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Leaked Documents Give Liberals New Ammo

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Rep. Dennis Kucinich will use the leaked documents to argue for his privileged resolution directing President Barack Obama to remove troops from Pakistan.

Correction Appended

The Obama administration is facing new headaches over its war policy with the unauthorized release of tens of thousands of military records painting a dire picture in Afghanistan. But liberal Democrats are hoping the leaks will inject new momentum into their push to reject the $33 billion war supplemental when it comes to a vote this week.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted Monday that the roughly 90,000 records published online by the whistle-blower WikiLeaks do not reveal any new information about the Afghanistan war effort. The documents give detailed accounts of incidents that have taken place over the last six years of the war, including unreported incidents of civilian killings and Pakistani officials working with the Taliban.

“In terms of broad revelations, there aren’t any that we see in these documents,” Gibbs told reporters during a briefing.

He dismissed the idea that the release of the military reports is a setback for the administration’s war effort and defended President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan strategy. “We got involved in this region of the world after Sept. 11, and then for years and years and years and years this area was neglected, it was under-resourced, it was underfunded. That’s what led the president to say that what we needed to do was focus on what was going on in Afghanistan. That’s why we’re here,” he said.

But the leaked documents quickly sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill, where Democrats across the spectrum said the records raise fresh concerns about Obama’s Afghanistan policy.

“However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said the release of the classified records “eerily recalls the Pentagon Papers,” referring to top-secret Defense Department documents tied to the Vietnam War. Those documents were later published and affected Congress’ attitude toward and support for funding the war.

“If past is prologue, clearly these documents are going to have an impact on what I would say is an eroding base of support for our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Connolly said. “It makes the pared-back supplemental that much more problematic on the House floor. … Especially since the Senate stripped out domestic funding, it makes it closer and closer to a pure referendum on the war.”

House Democratic leaders may already be sensing trouble ahead for the supplemental. They emerged from a Monday night meeting with plans to bring the measure to the floor as a suspension bill and take it up as soon as Tuesday, a senior Democratic aide confirmed.

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