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News Link • Afghanistan

Afghanistan war logs: Shattering the illusion of a bloodless victory

• Richard Norton-Taylor via
More than a decade ago, when the cold war was well and truly over, American and British strategists began to celebrate what they called a "revolution in military affairs". Information technology and "precision weapons", products of the microchip, would lead to a new, western, way of warfare. Public opinion, it was said, would no longer tolerate civilian or military casualties.

The logs we publish today, a detailed chronicle of a violent conflict that has lasted longer than the Vietnam war, longer than the two world wars, shatter the illusion that conflicts could be meticulously planned and executed, and the assumption that bloodshed would be acceptable only in very limited quantities.

They demonstrate, too, that despite the opportunities provided by new technology, media groups with a global reach still cannot offer their public more than sporadic accounts of the most visible and controversial incidents, and glimpses of the background.

Donald Rumsfeld and his fellow neocons in Washington translated the "revolution in military affairs" into "shock and awe". When that didn't work in Iraq, General David Petraeus rewrote the US army's field manual. The British army belatedly followed suit, as the two countries providing the vast majority of troops to Afghanistan set out a modern counter-insurgency strategy, a battle for "hearts and minds", a war "among the people, for the people". Above all, civilians would be protected.

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