The Wikileaks Sensationalism

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange

OK, so some naive Australian “do-gooder” (far from your average Aussie, by the way) named Julian Assange, who fancies himself the Robin Hood of whistleblowers, founds an organization called Wikileaks with the goal of “disclosing secret documents to reveal unethical behavior by governments and corporations.”

Apparently he is the sole decider of what is and isn’t ethical.

The release of these classified documents has tweaked the sensationalist instinct of every talking head in the media. And how Assange got his hands on 92,000 secret Pentagon documents is a separate issue that I’m sure is receiving the full and immediate attention of every breathing soul in every ring of that five-sided building. But while the media goes to GQ on the issue, some quiet perspective may be helpful.

Spanning two administrations – from January 2004 to December 2009 – the reports can only provide insight into how it used to be. The year 2010 has marked significant change and progress on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Increasing U.S. and NATO casualties – the most simplistic and misleading measure of how the war is going – must be seen in the context of increasing numbers of troops and the more recent proactive strategy of positively seeking out, engaging and pursuing Taliban fighters. (More troops plus greater exposure equals higher casualties.) And we always hear about our casualties but only occasionally hear accurate reports of enemy casualties. And, of course, we always hear about “civilian” casualties. Civilian casualties are a genuine concern, but it should be remembered that although not all civilians are terrorists, all terrorists are civilians, especially when dead.

The stolen and released documents also apparently paint a grim picture of our supposed friends on the Pakistani side of the border, and it is true to a great extent, but we have always known the Pakistanis have tried to have it both ways, at least enough to keep the dollar spigot turned on.

The assassination of the assumed successor to Pakistani President Mushariff, the beloved Benazir Bhutto, by fanatical jihadists was the beginning of a turnaround. Mushariff’s eventual successor, Asif Zardari, tried to appease the dissident Taliban, al-Qaida and other jihadis in the border areas until they began to take advantage of the softer line and became too aggressive toward the government, terrorizing their way from border hideouts through the Swat Valley toward the capital, Islamabad. The Pakistani army finally turned the tide as well as a blind eye toward increasingly effective U.S. drone flights targeting the now common enemy, Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida principals in the border areas. Although our common interests still may not entirely coincide, 2010 has seen an increasing level of cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistani governments, including their notoriously rogue military and intelligence agency, the “ISI.”

Our current onetwo punch of Gen. David Petreaus and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry in Afghanistan as well as 30,000 more troops are all the more reason to put the sensationalized news – or more accurately “olds” – of the “Wikileaked” documents into a more realistic perspective.

None of this is to suggest, however, that the source of the leaks should not be pursued vigorously and held accountable, and the smug Julian Assange extradited from whatever country he’s in (likely England or Australia, both of which have troops in Afghanistan who also could have been seriously compromised) and be prosecuted to the limit of whatever international laws apply. Or perhaps the Brits or the Aussies would like to take care of him. They have as much reason as we.

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