If the release of the Pentagon Papers epitomized the value of government leaks as a means of speaking truth to power, Wikileaks at this point can claim no such distinction.
As if to underline the extent to which the Afghan war logs are making the fog of war more, not less, dense, Katrina vanden Heuvel says: “more than a few commentators — including Daniel Ellsberg himself — have called [the war logs] a 21st-century Pentagon Papers.”
She may understandably have been misled by a headline in The Guardian that read: “Daniel Ellsberg describes Afghan war logs as on a par with ‘Pentagon Papers’.” However, “These documents are not the Pentagon Papers — we still await their equivalent for Afghanistan,” is what Ellsberg unambiguously told the Financial Times.
While Wikileak’s founder, Julian Assange, is no doubt sincere in his hope that these intelligence revelations will expose the futility of war, the fact is, because intelligence is not intelligent it can very easily be used to serve a host of diverging political agendas.
If opponents of the war in Afghanistan now feel better armed, so do proponents of an expanding war in Pakistan. Likewise, those pushing for military action against Iran will welcome a new supply of ammunition served by Wikileaks.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported:
Cooperation among Iran, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups is more extensive than previously known to the public, according to details buried in the tens of thousands of military intelligence documents released by an independent group Sunday.
U.S. officials and Middle East analysts said some of the most explosive information contained in the WikiLeaks documents detail Iran’s alleged ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and the facilitating role Tehran may have played in providing arms from sources as varied as North Korea and Algeria.
The officials have for years received reports of Iran smuggling arms to the Taliban. The WikiLeaks documents, however, appear to give new evidence of direct contacts between Iranian officials and the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s senior leadership. It also outlines Iran’s alleged role in brokering arms deals between North Korea and Pakistan-based militants, particularly militant leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and al Qaeda.
Here we see one of the most bizarre twists in the story: US government sources now using the leaked documents to buttress the current anti-Iran narrative and in the process acting as though the intelligence reports are providing information that hadn’t been accessible inside government until they were leaked!
At the very same time, the State Department’s leading expert on Iran, John Limbert — a genuine source of intelligence and “the most qualified person on the Iran team at State in the three decades I have lived in the United States,” according to Haleh Esfandiari, head of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars — is about to resign.
At Foreign Policy, Barbara Slavin writes:
[I]t’s hard not to view Limbert’s departure as a turning point and yet another missed opportunity in U.S.-Iran relations. A number of players with more skeptical views about the prospect of rapprochement with Tehran — such as White House aide Dennis Ross and nonproliferation experts like Robert Einhorn and Gary Samore — appear to be driving U.S. policy now, and the president himself blames the Iranian government for failing to respond to his outreach.
What could please the attack-Iran lobby more than to see the departure of the most skilled American proponent of engagement and at the same time to be served a prize piece of propaganda by an outfit aligned with the anti-war movement?!