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      WikiLeaks Versus the Empire

      A version of this article appeared in The Nation on November 30, 2010.

      Informed sources say that the current deluge of WikiLeaks documents will continue for another week and grow in significance.

      Leading US human rights lawyers, Leonard Weinglass and Michael Ratner, have joined the defense team for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

      US officials are employing cyber-warfare and prosecutorial steps to deny any safe haven for the WikiLeaks operation with a fervor comparable to their drone attacks on Al Qaeda havens in Pakistan and Yemen.

      Two cyber-attacks have been reported against WikiLeaks servers this week. The Justice Department is seeking indictments on espionage charges from a grand jury quietly impaneled this week in arch-conservative Alexandria, Virginia. Assange is in London, facing rape and sexual harassment charges in Sweden, on which he claims to be innocent. Extradition could be sought by the United States at any time from either venue.

      Why is this drama important? Not because of “life-threatening” leaks as claimed by the establishment, but because the closed doors of power need to be open to public review. We live increasingly in an Age of Secrecy, as described by Garry Wills in Bomb Power, among recent books. It has become the American Way of War, and increasingly draws the curtains over American democracy itself. The wars in Pakistan and Yemen are secret wars. The war in Afghanistan is dominated by secret US Special Operations raids and killings. The CIA has its own secret army in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s entire record in Iraq was classified. The CIA has its own secret army in Afghanistan. And so on, ad nauseam.
      And what is the purpose of all the secrecy? As Howard Zinn always emphasized, the official fear was that the American people might revolt if we knew the secrets being kept from us. In Rolling Stone’s expose of McChrystal’s war this year, one top military adviser said, “if Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.” McChrystal himself joked about sending out Special Forces units to kill at night then having to “scold” them in the morning.
      And revolt we should, against those who would keep the affairs of empire shrouded. We should not be distracted by the juicy tidbits that may or may not be better left unreported. The focus of Congressional hearings and journalistic investigation should be on matters of public policy in which the American people are being lied to, most notably these:

      • “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours”Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh to Gen. David Petraeus.
      • “Note: while we must deal with AWK [Ahmed Wali Karzai] as the head of the Provincial Council [of Kandahar], he is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker." Cable 09KABUL3068.
      • The military coup in Honduras was completely illegal, but we supported the coup-makers anyway:

      The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch… There is equally no doubt from our perspective that Roberto Micheletti's assumption of power was illegitimate.  

      Without public outcry, don’t expect anyone to be following up on these shocking revelations. Instead, there will be a continuing escalation of the cyber-warfare and legal persecution of WikiLeaks and Assange.
      The Washington Times is calling for “waging war” on the WikiLeaks Web presence. The new chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Peter King, wants to designate WikiLeaks as a foreign terrorist organization, which would block credit card donations to the organization and criminalize any civic support or even free legal advice under the Patriot Act, according to King. The military already holds Pfc. Bradley Manning in isolation on charges of having downloaded the files.
      The Pentagon’s Cyber Command is allowed to conduct “full-spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains” – which author Declan McCullagh of CNET says “includes destroying electronic infrastructure as thoroughly as a B-52 bombing would level a power plant.”

      This may sound alarmist, but does anyone seriously expect the US government, and its global allies, to permit more revelations to leak out week after week, month after month, in what Der Spiegel already calls “nothing short of a political meltdown for US foreign policy.”
      What can be done?

      1. Activists and the independent media can intensify a de facto teach-in, or national town meeting, to discuss the content of the documents far and wide;
      2. Civic society must be persuaded through widespread discussion that this controversy is about the security of the elites, not national security;
      3. Civil liberties lawyers need to join Weinglass and Ratner in the legal defense of Assange, Manning and the organization as a whole. An Ecuadoran official has offered his country as safe haven; others should follow;
      4. Activists should demand immediate investigations of such issues as the cover-up of American bombing in Yemen, and oppose the current official mood of killing the messenger.

      And remember: there are 250,000 more cables to go. This may be a long and strange campaign. 

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      Reader Comments (15)

      I couldn't agree more, Mr. Hayden. Assange is filling the void of what used to be investigative journalism. The media hasn't done the job, so someone has to. He and his organization have stepped up. Now, maybe we'll get the truth about how our money is really being wasted.

      November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWestcoastliberal

      In a world, where people are to be charged as being TERRORISTS because they spread the TRUTH, we really have to question the wide spread belief that we live in a democratic world, where our governments work towards betterment of our and other's living conditions.

      To define Wikileaks as a terrorist organization... as some high ranking fascists in the US want to do, is clearly done because they can not survive and continue their evil ways, if the truth about them becomes public knowledge.

      The world needs open forums, truthful information and no secret veils.

      Those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear from truth itself.

      Those who fear truth being told, need to be arrested and charged as criminals, or even treated as terrorists without rights to legal council... whichever bill will fit, should be used.

      The way the US is behaving now, immediately reminds of what one could have expected the Spanish Inquisition to react like.

      Completely sick.

      Fight the good fight, fight against imperialistic abuse!

      November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTrausti

      The American public has been drug to sleep by an economic, political and cultural elite that profits from war. But the American public is more aware than what corporate funded media are willing to admit. Public opinion polls show that America does not support the military industrial complex's wars, and want America to be at peace. But America's will for peace is frustrated by corporate campaign bribes used to buy compliance from political leaders for continuing a policy of global war. This is a house of cards that can not stand. I don't know when the collapse will come, but better sooner than later.

      November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeter McNamee

      Once again our government is on the wrong side of the issue. When the cold war ended we had no official excuse for supporting the most vile dictators, creating coups or invading countries to gain their resources until 9/11 which provided a very convenient reasoning to not only continue this behavior but to escalate it in the never ending battle against "terrorism" and even further, stamp it all officially "Secret." Now the rug is being pulled back exposing the dirt, we can see it has been these foreign policies that have created "terrorism" in the first place. And our government, instead of owning up and changing (remember that theme from Mr Obama) makes an all out attempt to discredit WikiLeaks and get the dirt back under their secret rug where they think it belongs. So far I've seen nothing to endanger our troops any more than their orders to go to war have. Mainly, we are seeing the arrogance, the lies, the subterfuge that belies the official vision our government has carefully propagated. Maybe with this exposure to the light of Truth, real CHANGE will come about, either voluntarily, or more likely by demand. That's us and the rest of the world.

      November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLawrence Arsenault

      Finally the illegal invasions/wars/occupations are on trial ! The data uploaded onto a computer is not what is responsible for killing anyone. It's the architects, financiers, and profiteers of these war crimes who deserve to be under the microscope of public scrutiny. YAY WikiLeaks - a major score for journalism and democracy.

      November 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterconscious divine

      @ Lawrence Arsenault:

      >>I've seen nothing to endanger our troops any more than their orders to go to war have. <<

      Exactly! If the claim is that the lives of the soldiers are put into harm's way when the truth is revealed, one should really question the ORDERS that send people into locations where battles are fought. Ordering someone to go and fight, DOES absolutely put people's lives into danger. If it is a criminal offense to send soldiers into harm's way, it would be the right thing to do, to charge all those who send them to war situations.

      We should all start by cleaning up our own homes, before we start telling others how they should do their jobs.

      November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTrausti

      Thanks for spreading the word--at least we should be having an open debate about these documents. I am very concerned that any charges brought against Assange may be nothing more than a smear campaign by our government. What happened to Obama's oft-repeated promise of transparency?????

      November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMPacheco

      What is happening to Pfc. Bradley Manning? What are they doing to him? Who is defending him? We owe him and Julian Assange a huge debt of gratitude for lifting the veil of secrecy from the imperial conspirators in Washington and their global bedfellows. Americans would be outraged if they knew what is going on. How can we shine floodlights on this?

      December 1, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbethshep

      Kudos and hails and heartfelt thanks to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks! They are the heroes and the forefront of the cyber revolutionaries. I am particularly excited about Wikileaks claim to release some banks foul records. (Let us pray and hope that other young gifted heroes will follow WIKILEAKS' footsteps….then spotlight for all to see, the thieves and plunderers!

      Young brains (It is your future after all!) you must have the skills and balls to penetrate the walls of the financial evil bastions; expose the "geniuses" the "bankers", the "Insurers" the hedge fund "traders" who pillaged, looted and robed the working folks around the globe. (John Paulson made $30.000/MINUTE, working 8 hrs day shifts, 365 days, no holidays , 4.5 Billion/annually total, in 2008…)

      When you do the math and convert the marauding depredation of the American wealth, add up the figures, of these utterly irrational, inappropriate (and so obviously unearned) "compensations" "salaries", gargantuan and disproportional "bonuses", of these worldwide crowds of the so called, financial "engineers", when you add those figures up, convert the stolen money mounds, to gold, it reveals, and brings to clear relief, that these Privateers, who for the past ten years, ravaged and vandalized the labor of American people, stole more, plundered more, then all of the plundering of the South America's gold, extracted by the Europeans for over 300 years! Several times over…!

      The 3 trillion real dollars they sucked out of the global economy, multiplied by the commonly accepted economic leveraging of times thirty, and the reason for the collapse and cratering of world markets is clear, obvious and was inevitable. NO, NO it was was not these poor aspiring laborers in Las Vegas and/or those always so easily maligned welfare mothers, their dreams for the American dream, or their slyly induced sub-prime loans debacle that caused the great recession.

      YOUTH!! Do not waste your skills on unavailing insignificant transgressions or malfeasance funny or salacious "sexual scandals" . USE YOUR SKILLS TO shed light on the oligarchic mafia that has already in effect shackled you to a life of servitude to pay for the "National Debt" and student loan payments…Expose the bastards whenever and however you can…It is up to you, young brainers and otherwise , it is up to you to get the bastards off your back and bring them to people's justice! The present laws and lawmakers were bought out and are now collectively corrupt. Conspiratorially, they defanged civil ethics, the police, and any real regulators or true overseers… Then they let the Mafia, now cloaked in legalities and night, to have a go at it….

      It is yours, and your children future! Do not let the bastards get away with it. Spotlight and pierce the veils whenever you can and however you can. Do not even think of armed revolutions. The oligarchs and their ilk are well prepared; the stringent anti-terrorism acts are in place and geared for the civil unrest, sure to follow anticipated citizenry awakening!


      December 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMilha Mann

      It was Ralph Nader, who wrote, KNOWLEDGE HELPS CITIZENS, SECRECY HELPS BUREAUCRATS. What exactly is conservatism that is operates in secrecy, operates to the benefit of the elite, operates to the detriment of the masses, operates in such selfish and spiteful ways...we can do without conservatism and it would be a better world and a happier world would it not? To impanel a grand jury in all but secrecy is further evidence of their lack of openess, lack of trust in the public to know and decide and understand, and it is further indication of their desire to control and determine how one should live ones life, underfoot of those above. I have said it before but all this reminds of the Fritz Land slient classic movie METROPOLIS (1927) the backcover jacket of the DVD says "METROPLIS takes place in 2026, when the population is divided between workers who must live in the dark underground and the rich who enjo a futuristic city of splendor." Those who rule want us to live in darkness, not knowing the truth, not knowing justice and not knowing what our government is doing in our name for whch we are guilty by association because the government wants us to support all they do, not at all to care if we agree or not, they just want our okay to do what they do, to kill, to takeover, to control the world, finance war, the collateral damage, to not understand the hate this corporate foreign policy generates and they, our government wants us to accept this without question, and to condemn our attackers who have every reason to hate us, who are called terrorist by the very fact that they protest in ways not liked or found acceptabe by our government, although our government finds justifcation by the very fact our attacks against us, neve mind the reasons why! It is a bit on-sided and wrong.

      December 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFred Jakobcic

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