The American Interest

Afghan Disinformation

During the Second World War the German High Command issued regular bulletins about the situation on various fronts. They had a triumphalist tone in 1940, when France fell, and in 1941, when it looked like the Red Army would collapse, but the core information remained reliable throughout the war. These Wehr machtberichten adopted a sober tone after Stalingrad, and deceptive euphemisms were used (e.g. “ordered withdrawal to previously prepared positions”); but even after Normandy they did not lie about the shifting front lines.

The U.S. government does not have such confidence in the American public. On Dec. 9, after a three-year legal battle, The Washington Post published a review of over 2,000 pages of previously classified government documents on the war in Afghanistan. They came from a project optimistically named “Lessons Learned,” commissioned by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). It provided interviews with over 600 persons directly involved in the war—senior U.S. military officers and civilian officials, diplomats, and aid workers.

The material demonstrates that successive administrations have deliberately and systematically disinformed the nation about the nature of the conflict, its course, and prospects. As SIGAR head John F. Sopko succinctly put it: “The American people have constantly been lied to.”


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