know WHO THEY FUCKING BURNED, and aren’t going to sit on their hands bitching about Assange while the Talis grease any friendlies foolish and unfortunate enough to have trusted us.
You don’t give a shit about the afghan people, Foust. You are throwing radar chaff so people won’t notice what is really in the Wikileaks docs. We have lost already.
You and Exum and the rest of the COINdinistas war pimps just want to get to your table-top wargaming.
Look at the Time pic of the mutilated girl. Her nose was CUT OFF LAST YEAR in the middle of 100k american troops. The Taliban are ALREADY RESURGENT. We are cutting a deal with them right now. Right now the ratio is one single Talib fighter is pwning 13 coalition/afghan security forces. The Talib ARE NOT GOING AWAY—THEY ARE WINNING. The Wikileaks docs show exactly the same thing. WE ARE LOSING. And there is no way to win.
Even if we can stand up a “democratic” government the afghan people are going to vote for shariah and the Talibs will be part of the goverment!
So we can keep pouring blood and treasure into a rat hole while you tell yourself we are protecting India or Israel or muslimah noses or w/e fucktard reasons you want to manufacture, but the truth is we are there because GW was a WEC retard that didn’t get that muslims like Islam. And all this blood and shit flowed right from that.
And I dont think one single more american soldier or one single more afghan muslim should die because Bush was a moron and his advisors were evil manipulators and we can’t bear to admit that we fucked up that bad, that we elected a man so deeply and profoundly stupid that he nearly destroyed our country. And its idiots like you, Exum, that are going to let the war pimps bleed us dry so we don’t have to admit that the greatest country in the world SCREWED UP.

quell July 31, 2010 at 10:11 pm

idiots like you AND Exum that should be.
🙂

Joshua Foust August 1, 2010 at 7:12 am

Quell, blaming the U.S. government for some kid working very hard to circumvent their information security is like blaming a homeowner for a robber breaking down their door and cutting open a safe to steal their diamonds. It’s not the victim’s fault for having valuable things; it is the thief’s fault for being an asshole thief.

quell August 1, 2010 at 11:15 am

why do we have security protocols at all then?
when the field commanders recruit informants they give them a contract…..that we protect them. SECRET classification is designed to protect intel against compromise.
The security officers at Mannings facility FAILED in their charter, to protect classified. He didnt just take a few things…..he walked 92k docs out of a SECRET facility on r/w media. That is a gross system fail. Our responsibility is to extract any burned contacts before they get greased by the Talis, not whine about the left and Assanges moral obligation.
We failed. it is our responsibility.
Although Exum speaks highly of you I think you are an idiot.

quell August 1, 2010 at 11:26 am

and you might ask yourself just how Manning was able to accomplish that….i wonder if some of the analysts themselves are growing sick of the coverup of data that explicitly shows the meaningless unwinnable war we are losing so badly.
a secret cabal of analysts that is bent on exposing the truth about Af-Pak?
if that is true the war pimps are going to be exposed for just what they are.

Paul July 30, 2010 at 8:46 am

Hi guys,

I just want to say that this article is incredibly biased against the wikileaks site.

perhaps you’d like to comment on the cover up of the murder of civilians that wikileaks has put forth? should that have been kept secret.

And no, the government doesn’t have an absolute right to secrecy. It also doesn’t have the right to lie to its citizens.

Pete July 30, 2010 at 9:24 am

Paul,

First, I don’t think it’s actually possible to be biased against a website, as you claim.

Second, nowhere in this post is there any sentiment towards it being ok to cover up murder or anything of the sort. The central theme is that a leak for leak’s sake can be – and, in this case was – irresponsible to a degree. Foust argues that Assange has a selective morality and that he and his organization published the names of Afghans helping the coalition without a thought as to what the consequences to those people may be – which is quite obviously true. Assange went so far as to call Afghans who cooperate with the coalition “criminals” – so, wouldn’t that be him acting as a fascist judge, jury, and executioner (literally)?

Assange wanted to poke the eye of the U.S. government, which he did. But, he did so while committing a sort of “collateral murder” (<– see what I did there) by outing a host host of people who, by any stretch, did not deserve to have such a thing done to them.

Third, nowhere does he claim the government has "an absolute right" to secrecy. He says "secrecy is of utmost concern for Wikileaks’ sources and employees, but not the government." The word "absolute" does not appear anywhere.

I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone worth his intellectual salt to argue that a government has the absolute right to lie to its citizens…I mean, come on.

Cato July 30, 2010 at 9:09 am

The leaked docs show an utterly cynical stance by the military on the Afghan lives and now you’re all riled up by the Assange acts consequences.

So when “it’s war !” is the stance of the government, you’re ok with that. Rather, when it’s someone else stance, then he’s a moralist of the worst craft.

You’re such a hypocritical !

DPT July 30, 2010 at 11:34 am

No, because there is an ethical difference between people society has tasked with using force and people like you and I. The military has to accept some degree of detachment and distance from civilian lives because it’s the freaking military, they live in a world of contingency where they have a duty to make decisions not just for the lives of civilians, but the lives of soldiers and the national interest.

It’s not hypocritical to say “it’s war” only applies to the government, because only the government is at war. The government is the organization Americans elect to have the power, in certain circumstances, to kill people and break things. Its ethical and moral decisions are therefore very different from yours. It is particularly different for people in the military, who are duty-bound to serve their political leadership and protect their fellow soldiers.

That is pretty damn different from Julian Assange, who is voluntarily endangering lives, and for what? He has no duty to disclose the identities of the Afghans, and, because he is a non-combatant, no right to endanger anyone else’s life. He is not acting in self-defense. He is not preventing harm from coming to comrades. There is nobody forcing him to do this.

No, Julian Assange is a hypocrite for talking about the “collateral murder” of civilians by soldiers who are actually living in life-and-death situations. Julian Assange is a private citizen thousands of miles away who had every chance to redact this information and protect Afghan lives, only he didn’t, because the publicity, er, transparency of that information, which really does nothing to further investigations of the war or add to the case against it, mattered more to him. If you’re upset about NATO killing people, get mad at your politicians and do something about it. Who is wikileaks accountable to?

reader July 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm

DPT,

theoretically that’s how it should work, but the system is broken. For a number of reasons, Congress no longer represents its citizens, and since European NATO members routinely ignore their citizens’ desire to leave Afghanistan, one must ask what is a citizen to do?

DPT July 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm

The system isn’t THAT broken – it’s the electorate that is unwilling to elect seriously anti-war candidates. NATO is tricky because governments are diplomatically bound to support the alliance to some degree, but again, where are the Greens and anti-war candidates?

In any case, there are more productive, or, at the very least, ethically sound way for citizens to express their disapproval of the Afghan war. My main problem with what wikileaks actually did was their callous and shameless neglect of Afghan informants’ safety. Aside from that, it’s fine if citizens want to release information that does not endanger anyone’s life (and most of the rest of wikileaks doesn’t). Heck, go old school and refuse to pay your taxes (as long as you’re okay with being arrested to make your point). Whatever you want to do as a private citizen that doesn’t hurt anyone is fine with me. But non-combatants living in the US have no right or duty that permits or requires them not to redact info on informants. That’s all I really ask.

DPT July 30, 2010 at 3:18 pm

“In any case, there are more productive, or, at the very least, ethically sound way for citizens to express their disapproval of the Afghan war.”

People already do that, and it amounts to vilch. The Village is so far down in the hole on this one, they figure they better keep digging to China, otherwise a crap load of people’s reputations are ruined, and intervention-happy folks realize they’ll have to wait to old age to try out their theories in foreign lands again. There might be some worry for the Afghans, but I suspect that’s further down the list than the aforementioned concerns.

reader July 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm

sorry, the above post was by me in response to DPT, he didn’t write it

quell August 2, 2010 at 9:24 am

DPT, what do you think of the collateral murder video and the soon-to-be-aired Garani massacre video?
What was the justification for those videos to be classified and suppressed?

Abdullah August 1, 2010 at 10:51 am

DPT,
“The military has to accept some degree of detachment and distance from civilian lives because it’s the freaking military, they live in a world of contingency where they have a duty to make decisions not just for the lives of civilians, but the lives of soldiers and the national interest.”

Will you take the same stance when they are firing on their own citizens on U.S. soil? It has been done before.

Mike July 30, 2010 at 9:28 am

Perhaps you guys bashing wikileaks ought to provide evidence that the leak ACTUALLY resulted in deaths, rather than using a two-year-old death that had nothing to do with it to IMPLY it. Its speculation and innuendo, not fact.

Ironically, the leaked documents show ACTUAL deaths of innocents at the hands of NATO, but all we get is an “oh well”.

Hypocrites.

Joshua Foust August 1, 2010 at 7:13 am

Mike, I have never argued that Wikileaks has caused deaths. If you re-read my post, I’m arguing they put people into serious danger.

And again: the point here isn’t to excuse the war. I don’t think you can read this blog and think I agree with U.S. policy, or that I’m particularly inclined to defend the military’s policies. This isn’t about the military, and you should stop deflecting criticism. This is about Wikileaks.

quell August 2, 2010 at 9:31 am

Orly?
srsly Foust, YOU SAID this.
“What should the White House do – work alongside an organization stealing its sensitive documents?”
and this.
“Quell, blaming the U.S. government for some kid working very hard to circumvent their information security is like blaming a homeowner for a robber breaking down their door and cutting open a safe to steal their diamonds. It’s not the victim’s fault for having valuable things; it is the thief’s fault for being an asshole thief.”

You’re a war pimp and you’re busted. You want to throw radar chaff so the Wikileaks docs go away….aint happening.
Like i said, those guys are True Believers and their goal is TO STOP THE WAR. Around 4 months between the collateral murder video video release and the doc dump– April 5 to July 26. What happens in approx 4 months from now?
midterm elections.

Michael Hancock July 30, 2010 at 10:08 am

I’m not really sure that NATO’s mistakes make Wikileaks mistakes permissible. The horrors of war caused by our own government do not let Wikileaks off the hook for their own lapse of judgment. Redacting names is not ‘adding to the lies’ of governmental secrecy – and I’d like to see our visitors branding Josh as a hypocrite respond to Assange’s bizarre belief that Afghans supporting NATO and informing on the Taliban are somehow criminal or criminal-like. Working against the religious extremists that have hijacked your country may be incredibly dangerous (more so, now) but I doubt that it is a criminal act.

SDProg July 30, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I wouldn’t say its criminal, but we are propping up a highly corrupt regime that has its fair share of criminals within its ranks. After all, there is a reason so many Afghans despise the Karzai government.

reader July 30, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Michael,

The anti-Taliban informants include many innocents, but there are also people there who used naive NATO forces to carry out their own feuds. In the beginning there were plenty of people who were persecuted unjustly. Moreover, considering our partner the Karzai government has the world Islamic in its title and have upheld some pretty extreme laws, I think I’d back away from the whole Manichean Western style Open Society vs. Taliban thing, we ain’t exactly allied with a bunch of liberal secularists here. And who “hijacked” what and from who?

Joshua Foust August 1, 2010 at 7:14 am

So what? You’re using the excuse that because lots of people experience bad things, we should excuse an irresponsible leak of information because whatever, things happen. That’s not a particularly ethical or moral stance.

reader August 1, 2010 at 10:23 am

No Josh,

I’m saying that lots of bad things have been going on for the last 9 years, and no “serious” people seemed to be up in arms about it. So, please forgive my cynicism. In this case, I took issue with Michael’s description of the Afghan civil war and I considered anecdotal stories about Afghans who have supported the US in the past, but have been tossed under the bus.

I’ll give you credit, you’ve been more than fair on these issues, but I disagree with your blogging heads statement that Assange was a hypocrite by holding the government to a higher standard than himself. That was the reason for my first post.

And of course Assange’s not redacting the names was immoral and hypocritical, I’m not arguing that. But it was not irresponsible, if you consider it a tactical move. The problem is when you leave a large percentage of the population out of the discussion because they aren’t “serious”, expect them to circumnavigate the system.

If the US were at all honest and moral, we’d axe the Karzai government and turn the place into a colony, bring back a draft, go Marshall plan on the place and end Cheney’s baby, the private-public partnership which seems to be best at creating mcmansions in Tennessee and Dubai.

reader July 30, 2010 at 10:10 am

Josh,

regarding the government being held to a higher standard than wikileaks on secrecy, I’m curious, at what point am I forced to yearly pay wikileaks for increasingly dubious benefits the more positive aspects of which are yearly decreasing (think cops as ticket writers as opposed to actually stopping crime) based on an underlying threat of coercion? The second the government is no longer based on a legal monopoly of violence then we can talk about their rights being the same as private individuals.

And Josh, imagine the reverse, what if a trove of names of Taliban informants fell into US government hands or was made public. Would you be so angry? Afghanistan is in the midst of a civil war, and we’ve allied ourselves with a Kabul-based warlord. This is not a Manichean struggle between the forces of light and darkness.

And for someone who is angry about ideologues, you sound pretty ideological yourself, getting angry because wikileaks has decided to play dirty.

I agree with you, Assange probably knowingly endangered Afghan lives, and that is morally reprehensible. But I can’t think of any party in this whole sordid mess who can speak from moral authority. The US abandoned moral authority when it invaded Afghanistan rather than present the Taliban with evidence of Osama’s crimes, or decided to try Osama in absentia.

Joshua Foust August 1, 2010 at 7:15 am

Reader,

I have no interest in defending the military, and I think, since you have read this blog for a while, you know that. This isn’t about the military. This is about Wikileaks. Stop changing the subject.

Michael Drew July 30, 2010 at 11:10 am
Fred Bush July 30, 2010 at 1:50 pm

As I understand it, Wikileaks usually publishes documents unredacted. Wikileaks redacted/is redacting the names of NATO personnel because that was a specific demand from the leaker. They departed from their norm not because they value Western lives more than Afghan lives, but because otherwise they would not have gotten the documents.

Joshua Foust August 1, 2010 at 7:16 am

But that’s my point exactly – where is the line here? Are they so calloused they’d throw away the lives they claim to speak for just to poke the U.S. government in the eye? It really seems that way. It’s disgusting.

wikileaks hypocrisy July 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm

One’s own sins are not excused nor justified by pointing out the sins of another.

The bottom line is that sources have been endangered. And not just sources but others working in that area as well. Wikileaks could have waited to release the “truth” about “atrocities” until years from now, with a defeated Taliban and with the people involved, including said sources, in much safer circumstances.

Selfish, irresponsible, and immoral. And note that I’m not excusing nor glossing over any covered-up civilian deaths. I believe those were wrong too, but two wrongs do not make a right.

Whateber July 30, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Waiting to release the truth about atrocities is tacitly allowing them to continue. I think most Afghans would consider that a worse crime than that of endangering the lives of a few collaborators.

Michael Hancock July 30, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Not sure how many Afghans you talked to today. The four I spoke with today are depressed as fuck, thinking about family members (distant cousins, neighbors, etc.) that have worked with NATO, now in danger because some anarchist asshole hates “the man” more than he cares about “the people.” And these “NATO informers” mentioned aren’t exactly spies or black ops people, either.

reader July 30, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Michael,

I know Afghans as well (is there some sort of secret decoder ring I should get?), terps, and they’ve been getting no love from Uncle Sam. In fact, you hang out too much with these guys and you run the risk of losing the much vaunted clearance . For years, people in A-stan or N. Pakistan who assisted the US government and who along with their families were thus targets, with no help from Mr. Assange’s leaks, were in a case of root little pig or die. To be honest, because their cause received no attention, all these crocodile tears I see these days on interventionist blogs are actually starting to tick me off. This is a big issue and it is getting worse. It reminds me of how Sweden shamed the US into taking in more Iraqi refugees. So spare me the self-righteousness. 100 years from now, this thing is going to go down as one huge, sordid stain on the US.

Cyrus July 30, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Agreed Reader. I could not have said it better myself.

VDK July 31, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Brilliantly put Reader.

Cyrus July 30, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Well Michael, that is one way to look at it. Another is that some folks out their actually still believe that war crimes and the slaughter of innocents are not okay, just because the people doing it are a superpower at the moment. Call them “assholes” if you want. I reserve that same term for warmongers and flag wavers, personally. You know, people who could care less about what the truth is.

People who get caught red handed, and then play the victim. Sort of like a rapist, who blames the woman for “turning him on.” That is what some folks here sound like to me right now.

I take it those Afghans you spoke with were on U.S soil? Either resident aliens, or Afghan-Americans? You might want to take several facts into account when speaking with them. Citizenship, class, ethnic group, etc.

I actually had to hear a “student” today, ex-Army or Marine, lambasting about the “slaughtering” he got to do in either Iraq or Afghanistan, or both. His audience, two eighteen year old boys. I am ex-Army myself, and I physically got ill just overhearing such crap.

A lot of Afghans have suffered at the hands of U.S and “coalition” forces. A lot. It is about time some of the truth came out. All the better to end this whole debacle. The sooner, the better.

Cyrus July 30, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Like I said before. The rapist is blaming the victim for “turning him on.”

Sure, Wikileaks should have waited another decade to release it. At least until the U.S is completely broke, and has to pull out anyways. The Taliban sure isn’t going anywhere.

Any more atrocities committed in the mean time…So what. They are just Afghans civilians, right? Not real human beings, like you and I.

I mean, that is what you’re saying, right?

Joshua Foust August 1, 2010 at 7:17 am

Guys: saying the war is terrible does not excuse Wikileaks for endangering lives. By drawing this line of argument, you’re projecting blame onto the U.S. for something Wikileaks did. That’s childish. Stick to the point, which is Wikileaks’ complicity.

quell August 2, 2010 at 9:37 am

You stick to point Foust.
Assange and the True Believers want to STOP THE WAR.
You and the US gov and the rest of the war pimps want to keep fighting….just three more years, just four more years, “victory” “success” Anbar Awakening! the Surge Worked!, we promise, just a little more time.

Times up.

Joshua Foust August 2, 2010 at 9:41 am

Quell, I’d like to politely ask you to read the rest of this blog and then reconsider accusing me of being a war pimp.

Then again, my entire argument here is that context and history have meaning in discussing things, and your refusal to consider either kind of make my point for me. So, keep it up.

Cyrus August 11, 2010 at 6:26 pm

I myself have been reading your blog since about 2005. Been a big fan, in fact. I have a had a great deal of respect for your input on Central Asia. Up until now, I had but the slightest disagreement with you.

The term “war pimp” is strong, but I would ask you to consider your position, especially in relation to those that see this war as racist, colonist nonsense.

One emotional reaction, does not make another such reaction correct.

You may not agree with others on this violent conflict, but things like threatening others to just “keep it up,” at least in reaction an emotional gut post, does not help your position.

SDProg July 30, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Yes, it is imperative Wikileaks works to redact the names of such individuals in the future and they should at the very least publicly apologize for potentially putting these individuals’ lives in danger. I can’t defend Wikileaks’ carelessness, so I won’t pretend to. The main story, however, should still be our failing strategy in Afghanistan that is endangering the lives of a far greater number of people.

Cyrus July 30, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Why? The founder is not American for one thing. He owes us nothing.

Secondly, maybe if the U.S actually did something to curtail the slaughter of innocents in theater, this would not be so much of an issue.

You wouldn’t need to “leak” these things, if no “things” existed in the first place. You dig?

SDProg July 31, 2010 at 3:11 am

Julian Assange and Wikileaks as a whole seem to be very cosmopolitan in outlook, so yes they should care if they are endangering lives whether they be American, Australian, etc. A human life is a human life no matter the nationality. I do believe the potential benefits of the leak outweigh the potential costs, but I’m just saying Wikileaks should be more careful in the future.

reader July 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Wikileaks did offer to let the White House go over the documents, but received no response. I think that it is significant.

Cyrus July 30, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Of course. All the better to make a political point and play the “victim” by the Obama administration. Not to mention, a great means of clamping down on any future leaks in one’s house. God help us of any of those war crimes get out again!

At the risk of sounding passe, it is all very “1984.”

The Sanity Inspector July 30, 2010 at 9:04 pm

That would presuppose that the White House agreed that the overgrown adolescents at Wikileaks had any business with those files in the first place. Yes, Julian Assange is an overgrown adolescent, filled with adolescent outrage at the world’s tardiness in remaking itself to his liking. As for the people who will become victims of him & his flamin’ “conscience”, no doubt he can barely stifle a yawn.

reader July 31, 2010 at 10:04 am

If Assange is an overgrown adolescent he should go into public service in DC. It isn’t like the White House has been a place of adult restraint, decorum and honor for the past 50 years, and that a large percentage of Americans base their foreign policy decisions on a weird mixture of Norman Rockwellism and garbled Mesopotamian fairy tales.

The Sanity Inspector August 1, 2010 at 9:13 am

Yes, we all know the hoary old singalong of the Left, about how they’re so, so morally superior to all those mere politicians. The very same attitude led them to agitate and subvert for Stalin in the Thirties, to cheerlead for the mountains of victims in Maoist China, to go Havana and be schmoozed by El Jefe, and etc.

reader August 1, 2010 at 9:51 am

Who said I was a leftist? You made that assumption. Fact,
Bush thought that Gog and Magog were a force to be reckoned with. And 50 years is about right, because that’s when Eisenhower, the last decent man in office, stepped down. So back to your Republican talking points, SI.

Cyrus August 11, 2010 at 6:27 pm

What about overgrown adolescents who claim to be intel experts, but never served in any military, anywhere? Let alone any militarily or governmental intelligence organization under the sun?

Just sayin’…

Joshua Foust August 1, 2010 at 7:18 am

Wikileaks SAYS they offered to let the White House “go over the documents.” What should the White House do – work alongside an organization stealing its sensitive documents? That’s ridiculous. Also, the White House denies ever having been contacted by Wikileaks, and the New York Times has said it tried to ask Wikileaks, on behalf of the Department of Defense, to redact names. Wikileaks declined to do so.

reader August 1, 2010 at 10:28 am

Your last point is the most serious rebuttal, if the DOD did try to contact wikileaks and they were ignored than that underscores your contention that Assange is acting immorally. But regarding the White House, it “SAYS” many things as well. Who are we to believe?

And, about dealing with an organization that steals documents? When last I checked, we still send billions in tribute to a certain organization located in the Levant that has stolen sensitive documents in the past. But, criticizing that is where you run into that large percentage of Americans whose world-view includes Mesopotamian fairy tales.

Michael Hancock August 2, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Jaded citizens of the US can complain about the shiftiness of democracy with aplomb that few can manage. But you know what? I’m going to trust the person I elected over people like Assange because I elected them and can choose to un-elect them in the future. People like Assange can do whatever they want, can act according to their own wills no matter which ideas or principles need to be left by the wayside. Politicians lie, but at least we know they lie, and have the mechanisms in place to actively watch over them and catch them in their lies and bring them to justice. Wikileaks is not worthy of anyone’s trust so long as they lack the internal transparency they seek to force on the world around them.

reader August 2, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Michael,

We aren’t a democracy, thank the gods, we are a representative republic, trite to mention it, but important to remember.

Wikileaks’ materials are not falsifications, so far the government hasn’t denied anything they published, so please, enough with the trust our leaders thing, ok, it’s filling my head with Lee Greenwood while an imaginary bald eagle is pecking at my ear (an experience I find painful). While there might be mechanisms in place to bring politicians to justice, those mechanisms are often so hampered by political realities that render them almost farcical.

“People like Assange can do whatever they want, can act according to their own wills no matter which ideas or principles need to be left by the wayside.”

Umm.. yeah, can’t connect that phrase to many of our leaders, past and present?Not everyone in government is an alpha type, certainly, but plenty are and those people tend to do what they want. That’s just the nature of human society. Bringing this back to A-stan. Part of the problem in that country is due to a certain degenerate, bellicose Congressman from Texas who was looking for meaning in his life and doing what he wanted, secretly, with lots of other people’s money.

quell August 2, 2010 at 8:44 am

What should the White House do – work alongside an organization stealing its sensitive documents?
1. Assange didnt steal docs. Manning or whoever stole the docs. I think there are more than one rogue analyst that are fed up with the bs war pimp spin being shovelled out to the american public. And you war pimps have a real problem Foust, because these guys are True Believers and they can’t be bought off or stopped except by catching them.
2. Yes the US gov should have moved to help Assange redact names. But they obviously didn’t give a shit about low-level Afghan informants getting greased, or they would have protected their names.
3. Assange isn’t done. Can you say “Garani” ?

Cyrus August 11, 2010 at 6:29 pm

So then, who is lying, here? That is the question.

Me thinks, probably both sides. I am fine with that. That is the way things work, in reality.

Cyrus July 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm

HHHhhhmmm…What about the lives of Afghan civilians killed by U.S and ISAF forces? Or do their lives have no worth to you? Do they ultimately have no basic human rights in your eyes. No means of having their deaths brought to light? Brought to justice?

They must not be “worth it” to you.

I was under the impression that you proclaimed to have a love for Central Asia and it’s people? Tough love, I guess…

Michael Hancock August 2, 2010 at 1:22 pm

If you think the US and ISAF is killing Afghan citizens on purpose, you’re sadly mistaken. That’s the Taliban you’re thinking about. The US and ISAF has killed many, many Afghan citizens, and while often through careless methods or tragic mistakes, they remain obligated to prove the innocence or guilt of those they kill, though with marginal success.
Compare that with the actual enemy in the war, who have repeatedly given their express goal as “Kill all Afghans that resist our manifesto, disagree with our terms, or refuse to live by our interpretation of holy writ.” That’s not something you can blame on the US or NATO.

anan August 2, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Michael Hancock, I think I understand where Cyrus is coming from. He is as anti Taliban, anti Al Qaeda and anti Takfiri as they get. So from my point of view, he is on “our” side against the greatest security threat in the world today.

But while Cyrus is rooting for the GIRoA, ANA and ANP to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, he is right that all of us [GIRoA, ANSF, UNAMA and 50 odd nation ISAF coalition] have to perform this task more competently.

Cyrus, check this briefing out:
http://thesop.org/story/world/2010/07/27/commander-explains-conditions-in-afghanistan.php
“in the last month, he said, there were 100 civilian casualties. Ninety percent of those casualties, he added, were caused by the insurgents. And in the past six months, the general said, no innocent civilians were killed by aerial bombings.”

To emphasize, this is “ONLY” in the 14 provinces of RC-East [Parwan, Panjir, Kapisa, Bamiyan, Wardak, Logar, Laghman, Nuristan, Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktya, Khost, Paktika, Ghazni.] In some other parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban are causing less than 90% of all civilian casualties.

As you are probably aware, Cyrus, since 2001, several times as many Afghan civilians have been killed by pro GIRoA forces in traffic accidents as have been killed in ISAF air strikes. One of the largest priorities for MoI, MoD, and ISAF has been driver training for the ANSF, and pressuring ISAF contributing nations to drive better. Improved driving is the biggest reason for the drop in pro GIRoA caused Afghan civilian casualties in recent years.

Driving accidents have caused a lot of public anger at GIRoA/ANSF/ISAF, since ANP and ISAF drivers in the past have run away after accidents and not apologized to and provided compensation for the victims. GIRoA/ANSF/ISAF have handled victims from air strikes far better with top ANSF and ISAF commanding generals personally apologizing to the bereaved and distributing compensation.

Due to so many traffic accidents without redress, many Afghans feel as Cyrus does that Afghan Police, Afghan Army and ISAF don’t care about Afghans civilians and kill them callously.

Despite this, Cyrus, remember that Iran has no better ally and friend than President Karzai, the GIRoA, ANA and ANP. If the GIRoA is defeated, then the Taliban might capture nuclear weapons and unleash them against Shiite population centers [in addition to against Russia, Europe, North America and India.] Therefore, you should focus on ideas for how Iran and the international community can collaboratively work together to increase Afghan capacity and help the Afghans/GIRoA/ANSF defeat the Taliban.

Cyrus August 11, 2010 at 6:33 pm

They have killed an obscene number of Afghan civilians. A sickening number, in fact. Either way, they are criminally incompetent, or just plain criminal murderers.

Take your pick. It is either one or the other. The net consequence for Afghans is the same.

I still must ask..What the hell is the point, again?

Chris July 30, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Thanks, interesting post.

You’re claiming to be primarily concerned with consequences, but when we adopt a consequential view we have to look past the *first* obvious consequence, and consider what the ultimate consequences of an action will be. What if Wikileaks’ behavior — regarding the “collateral damage” video, these leaks, and whatever leaks come in the future — is extremely influential in making the war unpopular in the US such that it withdraws troops sooner, just as the Pentagon Papers were in similar circumstances with the Vietnam war?

I have deep concerns about what will happen to the Afghan people if the US does withdraw, but you’ll have to admit that fewer of them are going to be killed for being US spies..

Joshua Foust August 1, 2010 at 7:19 am

If you think releasing documents that already confirm what everyone knew about the war already is going to seriously change its outcome, then I’d love to know where you learned to be so naive.

SDProg August 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm

There was some new info (nothing huge though), but not everyone has been attentive, so these documents very well could have provided a platform for greater public understanding of the war. Also, if Wikileaks had redacted these names would you have been nearly as upset? It seems to me that the federal government overclassifies and is very much interested in setting up a wall of secrecy, so they can avoid serious scrutiny.

quell August 2, 2010 at 9:20 am

like i pointed out, the high value assets are undisturbed, since they are behind the TS wall. The us gov and the war pimps like Foust are cynically trying to get a propaganda coup off Assange and go right back to bidness as usual.
Afghanistan is now the longest shooting war the US has ever engaging in.
Can we go home NAOW?

quell August 2, 2010 at 8:55 am

its not new info, its critical mass, Foust.
The collateral murder video and the upcoming Garani massacre video don’t put informant lives at risk…..they just make ‘merica look very, very bad. Assange abd the True Believers want to stop the war.
Did the My Lai massacre affect public perception of viet nam?

Joshua Foust August 2, 2010 at 9:40 am

If you can point to where I said the 2007 Iraq video was a bad thing to leak, I’d love to see it. Leaking is appropriate for whistleblowing – for pointing out crimes that the government is covering up. “Afghanistan War Diaries” isn’t that.

Michael Hancock August 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Not every whistle blown is akin to My Lai. Interesting how one major complaint we have on Registan – the world’s inability to understand how not like Vietnam Afghanistan is – has gone so far over your head. It’s not the same. In. Any. Meaningful. Way.

reader August 2, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Michael,
There are professional, serious commentators and actors: military, civilian, pro-intervention, and anti-war, some of whom participated in Vietnam, who have drawn parallels. They are not the same war- two very different countries and insurgencies, and 1960s America and 2010 America are also very different countries as is the conscript 1960s force vs the AVF- but the foreign policy ideology of American Exceptionalism remains much the same, despite some knocks to it in the past 50 years.
A few ideas,
First, from a tactical standpoint, this is the first time, since Vietnam, that the US has re-engaged COIN tactics, the mantra “hearts and minds” ought to at least suggest that to the casual observer.
Second, realpolitik and Wilsonian advocates of both wars used a domino theory to justify the war: spread of Communism vs. spread of Islamism. Humanitarian advocates of both wars are citing the fate of the population if we leave as a justification for staying, and bringing self-determination and all that jazz to the population (American exceptionalism). I won’t belabor the point and hijack this thread any further, but one could draw up a very rational, non-ideological list of similarities between both wars.

Pablo July 30, 2010 at 11:06 pm

That is clearly not Wikileaks’ fault.

Yes, that they’re still alive is not Wikileak’s fault. When they’re murdered, that will be Wikileak’s fault.

JD July 31, 2010 at 12:25 am

I see that many are claiming that this information was given to the Administration beforehand, and they did not respond. Is this true? If so, it is incredibly troubling that Teh One’s admin could be callous in endangering the lives of people that have attempted to help us. I have seen where the DOD is denying that this was vetted in any way. I hope Asshate sleeps well at night.

Ren July 31, 2010 at 2:22 am

“Julian Assange is the worst sort of moralist, one whose sense of justice is so selective (…), and his comprehension of consequences so short-sighted and defined by ideology rather than fact, that he doesn’t care who he has to offer up to murderous bastards to satisfy his sense of moral outrage.”

Sounds much like what the US has been doing all around the world. For a couple of decades.

CrisisMaven July 31, 2010 at 11:07 am

More than anything it shows how shabby source protection is handled when it comes to non-US nationals as US informers. How not to win the hearts and a war. That has nothing to do with (Wiki)leaks – sources’ names are ALWAYS to be coded in the reports and the code-number only matched in a separate file no field operative has access to. If the German Democratic Republic with their paper file system could do it, why can’t the DIA, CIA, NSA and so on with their billions in IT expenditure, half of it financed from Afghan and Colombian drug money? Rookies!!! (Or is it intentional?)

VDK July 31, 2010 at 8:35 pm

It’s perfect; any attack on an informant can now be blamed on wikileaks and not the military’s incompetence.

Joshua Foust August 1, 2010 at 7:20 am

This has everything to do with Wikileaks. These names and identities would not be on the internet if Wikileaks had not put them there. Therefore, their identification and reprisal—if it happens—is squarely on Wikileaks and the Taliban.

JD July 31, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Didn’t the Left howl about Afghanistan being the just war for years, and didn’t Teh One tell us that he possessed the judgment and experience to win said just war?

Dilshod July 31, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Has the casual link between published records and serious incidents been estabslished? Hell, no. What he said about “criminals” is that the most of informers are likely to be pro-Taliban guys who are misleading the good guys. Is there any harm if double-agents die? Hell, no. So what’s the real purpose of Wikileaks?

Joshua Foust August 1, 2010 at 7:21 am

Please read the post again: I said these documents put people into danger, not that they have already been killed off.

David August 1, 2010 at 10:56 am

Your headline, says ‘hunt, murder’ – but there’s no evidence that anybody has been murdered yet as a result of the wikileaks revelations. It may happen – and with the whole US media claiming it will happen, some kind of incident seems almost inevitable – but at present this headline is very misleading. I suspect the Taliban don’t really need Assange to tell them who has been talking to the US. It seems they have been pretty good at reprisals without these documents, and I doubt they are poring over every page to find out stuff they know already.

Don July 31, 2010 at 1:23 pm

My guess is that Mr. Julian Assassin will either be arrested or killed by some irate parent of some kid killed over there.

VDK July 31, 2010 at 8:27 pm

So, by that logic there must be thousands of irate parents from Iraq and Afghanistan on a mission to kill Americans.

KZBlog August 2, 2010 at 1:58 am

Most of the commentators here seem to be seeing this in very black and white terms. I was trying to think of a parallel analogy. Suppose that the ambassador to Russia sent a top secret letter to Hilary Clinton in which he stated that he had carried out Secretary Clinton’s orders to come up with a plan to assassinate Putin and Medvedev and the details of the plan were included in the letter. That might be something that the public of the US (not to mention Russia) should know–the US is secretly making plans to assassinate two world leaders.

If the letter also included information that the Consulate General was sleeping with prostitutes left and right, should that information also be leaked? Is that something the American public has a right to know?

If the letter named a deep-cover US agent working in the FSB, should that also be leaked? Is his name something we need to know, and wouldn’t revealing it put his life in danger?

If it it said their driver had some gambling debts to the Mafia and they were looking for a way to help him without it looking like it came from the Embassy because they might hurt him if they thought he was talking about it at work?

Off-hand it seems to me that any one who leaked this document would redact all the extraneous, personal information. Just like they should have redacted the Afghan informants names. What are you, the US citizen/taxpayer, going to do differently now that you know the names of our informants? How has it helped you?

Michael Hancock August 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I think you make some excellent points – it is too easy to become a radical unable to continue the conversation in meaningful terms, on either side.

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