Posted December 4, 2010
“OUTRAGED POLITICIANS ARE claiming that the release of government information is the criminal equivalent of terrorism and puts innocent people’s lives at risk. Many of those same politicians authorized the modern equivalent of carpet bombing of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, the sacrifice of thousands of lives of soldiers and civilians and drone assaults on civilian areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Their anger at a document dump, no matter how extensive, is more than a little suspect.”
— Bill Quigley, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights
Bill Quigley is right, of course. More than that, Wikileaks – and if he’s truly the “guilty” party, Private Bradley Manning – should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Among those “outraged politicians” is Peter King (R-NY), who emerged from his cave to demand that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton designate Wikileaks a “terrorist organization.” That would make it the first “terrorist” group in history to carefully consult with news organizations well in advance to make sure that no individuals were exposed to harm by its activities. The U.S. drone bomber jockeys, sitting safely at their computer terminals half a world away from the carnage they create, should be so responsible.
In fact, slapping the “terrorist organization” label on Wikileaks might actually happen, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that First Amendment protections may shield it from criminal prosecution in the United States. After all, that’s the labeling that enables the Obama administration – yes, let’s say it out loud, because that’s who’s been in office for 23 months now – to keep detainees at Guantanamo who haven’t been charged with anything.
The timing of the mass diplomatic cable dump is coincidental, of course, but it comes at a time when Team Obama, severely weakened domestically by the midterm election debacle and the weakness of the economic recovery, is struggling to manage multiple international crises in a context of weakened U.S. power. That accounts for some of Washington’s red-faced rage.
The cables themselves may yield very few real surprises – is anyone astonished to learn that the Arab oil kingdoms want to destroy Iran, or that U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan know that the House of Karzai is a cesspool? They are, however, full of information that a democratically informed public needs to know, and an embarrassing revelation that the U.S. State Department can’t control its internal email traffic much better than it can control the behavior of “allies” like Pakistan and Israel.
The deeper issues here have to do with the imperialist-capitalist state itself – how the drive to control the world creates the need for secrecy, including secret wars and bombings and renditions and prisons as well as secret diplomatic cables. There is no reason to imagine that the United States behaves any worse or better than any other imperialist actor. But the latest Wikileaks document dump, even though nothing in it is “top secret,” gives a most valuable look into the workings of “our own” imperial machinery. Good job! And it’s important for all of us to come to their defense, and of Bradley Manning, in any way we can.