Noah Shachtman was present, as an embedded reporter for Wired, at one of the incidents whose update report was leaked by Wikileaks. Reading these kind of compressed battle logs is not going to convey anything like the reality of the war to the Western public, he argues.
Echo company got into a gunfight in August 2009 in Afghanistanâ€™s Helmand province. Youâ€™ll learn that by reading the report found in WikiLeaksâ€™ database. Youâ€™ll learn that, after a chase, the marines killed one insurgent. Youâ€™ll learn that the insurgents supposedly fled and that the troops â€” part of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines â€” decided to stay the night in the area, in case the militants returned.
What you wonâ€™t learn is that a marine sniper team sparked the shoot-out with a surprise assault on the insurgents; that every member of that team was nearly killed in the battle; that the incident would kick off a three-day siege in which the Taliban nearly had the Echo company squad surrounded; that this spot eventually became an Echo company base; or that, while this extended gun fight was going on, British and Afghan troops were nearby, waging a more gentle form of counterinsurgency as they sat cross-legged under shady patches of farmland and talked with village elders.
I happen to know this because I was there with Echo company, reporting for Wired magazine. And the wide difference between what actually happened at the Moba Khan compound and what the report says happened there should give caution to those who think they can discover the capital-T truth about the Afghanistan conflict solely through the WikiLeaks war logs.
A different version of this posting appeared as an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.