WikiLeaks & the Crimes of the West in Afghanistan

Fabian Scheidler says so much suffering — including Assange’s imprisonment for exposing war criminals — buries the idea of “humanitarian intervention.” 

Jan. 17, 2002: Afghan children watch U.S. Marines conduct a mounted patrol of light armored vehicles through a village near the Kandahar International Airport, Afghanistan. (DoD, Charles Grow)

By Fabian Scheidler
Common Dreams

The headless flight of NATO troops from Afghanistan and the havoc they leave behind are only the last chapter in a devastating story that began in October 2001.

At that time, the U.S.  government, supported by allies including the German administration, announced that the terror attacks of Sept. 11 should be answered by a war in Afghanistan.

None of the assassins were Afghan. And the Taliban government at the time even offered the U.S.  to extradite Osama bin Laden — an offer the U.S.  did not even respond to. Virtually no word was said about the country of origin of 15 of the 19 terrorists — Saudi Arabia.

On the contrary: members of the Bin Laden family were flown out of the U.S. A in a night-and-fog operation so that they could not be interrogated. After classified parts of the 9/11 commission report were released in 2016, it emerged that high-ranking members of the Saudi embassy in Washington had been in contact with the terrorists before the attacks. Consequences? None. They are our allies.

So, Afghanistan was attacked. Already during the Cold War, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia had supported Islamists there on a large scale against the Soviet Union.

Now the Islamist warlords of the “Northern Alliance” were the new allies. The German Armed Forces flanked the U.S. troops. While their deployment was shrouded in the narrative of a “humanitarian intervention”, the Bundeswehr in fact worked hand in hand with the warlords, as investigative journalist Marc Thörner reported. (He was the only German reporter on site who was not embedded in the military.)

Thörner predicted that the complicity of the NATO troops in the war crimes and the “counterinsurgency methods from the colonial era” would turn the population more and more against the West and strengthen fundamentalism. We see the result today: the triumph of the Taliban across the country.

Supporting War Criminals & Committing War Crimes 

The U.S. troops as well as the Bundeswehr and other allies not only supported war criminals on the ground, they also committed serious crimes themselves. None of the perpetrators was ever convicted in court for this.

Take Kunduz, for example: in September 2009 the Bundeswehr bombed a mainly civilian trek here, with over one hundred dead or seriously injured, including children. The proceedings against those primarily responsible, Colonel Georg Klein and Defense Minister Jung (CDU), ended with acquittals.

[Related: The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 —The Leak That ‘Exposed the True Afghan War’]

In 2010, WikiLeaks published 76,000 previously classified documents about the war, containing references to hundreds of other war crimes. But instead of investigating these cases and bringing the guilty to justice, the messenger, Julian Assange, was pursued.

Today he is sitting, critically ill, in a British high-security prison and has to fear being extradited to the U.S., where he is threatened with life imprisonment under inhumane conditions.

Assange and WikiLeaks won The Economist New Media Award at the 2008 Freedom of Expression Awards. (Index on Censorship)

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, came to the conclusion, after an in-depth investigation of the case, that Assange had been and is systematically tortured by Western authorities.

Most of the big media, which got a lot of attention and made money with the leaks of their journalist colleague, have now largely dropped him. And with it the defense of the freedom of the press, which is especially crucial when it comes to questions of war and peace. So, Assange is on trial — and not the war criminals.

All those who warned against the Afghanistan war were ridiculed from the start as naive pacifists or even accused of evading humanitarian responsibility and thus playing into the hands of the Islamists.

But today it is finally clear: the alleged humanitarian operation only plunged the country further into misery and strengthened the Islamists. As in Iraq, as in Libya, as in Mali. It is time to finally bury the doctrine of the “responsibility to protect,” which was coined at the time of the beginning of the Afghan war, and to brand it as what it was from the beginning: a neocolonial project.

Instead of military interventions, one could, for example, begin to drain the terror sponsor Saudi Arabia financially and stop all arms exports there. It would also be worthwhile to advance the project of a Conference for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East, which — based on the model of the détente policy of the OSCE in Cold War Europe — could be working on a new civil security architecture for the region.

The Afghanistan debacle should also be an occasion to question the enormous expansion of Western military budgets in recent years, which was justified not least of all by deployments abroad.

German military spending went up from € 40 billion to € 52 billion from 2015 to 2020, an increase of a whopping 30 percent. The U.S. military budget is at $ 778 billion, about 12 times of what Russia spends for its army. This money is urgently needed for tasks that really move the world forward, especially for countering the climate urgency and for a socio-ecological transition. The U.S.  military not only has a gloomy balance sheet in terms of peace policy, but is also THE largest greenhouse gas emitter on Earth. It is time for a slimming cure.

Fabian Scheidler is the author of “The End of the Megamachine. A Brief History of a Failing Civilization” (2019).  See more of his work on his website here. Follow him on Twitter: @ScheidlerFabian.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

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

10 comments for “WikiLeaks & the Crimes of the West in Afghanistan

  1. zhu
    August 22, 2021 at 23:54

    Life is still cheap in Asia, at least in Western eyes. :-(

  2. Tim Slater
    August 22, 2021 at 16:14

    One minor error: The “responsibility to protect” as justification for foreign military intervention was not invented for Afghanistan, but just before the First World War, as justification for French and British battleships shelling Ottoman territory in order to protect Armenians who had fled to the Musa Degh mountain near the coast (the events portrayed in Franz Werfel’s ‘The Forty Days of Musa Degh’).

  3. DW Bartoo
    August 22, 2021 at 13:23

    So, let’s see.

    The initial “justification” for using the U$ military was that Afghanistan was, “somehow”, either “behind” or “involved with” the crimes (which we lower case, meaning the many) still have not really been informed of the whole truth) of 9/11.

    Yet it turns out that WE (upper case, the elites who “decide”) killed far more than one hundred thousand Afghan human beings who were completely innocent of ANY involvement with 9/11.

    Just to remind all present, this killing, maiming, and destruction was ALL done in the names of we (lower case), the many, hoi paloi, even though we had neither input nor choice in the deciding.

    Yet Assange rots in Brit detention while the architects and THOSE WHO profit from war bask in luxury, fame, power, and ready, easy access to platforms from which to extol THEIR own virtues and brilliance, all most clearly deserved by what are, arguably, the Best and Brightest, all of WHOM face not the slightest risk of censure or consequence.

    The media and academia both run defense for the elite, being owned by the elite and charged with manufacturing consent for the war projects of those elite.

    It is such a cozy deal.

    A secure sinecure, ample reward, and no downsides.

    Deceit is well remunerated.

    Deceit is the operant mode of the elite.

    Obviously, the claim may be (and is) made that the elite honestly, earnestly, and fervently “believe” THEIR own BS.

    Why not?

    Again, obviously, it don’t stink.

    I mean heck, THEY could sell Russiagate and convince the many of total nonsense.

    But then the whole Red – Blue tribalism of political duopoly is complete BS.

    So the political class, Wall Street, the (as Eisenhower described it, originally) “Military, Industrial, Congressional Complex, the “intelligence” agencies (17 or more), the M$M and academia all got rewarded for their roles in the profitable “killing”.

    However, in polite society, we (lc) must never mention “profiteering” when it comes to war, but must solemnly pretend that it is all too complex for our (lc) little minds and that is why we hire the political class to do our thinking for us and trust the media to tell us what’s what.

    Recall the lies the media pushed about Assange.

    In fact, Melzer mentions that he had long believed such BS, until he began to seek out the actual truth of things.

    That “searching out”, apparently, is just too hard, difficult, or time-consuming for many U$ians who still believe media pushed nonsense about any number of things.


    Monsters, everywhere, hate us for our free-dumbs.

    What’s really cool is how immensely profitable such a mindset is for THOSE WHO implant and cultivate it in the minds of the many.

    Well grown, such “philosophy” has no need of actual fact or genuine evidence.

    Especially when starting a war.

    It does not matter that no nation has, since WWII, had ANY capacity, or desire, and that second point matters, to really
    pose a substantial threat of invasion of the Sacred Homeland, period.

    Yet mere suspicion is sufficient to unleash the dogs of war on people who have never done us harm.

    The greatest nation ever, is neither great nor “exceptional”, nor in fact, is there much reason to think otherwise despite the inculcated myths that scream otherwise.



    “The shining city on the hill”?

    Not even.

    Yet, not to worry, “these colors do not run” (it is not a rout, it is a dignified rearrangement … and WE can still bomb any nation back to the Stone Age, turn them to glass, or just nuclear “first strike” them out of existence.


    That’s the way WE talk, even if it does the rest of us (little people) grievous harm and places our lives in economic precarity while the Stock Market soars and the money rolls into the billionaire class just as intended, by law and decree.

    Will the many hold the elite (of all stripes) to account?

    For anything?

    Or will we watch Assange be crushed while the elite smirk (and muse to themselves that “WE should have just droned him! But this might be more fun and satisfying because WE are above all laws, safe, secure, and ever more wealthy).

    Lies and war-profiteering.

    Lessons learned?

    Hey, WE can do it again, quite soon, another few years and some plausible arrogance will justify more war.

    It is all part of “Nothing will change”.

    Does the future need repeat the past?


    However, to ensure that is so, is up to us (lower case, the many who just might realize that we (lower case) are more alike than different and have the shared investment of our lives and those whom we love – at stake.

    Frankly, we differ but little from those millions our BETTERS have killed, directly or through proxies, these last 75 years.

    The choice is between “more of the same” or a different vision of what humanity and existence is about.

    In this existential moment, that reality just might merit serious consideration.

    Environmental collapse or nuclear Armageddon, is what the elite offer.

    Surely, we can both imagine and go far better, if that matters to enough of us.

    However, to do so will require refusing to tolerate lies and recognizing narrative manipulation (control of what we understand to be truth and reality).

    It will require conscience, courage, tolerance, and understanding.

    Above all, it shall require that we each do not insist that others do the heavy lifting.

    Otherwise the Great Game of Greed will continue until the effective end of time.

    August 21, 2021 at 12:53

    Good article, but falls far short of explai ing the how’s andwhys of German/ Austrian involvement in Afghanistan affair5hat has some Roots in USled NATO destruction of Yugoslavia via, a project designated by leadership as Greater Albania Project.
    No mention of oil gas interest for pipelines by German Austria and.NATO nations banking firms , Destruction of Argentine National currency wheen Argentine owned oil/gas made best offers to Afghan government.
    Actually US oil firms mainly investor of Occidental Petroleum got all offers thrown out and pressured US gov to intervene. I dustriLsneed fornatural gas was growing by 10% per year and thatis real reason Gerans were involved
    US State DepttoldGermanys bankers to backdownand promised therewould be plenty future low cost oil and gas deliveries.
    we are wellintomiddle second generation since those planners declared War on AFGHANISTAN, and to some extent today’s political journalist have no depth of understanding the why and wherefore older past journalist k ew of.
    HISTORYAS TAUGHT BY GOV CO NTROLBAS EVEN CENSORED OUTOLDBINTERNETREPORTS, GEORGE Bush Cheney censored out past news of family back ten years. And although some had been open source publications and allblublic media it was all lumpedas “Secret.

  5. Vera Gottlieb
    August 21, 2021 at 10:42

    In the eyes of the US there is no such thing as ‘humanitarian intervention’…It has always boiled down to plundering other nations, regardless of human costs.

  6. August 21, 2021 at 10:11

    Habría que, castigar igualmente, a toda la basura de gobernantes Occidentales que intervinieron en Afganistán, por verduleros y, lameculos insidiosos/así que “La Plebe” no criticamos solo a los principales ejecutores, también arquitectos, comandantes y los mencionados anteriormente, como colaboradores. Todos y todas son culpables. Vfg.faranduleromarxista

    We should also punish all the garbage of Western rulers who intervened in Afghanistan, for greengrocers and insidious lickers / so “La Plebe” we do not criticize only the main executors, also architects, commanders and those mentioned above, as collaborators . Everyone is guilty. Vfg.faranduleromarxista
    via Google Translate

  7. rosemerry
    August 21, 2021 at 02:46

    I find it interesting that the German chancellor in her last meeting with President Putin, spoke of Crimea, Ukraine and even of Navalny, never considering the EU support of Ukraine’s overthrow of the elected leader in 2014. No mention of the refusal of Ukraine to follow the Minsk agreement, the plans of NATO to use Crimea as a base (when the agreement with Russia allowed the continuation of the military base there), the obvious mismanagement of Ukraine (supported by the West just to be anti-Russian).

  8. Ian
    August 20, 2021 at 19:37

    Whenever the idea of a “humanitarian” occupation of Afghanistan is brought up I think of the Kunduz MSF hospital massacre, where US forces blasted a well known Doctors Without Borders hospital for a whole hour, killing at least 80 doctors and patients, while hospital staff was on the phone with the US Army begging them to stop. A absolutely blatant war crime and US/Obama pressure prevented MSF’s request for an international investigation and disciplined absolutely no-one for the massacre. That is one incident of many and I hope it is never forgotten. In occupation life is worthless and justice impossible.

  9. August 20, 2021 at 16:05

    Excellent post mortem, with one glaring exception and that involves the fundamental role of Israel in everything criticized. And that error is fatal to a useful analysis that can help avoid future neocolonial, neoliberal, neoconservative dystopian disasters for mankind like the ones we’ve lived through during
    the past century.

  10. Charlotte Ruse
    August 20, 2021 at 15:25

    Assange rather than Obama should’ve received the Nobel Peace Prize.

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