Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Aboliton of Global Diplomatic Intrigue?

"If our own government was responsible for the deaths of a hundred thousand people, would you really want to know?"

The whistleblower website Wikileaks was recently in the news for releasing classified battlefield reports this summer from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that exposed the American Military for killing tens of thousands of civilians, which of course the Pentagon and the American Media never talk about, and instinctively deny whenever an incident leaks out.

The release of this information has raised many ethical issues. Military hawks are upset because they are worried about tactical information being released and they worry the information has endangered American military personnel and informants. Antiwar activists and Wikileaks itself has pointed to the fact that American military personal have been killing tens of thousands of civilians for years and that exposing this behavior, and in so doing bringing a faster end to the war, is a morally noble task that is far more important than allowing, through inaction, the efficient killing of people by a secretive and unaccountable military. They also point out that besides their hyperbolic complaining to the press, the Pentagon and the State Department have not been able to produce a single case of a single individual person who has been harmed or killed by wikileaks' releasing the information.

As to the charge that releasing the truth about civilian killings will endanger the popularity of our troops now serving in the Middle East, let me remind you that these killings are hardly unknown to Middle Easterners themselves! Iraqis and Afghans and Palestinians know more pain and suffering than Wikileaks will ever be able to report. The rest of the Arab world sees this daily on Al-Jeezera. It is only our own insulated population, living a sheltered existence of denial, to whom these deaths are a surprise.

It is my belief that if the conduct of our troops abroad is able to win them popular support, the "the hearts and minds" of the people, well then so much the better and onward to victory!

But if the actions of our troops impose such burden upon local populations that these populations turn against our troops and endeavor to drive them out of their countries through whatever means they feel is necessary- well, then let us recall the history of another country that took up arms against an occupation by another group of white, English-speaking troops, long ago "serving" their country by draining its treasury to get themselves killed in unpopular, unwinnable wars against uncooperative populations far away.

Whatever happens, paying attention to how this case develops is guaranteed to be one of the more interesting stories of the year. It is very similar, I think, to Daniel Ellsburg's (in)famous release of the "Pentagon Papers" in 1971. You may recall that Daniel was working for the Pentagon and the defense "think-tank" The Rand Corporation for years. Over time he gradually came to see the war as immoral, and he felt the public should have access to the same facts about it that he, with his security clearance, had. He spent months secretly photocopying, by hand, one page at a time, a 7,000 page official "secret" history of the Vietnam War. This history revealed the government knew many things that it was lying to the public about, such as how corrupt the South Vietnamese Regime was, how unstable their own strategic position was, how many civilian deaths they were inflicting, etc...

Ellsburg leaked these documents to the New York Times and several other papers who began to publish excerpts of this material. He was found, arrested, and charged with Espionage. Eventually he was released by the Supreme Court, and the papers' right to continue printing this material was protected.

The release of Ellsburg, and the "freedom of the press" thus protected, was as much a legal victory for the First Amendment as it was a sign that elite as well as public opinion was finally turning against the Vietnam war- recognizing it as unwinnable and a strategic liability in addition to being immoral.

Check out these video's of Ellsburg on Democracy Now talking about the Wikileaks Documents:

Wikileaks is in the headlines again today for releasing a cache of 250,000 leaked American embassy documents. This release is likely to embarrass more than a few officials, spies, and ambassadors, as well as Foreign Heads of State. Several global papers have been releasing them. The British Guardian is publishing them here:


They make for interesting reading. It's sort of like if the guys who wrote "The Economist" were doing a "People Magazine" of international politicians. Qaddafi's "Voluptuous Blonde Ukranian Nurse" is in there. Saudi Arabia's secret willingness for military action against Iran is in there. American ambassadors attempts to spy on the UN is in there. And much much more...

The implications for global policy, "secret" diplomacy, etc... here are very interesting. What Wikileaks is doing to secret diplomacy is sort of like what Napster did for the Music Industry. Even if the CIA assassinates Wikileaks' leaders and blows up the servers that are hosting their files, the "cat is out of the bag" as regards the currently released documents, and I have little doubt that in the future we will see similar sites appearing to expose the intrigue of different governments.

It looks like the internet is finally catching up with international relations. It will be interesting to see how much this changes the world. There will definitely be high level global tensions and embarrassment, but there will also be a better informed citizenry. Is this trade off worth it? I'm willing to consider that it is. For I have a feeling that the Saudi Arabian Oil-Princes, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, Kim Jung- Il, Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Prince Charles, Vladimir Putin, Muammar Qaddafi, the Russian Mafia, and the Oil and Gas Honchos of Kazakhstan have a lot more in common than they disagree on.

These are all people who rule by secrecy, who owe their positions of power to money, who regularly use state violence to get what they want, who construct elaborate national security states to rule over and spy on their citizens, and who are financially insulated from the effects that their decision making has on the mass of the citizenry.

I'm willing to believe that all of us would be better off if our Emperors "wore no clothes". If rather than hiding behind our own corrupt leaders' lies, spies, and missiles we were able to look at them clearly in the face, all their intentions exposed and visible, all the consequences of their actions apparent, and with no "dirty secrets" swept under the rug, we might all be better off.

If our countries' intentions are noble and our politicians are eager to honestly fight for the interests of the people they rule over, they would of course have nothing to fear from the existence of Wikileaks. If otherwise, I hope documents such as these will hasten the downfall of all the world's tyrants, and their replacement by leaders morally fit to serve in this new era of scrutiny and truth.

The Corporate Media traded truth for advertising dollars years ago and sold the whole package to Defense Contractors. When General Electric makes billions on arms contracts and they have a controlling interest in NBC, you can bet that you're never going to see a dead soldier or a dead Iraqi on the nightly news. So let the corporate media fade into oblivion. Don't worry about laid off journalists- they're already laid off! Every local department has already been outsourced to the Associated Press and Gene Siskel. Let the papers and the news stations join Tower Records, EMI, Media Play and Blockbuster in History's Dustbin! Let's see a Wikileaks in every country!

Here's to the revival of the Fourth Estate!

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