“In Afghanistan, there is a plan to build democracy; hundreds of thousands of troops are protecting it. There is a plan to rebuild and reconstruct there. But many thousands of Americans die from violence and poverty every year and we don’t have a plan for reconstruction at home.”
— Jesse Jackson
Where Is the Outrage Over the War in Afghanistan?, by Jeet Heer (The Nation)
A new Washington Post report proving the longest war in American history has been sold on lies for 20 years causes barely a ripple.
In 1971, The New York Times published the Pentagon Papers, leaked documents of a massive internal review by the US military of the history of American intervention in Vietnam. The Pentagon Papers were an epochal event, demonstrating that top policy-makers, both civilians and military leaders, consistently lied about the war for decades by grossly overstating the likelihood of success and downplaying evidence that it wasn’t going well. Publication of the leaked documents played a major role in undermining not just the support the American public gave to the war but also their faith in the honesty of their government.
On Monday, The Washington Post began a new series called “The Afghanistan Papers,” based on documents obtained by the newspaper of an internal military report on “lessons learned” from Afghanistan since the American invasion in 2002. The Post deliberately echoed the Pentagon Papers in the title, and the series explicitly draws parallels with the earlier scoop. This comparison might seem like hype, but the revelations in the Afghan report live up to its precursor. Like the Pentagon Papers, the Afghanistan Papers make clear that policy-makers consistently held a much more pessimistic private view of the Afghan War than they ever admitted in public. A feel-good story of progress was sold to the American people by military leaders and politicians who knew the truth was very different.
And yet, unlike the Pentagon Papers, the Afghanistan Papers are not making a splash. Released during the week the Democrats were finalizing impeachment, the series barely registered as news. Adam Wunische, a fellow at the Quincy Institute who covers Afghanistan and the Middle East, told me, “When the Afghan Papers came out on Monday, I was checking social media for ‘Afghanistan’ and ‘Afghan war.’ None of that was trending at all. It’s very easy for the public to just not pay attention. It’s not a pressing issue, especially with all the other exciting news that’s going on in politics these days” …