Journalists and government officials likely will need weeks to plow through the tens of thousands of pages of classified information made public over the weekend by the website WikiLeaks.org. But what so far has been made known is hardly earth-shattering.
Some would like to compare this leak to the Pentagon Papers, which detailed official lies told during the Vietnam War. But that comparison fails on several levels. The Pentagon Papers implicated the White House of misleading the public. These leaks lead to no such conclusions. In fact, these leaked documents, so far as has been made known, don't reveal much that wasn't already public knowledge.
Americans knew Pakistan is an unstable and, at times, two-faced ally whose government does not fully control all territory or all factions within its borders. The leaked documents tell of Pakistani intelligence forces aiding and supporting the Taliban.
Americans knew U.S. military forces have at times killed civilians. The leaked documents add to this only in that they reveal a previously unknown incident involving French forces. War is brutal, ugly and violent. It is especially so when enemy combatants deliberately mingle with civilians to make it more difficult for U.S. soldiers to find and kill them without also killing others. That is an insidious tactic designed to direct worldwide outrage against U.S. and allied forces, and it often works.
The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, compared the documents to the release of the archives of the East German secret police after the Cold War. This reveals just about all one needs to know about him and his motives.
In conflicts such as the one in Afghanistan, it may be proper to debate tactics and even the need to continue the war at all. But for freedom-loving people, there should be no question as to which side has the moral upper hand. The East German secret police were protecting the interests of a brutal and repressive regime against people who wanted freedom. The United States and its allies are trying to defeat forces that, when in power years ago, denied people freedom, imposed horrific rules on attire and behavior, and harbored groups spreading terror around the world.
Perhaps it is wrong to continue this conflict in a way that seems to be turning some Afghan civilians toward the enemy. Or perhaps a stronger force would change all that, once the conflict begins to turn. Perhaps too much is at stake to leave now.
And perhaps it is good for Americans to examine what types of information should and shouldn't be made public at a time of war. These are all matters deserving serious debate.
But there should be little confusion as to which side in this conflict represents freedom and which supports oppression.