The Most Significant Afghanistan Papers Revelation Is How Difficult They Were to Make Public

Caitlin Johnstone is disturbed by how much time and money was required to make the  U.S. government comply with its own transparency laws.

By Caitlin Johnstone

The Washington Post has published clearundeniable evidence that U.S. government officials have been lying to the public about the war in Afghanistan, a shocking revelation for anyone who has done no research whatsoever into the history of U.S. interventionism.

In all seriousness it was a very good and newsworthy publication, and those who did the heavy lifting bringing the Afghanistan Papers into public awareness deserve full credit. The frank comments of U.S. military officials plainly stating that from the very beginning this was an unwinnable conflict, initiated in a region nobody understood, without anyone being able to so much as articulate what victory would even look like, make up an extremely important piece of information that is in conflict with everything the public has been told about this war by their government.

But the most significant revelation to come out of this story is not in the Afghanistan Papers themselves.

The most significant Afghanistan Papers revelation comes from The Washington Post‘s account of the extremely difficult time they had extricating these important documents from the talons of government secrecy, as detailed in a separate article titled How The Post unearthed The Afghanistan Papers.” WaPo explains how the papers were ultimately obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests which, after they were initially rejected by the U.S. government, needed to be supplemented over three years with two lawsuits.

“The Post’s efforts to obtain the Afghanistan documents also illustrate how difficult it can be for journalists — or any citizen — to pry public information from the government,” WaPo reports. “The purpose of FOIA is to open up federal agencies to public scrutiny. But officials determined to thwart the spirit of the law can drag out requests for years, hoping requesters will eventually give up.”

“In October 2017, The Post sued the inspector general in U.S. District Court in Washington — a step that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees — to obtain the Flynn interview materials,” WaPo adds.

Now, The Washington Post is a giant, for-profit corporate media outlet which is solely owned by Jeff Bezos, who is currently listed as the wealthiest person on earth. Does anyone reading this have hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of their life to spend battling the U.S.  government into complying with its own transparency laws? Are any of the alternative media outlets which consistently oppose U.S.  imperialism able to afford many such expenditures? I would guess not.

Is it not disturbing that the American taxpayer has to depend on outlets like The Washington Post, a neocon-packed outlet with an extensive history of promoting U.S. interventionism at every opportunity, to extract these documents from behind the wall of government opacity?

After all, by WaPo’s own admission it both sought and published the Afghanistan Papers in order to take a swing at Donald Trump. According to the Post it went down this path in 2016 initially seeking documents on Michael Flynn, who was then part of the Trump campaign, after receiving a tip that he’d made some juicy statements about the war in Afghanistan to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). WaPo then made the decision to publish the papers now rather than waiting for its legal battle for more information to complete because Trump is currently in the midst of negotiating with the Taliban over a potential troop withdrawal.

“The Post is publishing the documents now, instead of waiting for a final ruling, to inform the public while the Trump administration is negotiating with the Taliban and considering whether to withdraw the 13,000 U.S. troops who remain in Afghanistan,” WaPo reports.

It is obviously an inherently good thing that WaPo poured its immense wealth and resources into pursuing and publishing these documents. But would it have done so if those documents hadn’t presented an opportunity to embarrass the Trump administration? What kinds of information does the notoriously war-happy WaPo not spend its wealth and resources pursuing and publishing? Probably a whole lot.

It is a very safe assumption that, because of the immense walls of government opacity that have been built up around the unconscionable things America’s elected and unelected leadership is doing, there are far, far more evil things that are far, far worse than anything revealed in the Afghanistan Papers that we don’t know about, and that we don’t even know we don’t know about. Is it not deeply disturbing that we have to pray that some war-loving, establishment-supporting billionaire media outlet will have a partisan agenda to advance if we want to know about even a tiny sliver of this information?

I mean, it’s not like the Afghanistan Papers revealed anything we didn’t already know. It’s been public knowledge for many years that there was a preexisting agenda to invade Afghanistan well before Sept. 11, it’s been public knowledge that many lies were put in place after the invasion, and it’s been public knowledge for a long time that we’re being lied to about how well the war is going. All these new revelations did was reify and draw attention to what anyone with an ear to the ground already knew: like all other U.S. -led military interventions, we were lied to about Afghanistan. It’s not like the U.S. government was staving off some massive unknown bombshell revelation with its resistance to WaPo’s FOIA requests. Yet it resisted them anyway, just because it was more convenient.

Julian Assange once said “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security,” and we see this tacitly confirmed by the U.S. government in its massive backlogs of unanswered FOIA requests, illegitimate refusals, unjustifiable redactions and exploitation of loopholes to retain as much security as possible. As one Twitter follower recently put it, “The FOIA was enacted in 1966 to make legally compulsory the opening of government activities to ‘sunlight’. Fifty-three years later, the government has learned how to neutralize the law and once again hide their misconduct. Classifying everything is one way, requiring an expensive ‘lawsuit’ is another.”

It shouldn’t work this way. People shouldn’t have to count on immoral plutocratic media institutions to get their government to tell them the truth about what’s being done in their name using their tax dollars. A free nation would have privacy for its citizenry and transparency for its government; with the growing increase in surveillance and government secrecy across the entire U.S. centralized empire, what we’re getting is the exact opposite.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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13 comments for “The Most Significant Afghanistan Papers Revelation Is How Difficult They Were to Make Public

    December 14, 2019 at 19:50

    The motto for American Statesmanship needs to be—First Do No Harm —In other words –Stop killing other people .

  2. December 12, 2019 at 21:18

    While I agree with everything Caitlin said, in fairness it should be noted that Freedom of Information Act lawsuits — compared to most other administrative law cases — are generally simpler and less expensive. Elements of that simplicity:

    * Anyone has standing to file such cases; no battles over standing.

    * Burden of proving a valid search and any withholding of records is on the government.

    * Government must disclose any non-exempt segregable portions of records.

    * Courts liberally construe the law of waiver of exemption by prior disclosure to non-privileged persons.

    * FOIA cases are almost always decided on basis of summary judgment, without expense of a trial.

    * Ordinarily courts award attorney fees and expenses to plaintiffs who substantially prevail. Many public interest law firms obtain most or all of their funding through such awards.

    * Applicable court procedures create a substantial workload for withholding agencies that increases with the number of records withheld, creating an incentive to disclose all but those few records the agency is willing to go to the mat over.

    * There are substantial self-help FOIA resources on the Web.

    That said, FOIA cases are far from trivial and if litigated are rarely won by non-attorneys representing themselves.

  3. Hide Behind
    December 12, 2019 at 14:35

    Why the surprise at cost and difficulty of accessing data under FOIA, it’s procedures were set in place by the Military, ntelligence agrencies, and Executive Branch forming a bureaucracy loyal to it, all for the purpose of defeating the Bill opening government records to public scrutiny.
    During Bush Presidency for finding out info on how Afghanistan came about, Bush signed an Executive order and had removed many government data and even retroactive public Domain put under Top Secret designation on his family, Cheny himself and his meeting with oil executives, plus lots more.
    It cost groups of volunteers, financial and individual over $40,000 in legal fees, lawyers in order to get data that had at times 70% redacted.
    Timelines, due to what even then we knew there were people among us passing proceedings to goverent and media outlets for pay, until just 30 days to two weeks.
    two weeks before presenting petition,
    The bureaucracy retaliated by delays. changing request by not just using main document numbers but down to specific page numbers, each page needing different petition, more initial cost and then they began charging exorbitant fee per page and copy.
    There is no such animal as freedom of access to government records, ever checked out cost of Congressional Records, and the restrictions they now claim as patent right as to reproduction of material, we get only what they want to release.
    What is most damning is that wherever a major personality , Congress members and others, their names and firms are usually blacked out.
    Remember another fact, when an Elected Congressional member speaks upon important measures they preface it by saying they reserve right to amend their statements at a later date; Those are the amended and revised statements written in Congressional records.
    Congress, Executive Branch, Intelligence Agencies, and military keeps we animals within reservations keeping us from knowing intent of our they our trainers.

  4. December 12, 2019 at 13:36

    And not a word or whimper from the Establishment Political Class aka The War Party(s). The thievery continues unabated without protestation or a single outcry! Astonishing! No one is saying, “stop,” no one asking for heads to roll nor an accounting of any sort. Yet they are impeaching a President for a phone call. Bizarro World.

  5. Mark Clarke
    December 12, 2019 at 08:08

    Yes, no one could articulate what victory would look like, but everyone knew. It would be a permanent American military presence in a weak dependent country. We have achieved victory.

  6. Broompilot
    December 11, 2019 at 22:48

    I don’t recall it being common knowledge that they were planning on invading Afghanistan before 9/11, but they were planning on invading Iraq. This according to Richard Clarke. Though it would surprise me if they didn’t keep plans around for invading just about everywhere.

    • michael
      December 12, 2019 at 14:09

      Caitlin links to a article (under “there was a preexisting agenda) that claims Afghanistan would have been invaded, even without 9/11, to install and establish a pipeline route.

    • robert e williamson jr
      December 15, 2019 at 18:19

      Hesus Dog, Broom PILOT ! ,RUMMY wrote memo’s claiming he and others didn’t know what they were doing. Dogdamn their track record proves it and they need to be held accountable. You are giving these cretins much to much credit for they are strange beings with no moral compass, compassion or conscience. Sycophant psychopathic bullies who need to be ferreted out of government and put into institutions.

      A plan cannot be common knowledge when non exists. If the Saudi Government was involved in 911 there was a plan but it got way out of hand.

      I you want to think “PROGRESS” think moderately.

      IN closing I’d like to throw this at Catlin, would you not agree that trying to make sense out of these things is impossible because these people are unhinged and make no sense.

      This is the cause of so much of our alienation. One is hard pressed to make sense out of something nonsensical. Which is a tip to what the real problem is.

      Watch the impeachment hearing for five minutes and you sill see. They talk in circles because they are caught.

  7. Joe Tedesky
    December 11, 2019 at 22:16

    We should not forget Michael Hastings for his Rolling Stone articles pulled back the curtain on the Afghanistan travesty of constant war which resulted in General Stanley McCrystals being relieved of his post. See Brad Pitts Netflix movie ‘War Machine’ which is a parody of Hastings reporting. I think of Michael Hasting as his being a martyr to the untold truth of corruption which is pulling the US down.

    • Skip Scott
      December 12, 2019 at 05:47

      Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find an investigator to get to the bottom of Hastings’ murder and a prosecutor willing to pursue justice? The story is he was working on a “hit piece” on Brennan when he had his mysterious fatal crash. Per Wikileaks “vault 7” releases, we know the evil ones are capable of taking remote control of many newer vehicles. Now Hastings is dead and Assange is in Belmarsh. It’s just “how empire rolls”.

      I find it ironic that the trap we set for Russia in Afghanistan to make it their “Vietnam” quagmire back during Carter and Reagan has become our longest war to date, and is part of the “Forever War” bankrupting the USA.

      Happy Holidays Joe. Hope you and yours are well.

    • rosemerry
      December 12, 2019 at 17:06

      Of course Michael Hastings was a martyr and his death was no accident. As for Netflix-its object appears to be to ensure the fooling of the US public is deepened.

    • Joe Tedesky
      December 12, 2019 at 21:31

      Thanks Skip and may you be well in the coming year.

  8. Randy
    December 11, 2019 at 20:38

    Privicy for the people and transparency for the government! What a great concept!

Comments are closed.