The U.S. military believes that at least some of the civilian casualties were caused by the Taliban’s grenades and the death toll includes militants. It is also suspected that some of the names of those killed are fraudulent. The Afghan government paid $2,000 to the relatives of those killed and $1,000 for each person injured, which is described by NPR as “a small fortune” for Afghans. It is more than most of them earn in years. It should be expected that people will try to take advantage of these handouts by providing false names.
Don’t expect any of these factors to be included in the WikiLeaks video. The website received global attention recently when it released a video called “Collateral Murder” showing a U.S. helicopter allegedly killing Iraqi civilians without regard. The clear bias in the video caused Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, to break character in order to confront Julian Assange over his anti-American propaganda.
The strike occurred in a stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the Iranian-backed militia that attacked U.S. and Iraqi forces and engaged in sectarian violence. The streets were empty, indicating a battle had occurred, and the Apache intervened after gunfire was reported. Some of the so-called civilians were carrying weapons, and although a camera was mistaken for an RPG, such a weapon was found at the scene. The van fired on in the video originally dropped personnel off to the scene of the firefight and was picking up bodies and weapons. A video putting the scenes in context can be seen here.
The Pentagon is reportedly looking to question Assange, resulting in his cancellation of a speaking engagement in Las Vegas recently. Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst with top secret clearance stationed near Baghdad, has been detained after he privately boasted of sending 260,000 classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks that would expose “almost-criminal back dealings” and give Secretary of State Clinton a heart attack. Assange denies receiving the material, but an American diplomat says that Manning had access to documents written by State Department officials in the Middle East regarding the activity of Arab governments. The cables also had information related to U.S. intelligence and diplomacy related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If it is true that these cables were sent to WikiLeaks, there could be disastrous consequences for national security. Secret arrangements with Arab allies could be jeopardized, and information could be taken out of context to fan anti-Americanism. Allies will refuse to share intelligence and stop cooperating out of a fear that the operations will be exposed. We’re talking about long-term damage, not a short-term public relations disaster.
The Pentagon should prepare for Assange’s release of the video depicting the May 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan now. Details putting the incident in the proper context need to be released before WikiLeaks can write an anti-American narrative that takes hold in the minds of the global audience the video will reach. Julian Assange’s political offensive must be fought.
This article was sponsored by Stand Up America.