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      Wednesday
      Dec082010

      The Lynch-Mob Moment

      Julian Assange is currently in UK custody in Wandsworth Prison, London.

      We know that conservatives are extremists for order, but why have so many liberals lost their minds and joined the frenzy over Julian Assange and WikiLeaks? As the secrets of power are unmasked, there is a growing bipartisan demand that Julian Assange must die.

      Once-liberal Democrat Bob Beckel said on FOX, “there's only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son-of-a-bitch.” Center-liberal legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN that Assange is “absurd," "ridiculous," "delusional," and "well beyond sympathy of anyone.” The Washington Times called for treating him as an "enemy combatant;" Rep. Peter King of the Homeland Security Committee who wants him prosecuted as a terrorist; and of course, Sarah Palin wants Assange "pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders", or a wolf in Alaska.

      This is a lynch-mob moment, when the bloodlust runs over. We have this mad overreaction many times since the witch-burnings and Jim Crow, including the Palmer Raids of the 1920s, the McCarthy purges of the 1950s, the Nixon-era conspiracy trials, the Watergate break-ins, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. 

      Most Americans now know that those frenzied periods of scapegoating did nothing for our security, which instead damaged our democracy and left in their wake a secretive National Security State.

      There is wisdom in expecting calmer heads to prevail in the WikiLeaks matter, but what can be done when the calmer heads are going nuts or hiding in silence?

      Do the frothing pundits remember that we have a legal system in which the accused is entitled to due process, legal representation and the right to a defense? The first obligation of our threatened elected officials, bureaucrats and pundits is to calm down.

      No one has died as a result of the WikiLeaks disclosures. But the escalation by the prosecutors in this case could lead to an escalation, with more sensitive documents being released in a retaliatory spiral of this first cyber-war. Imprisoning the messenger will amplify his message and further threats of execution.

      I can understand the reasonable questions that reasonable people have about this case. It is clearly illegal to release and distribute the 15,652 documents stamped as “secret.” Why should underground whistleblowers have the unlimited right to release those documents? There is a risk that some individuals might be harmed by the release. There is a concern that ordinary diplomatic business might be interrupted.

      All fair, these concerns have to be weighed against two considerations, it seems to me. First, how important is the content of the documents? And how serious is the secrecy system in preventing our right to know more about the policies – especially wars – being carried out in our name? And finally, is there a reasonable alternative to letting the secrets mount, such as pursuing the “transparency” agenda, which the White House purports to support?

      Let me weigh these questions with regard to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and the “Long War” scenario that has occupied my full attention these past nine years.

      It will be remembered that the Iraq War was based on fabricated evidence by U.S. and British intelligence services, the Bush-Cheney White House, and even the New York Times through the deceptive reporting of Judith Miller. The leading television media invited top military officials to provide the nightly narrative of the war lest there be any doubts in the mesmerized audience. Secrecy and false narratives were crucial to the invasions, special operations, renditions, tortures, and mass detentions that plunged us into the quagmires where we now are stranded. The secret-keepers were incompetent to protect our national security, even when cables warned of an immanent attack by hijacked airliners.

      The secrecy grew like a cancer on democracy. Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported in “Top Secret America” that there were 854,000 people with top-security clearances. That was the tip of the iceberg. The number of new secrets rose 75% between 1996 and 2009, to 183, 224; the number of documents using those secrets has exploded from 5.6 million in 1996 to 54.6 million last year. The secrecy cult appears uncontrollable: the Clinton executive order 12958 (1995) gave only twenty officials the power to stamp documents top-secret, but those twenty could delegate the power to 1,336 others, while a “derivative” procedure extended the power to three million more officials and contractors. (Time, December 13, 2010)

      The 1917 U.S. espionage statute requires that Assange received secret documents and willfully, with bad faith, intended to harm the United States by releasing “national defense information.” That’s a tough standard. Perhaps in order to close what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder describes as "gaps in our laws," the State Department on Saturday sent a letter demanding that Assange cease the releases, return all classified documents and destroy any records on WikiLeaks databases.

      These are difficult legal hurdles for the Justice Department under the First Amendment, but, according to a source close to the defense with experience in such cases, it seems clear that the U.S. government will prosecute Assange with every tool at their disposal, perhaps even rendition.

      "What President Obama needs is a photo of Assange in chains brought into a federal court," the source said.

      This week the Assange defense team will appeal the London court’s decision to deny bail. If that fails, he will appear in court December 14 to face extradition to Sweden.

      Assange has the right to appeal an extradition order to the European Court of Human Rights.

      He has a very strong base of support in London where public anger over the fabrications that led to war still runs high. An extradition fight in London could carry on for weeks, providing an important platform for the defense. Or the UK government could take the risk of an accelerated emergency deportation process to send him to Stockholm, or even the U.S. in the most extreme scenario.

      If Assange winds up in Stockholm, it could take several weeks to fight his way through a bizarre and complicated sexual harassment trial. Anything is possible there, from all charges being dropped, to the finding of a technical infraction, to jail time. Or Sweden could make an emergency finding to extradite him straight to the US, risking an adverse public reaction for serving as to a handmaiden of the Pentagon.

      In the atmosphere of hysteria ahead, it is important for peace and justice advocates to remember and share what Americans owe to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

      1. WikiLeaks disclosed 390,136 classified documents about the Iraq War and 76,607 about Afghanistan so far. No one died as a result of these disclosures, one of which revealed another 15,000 civilian casualties in Iraq which had not been acknowledged or reported before;
      2. Fragmentary orders (FRAGO) 242 and 039 instructed American troops not to investigate torture in Iraq conducted by America’s allies;
      3. The CIA operates a secret army of 3,000 in Afghanistan;
      4. A secret US Task Force 373 is assigned to nighttime hunter-killer raids in Afghanistan; 
      5. The US ambassador in Kabul says it is impossible to fix corruption when our ally is the corrupt entity;
      6. One Afghan minister alone carried $52 million out of the country; 
      7. US Special Forces operate in Pakistan without public acknowledgement, apparently in violation of that country’s sovereignty; 
      8. America’s ally, Pakistan, is the chief protector of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
      9. Following secret U.S air strikes against suspected al-Qaeda militants, Yeme's President Ali Abdullah Saleh told General David Petraeus, "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours."
      10. U.S. government contractor DynCorp threw a party for Afghan security recruits featuring trafficked boys as the entertainment. Bacha bazi is the Afghan tradition of "boy play" where young boys are dressed up in women's clothing, forced to dance for leering men, and then sold for sex to the highest bidder. DynCorp has been previously linked to child sex trafficking charges.

      The secretive wars exposed by WikiLeaks will cost $159.3 billion in the coming fiscal year, and several trillion dollars since 2001. The American death toll in Afghanistan will reach 500 this year, or fifty per month, for a total of 1,423, and 9,583 wounded overall over half of the wounded during this year alone. The Iraq War has left 4,430 U.S. soldiers dead and 32,000 wounded as of today. The civilian casualties are ignored, but range in the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis.

      Is it possible that Julian Assange is the scapegoat for arrogant American officials who would rather point the fingers of blame than see the blood on their own hands? What else can explain their frenzy to see Assange dead?

      It may be too late to prevent an escalation. The lynch-mob is rabid, terrorized by what they cannot control, completely out of balance, at their most dangerous. If they realize their darkest desires, they will make Assange a martyr – a “warrior for openness” – in the new age now beginning. A legion of hackers are fingering their Send buttons in response, and who can say what flood they may release?

      The trial of Julian Assange is becoming a trial of secrecy itself. Wherever the line is drawn, secrecy has become the mask of power, and without new rules, the revolt of the hackers will continue.

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      Reader Comments (33)

      There is way too much secrecy. The emperors are bare ass naked and inflicting great harm globally while the masses go along with all the b.s.

      December 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSierra

      I don't think there's any mystery about why the Liberals, you cite, want to have Assange murdered. The basic Liberal philosophy is to nudge laws, policies, and culture to a point that our society is not threatened by conflict that is disruptive. Liberals don't want unpredictable change that can't be controlled, a thesis not unlike the theme in most Kubrick films. When a real threat emerges, Liberals sense loss of control. Face it, most of the originators of the Vietnam War in the executive branch were Liberals. You could argue some strange types in the CIA had a hand in it. But most of the Liberals were afraid of the political fall out of removing the advisors from Vietnam in 1963 and 1964. They would have been attacked by the reactionaries in Congress. When the demonstrations began in earnest in 1965, the Liberals went nuts and said those people in the streets were Communists (Read Terrorist as the term now used for Assange). When did the Liberals feel most threatened? At their convention in 1968 with Mayor Daley, they set loose a police riot similar to those that year in France.

      Assange has upset the apple cart. Those with critical thinking see from the WikiLeaks documents that Obama is extending the aims of the Bush regime to underwrite the activities of the multinationals. There may no longer be torture, but the state military intelligence and security apparatus is fully armed and killing civilians in Afghanistan. The war has expanded into Pakistan and now WikiLeaks shows that the Pakistanis and its ISI organ is the prime mover of the Taliban (Ahmed Rashid revealed this 10 years ago in his books). The Liberals are in the same place as Johnson, McNamara, and the Bundy brothers. The Liberals have been had. It is one thing when they could conceal the war and the press would fall asleep. But now everything is coming into the open. They can't withdraw from Afghanistan, because they'll be called chickens, cowards, appeasers and quitters just as Goldwater, Dirksen, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Nixon would have done to LBJ in Vietnam. The Liberals don't want to look weak. Petraeus gives a perception of strength. If the war continues to expand, the military funding will bring on a vast collapse into a sinkhole and where I live in Florida, those suckers are real. The Liberals know this too.

      In short, Julian Assange makes the Liberals look weak. The Liberals are cowards too afraid to tell the American people the truth which WikilLeaks, in its diffuse fashion, already is doing.

      December 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBill Barnes

      It could be great to live in a country where The Constitution and Rule of Law prevail with the limiting proviso that one must say and do what the government elects. Obama was to be an improvement on Bush. What should have been accomplished easily has not happened
      Support the Brave Aussie who is teaching Americans the meaning of Free speech and Freedom of the Press.
      Jack Smith
      Seattle WA

      December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack Smith

      Obama's act of allowing Bush and Cheney to get away with war crimes set the legal precedent for anyone to be able to get away with anything. The rule of law has been trashed by the Bush administration and the bar set high for what qualifies as crime.

      December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGary Amstutz

      We have a hero on our hands here.

      The truth is coming fourth in a torrent now... and this new understanding of just how fast information can travel and literally change the world... is staggering.

      This brother will go down in history... a true patriot for peace and justice.

      The truth is out of the bottle now and all the Kings Horses and all the Kings Men can not get the truth to go back into the bottle let alone fix the manner the Americans conduct diplomacy.

      The cables prove one thing clearly, the USA must act in good faith throughout the world by returning all our troops home from all over the world. Until the USA admits that the Empire is Dead, we can expect more of the same until this once proud and free republic is reduced to another defeated nation in Empire's Graveyard.

      December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Rising-Moore

      It would be great if you could share information about how to support Assange. Is there anything we can do besides writing letters? What organizations are most important in supporting him, beyond WikiLeaks itself of course. Thanks...

      December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHoward Winant

      There are some new pay sites; one being https://xipwire.com/give/wl

      As of yesterday, of course.

      December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

      I must take strong exception to the commenter who, for some bizarre reason known only to him I'm sure, is describing liberals in terms that no psychologist, sociologist, political scientist, or historian would agree with. In fact they so accurately describe the well known tendency for conservatives to favor order, security, and regularity, their fondness for all things have to do with strength and authority, that one must presume he is gripped with the ego self-defense mechanism we know as "projection"...the subconscious act of denying one's own faults by attributing them to someone else -- usually those seen as their persecutor or "enemy".
      From the psych literature:
      "Analyzing political conservatism as motivated social cognition integrates theories of personality (authoritarianism, dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity), epistemic and existential needs (for closure, regulatory focus, terror management), and ideological rationalization (social dominance, system justification). A meta-analysis (88 samples, 12 countries, 22,818 cases) confirms that several psychological variables predict political conservatism: death anxiety (weighted mean r = .50); system instability (.47); dogmatism – intolerance of ambiguity (.34); openness to experience (–.32); uncertainty tolerance (–.27); needs for order, structure, and closure (.26); integrative complexity (–.20); fear of threat and loss (.18); and self-esteem (–.09). The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat. " http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~hannahk/Political_Conservatism_files/Jostetal2003.pdf

      December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGary Williams

      This article has explained things in a very concrete way. Today in listening to the coverage on NPR I almost started crying as the coverage was so biased and focused on fear mongering.

      We should be outraged at teh US government which is making enemies throughout the world and squandering our tax dollars while our country's citizens struggle with hunger, homelessness and joblessness.

      December 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermaggie bagon

      @Gary...You must mean me. I'm not trying to disparage Liberals. I was trying to point out that the viciousness of certain liberals, described by Tom Hayden, didn't suddenly arrive. The tendencies I described were present during the time Tom was put on trial in 1969. Why did Liberals turn away from the largest domestic spending program intended to cure centuries on inequality to prosecute a war with such unbelievable violence and lasting effects?

      The stars are aligning again. You have events in this time that run contrary to how liberals in power are thought to behave. Shouldn't liberals score high on empathy and altruism? If so, why are so many events contradictory to empathetic behavior taking place? I mentioned some above. Here's another. Why the emphasis given to legislation to crush whistleblowers? Why the meager efforts to restore the economy of the Gulf Coast after a major oil spill and the devastating hurricanes of 2004 and 2005? Why not address the loss of livelihood to tens of thousands of people? Why is there no innovative program to eliminate the housing disaster in Florida?

      I believe the personality characteristics of Liberals and Conservatives largely overlap when it comes to the Afghanistan War. There is a strange mixture of fear, anger, and decision-making built on lies and deception. I don't buy into the studies you cite because they are based on effects size. Each of the contributing studies has as much variation of behavior within the sample as across the different studies.

      Either we see that the Liberals currently in office are hybrid conservatives extending the policies and diplomatic efforts of the Bush administration or we re-define what Liberals are based on their actions and deeds and not on their purported philosophy and happy campaign talk.

      December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBill Barnes

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