At the American Spectator site, former first Bush administration Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Jed Babbin reviews some of the initial press on the latest Wikileaks, and comes to some conclusions future Deputy Undersecretaries of State should heed. Some excerpts:
Several news organizations, including apparently the New York Times, Britain's Guardian newspaper, and al-Jazeera, were given advance access to the documents. From their reporting, and from my own scant review of just a few of the documents, they appear to illustrate the inherent—and forseeable—problems with the nation-building strategy we pursued in Iraq and are still pursuing in Afghanistan.
The Guardian headlines report torture, murders, and war crimes. It reports, "US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished." In an occupation, we would have the obligation to investigate and punish such crimes. But from the moment the Iraqis resumed sovereignty over their own nation, any moral obligation we had was abrogated by the Iraqis' authority over their own affairs.
The New York Times — in extensive Sunday coverage—returns to a familiar narrative of indiscriminate killing by U.S. security contractors. ("Contractors Added to War's Chaos.")
The security contractor issue is another result of the occupation-cum-nation-building strategy. As Gen. Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said in a CNN interview yesterday, we simply didn't have enough troops to provide security for all the other government agencies attempting to build Iraq. Neither the CIA nor the State Department, both of which have been heavily engaged in Iraq, could have attempted to operate in Iraq without contractor-provided security…..
The Post goes along with the WikiLeaks claim that the new documents show "…that U.S. soldiers killed at least 700 Iraqi civilians in situations where troops felt threatened."….
The Saudi government-controlled Arab News is ahead of the American media. Its Sunday editorial says, "The new revelations do not just detail the involvement of the US and UK forces in the casual, cold blooded killings and abuse, they also reveal their connivance of the torture, killings, rapes and persecution of Iraqi civilians by the Iraqi forces. If thousands of innocents perished in blasts and attacks by the terrorists and in sectarian killings, many more died at the hands of coalition forces at security checkpoints."
When the election is over in two-plus weeks, and George W. Bush's memoir is published, we will—again—re-litigate the Iraq war….
We cannot prevent the debate from going on, nor should we try. But we have to focus it on the question that is of ultimate importance to the war in Afghanistan and everywhere else terrorists find safe haven and support: that the neocons, the nation-builders of record, have it entirely wrong. We cannot win the war by fighting the enemy's proxies or in spending blood and treasure trying to create democracies in the Muslim world.