A casual reading of the news since WikiLeaks (an online group dedicated to making secrets public) released about 76,000 classified American military field reports and other documents, would suggest that little of the information was news or actually very secret. Such a reading would be superficially correct - we've known for some time that President Hamid Karzai is corrupt and hated by civilians, that Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency is in cahoots with the Taliban, and so on. As a Wall Street Journal editorial said, "Among the many nonscoops in the documents, we learn that war is hell."
But a couple of examples - from documents rife with such examples - might shed some light:
- A police district commander reported to have raped a 16-year-old Afghan girl was confronted by Afghan civilians. He ordered his body guard to shoot them. The bodyguard refused. So the commander pulled a gun and shot him. Guess which taxpayers are paying for this sort of thing.
- The ISI, in May, 2007, sent 1,000 motorcycles for use by suicide bombers to the Haqqani network, which attacks U.S. forces. Guess which taxpayers ultimately paid the bill.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page may find such stuff insignificant, but I would suggest that, echoing Amy Davidson, senior editor at the New Yorker, information like this just might be important. We could narrow our focus to just the Taliban. We might even decide, she offers, that "nine years after our arrival, it is time to leave Afghanistan."