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"The War Logs" Show It’s Time To Rekindle A 40-Year Flame

Anna Olafson |
July 27, 2010 | 3:16 p.m. PDT


The world we live in today is shaped by our fast-paced media, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Breaking news happens, is reported on by hundreds of media outlets, is tweeted and retweeted, pops up on your “News Feed,” goes viral, and then dies a sudden death as the media moves on.

But how can the current news cycle on the "Afghan War Diaries" tap into an event that happened almost 40 years ago and create lasting change?

One simple answer: through the power of young people.

Creative Commons Licensed
Creative Commons Licensed
When the New York Times released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, public interest in the Vietnam War effort was already waning, especially among the younger generation. The top-secret Pentagon Papers revealed that President Johnson’s administration had repeatedly lied about events in Vietnam to both the public and to Congress, causing citizens to view the government as dishonest and the war, unsuccessful.

Once the papers were published, opposition to the war became even more socially accepted as war approval ratings sank.  The main adversaries of the war, young people, spoke out through music, marches and even by publically burning their draft cards. It’s only because of this generation of young people and their unrelenting commitment to the anti-war effort that the Pentagon Papers were able to have such an impact on the course of the war and the opinions of American citizens.

Today the public is not as vocal against the war in Afghanistan as they were against Vietnam. Anti-war sentiments rarely come up in popular music anymore, public displays against the war are deemed unpatriotic in America’s highly sensitive political climate and in general, the public is less concerned with the war than they were with Vietnam 40 years ago.

It is ironic that with the dramatic increase of online forums and social networking that allow any individual—in favor or against, educated or not, official or unofficial—to have an opinion on the war, none of the responses about the Afghan war have been anything close to organized efforts by young people during Vietnam.

However, the release of the “The War Logs,” secret military logs about the war in Afghanistan that portray a dismal picture of the situation, has opened up a new opportunity for young people to finally become involved with the war in Afghanistan.

Even though “The War Logs” revealed the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan to be steadily climbing and made the July 2011 troop drawdown seem more unrealistic than ever, President Obama challenged accusations that the documents exposed anything new about the war. “These documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan,” the president said early Tuesday in a public statement.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Tuesday on an increase in funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a vote which will no doubt be influenced by the recent publishing of “The War Logs.” Many politicians may no longer be in favor of the military supplement because of the hopeless situation portrayed in the documents.

The public has already responded in a variety of ways to the release of “The War Logs.” A simple Google search using the keywords “The War Logs” yields more than 150 million results and counting, revealing the amount of attention the documents have already received since Sunday’s release. The White House has had to sweat a little with the flurry of criticisms aimed at their tactics, which seems only fair given the severity of the situation.

The ability for anyone to make a name for him or herself as a blogger, political commentator or supporter of the war effort is exactly why the public, especially the main users of such social networking outlets—young people, should capitalize on the opportunity provided by “The War Logs.”

These documents outline specific things that both the Bush and Obama administrations did wrong during the course of the war; it is finally the public’s chance to have reason to openly criticize and challenge such actions, just like they did when the Pentagon Papers were released in 1971.    

It seems as if the public has finally found a way to respond to the war in Afghanistan through the release of “The War Logs.” Now, more than ever, the Internet gives anyone the potential to change the course on any issue. It is our duty as citizens to take such an opportunity with the same seriousness that the public did 40 years ago.

To reach reporter Anna Olafson, click here.




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