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Wikileaks' Afghanistan War Log vs. the Pentagon Papers

Pause for a moment before accepting the comparison that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange makes between his release of more than 90,000 secret military documents about the Afghan fighting to that of the Pentagon Papers back in 1971.

In his interview with The Guardian, Assange said, "The nearest analogue is the Pentagon Papers that exposed how the United States was prosecuting the war in Vietnam."

There are some major differences.

In the first place, the Pentagon Papers was a top secret history of the U.S. political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 through 1967 ordered by then-Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara which was pulled together by military historians.

In its initial articles, The New York Times focused on the credibility gap the Pentagon Papers disclosed between what Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon had said publicly about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and what was being said privately. It showed, for example, that while running for election in 1964, Johnson promised "we seek no wider war" at a time when he was preparing to expand it by extending bombing into North Vietnam.

President Obama made no secret in the 2008 election campaign that he would expand the war in Afghanistan.

Another contrast is that the Wikileaks documents are a collection of secret reports from troops in the field covering local intelligence and details of clashes and civilians killed or wounded. Although, as Assange emphasizes, they illustrate more civilian casualties than the military has over the years discussed, it is not as if that subject was unknown.

But, unlike the Pentagon Papers, there are no high-level documents here that raise basic questions about the credibility of Presidents Obama and George W. Bush and their top advisors.

One thing will be the same. The Pentagon Papers were used by opponents of the war to seek withdrawal of U.S. troops from the fighting (U.S. forces went on fighting for another two years). The Wikileaks Afghanistan War Logs will fuel political opposition in the U.S. to American troops continuing combat operations in Afghanistan.

Assange said that his disclosure involved more pages than the Pentagon Papers and will, through the Internet, reach a bigger audience. He does not mention, however, that the news stories from the Pentagon Papers ran daily for more than a week -- and not only in the New York Times. Later new elements appeared in The Washington Post and the Boston Globe.

One other major difference exists, at least so far, between the Pentagon Papers and the Wikileaks documents. President Nixon ordered his Justice Department to halt publication of the Papers, keeping the story on front pages for almost two weeks before the Supreme Court, by a 6-to-3 vote, lifted an injunction on newspapers as an unconstitutional prior restraint of the First Amendment.

Indeed, the Nixon administration attempts to stop publication of the Pentagon Papers generated as much attention as the substance of the documents themselves. And the private attempts of the Nixon White House to gather information about Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, was one of the first activities that made up the elements of the impeachment charges against Nixon.

Up to now, Obama has not sought to halt further disclosure of additional documents still in the hands of Assange. And as of today, no charges have filed against Assange.

By Walter Pincus  | July 26, 2010; 2:08 PM ET
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Next: State Department says it did not back Lockerbie bomber's release


Concerning the release of the documents about the war in Afghanistan. This is nothing more than espanoge (spying). This is a federal crime and during the time of war, and this is a time of war, carries the maximum punishment of death. This is a harsh punishment and it needs to be harsh to protect the security of the country. It doesn't matter if the editors of this page believes that the release of the information is a security risk. It is not their call. In this case, what they should have done prior to posting, publishing, or distributating the papers was to contact the Pentigon for permission to release. If people are killed due to their reckless release of the papers are subject to charges of assisting those who pulled the trigger. The dumb soldier who sent the papers to Wikileaks should face a General Courtsmartial and the death penality. An example should be made of this individual so not one more misguided soldier will copy him or her.

Posted by: exnavy_76 | July 26, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Assange did not say that there was no contrast between this leak and the Pentagon Papers. Obviously there are contrasts. You quote him as saying that this leak is "the nearest analogue." Unless you show another instance since the Pentagon Papers that is closer to that leak than this present leak, you agree with Assange. But your article seems to say that you are disagreeing with this statement and yet offer no rebuttal to his statement. Is this fundamentally lower level of journalism the reason an ex-hacker has become the person of choice for people to go to with controversial material rather than the mainstream media? Also, it's your choice to offer contrasts in the article. You mention Nixon gathered information on Daniel Ellsberg who leaked those documents with no mention that Manning, under the assumption that he is this leaker, was arrested. At this point in time, we don't know how this will effect Obama. Please be more classical in your journalism especially in such an important national matter.

Posted by: Therriault | July 26, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Good try at spinning, Pincus. But not successful for those with a functioning brain.

"Up to now, Obama has not sought to halt further disclosure of additional documents still in the hands of Assange. And as of today, no charges have filed against Assange." And you are offering that as evidence of what? Obama has declared the website a "national security threat", they and other nations have tried cyber attacks on the website, they are looking, as we speak, to see what charges to impose on this guy, they are trying to kill him...and you are saying that no one has being persecuted yet?

These papers question the "credibility gap" of our Pentagon just as the Pentagon Papers did. Lack of transparency goes hand in hand with "credibility gap".

Obama did promise to finish "this stupid war". You can twist and turn and spin as you want but it is a fact that he promised to get us out of the war immediately. Instead, he has gone beyond Bush2 atrocities in that and other countries.

"they illustrate more civilian casualties than the military has over the years discussed, it is not as if that subject was unknown." You can take those deaths lightly but they are immoral. The fact that Obama engages in hiding the true casualties of these wars shows how dishonest he is. Every war has death and 'collateral' victims. That's why we need to know: to not be desensitized and to put a stop to the mayhem.

It is just as with the Pentagon Papers: the pentagon, presidents and Congress lying and hiding the truth in order to justify spending trillions of dollars in wars for profits for the war mongering corporations.

It is EXACTLY as the Pentagon Papers.

Posted by: coqui44 | July 26, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Vietnam also involved hot Asians, not warm, overdressed Afghans in afghans.

Posted by: Michael2255 | July 26, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

It is obvious that Assange is exaggerating the significance of what he leaks. The Pentagon Papers revealed serious and probably impeachable behavior of several presidents and the most egregious abuses of US bomb power in the Vietnam peninsula. It is amazing that Nixon was able to endure in spite of the revelations the Papers exposed.

It seems unlikely that Obama will be accorded similar opportunity.

Posted by: TeddyRoosevelt | July 26, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

These documents are clearly not analogous to the Pentagon Papers. I applauded the release of the Apache footage by Wikileaks, even if it is unfortunate that the Obama administration catches the flak for the Bush Cheney war. And there may be some benefit in this latest leak. Time will tell.

To place this in a broader context, we are living in an era of greater openness and accessibility to things that have always been hidden and hide-able; these will keep coming to the fore, a a result significantly rearranging decision-making and public perception landscapes. As uncomfortable as it is, this bigger trend does represent more accountability to We, The People. HOWEVER, the public also needs to grow up fast. A few vandals has always been able to wreck, or simply abrogate, the Commons, and that is currently the case with the media and the for example 'online generated loudspeakers' like Breitbart's blog (viz, Sherrod incident).

We all do what we do for personal reasons. Assange, like the rest of us, was shaped by his background. I wonder though if on his part there is just too much projection going on--and I define 'too much' as more than is good for us; and by 'projection' I mean projection of his feelings in response to those corrupt forces in his young life whom he feared and found a healthy defiance for (his family was on the run from a cult). He is clearly anti-authority, which per se is neither good nor bad. However, like all of us, he is seeking some of his healing on the big stage of life. And in that process perhaps risks, like all of us, being somewhat too selfish; and confusing the public good with personal projection.

This is not necessarily the case. But we all should be open to asking such questions of our own lives, pasts, and healing. Only by asking the question might you hear the answer.

Posted by: fynnagain | July 26, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Wikileaks is also a dumb name. There's another difference

Posted by: nmoses | July 26, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

I have family in the military. Does your paper, Mr Pincus, have the slightest idea of the long-term effect this outrageous decision by Wikileaks and your paper to possess and disseminate this property stolen from the United States government?

The hypocrisy of the Times, Wikileaks, and now your paper is astounding. The lives of thousands of our servicemen, special forces units and intelligence units depend on confidentiality in this or any conflict. Those who have cooperated with us in the past in Afghanistan by assisting us in combat or providing intelligence or other material support are likely to be in danger of their lives or at least reassessing their future role this very moment.

And why?

To stoke the ego of you Daniel Ellsberg wannabes? To speed the end of this war?

Let's rehash the past few weeks. A pile of Russian spies get caught red-handed, spend the weekend in jail, and get released without much more than a cursory debriefing. They go back to Russia and are promised "exciting new careers" by Putin. Message to the rest of the world: don't worry about messing with us. Spying is OK. Now this. Some eurotrash socialist punk takes possession of the stolen reports, and hands them over to 3 newspapers. And the reports get posted online so that "the whole world can fix this." Repercussions? None.

And this is a good thing?

It's going to take a miracle to fix the morale of the military after this. Let's get that eurotrash punk to go talk to North Korea on our behalf right now, and "get our boys home" from their joint military exercises with South Korea before North Korea drops an atomic bomb on us for our obvious aggression.

Some final food for thought, Mr Pincus. I don't know if you belong to journolist, but perhaps you could comment on whether the public should be privy to their emails. Or is something more important than journalists' lives at stake here?

Posted by: tacheronb | July 26, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

While reading this article, I realized that I never actually read the Pentagon papers. But I can say with some confidence that one difference with this case is that it will not earn me a another visit from the FBI wanting to know why the main protagonist's wife was writing me checks while he was doing his dirty deed. It is certainly fair to say that Afghanistan is another case where we are involved in a conflict that we are making no progress towards ending. But Afghanistan is a much different situation than Vietnam. One major difference is that we have always had much more information about Afghanistan. People forget that for a long time all the American media including the New York Times parroted the offical line on Vietnam. For another thing the level of casualties are on a different scale on all sides. We were responsible for millions of Vietnamese deaths that would not have happened if we had not intervened in Vietnam. Perhaps, most importantly, the activity that brought us to Afghanistan was actually a very real threat against us and the Taliban have much less potential for American sympathy than nationalist Vietnamese whose primary interest was pushing European colonialists out of their country.

Posted by: dnjake | July 26, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Whatever Walter. You're just upset that some second rate foreign blogger scoped the WaPo on a story. Get over it, and start spending your time being a real journalist vs. a propaganda tool for the Democrats....

Posted by: WildBill1 | July 26, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

And as of today, no charges have filed against Assange.
...and exactly what charges can the US file against him? He's not a US citizen, doesn't live in the United States, didn't sign a non-disclosure agreement with the US Government to protect classified information, isn't the one who hacked or mishandled the information in the first place, and his servers are located in nine different foreign countries. Furthermore, the US Supreme Court has ruled previously that the press has a right to publish classified information ala the Pentagon Papers......

Posted by: WildBill1 | July 26, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

The documents released by WikiLeaks are evidence, if evidence was still needed, that Pakistan has not been with the coalition of the willing. In fact, Pakistan has been far from being a willing participant in the global war against terror. Let us remember that the Afghan Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1995 to 2001, were largely a creation of Pakistan's ISI and was recognized by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE. No other government in the wide world recognized the Taliban government of Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban distinguished themselves by bombarding the Bamiyan Buddha images and thereby showed their utter intolerance of even the relics of a religion that ceased to be part of the Afghan society several centuries ago. The act of bombing those rock images only showed the Afghan Taliban in their true colours as sheer fanatics who had no use for the influences of movements like Reformation, Enlightenment, and the Age of Reason. To them the greatest thing that ever happened in the life of humankind was the advent of Islam, which in their view, remained static from c.AD 632 onwards. There is no doubt that the Afghan Taliban and their guests Al Qaeda believed that the good of mankind lay in the establishment of worldwide dominion of Islam. Perhaps Osama bin Laden saw himself as a candidate for Caliph.
When Mr Bush thundered at Pakistan shortly after 9/11, General Musharraf had no choice but to fall in with the demands made on him but in retrospect it does not seem that he had his heart in the fight. He ran with the hares and hunted with the hounds. Under his successors Pakistan hopes to use the very same Taliban, along with the Taliban Pakistan, against India for settling scores with India. No one in India in waiting hat in hand for the leaders or minions of Pakistan to come and walk away with Kashmir. That, though, has been and remains the sole guiding principle of Pakistan's foreign policy from the moment of its birth.
In the course of the war in Afghanistan ground commanders of the Isaf, both US and others, have spoken repeatedly that Pakistan's ISI has been aiding the Afghan Taliban fighting against the Allied troops in Afghanistan. This has been the observation of several observers in India. The present revelations are confirmation of the worst fears that had been entertained in India about Pakistan's actions and intentions. For that matter, any number of rounds of talks between India and Pakistan shall achieve nothing even in the long run. There is a limit beyond which India's patience must run out.
In USA's own interest it is imperative that there should be re-assessment of Pakistan's role in the Afghan war. It is being said that a review is due in December. That review ought to be made right away. But my fear is that the president and his advisers are convinced that USA's interests will be served by keeping Pakistan in good humour. In my view, this is shortsighted and unwise.
V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, July 27 2010, 0726 IST

Posted by: vineycb1 | July 26, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

I think one of the most interesting things about the entire Wikileaks situation is watching the different coverage of blogs and traditional journalism. Fox News initially led their coverage as a sub-headline under a lead about BP CEO Tony Hayward stepping down. The Washington Post also had the leak story playing second fiddle to a story–the immigration debate. CBS News had just two small headlines about the story. Yet, the Huffington Post ran a picture of soldiers pointing rifles under the red headline: THE WAR LOGS: A Devastating Portrait of the Failing War in Afghanistan. The Drudge Report ran a similar headline across the top of its front page tha called the situation a “nightmare.”

It is no secret that blogs are not tied to the same code of conduct that their traditional counterparts are. That fact gives blogs, in general, greater latitude to play with a story’s focus, angle, tone, and sources or lack thereof. While this may not be kosher with the majority of the traditional media, it indeed serves an important purpose. It breathes life into stories, offers independent viewpoints, and highlights facets of a story that would otherwise be left in the dark unless a source commented about it. Although some blogs can be toxic in both their rhetoric and lack of validity, on the whole blogs provide an important context to stories that traditional journalism cannot. Sometimes stories may merit all caps headlines and red font, and that’s exactly what bloggers are good at.

Read more:

Posted by: mlschafer | July 26, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Ok...As I am now finding myself commenting to the third' artical on this web-site... it dawns on me that this " Rag ", is pro-Obama aka... The New World Orders, Commander in Chief's favorite read... " I'd Bet !? "
And...for those who's comments I've been reading, are just as Blind to the Real~Story as they would like you's to be... ( Obama and Company... and Bush, and etc, etc... )

I'm not one of those who sits in some dinner getting my info from Flo, or Bo, or what's on the TV at the time... NO... I found this great thing called the Internet !... I loved hearing Rockafella saying this week how " dangerous " it is, and that... we ( Our Government ) should control it ... " for our own good, you know ? "

Between what's seen and heard from the mainstream media and those who claim there in the ~ Know !?... It's refreshing to know that we in America are " still~able " to hear from another Point of View !

Should that come from Assange of WikiLeaks... or some major newspaper. Isn't this what makes this country different from so many others !?
Some of you on here come accross like we American citizens shouldn't know anything that's going on over there, or otherwise !?... All because those " Terroist " ... who ?... will take this info and use it against us ! LOL !
Man,,, The Dumbing~Down of this nations people has hit a New~High... I'd say.

FACTS : The USA has provided $5.6 BILLON $... in coalition support funds to Pakistan over the last " 5 Years ", with ZERO accountabilty... ( Tax Payer dollars ) ... per Patrick Murphy ( Dem-PA ) Yes ! this from one of their Own !

In short... the CIA funds, The ISA, who Funds... The Talban, AlQaeda, and anyone else... that the USA's Invisable Impire thinks at the time ?... is helping " Their ",,, mind you... THEIR, NOT OUR... AGENDA !!!

Nov 09' the LA Times... " CIA paid Millons ( Our Tax payer dollars ? )... to the ISI (Pakistan's CIA )... this money since 9/11

So tell me people... Do You Enjoy knowing that your TAX~Dollars are being Used as such !?
In the words of Thomas Jefferson... some of you may know of him ? ( one of the Founding Fathers of this nation ? )

" Educate and Inform the Whole ( not some )Masses of People...
They are the ONLY sure reliance for the Presevation of Our~Liberty. "

I bet there are those who commented on here that would say... " I'd give up some liberties, for free-dumb ? "... I'd say your Dumb enough already.
" Yeah "
If it were to protect us from those Evil! middle-eastern rag-head terroist... who live in caves, haven't any shoes, and... are being bombed Daily... mind you... with out regard to ... WHY !?

Pentagon Papers !?... This is much worse.

Posted by: aloharickrogers | July 27, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton,The Bilderberg Group, are war mongering to start World War III with Iran! American and Israeli ships are sitting off-shore of Iran, Sabre rattling and war mongering, to the orders of Obama, Hilary Clinton and the Global Elitist Bilderberg Group!
They are also Expanding the war with Pakistan greatly!
A former senior advisor to President Bill Clinton says that the only thing which can rescue Barack Obama’s increasingly tenuous grip on power as his approval figures continue to plunge is a terror attack on the scale of Oklahoma City or 9/11, another startling reminder that such events only ever serve to benefit those in authority.
Buried in a Financial Times article about Obama’s “growing credibility crisis” and fears on behalf of Democrats that they could lose not only the White House but also the Senate to Republicans, Robert Shapiro makes it clear that Obama is relying on an October surprise in the form of a terror attack to rescue his presidency.
“The bottom line here is that Americans don’t believe in President Obama’s leadership,” said Shapiro, adding, “He has to find some way between now and November of demonstrating that he is a leader who can command confidence and, short of a 9/11 event or an Oklahoma City bombing, I can’t think of how he could do that.”
Shapiro’s veiled warning should not be dismissed lightly. He was undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs dung Clinton’s tenure in the Oval Office and also acted as principal economic adviser to Clinton in his 1991-1992 campaign. Shapiro is now Director of the Globalization Initiative of NDN and also Chair of the Climate Task Force. He is a prominent globalist who has attended numerous Bilderberg Group meetings over the past decade.
Complete article at:
Two minute Newsclip - TWO Party Paradyne System News clip:

Do you want to read about how much more well off, the already super wealthy Global Elites are, due to the stunts and PSYOPS they have been pulling of on us for the passed two years already?

Then read this article at this website:

Posted by: PaulRevere4 | July 29, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

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