The Pentagon Papers That Weren’t – The Daniel Davis Report on Afghanistan

It occurs to me that we cannot even really have a Pentagon Papers event in this country anymore. Sure, Wikileaks releases gained a decent amount of attention, but the real evidence for this comes in the past week. Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis wrote an 84-page report detailing his experiences in Afghanistan, which are at odds with the official narrative. Much like the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam, Davis’ report claims that the top military brass has been lying to the public about the state of the war, concluding with the line “How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?”

This received a story in the New York Times last week that pretty much went nowhere. FDL’s Kevin Gosztola covered it here.  Michael Hastings, the Rolling Stone writer, followed up with this report:

Davis last month submitted the unclassified report –titled “Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leader’s Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort” – for an internal Army review. Such a report could then be released to the public. However, according to U.S. military officials familiar with the situation, the Pentagon is refusing to do so. Rolling Stone has now obtained a full copy of the 84-page unclassified version, which has been making the rounds within the U.S. government, including the White House. We’ve decided to publish it in full; it’s well worth reading for yourself. It is, in my estimation, one of the most significant documents published by an active-duty officer in the past ten years.

Here is the report’s damning opening lines: “Senior ranking U.S. military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the U.S. Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable. This deception has damaged America’s credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan.” Davis goes on to explain that everything in the report is “open source” – i.e., unclassified – information. According to Davis, the classified report, which he legally submitted to Congress, is even more devastating. “If the public had access to these classified reports they would see the dramatic gulf between what is often said in public by our senior leaders and what is actually true behind the scenes,” Davis writes. “It would be illegal for me to discuss, use, or cite classified material in an open venue and thus I will not do so; I am no WikiLeaks guy Part II.”

The fact that the report is unclassified and based on public information is perhaps the only difference with the Pentagon papers, because the conclusions are practically the same. It alleges deception on the part of military leaders – and the media, considering this was all public information – in explaining the war to Americans. It states that the reasons for the success of the surge in Iraq have been badly misunderstood, leading to a similar surge in Afghanistan. And it says flatly that “our country has squandered almost a full decade in which it might have made noteworthy advancements in its force structure, has continued pursuing a military strategy that has proven to be an abysmal failure during a time when effective outcomes might have been found, and worst of all, has cost the lives and limbs of tens of thousands of American Service Members – and reportedly deprived hundreds of thousands more of their psychological and emotional well-being.”

But what is the main story on Afghanistan making the rounds today? How the US and Afghanistan are close to a deal on a presence beyond 2014 – at which point US forces will have been in Afghanistan for over 13 years.

US and Afghan officials are weeks away from clinching a security pact allowing an American military mission to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.

The two sides still had to resolve disagreements over controversial night raids by US troops, which Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other officials say have claimed too many civilian lives, and the transfer of US-run prisons in the country, the Pentagon chief said.

“As you know, there are two areas that we still have difficulties with, one of which involves the transfer of detention facilities, the other involves night-time raids,” Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“And we continue to try to see if we can work out some kind of compromise on those issues,” he said.

It’s like Lt. Col. Davis never existed. We’re talking about what amounts to a permanent presence in a country toward a war effort that hasn’t worked for many years. Just like in Vietnam, the top political and military brass are so spooked by the prospect of “losing” a war that they will sacrifice lives and treasure on an ongoing mistake.

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