‘Afghanistan Papers’ release stirs protest from U.S. war veterans

By Michael Kramer
December 16, 2019

On Dec. 9, 2019, the Washington Post released an investigative report entitled “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War.” The report was based on a review of hundreds of written and audio interviews conducted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Those interviewed included military officers, government officials and private contractors, though most of them were not identified. The interviews were released only after a three-year legal battle in federal courts.

Like the Pentagon Papers, which were a Defense Department-funded, top-secret history of the Vietnam War leaked to the public in 1971, “The Afghanistan Papers” provide clear evidence that successive U.S. administrations — G.W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump’s — have consistently lied to the U.S. people since the day the war began Oct. 7, 2001.

Within days of “The Afghanistan Papers” release, anti-war military veterans from two organizations that have worked closely with each other over the years, Veterans For Peace and About Face: Veterans Against the War, issued the following statement written by Afghanistan War veterans.  

Veterans demand accountability for Afghanistan Papers

The release of the Afghanistan Papers this week has laid out in clear detail the failed policy and the catastrophic level of malfeasance that reach the highest levels of the U.S. government. Every level of government bears responsibility for misleading the American public and for creating the conditions in which an unchecked military operates without accountability.

The Afghanistan Papers are filled with over 300 people detailing the systematic failure of the military to take any responsibility and blaming the “corruption” of the Afghanistan government, all the while revealing the massive corruption and lies that the U.S. is perpetuating. While military commanders bemoaned Afghan leaders enriching themselves off [U.S.] tax dollars, those selfsame commanders were climbing government ranks, earning promotions for promoting endless war.

Soldiers, contractors and veterans were routinely marginalized or persecuted in order to maintain the status quo in Afghanistan, up to and including the prosecution of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning for their efforts. The integrity of those heroes were questioned, while the lies were glorified as truth by a complicit media and government agencies.

Last year the U.S. war on Afghanistan killed more civilians than [in] any previous year. Every single lie detailed in the #AfghanistanPapers and every single year this went on meant overwhelming consequences for families and individuals in Afghanistan, many who are already living in devastating poverty. The U.S. military has destroyed countless villages and continues to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred with covert drone operations that kill thousands of innocent people.

Furthermore, three days after these documents were released, proving three different administrations lied to the public and spent years covering up mismanagement, abuse and massive waste, Congress voted to pass the largest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in history, funneling $733 billion to an already bloated military budget.

As veterans who have served in these wars and past wars, we are exasperated by leaders [who] lie to us and lack the moral courage to do anything about it, even when there is proof. We demand accountability in real and tangible ways. We are tired of seeing headlines that only result in a congressional member’s outraged tweet, statements on the campaign trail and slick TV spots, while nothing changes.

We demand real accountability:

  • Immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops;
  • The military IMMEDIATELY release all 300 names of those quoted in the Afghanistan Papers;
  • Congressional hearings that include perjury trials for all those officials who knowingly lied in official congressional testimony, including closed door session of the Armed Forces Committee;
  • A special congressional committee to investigate fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement for the war in Afghanistan;
  • A congressional tribunal allowing Afghanistan veterans to testify about their experience;
  • Repeal of the AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists) — which includes any subsequent AUMF to have a sunset clause;
  • Recognition of Moral Injury as a legitimate diagnosis; and
  • Reparations to each Afghanistan family who has lost a family member.