Only a day after three of the world's most-prominent news organizations — the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel —published reports based on the 90,000-plus purloined secret Afghanistan War documents released by WikiLeaks, the US House of Representatives passed a $59 billion war-funding bill on a vote of 308 to 114, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
One hundred and two Democrats voted against final passage, as did 12 Republicans. Perhaps if there is a lesson to be learned from the episode, it's that the best way to motivate Republicans to work with Democrats is to present them with a seemingly unwinnable war.
These things are hard to measure, but it is doubtful that the WikiLeaks disclosures changed much in this particular roll call. Still, the 114 votes against the funding bill represent the emergence of an identifiable anti-war coalition. Expect it to grow, especially as the midterm elections approach.
The records released in the WikiLeaks document dump show that the war, if it is not unwinnable, is clearly not being won. America and its NATO allies are, in the words of a Vietnam-era protest song, "waist deep in the big muddy."
Talking heads point out that people who have been following the war closely will find little that's new in the documents. In a smarty-pants sort of way, that's true. But, memo to experts: most people are not news hounds.
What the media summaries and distillations of this mountain of granular military reporting do is firmly establish a critical mass of information and fix it in a specific moment in time. The debate over the war will not be the same post-WikiLeaks. That is why Obama has so shrewdly sought to downplay the release.
The most damaging revelations, likely to alarm the left and the right, are the degree to which America's partners in Pakistan's spy service are actively working with the Taliban and assisting efforts to assassinate Afghan government officials, and the persistent theft of humanitarian aid money destined for the likes of widows and orphans. In other words, our friends are playing us for suckers.
In the meantime, it seems that our enemies are even better armed than previously thought. The Taliban have gained access to heat-seeking missiles and are using that weaponry with increasing frequency to down military aircraft. It was the arrival of such missiles that spelled doom for the Soviets when they staged their own Afghanistan adventure. This news is unwelcome and — until now — had been suppressed.
WikiLeaks was not able to derail funding for the war, but release of these "secrets" should serve as a building block in the effort to leave Afghanistan.
Mitt does it again
Mitt Romney is an opportunist's opportunist. Whether making his fortune buying and reselling undervalued companies, flip-flopping on abortion rights, or turning a Massachusetts same-sex-marriage ruling into his ticket to national conservative prominence, Romney knows how to exploit a situation.
Now, in preparation for launching his next presidential run, Romney has deplorably seized another opportunity: to be the voice of opposition to the New START treaty, which is designed to reduce the nuclear stockpiles of Russia and the US in an effort to make the world a safer place.