In the right context, leaked documents can help end wars and bring down governments.
The revelation of 90,000 military documents that outline the reality of the war in Afghanistan (see pages 1 and 4) has been compared to the “Pentagon Papers” during the Vietnam War.
In June 1971, the New York Times newspaper started publishing a secret government history of the war in Vietnam.
The “Pentagon Papers” outlined atrocities planned by the US.
They fed into the anti-Vietnam war movement and intensified the crisis at the top of society.
The heroic resistance of the Vietnamese people became linked with the burgeoning anti-war movement in the US, which, importantly, had penetrated the army.
What became known as the Watergate scandal was part of a vast operation by US president Richard Nixon designed to attack his opponents and hold back the anti‑war movement.
The crisis over Vietnam meant there was a crisis of legitimacy for the ruling class.
Nixon responded by extending his imperial adventures—ultimately leading to his downfall.
He resigned in August 1974.
On 30 April 1975, the US finally left Vietnam. It had taken too long but the Vietnamese people and the anti-war movement had forced the US into a humiliating defeat—and brought down a president.
Afghanistan is as much a “quagmire” as Vietnam.
The documents are yet more proof that the war needs to end and, as in Vietnam, the extent and mobilisation of opposition to the war at home will be key to getting the troops out.