This piece originally appeared at TomDispatch.
Consider the following statement offered by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a news conference last week. He was discussing Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks as well as the person who has taken responsibility for the vast, still ongoing Afghan War document dump at that site. "Mr. Assange," Mullen commented, "can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."
Now, if you were the proverbial fair-minded visitor from Mars (who in school civics texts of my childhood always seemed to land on Main Street, USA., to survey the wonders of our American system), you might be a bit taken aback by Mullen's statement. After all, one of the revelations in the trove of leaked documents Assange put online had to do with how much blood from innocent Afghan civilians was already on American hands.
The British Guardian was one of three publications given early access to the leaked archive, and it began its main article this way: "A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents. They range from the shootings of individual innocents to the often massive loss of life from air strikes…" Or as the paper added in a piece headlined "Secret CIA paramilitaries' role in civilian deaths": "Behind the military jargon, the war logs are littered with accounts of civilian tragedies. The 144 entries in the logs recording some of these so-called ‘blue on white' events, cover a wide spectrum of day-by-day assaults on Afghans, with hundreds of casualties." Or as it also reported, when exploring documents related to Task Force 373, an "undisclosed ‘black' unit" of US special operations forces focused on assassinating Taliban and al-Qaeda "senior officials": "The logs reveal that TF 373 has also killed civilian men, women, and children and even Afghan police officers who have strayed into its path."
Admittedly, the events recorded in the Wikileaks archive took place between 2004 and the end of 2009, and so don't cover the last six months of the Obama administration's across-the-board surge in Afghanistan. Then again, Admiral Mullen became chairman of the Joint Chiefs in October 2007, and so has been at the helm of the American war machine for more than two of the years in question.