Afghanistan War Logs Leaked – at least 92.000 classified documents now online

The subversive homepage Wikileaks scored last night its biggest coup this far: The website’s organizers obtained at least classified, secret military documents on the war in Afghanistan and put them online. This flood of information draws a quite different picture of the conflict – and reveals the true nature of the war. The documents, covering the whole operation from its beginnings in 2004 until December 2009, include for instance facts and figures regarding civilian casualties caused by NATO troops and corroborate the assertion that the Pakistani as well as Iranian secret services are supporting insurgents, i.e. the Taliban. Wikileaks forwarded the material to the Guardian, The New York Times, and the German Spiegel. Thus, the growing influence of the Internet on traditional mass media seems to prove true once more; this very important example consolidates the WWW as a source of unique information for professionals in journalism – and challenges governmental hegemony on information control. However, the whole issue needs a critical examination as benefits and disadvantages have to be measured.

Update: Julian Assange of Wikileaks on the Afghanistan War Logs (Guardian/youtube)

To get all information, click the link above or here.

Furthermore, here’s an impression of the broad media response to the information leak – almost all major newspapers and broadcasters worldwide reacted instantly to the incident:

Guardian: “Massive leak of secret files exposes the real war in Afghanistan”

New York Time: “The War Logs – A six-year archive of classified military documents
offers an unvarnished and grim picture of the Afghan war”

Washington Post: “Leaked files lay bare war in Afghanistan”

The Times: “Afghanistan files leak lifts lid on realities of war”

BBC: “US condemns Wikileaks revelations”

Al-Jazeera:”US condemns leaked Afghan ‘secrets'”

Tagesschau: “75.000 Afghanistan-Geheimakten im Netz”

Spiegel: “Die Afghanistan-Protokolle”

Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Geheime Afghanistan-Protokolle offengelegt”

Le Monde: “Afghanistan: des rapports secrets explosifs publiés”

El Mundo: “La verdad sobre la Guerra de Afganistán, desvelada en una filtración histórica”

However, various important newspapers have not covered the story, yet – at least on their official homepages. Among those publications are for instance the German FAZ and TAZ, China Daily, Japan Times, Jerusalem Post.


11 Rules for a more livable WWW

The (in-)famous German Chaos Computer Club (‘CCC’) postulates in one of its recent website updates eleven theses to improve a ‘livable’ world wide web. They deal with structural inequalities, the digital divide, freedom of information, and anonymity.

As the original text is in German, I provide here a digested translation of their advice to achieve a more liberal and fair Internet:

1. Internet access is a fundamental right and a requirement for participation in cultural and political life.

2. The benefits of the Internet can only fully develope if ‘net-neutrality’ is guranteed.

3. Major IT-projects in the public sector should be assigned after reasonable criteria.

4. Keep public data transparent.

5. Clear rejection of patented software.

6. Modernisation of copyright.

7. Internet providers have no responsibility for the data of their customers

8. Improved protection of private data.

9. Establish the right on anonymity.

10. Prohibition of profiling users.

11. Improve Whistleblower-Protection.

The CCC, founded 1981 in Berlin by hackers, explains its motivation to enter once more the discourse on freedom and the Internet as follows:

since its beginnings [the CCC] realized and propagated the chances and possibilities of a networked life. Many of the original – in the past quite futuristic seeming – visions turned not only into reality but became natural for our society. Indeed, the advent of the Internet into everyday life of almost everyone lead to problems concerning data privacy but also catalyzed democratization, and brought an enrichment from a scientific, social, and artistic perspective. The self-regulating forces of the Internet thereby prohibited various feared dystopia, without further governmental interventions. From our point of view, the current discussion bases on a misjudgment where a need for regulation is detectable and where not.

These points focus numerous important issues concerning contemporary life in cyberspace. Most of the suggestions are very reasonable though it is quite disputable if they can be realized against the interests of major economic players.

Find further information on the Chaos Computer Club here.

TED Talk on Anonymity in Cyberspace

A current videoclip on the Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) focuses the “case for anonymity online”. Interlocutor  Christopher “moot” Poole, founder of 4chan – an online imageboard subsisting from the contributions of its anonymous users – explains thereby the structure and customs of the subculture he created. Watch the video here:

From the perspective of a new media practitioner, Poole talks about the potential and power of anonymity as well as the limits and prices to pay for it. Quite interesting in regards of the digitalized information society and the way it denizens can present (or not present) themselves in new and different public spheres.

Off-topic: Reading about the Vietnam War

Due to my own family roots in Vietnam and my professional interest in history, I read a lot of publications concerning the Vietnam War during the last years. Most books have been published in the US, where various positions on the war, its cause, and outcome exist. The many voices which comment this significant, controversial event of the cold war (which was in fact a very hot one) range from total damnation to actual justification of the US engagement between 1965 and 1972. A neutral observer of this specific historical discourse could thereby draw clear lines between the different political backgrounds of the various authors (mostly a dichotomy of liberal and conservative point of views).

I would like to present here two very interesting books on the issue. They are recommendable to readers without any knowledge about the “10.000 days of war” (Arnett 1980) in Vietnam as well as to those who have already worked on the topic.

Appy, Christian G. (2005) Vietnam. The Definitive Oral History, Told From All Sides. Viking Penguin.

This compendium of different interviews with contemporary witnesses from all sides, which were involved in the conflict, is one of the most important pieces of recorded oral history on the event. The author interviewed generals, soldiers, nurses, reporters, peace activists, relatives and many more people to create this comprehensive documentation. The honest reports, which are partly very emotional, are structured into six chapters – which cover the conflict from its roots in the 1950s to its end in 1975, when Saigon fell to the communist forces. The various interviews are connected by the author’s descriptions of the historical context, and each interviewee is briefly introduced.

Appy provides thereby a fair account of the war – the result of many years of meticulous research and extensive talks. The reader gets a profound impression of the Vietnam War and the course it took, but also learns about individual fates which are just typical for this disastrous conflict: On the one hand, there are for instance a simple GI who left Vietnam as a cripple but feels no anger for his former enemies, a nurse who learnt to hate the Vietcong and was reluctant to help wounded captives, and a Japanese-American GI who at first was a target of anti-asian racism by his comrades before he started to disregard the Vietnamese as human beings himself. On the other one, a Northvietnamese woman tells about the hard work and deprivations while establishing the infamous Ho-Chi-Minh-Trail, another Northvietnamese man explains how he was taken out of the rice field and put into a Russian fighter jet, and a NVA veteran reports how he tries to find the remains of missed Vietnamese since 1977 until today.

Furthermore, people who were not directly involved in the fighting or who never even touched Vietnamese soil speak out, too – and their reports show how a conflict thousands of miles away can become very close in an instance: Politicians, who had at the time no idea of the true nature of Vietnamese culture, admit their mistakes, activists in the civil rights and peace movement report on their experiences at the so-called ‘home front’ and other testimonies show that the pain of losing a relative seems to endure forever.

By combining accurate descriptions of the general historical events with a pluralistic choice of interviews, this intriguing book is not only highly informative but also quite thrilling (even touching) to read. Especially due to the fact, that the provided accounts are non-ficitonal.

Hall, Mitchell K. (2007) The Vietnam War. Second Edition. Pearson Longman.

This monograph is recommendable to ‘beginners’ and provides an overview of the conflict, supported by contemporary documents. It covers the most important developments which led to the war and influenced its course and outcome. The author included also an thorough bibliography, which hints to various important publications on the issue. All those, who do not know much about the Vietnam War and want to make a start should take look on this book.

There are also numerous documentaries on the conflict. I will present some worth seeing in a later post. However, I would like to name here The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, another piece of oral history – this time captured on film. The documentary was directed by Errol Morris and won the Academy Award for best documentary in 2003. In this film, Robert S. McNamara, who has been U.S. secretary of defense during the war gives his accounts of war in general as well as on his role in the Vietnam Conflict.

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