With Washington almost egging WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to release his cache of Iraq war files in preparation for the blow, US officials have fanned out and taken up positions to contain the damage. Pentagon spokesmen teamed up on WikiLeaks while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned, "in the most clear terms the disclosure of any information by individuals and or organizations which puts the lives of United States and its partners' service members and civilians at risk.”
Yet the main group Washington appears to be defending is itself, along with the sputtering life of its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to the Associated Press, which obtained a Pentagon letter to Congress authored by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, WikiLeaks compromised no US intelligence sources or practices in Afghanistan. And, “Although US officials still think the leaks could cause significant damage to US security interests, the assessment suggests that some of the administration’s worst fears about the July disclosure have so far failed to materialize.”
That hasn’t stopped the Pentagon from reusing its faulty arguments in Iraq. Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. David Lapen told reporters, "We know terrorist organizations have been mining the leaked Afghan documents for information to use against us and this Iraq leak is more than four times as large.”
These arguments tend to get convoluted too. Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, called the leaks “tactical” rather than “strategic,” implying a lesser degree of damage, before arguing, “They are essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane,and do not tell the whole story. That said, the period covered by these reports has been well-chronicled in news stories, books and films and the release of these field reports does not bring new understanding to Iraq’s past.”
He then added, “By disclosing such sensitive information, WikiLeaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us... This security breach could very well get our troops and those they are fighting with killed.”
It’s admittedly difficult to verify what level of impact WikiLeaks has on US soldiers, foreign-trained soldiers, and civilians in the battlefield. But few reports have been released after the first leak documenting coalition or civilian deaths in Afghanistan, reports the Pentagon would presumably disseminate. Given the lack of conclusive links and the Pentagon’s own overestimation, the danger to US troops and their sources falls below other agendas at risk.
First and foremost the Pentagon is protecting its own interests, not specifically America’s, and what many view as failed strategy in both Afghanistan and Iraq. This includes the strategies themselves and the image of these strategies as viewed by the US, European, and Muslim populaces.WikiLeaks aims to tip public support against the wars and so far have accomplished that objective. The Pentagon is both the primary target and sufferer of these leaks, not US troops or the foreign security forces and civilians they operate with.
Thus it has no recourse except to hype fear and threats of profuse bloodshed that have yet to materialize in Afghanistan, save for the wreckage caused by foreign and Taliban soldiers.
The Pentagon also seeks to conceal the tragic reality that Iraq’s war is far from over and the country barely stabilized, another objective of Assange: "I'm hoping that people understand that the Iraq war goes on.” The Pentagon strives, rather vainly, to obscure the files pertaining to torture allegations against Iraqi security forces, said to eclipse 1,000 with several hundred medically-documented cases. These files shed plenty of new light on how high-ranking US officials cover up human rights abuses.
Finally, Washington’s end game plans to neutralize demand for a US investigation and potential tribunal into the Iraq war, which it wishes to continue in a discreet capacity. Iraqi military sources claim they’re waiting for a new government to form before requesting an extension to the Status of Forces Agreement, which stipulates the withdrawal of all US forces by December 31st, 2011. Gates patiently awaits their demand.
"I think we have an agreement with the Iraqis that both governments have agreed to, that we will be out of Iraq at the end of 2011," he said in August. "If a new government is formed there and they want to talk about beyond 2011, we're obviously open to that discussion. But that initiative will have to come from the Iraqis."
White House and Pentagon officials concluded that WikiLeaks’ most responsible course of action is to remove and turn over all classified data in its possession. They probably want the entire trove. But their own words and actions are laughable, a clear cover-up of their own questionable and failing policies. Perhaps they would receive more sympathy were their responses not so absolute - a zero tolerance policy on truth - and close-minded to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Much of the damage is self-inflicted.