It’s the biggest challenge of the Internet Age and governments around the world — spurred by a nervous Obama administration — have declared a virtual war on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.
The assault has become ferocious. The first move came when Amazon denied WikiLeaks access to its servers. Since then, the web site has been chased all over Europe. It’s now resident in Switzerland but it is uncertain how long it will be safe there.
WikiLeaks has been denied access to Paypal, the Internet payments service. People will no longer be able to contribute money via that handy and reliable web site.
Swedish police have issued an arrest warrant for Assange, variously on a charge of sexual assault but also for apparently illegal disclosure of government documents.
The documents revealed by WikiLeaks are of U.S. diplomatic exchanges. But because many incriminate foreign officials in the furtherance of American foreign policy, the outrage is not confined to the Pentagon or the State Department.
The reason the WikiLeaks disclosure have aroused such intense criticism is that they reveal devastating failures in American foreign policy.
We now know that the European Union no longer believes in success in Afghanistan. European troops are there “out of deference to the United States,” according to a leaked diplomatic memo quoting EU president Herman Van Rompey.
If the current American surge there doesn’t work, “that will be it,” he’s quoted by U.S. ambassador Howard Gutman. “No one believes in Afghanistan any more.”
The brutal fact of such leaks is that they expose American policy as incoherent and incapable of achieving their goals.
In a secret visit to Afghanistan last week, President Obama told troops there that a new phase will open in the war next year — “The beginning of a transition to Afghan responsibility.”
Meanwhile, documents revealed by WikiLeaks demonstrate that the country struggles under a corrupt administration whose leaders, from president Hamid Karzai on down, seem more interested in filling their pockets than in improving the lot of their people. It all sounds more and more like Vietnam all over again.
It was last April that WikiLeaks first captured worldwide attention with its release of a video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in Baghdad (including two Reuters news staff) by a U.S. Apache helicopter gunship. You can see the video here:
One can dismiss as a stupid quip the remark by Tom Flanagan, a former advisor to Prime Minister Harper, that Julian Assange should be assassinated and that “Obama should put out a contract.”
However, it demonstrates the mindset of many people who believe that government actions should never be questioned.
Sober minds knew all along that George Bush’s war on Iraq — which has cost 4,000 American and 100,000 Iraqi lives — was a fraudulent undertaking.
Sober minds have also long realized that Barack Obama’s war on the Taliban, considering the allies available to the West in Afghanistan, is doomed to failure.
The governments of the United States, Britain and Canada continue to deny these facts.
It’s takes disclosures of the order of those orchestrated by WikiLeaks to bring the truth into public light.
Perhaps we should look at the WikiLeaks in a historic context.
Imagine how the world might have changed had the secret plans of Hitler and Company for dealing with the Jews of Europe been exposed in the 1930s?
Would Stalin have been able to carry out his mass starvation of Ukrainian peasants if Russia and the world had known what was planned?
Would there have been a war in the Pacific had the secret attack plans of the Japanese Empire been exposed before December 7, 1941?
There is a pattern, however, of wilful deception and deceit that has characterized American foreign policy throughout the Cold War and since.
In a massive work, Pulitzer Prize winner Tim Weiner has documented the secret history of the Central Intelligence Agency, chronicling its many fiascos and missteps.
His 2008 book, Legacy of Ashes (Anchor Books) reveals how ineptly the U.S. and its allies have been served by the American intelligence apparatus. His 848 pages extend from the beginnings of the agency in World War II to its failures to either intercept the plotters of September 11, or capture their masters, including Osama bin Laden.
Now, more than nine years after the attack on the World Trade Center, it is incredible that bin Laden continues to operate apparently unfettered and untouched, somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Remember when George Bush boasted of the old Western tradition of putting out a poster on a wanted man: “Wanted – Dead or Alive.” Apparently no one’s been reading it.
Now, the wanted poster is out for Julian Assange.
WikiLeaks boasts the following quote from Time Magazine on its web site:
“Could become as important a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act.”
For how much longer?
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