Opinion » Ted Rall

Appallingly Heroic

Thanks to WikiLeaker, Afghan War will end soon


MUMBAI—"An appalling irresponsible act." That's how Gen. James Nattis, at the helm of U.S. Central Command, characterizes the release of more than 76,000 classified Pentagon reports released by the website WikiLeaks.

The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense, is the same outfit that loaded $24 billion in $100 bills onto shrink-wrapped pallets and loaded the cash onto C-130 transport planes bound for Iraq and guarded by enlisted men who earn $20,000 a year. Not one of those Benjamins has ever been heard from since. Which, given that the money was supposed to be paid to corrupt tribal sheikhs, is just as well.

Speaking of behavior that falls short of the highest ethical standards (and is highly amusing), the involuntarily declassified material contains some real gems. My current fave—there will, no doubt, be others, for I am fickle and the material is vast—comes from an August 2007 report that explains some of the ways Pakistan uses the billions in U.S. tax dollars former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama send it.

Based in Waziristan in Pakistan's western tribal areas, the Haqqani network is a neo-Taliban-affiliated Islamist organization led by Sirajuddin Haqqani and his father Jalaluddin Haqqani. Officially, the Haqqanis are American targets because they harbor members of al-Qaida and are involved in weapons smuggling. Unofficially—on the ground, as they say—things are different.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (like our CIA) is supposed to help the United States arrest and/or kill the Haqqanis. That's why the United States pays the ISI. Instead, the ISI pays the Haqqanis. With U.S. money.

The ISI hires the Haqqanis to carry out interesting projects. For example, Pakistan used tax payer money to hire Haqqani assassins to kill Indian road engineers and workers in Nimruz province in western Afghanistan. Going rate: $15,000 to $30,000 each.

The weirdest ISI-Haqqani business deal concerns 1,000 motorcycles. The ISI shipped the bikes to the Haqqanis for use in suicide bomb attacks in Khost and Logar provinces.

It has been pointed out that the WikiLeaks documents don't reveal much new. We already knew that Pakistan was our frenemy. We knew that drone planes kill more wedding guests than terrorists. We didn't want to admit it, but we already kind of knew we were losing. The starred headline involves the likelihood that the Taliban have surface-to-air missiles.

But the leaks are nevertheless a game-changer. They confirm what those few of us who opposed this war from the start have been saying all along. They prove that the military sees things the same way we do. So that's the end of the debate. The war is an atrocity and a mistake. Everyone agrees.

Public support for the war was already waning. Just 43 percent of the public still backs "the good war." The leaks mark the beginning of the end of one of a stupid country's countless stupid misadventures. I don't see what else could have done it so quickly.

Thanks to the leaker, thousands of lives will be saved in Afghanistan. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers will live out normal lives. Billions of dollars will stop pouring into the pockets of the Pakistanis. If that's irresponsible, well, call me a fan of irresponsibility.