Dec
05

Reaction To The WikiLeaks Reaction

By

The successive waves of document dumps by WikiLeaks have revealed just how much goes on behind the scenes, some aimed at driving the public to where leaders want to go. I am old enough (barely) to remember the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. Signal intelligence declassified by the National Security Agency in 2005 reveals that Americans were the first to fire (warning shots unreported at the time) in the first incident and the second reported incident – as we already knew – never took place. The USS Maddox took a single bullet hole. No Americans were injured. But records doctored to support claims of a second attack gave the Johnson administration a blank check to escalate the Vietnam war. Nearly 60,000 Americans and countless numbers in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia lost their lives in the aftermath. Because of leaks, Americans did not have to wait forty years to find out about the lies behind nonexistent WMDs, prisoner abuse and government-sponsored torture. Lies and secrecy seem to have a pretty high potential for doing great harm. It’s hard to imagine what greater damage the truth can do.

And now some reaction to the reaction to the WikiLeaks document release.

The Independent of London:

Beyond the inadvisability of giving unlimited access to diplomatic cables to plainly unreliable employees, the leaks so far have done remarkably little harm to the reputation of the US internationally. But the apparent marshalling of corporate America, assorted showboating legislators and, quite possibly, techno-savvy “patriots” acting as guerrilla deniers of service in an attempt to harass WikiLeaks out of existence may be what, in the end, does the real harm. The country’s over-reaction is looking increasingly like that of a bully who, having had his nose put slightly out of joint, is determined to batter the upstart into a pulp. If America wanted to convince the entire online world that it has no sense of perspective, the past few days have been a triumph. Talk of boycotts is now in the air.

Daniel Ellsberg has already started one:

I’m disgusted by Amazon’s cowardice and servility in abruptly terminating its hosting of the Wikileaks website, in the face of threats from Senator Joe Lieberman and other Congressional right-wingers. I want no further association with any company that encourages legislative and executive officials to aspire to China’s control of information and deterrence of whistle-blowing.

For the last several years, I’ve been spending over $100 a month on new and used books from Amazon. That’s over. I have contacted Customer Service to ask Amazon to terminate immediately my membership in Amazon Prime and my Amazon credit card and account, to delete my contact and credit information from their files and to send me no more notices.

I understand that many other regular customers feel as I do and are responding the same way. Good: the broader and more immediate the boycott, the better.I hope that these others encourage their contact lists to do likewise and to let Amazon know exactly why they’re shifting their business. I’ve asked friends today to suggest alternatives. I’ve removed all links to Amazon from my site, and I’ll be exploring service from Powell’s Books, IndieBound, Biblio and others.

So far Amazon has spared itself the further embarrassment of trying to explain its action openly. This would be a good time for Amazon insiders who know and perhaps can document the political pressures that were brought to bear—and the details of the hasty kowtowing by their bosses—to leak that information. They can send it to Wikileaks (now on servers outside the US), to mainstream journalists or bloggers, or perhaps to a site like antiwar.com, which has now appropriately ended its book-purchasing association with Amazon and called a boycott.

If you’d like to read further analysis of your cowardice, I suggest you see this excellent article by Glenn Greenwald.

Yours (no longer),

Daniel Ellsberg

The Greenwald post is entitled “Joe Lieberman emulates Chinese dictators.”

David Samuels at The Atlantic:

It is dispiriting and upsetting for anyone who cares about the American tradition of a free press to see Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gibbs turn into H.R. Haldeman, John Erlichman and John Dean. We can only pray that we won’t soon be hit with secret White House tapes of Obama drinking scotch and slurring his words while calling Assange bad names.

Unwilling to let the Democrats adopt Nixon’s anti-democratic, press-hating legacy as their own, Republican Congressman Peter King asserted that the publication of classified diplomatic cables is “worse even than a physical attack on Americans” and that Wikileaks should be officially designed as a terrorist organization. Mike Huckabee followed such blather to its logical conclusion by suggesting that Bradley Manning should be executed.

But the truly scandalous and shocking response to the Wikileaks documents has been that of other journalists, who make the Obama Administration sound like the ACLU. In a recent article in The New Yorker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Steve Coll sniffed that “the archives that WikiLeaks has published are much less significant than the Pentagon Papers were in their day” while depicting Assange as a “self-aggrandizing control-freak” whose website “lacks an ethical culture that is consonant with the ideals of free media.” Channeling Richard Nixon, Coll labeled Wikileaks’ activities – formerly known as journalism – by his newly preferred terms of “vandalism” and “First Amendment-inspired subversion.”

Coll’s invective is hardly unique, In fact, it was only a pale echo of the language used earlier this year by a columnist at his former employer, The Washington Post. In a column titled “WikiLeaks Must Be Stopped,” Mark Thiessen wrote that “WikiLeaks is not a news organization; it is a criminal enterprise,” and urged that the site should be shut down “and its leadership brought to justice.” The dean of American foreign correspondents, John Burns of The New York Times, with two Pulitzer Prizes to his credit, contributed a profile of Assange which used terms like “nearly delusional grandeur” to describe Wikileaks’ founder. The Times’ normally mild-mannered David Brooks asserted in his column this week that “Assange seems to be an old-fashioned anarchist” and worried that Wikileaks will “damage the global conversation.”

[…]

The result of this classification mania is the division of the public into two distinct groups: those who are privy to the actual conduct of American policy, but are forbidden to write or talk about it, and the uninformed public, which becomes easy prey for the official lies exposed in the Wikileaks documents: The failure of American counterinsurgency programs in Afghanistan, the involvement of China and North Korea in the Iranian nuclear program, the likely failure of attempts to separate Syria from Iran, the involvement of Iran in destabilizing Iraq, the anti-Western orientation of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other tenets of American foreign policy under both Bush and Obama.

It is a fact of the current media landscape that the chilling effect of threatened legal action routinely stops reporters and editors from pursuing stories that might serve the public interest – and anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or lying. Every honest reporter and editor in America knows that the fact that most news organizations are broke, combined with the increasing threat of aggressive legal action by deep-pocketed entities, private and public, has made it much harder for good reporters to do their jobs, and ripped a hole in the delicate fabric that holds our democracy together.

John Grooms of Creative Loafing:

• At the Fox Nation site, nearly every comment on the story by their readers was “This guy (Wikileaks honcho Julian Assange) needs to be eliminated, he’s a traitor, Pres. Palin will put an end to these leaks [this is not a joke], blah blah blah.” Then I noticed the Fox Nation “mission statement,” sitting right there on the site’s front page, which says it is “for those opposed to excessive government control of our lives, and attempts to monopolize opinion or suppress freedom of thought.” Hmm, I guess their idea of freedom of thought only applies to those with whom they agree. Reminds me of late-’70s gay Brit singer Tom Robinson, who sang that the right’s version of “freedom” actually means “freedom from the likes of you.”

Comments

  1. Diogenes says:

    What does it mean, in the US and to American citizens when the State Department warns university students not to post about the ‘cables’ if ever they wish a government job, or Obama administration officials warning federal workers and contractors (and military personnel) not to ‘access, download” or mention items contained in Wikileaked material?

    Am I wrong to consider the fascistic response of my government to contain the leaked material –factual, undisputed, “unrefutiated” far more disturbing than the information found in it?

  2. Tom Buckner says:

    When Karl Rove goes to the crossbar hotel for the Plame case, then we can talk about punishing Assange. I’ve had it with Obama. He doesn’t stand with our freedom. Tikkun editor Rabbi Michael Lerner has been reading my mind: Obama is beyond saving unless primaried from the left. I’ll work for his challenger, and if he keeps enabling this descent into dictatorship, I won’t vote for him in the general election. The GOP are worse, sure, but he’s taking us to the same place a bit more slowly, that’s all. As Abraham Lincoln said, under not such different conditions:

    “Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid.
    As a nation we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’
    When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created
    equal, except Negroes and foreigners and Catholics.’ When it comes to
    this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no
    pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism
    can be taken pure, and without the base alloy hypocrisy.”

  3. Dixiegirlz says:

    “What does it mean, in the US and to American citizens when the State Department warns university students not to post about the ‘cables’ if ever they wish a government job, ….etc…….”

    WORD, to what Ellsberg said….my official best hero.

    It means we are in a thinly veiled facist state.

    It’s COLUMBIA for Christ’s sake! A bastion of intellectual thinking. I’m disgusted to the very core.

  4. Big Ivy says:

    I have a different take on this.

    My gut reaction/intuition concerning Assange is that he is an ass whose primary goal is self-aggrandizement. When he manages to “source” something out of China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, Turkey, either of the Koreas – I might grant him some consideration for having a goal other than the one I suspect.

    Far from having a cleansing effect, I believe the leaks will result in even more secrecy in U.S. affairs. The corruption and breathtaking INCOMPETENCE of our government for the past approx 30 years will not be healed by Assange’s silly maneuvers; he has done nothing but provide an excuse for even more psychotic secrecy and lying on the part of the U.S.

    Mr. Buckner, I agree completely with your comments concerning Obama and the wish that we could replace him as a candidate in 2012 but it has nothing to do with pissy little Assange.

    **Ooops. I see several other people have tagged Assange as self-aggrandizing but I had not read their articles nor did I read the entirety of this posting before commenting.

  5. I love talk like this:

    “He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”

    -Sarah Palin

    And well, this:

    “WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb. […] Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago? […] You’d think Assange, super-whistle-blower of the international left, would be a greasy stain on the Autobahn already.

    -Jonah Goldberg

    Oh, and this:

    “We haven’t gone after this guy, we haven’t tried to prosecute him, we haven’t gotten our allies to go out and lock this guy up and bring him up on terrorism charges,” Santorum said of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. “What he’s doing is terrorism, in my opinion.”

    And uhh, this:

    “Information warfare is warfare, and Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed, is terrorism, and Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism. He should be treated as an enemy combatant. WikiLeaks should be closed down permanently and decisively.”

    -Newt Gingrich

    Not to be outdone:

    “Julian Assange poses a clear and present danger to American national security. The WikiLeaks founder is more than a reckless provocateur. He is aiding and abetting terrorists in their war against America. The administration must take care of the problem – effectively and permanently. […] News reports say the WikiLeaks founder is hiding out in England. If that’s true, we should treat Mr. Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him.”

    -Jeffrey T. Kuhner, Washington Times columnist

    A lot of bloodlust out there. Yet, what’s the plan for killing the internet? Is the internet doing terrorism too? If some unlucky accident should befall Assange, if he should be shot in the head by a police officer, or if should hang himself in his jail cell, or if he’s struck by a bolt of lightning, we will know who did it. But it won’t stop the leaks, and it won’t stop sites from publishing them.

    No, I don’t want the guy to be President, but you gotta admit, sometimes he makes can of spam kind of sense!

    “In a free society we’re supposed to know the truth,” Paul said. “In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it.”

    -Ron Paul

    Where “truth becomes treason”? Nowadays, truth need only become terrorism.

  6. D.Dial says:

    No big surprise here….anyone familiar with middle East doings was well aware that fundamentalist Wahabbi Muslims were major supporters of terrorism…yet we attacked a secular country, to stop terrorists.

    _________________________________________________________________________________________
    “WikiLeaks Cablegate LIVE Updates
    First Posted: 11-30-10 11:49 AM | Updated: 12- 3-10 04:21 PM

    2:06 PM ET Saudi Arabia A ‘Cash Machine’ For Terrorism
    Countries throughout the Middle East are major funders for terrorism, and there is little political will to stop the problem. Saudi Arabia is particularly problematic, the Guardian reports:

    The cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea whose governments do little to stop them.
    The problem is particularly acute in Saudi Arabia, where militants soliciting funds slip into the country disguised as holy pilgrims, set up front companies to launder funds and receive money from government-sanctioned charities.
    The Saudi government is tough on terrorism at home, but is less willing to engage with those funding terrorism abroad. Reads one cable:

    While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.”

  7. Tom Buckner says:

    Ivy, I can’t necessarily agree with the charge of self-aggrandizement for any public figure, since it seems to me that would amount to mind-reading. There are no shrinking violets on the world stage, or the silver screen or concert stage for that matter. Is Julian Assange more self-aggrandizing than Barack Obama? Is Ted Turner on a bigger ego trip than Newt Gingrich? Brad Pitt versus Taylor Swift? I don’t have a scale to weigh souls. In Assange’s case, perhaps being as public a figure as possible represents a form of life insurance… if he tried to remain anonymous, would it not be a bit easier for the United States to kidnap him and rendition him to some hellhole like Bagram? The “rock star” status makes that a bit trickier politically.

    As to why I link the Assange affair to Obama, it’s just part of the pattern, where the President will trample the Constitution rather than offend the Republicans. Unless he does it because he agrees with them. Which is worse?

    $.02

  8. Tom Sullivan says:

    Regarding those releases, per Glenn Greenwald:

    WikiLeaks has posted to its website only 960 of the 251,297 diplomatic cables it has. Almost every one of these cables was first published by one of its newspaper partners which are disclosing them (The Guardian, the NYT, El Pais, Le Monde, Der Speigel, etc.). Moreover, the cables posted by WikiLeaks were not only first published by these newspapers, but contain the redactions applied by those papers to protect innocent people and otherwise minimize harm.

    AP describes the process here, explaining,

    “They are releasing the documents we selected,” Le Monde’s managing editor, Sylvie Kauffmann, said in an interview at the newspaper’s Paris headquarters.

    So when do we invade France?