Imperfect Wikileaks’ awkward battle with U.S. Government

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Wikileaks just began the release of over 250,000 confidential diplomatic cables to the New York Times and other major world newspapers.

The concrete effect of these leaks cannot be analyzed in a “good v. bad” manner, as so many will undoubtedly attempt to do in the upcoming weeks. There are benefits and drawbacks; Wikileaks could cure the latter.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange maintains that leaks such as this one will increase government transparency. He even made the bold conclusion that a leak to the New Yorker in 2007 prevented the U.S. from starting a war with Iran.

Assange’s claim is within the realm of plausibility. If we go back to the eighties, one can see how a strategic leak of the radical nature of our proxies could have swayed the U.S. electorate into demanding an end to supporting those that made it possible for Osama Bin Laden to flourish and then eventually strike the United States.

Assange is correct in principle: power without transparency can lead to the unnecessary deaths of thousands if not millions of individuals. A high-ranking, powerful diplomat could determine the fate of millions. Should that diplomat, with so much responsibility, be held accountable for their actions? Perhaps.

But Assange is acting far outside of his purported scope of increasing transparency.

A Precarious Slope

Here is a quick sample of what is within the released cables:

The King of Saudi Arabia privately urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear weapons programme, according to the leaked diplomatic cables.

American diplomats have been running a spying campaign against the United Nations leadership and representatives of permanent members of its security council, including Britain.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is referred to as “Hitler” while President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is called a “naked emperor” in the US documents.

* China has been using “internet outlaws” to hack into computer accounts belonging to the US government, Google and the Dalai Lama since 2002.

The Yemeni government covered up US drone strikes against al-Qaeda there and claimed the bombs were its own, according to the WikiLeaks documents.

Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi fears flying over water, prefers staying on the ground floor and almost never travels without his Ukrainian nurse, a “voluptuous blond.

There is nothing to be gained if the world knows Gaddafi fears flying over water and has a hot nurse. The only possible result is embarrassment for Gaddafi and the diplomats that wrote about him. Likewise, there is no value in knowing what adjectives diplomats use to describe Ahmadinejad and Sarkozy. Again, only embarrassment, or worse, indignation and subsequent conflicts in future diplomatic relations.

The substantive information released is difficult to confront. For example,  if the public knows that Saudi Arabia and other nations are itching for a war with Iran, the likelihood of it occurring may be less. But it also ignores Iran as a variable. Wikileaks, in releasing the highly sensitive Saudi cable, could enrage the government of Iran. Whether harm will result is uncertain, yet it is distinct possibility.

Then there are the Yemeni cover up of U.S. attacks on al-Qaeda. What will the Yemeni government do or not do in reaction to it being exposed for this? It may cease attacking al-Qaeda at the behest of the U.S. Or not.

Nonetheless,  there is the chance that efforts at dismantling al-Qaeda will be undermined. And there is no discernible positive result, unless one believes al-Qaeda should not be dismantled.

In essence, Wikileaks presents itself as a saintly organization who can only good in their confrontation with the great powers of the world. A bad omen.

The Effort to Destroy Wikileaks

Although there is real, concrete harm that could result from the leaks, the U.S. government is pulling out all the stops to paint Wikileaks as a demon. Rep. Peter King(R) has come out stridently, stating:

This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans, it’s worse than a military attack.

According to the AP,

King wants Holder to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act and has also called on Clinton to determine whether WikiLeaks could be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

The White House spoke similarly:

such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government.

The angry words of the United States government ooze with an awfully chasmic assumption: That the U.S. government are indisputably the good guys, fervently pushing democracy upon the evil tyrannies of the world.

Yet the U.S. government  has chosen evil– through the cold war, it endorsed, implicitly and explicitly, practically any world leader who would contribute against the spread of communism–to further its own interests  and still does till this day, this time in the name of preventing terrorism. And the collateral damage rationalizing does not cut it; death is death.

Blood is on our hands, and Wikileaks’ activities could very well prevent that blood from getting there in the first place.

But that kernel of potential good cannot be flippantly handled. It is reckless to release every confidential diplomatic cable without carefully evaluating the very real harm that could result in doing so. It appears Assange and Wikileaks are more interested in the fact that they can personally make power tremble than in actually acting to safeguard lives at risk from that power.

 

 

 

 

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