Just a few hours ago Wikileaks released a huge batch of documents. Namely, thousands of classified cables, exchanged between the US diplomats abroad and their government. It is said that a lot of these contain “unflattering” (read: honest) opinions on foreign politicians. And details on how the US politics is promoted abroad.
The US government reacted in advance, by condemning the release of the documents. It stated that “the release of these documents will put at risk the life of thousands of people – US citizens, civilians etc”. It said: “President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal.”
In response, the founder of Wikileaks Julian Assange contacted the US ambassador in UK and asked who are the people whose lives will be put at risk. Assange suggested that if such people really exist, the documents may undergo some limited editing before being published in order to protect them. The US ambassador stated in response that the USA will not negotiate with Wikileaks.
Hours before the release the Wikileaks site was subject of a massive Distributed Denial Of Service attack. This, however, could not stop it from publishing the documents.
… These are the most important facts around this release of documents. My opinion on them follows.
If I was the US government, I would be embarrassed by the release of these documents, too. And would seek a way to stop this publishing, too. It is only natural. (Of course, I would not have the chutzpah to claim after this that I “support responsible, accountable and open government at home and abroad”. Because the action of Wikileaks is anything but running counter to that goal – it actually would be implementing that goal in spite of my efforts. A government’s reputation does not exactly gain from saying exactly the opposite to the truth.)
Is it natural, however, to resort to statements like the one for the thousands of lives at risk? If there was a Guiness book positions for the biggest, boldest and most stupid lie, this one would get them all. Of course, due to “the butterfly effect” every action (or non-action) may eventually put thousands of lives at risk. But stretching the truth to this extent makes it transparent, and the lie behind it well visible. I can remember only one nation state who resorted to that big lies. This was the Soviet Union, while speaking about the human rights inside it. I wouldn’t even think of trying this.
Well, I don’t know everything about these documents. What if they can really put some lives at risk? It is obvious that Wikileaks cannot be stopped from publishing them. In this case, I would contact Wikileaks and ask them to edit out at least the information that puts lives in danger. A true whistleblower site would not refuse this request… And if I learn that an ambassador of mine has been contacted by Wikileaks, with exactly this proposal, but has refused to negotiate, this ambassador would be instantly recalled, and sent to jail. Unless, of course, there is actually not a single person whose life would be threatened.
For a government, it is generally a “fair play” to warn the friendly countries about the political danger, and even to attract them to the efforts to stop this publication. However, it is anything but a fair play to stage a false rape claim against the people from the whistleblowing site. This again reminds me of the Soviet Union of the 1930s. (If you really believe that Julian Assange releases batches of dusturbing documents only around raping someone, or that the rape claim just coincided with the two releases, I wouldn’t suggest you buying a car. Someone might sell you a bicycle instead, and you might spend the rest of your life trying to start the engine.)
Liberals often point that George W. Bush started the war on Iraq through the lie that Iraq has WMD. However, this seems a “white lie” to me, compared to a staged rape claim… Obviously Assange will not stop whistleblowing, and even if he is imprisoned, Wikileaks will not stop. So, what next? Targeted assassinations, like these of Litvinenko and Trotsky?
And I certainly would not stage a DDOS attack against the whistleblowing site. For at least one reason – the only resources able to stage a decent DDOS attack currently are the botnets, all of which are operated by criminals. By using their services against such a site, I will show with my actions that I prefer teaming with criminals to being an open, transparent and accountable government… Sounds horrible, eh? Perhaps because it is horrible.
It is true that no government will like its secret cables published. However, not all governments will react alike. Some will acknowledge the publishing, and will issue an apology to the sides affected. Some will use anything, even a crime, no matter how insidious, to stop such a publishing. The governments of the first type are known as “democratic”, “open”, “transparent”, “responsible” etc. The government of the second type are known as “Evil Empires”.
Yes, the USA are still far from being an Evil Empire. However, being born and grown in a former Communist country, I remember very well what the USA meant for us who lived under the Communist rule. They were a synonym for freedom, human rights and civil liberties. They were the country that awarded a medal to Hugh Thompson, Jr. for stopping and voicing out the My Lai massacre, done by its own army. That helped West Berlin to survive, despite the odds. That would never, ever betray a Soviet dissident… The USA were the Hope and the source for everything decent we knew of.
Now, its government is a source of lies (to its allies and the rest of the world alike). It is the country that operates the Guantanamo gulag. The one that arrests and threatens the suspected whistleblowers – Hugh Thompson, Jr. is lucky that he is not serving now. One that bombed the civilians in Falujah. One that sends prisoners to countries where they will be tortured, exactly with this purpose… Does this sound anymore as a source of decency? Or as a country that is walking fast the road to the evil?
The support for electing Barack Obama in the USA was nothing compared to the support or him abroad. Guess why? Because most people abroad believed that he is very different from George W. Bush. That he will be a democracy, human rights and civil liberties champion… Different from GWB he proved, indeed. In two years he led the US down the Evil Empire road farther than his predecessor in two mandates. With this Democratic politics, the USA don’t need Republicans. As long as the people outside USA are concerned, they don’t need even the Tea Party. And maybe the USA residents, too – the appointments of Obama to the Supreme Court (arguably the most conservative one in the history of the US) shifted it further to the conservative side. This loss of balance does not bear good things.
If someone had told me ten years ago that one day I will be proud that I am not American, I wouldn’t believe him. Now I am. Yes, few people know better than me that the citizens of a country are not always responsible for its government actions. But still, I feel relieved from the embarassment of being citizen of a country that behaves like this. (And worried, because my own country is a NATO member, and thus an ally of such a country.)
This article is a wake-up call, to all Americans (and for everyone else, too). Please, stop this tumbling to the moral abyss. You are still far from being the next Soviet Union, but are moving in this direction. This is a downhill road – going down is easy and fast, climbing back up is hard and slow. But there is nothing good on the bottom, neither for the world nor for you. If nothing else, your image would be the best argument for a terrorists recruiter. Do you need an unceasing and increasing flow of terrorists? I doubt it.
Wikileaks is the new Watergate wistleblower, who tells you what your government really does. If you believe that the newspapers who published the Watergate news harmed the USA, and put to risk the lives of thousands of people, you might like to go against Wikileaks. If you, however, live in the real world, please do defend Wikileaks. It is your best friend. One that you can trust.
Unlike your government.
Yes, it can be embarrassing to be American. There’s a lot of guilt. At the same time, I love America. Our ideals are so grand and our people and our government can be so petty. America has taken on a project that might be unique–we try to respect the rights, culture and individuality of everyone who comes here. We fail, of course. One the one hand, we don’t have an official language and print our official documents in all statistically significant languages within a given area. On the other, you must speak not only English, but a standard dialect of English, to succeed. On the one hand, we strive to educate every child, even the disabled and apathetic. On the other–well, our public schools tend to suck.
On the one hand, we want justice, freedom, peace and dignity for everyone around the globe. On the other, we fail as individuals to take care of the people around us. We prioritize inexpensive commoditties over human rights around the globe. And as a country?
Our government does terrible, terrible things and we feel powerless to stop it.
It may help to explain that the US is big. You understand geographic bigness, coming from former Soviet territory, but there are many ethnic, national, geographic, lifestyle etc. subcultures here, and we’re all shouting at the top of our lungs. There’s too much information, too many images, soundbites, opinions, etc, for us to even keep up with what all our country is doing. We flat don’t know, and when we do, we feel powerless. We want to stop tumbling; that’s what the Tea Party is about, in fact. There are also a lot of pacifists like me trying to figure out what the heck to do.
All that said–I think the WikiLeaks are egregious. Leave the US and Europe out of it for a second and look at the potential fallout in the Middle East. It’s hard not to see the potential for murder, assasination, or inter-country hostilities. Just the comments about Iran, for goodness sake. Look at Asia, where there were already rumors of war. To see this as simply embarrassing America is to miss the global scale or the problem. If Wikileaks is a friend, it is the kind of ‘friend’ who instigates drama for the sake of watching the fight and doesn’t care who gets hurt.
All that said, I would be ashamed to think the US was trumping up rape charges. That’s a different kind of egregious. It is possible, of course. However, we don’t actually know the details of the case–we can only surmise and make conjecture–so perhaps it’s best to suspend judgement there.
Everything said, I really appreciate your insight. Your unique perspective really brings home the difficulty in my country and the difficulty we bring tot he world.
Според мен по-удачно заглавие би било “Wikileaks vs. USA Government – the next round”.
@LN: I think that neither your people nor your government are petty. However, the government seems to lose the human perspective. And it is the humans, not the countries that live and suffer. And I think that respecting everyone’s rights, culture and individuality is your greatest and unique strength. Yes, it is hard. Yes, sometimes you fail. But every time you succeed, you bring a huge benefit to the entire humankind.
And I think that Wikileaks are not egregious. There is hardly anything in these cables that the European, Iranian or whoever else officials wouldn’t know – do not expect that publishing them changes anything, especially in a country like Iran. Shortly after the previous batch of documents, that said the civilian deaths in Iraq are way over what is reported, I spoke with an Iraqi, and asked him whether his people would be angered by this discovery. He shrugged and said: “Discovery?! Every Iraqi knows that the victims are several times that. It happens with us, on our streets – how could we not know it? It is you for whom this might be a discovery.”
It is us, the ordinary people, who don’t know what really happens. And who will hold the bad people accountable if we learn about it. That is what your government (and mostly every other government) is scared of. The truth is that these leaks will actually save many thousands of human lives. However, they will do this by allowing you and me to hold accountable our governments. What causes this stream of lies of victims and lives is the fear of a government from being held accountable for what they are doing.
@Петър Петров: Мой пропуск.
If someone did wrong and kept it quiet, and then somebody else exposed him, the first one should apology for doing wrong and apology even more for keeping it under the rug.
In no way “Don’t do it, think about the kittens!” strategy works here.
Sigh… It is so familiar – I used to be a victim of cliches same way you are. Many of the Bulgarians believe they know the USA, because we’ve read, seen, visited. It is not enough. It is not enough to be a thoughtful person, with knowledge, in order to understand what the leaking of this information means. Your explanation about the “edits” that could have been done represents the populist thinking, that if nothing is secret, that’s better for everyone. Well, I happen to know some of the people, mentioned in some of the cables. I am not sure that they will continue to have the trust in the US Government in the future, (and by proxy – to the Bulgarian, too) and that certainly represents a serious problem for all democratic countries. The media will pick up the excerpts which can be printed, but the ones that could cause damage will not be even mentioned. Who cares about the Italian PM, or the Libyan leader… To call Wikileaks “the new Watergate whistle blower” means also that you have read a lot about the Watergate, but not enough. Wikileaks could hardly be anyone’s friend.
@Вени Марковски: I am thoroughly convinced that when it comes to politics, if nothing is secret, that’s better for everyone. Sure it is not perfect. But when there is anything that can be secret, the situation very quickly becomes far, far worse.
Take, for example, the persons that you happen to know. If they do nothing they should be ashamed of, these cables would still be a mild embarassment for them, but nothing more. But if they have done some shameful things behind other people’s backs, that should be exposed. Otherwise, you end up with some people being unaccountable, and you know very well what this leads to. If these people have done things they should be ashamed of, I will be glad if they lose their trust in my government. This will not create serious problems for it. This will relieve it of serious problems.
Most Italians care a lot about their PM. The same with the Libyan leader and the Libyans, though they have much less say over their leaders than the Italians. For this reason, Wikileaks is nothing else but their best friend. The same is valid with the Bulgarians, Russians, Afghans, Iraqis, and everyone else – that is, with the Americans, too.
@Петър Петров: It starts to seem like the most appropriate headline would be “Wikileaks vs. the high-positioned stupids”. I laughed my guts out at the overreaction of Nicola Sarcozy on the news that he was described as “thin-skinned”. What an abhorrent lie! 😉
And I read with a lot of interest the single cable among the released up to the moment, that concerns Bulgaria. It is a list of the things the American Embassy in Sofia should collect info about. The almost only thing I myself wouldn’t eagerly order collected is the info about the connections between our politicians and the mafia… And I pray now that the information collected on them is also in the Wikileaks cache, and will be released. This is the info most of the Bulgarian people are trying to discover, in order to set our country straight. Which includes improving our reliability as NATO members and USA allies. This single leak would serve the American cause in Bulgaria better than everything done by its embassy since we have diplomatic relations. Go now and tell me Wikileaks is not a friend both to me and to the Americans! 🙂
силно се съмнявам информацията за топлата връзка мафия-мафия…ъъъ, политици да се намира във въпросният бач.
собствено що водите диалогът на английски?
@chaotic: Щото публикацията е на английски, с идеята да я четат (съответно и диалога) и извънка.
One more funny reaction to the Wikileaks batch is the Russian one. Quoting Christian Science Monitor::
“I have no doubt that this was a prepared operation, probably by [the] US secret services,” says Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Information in Moscow. “I find it improbable that US authorities couldn’t deal with one guy (Mr. Assange) if they really wanted to. No, this is clearly being done as an instrument of destabilization,” he says.
Will this guy ever get ripe for the idea that “dealing with someone” (guess what this means) is not practiced by every country around? It seems that the USA, going fast down the road of humanity as they do, will not catch with the Russians anytime soon…
За съжаление американците си го направиха сами. 50 години показваха една приказка на техните и на враговете, как всичко е чисто и неопетнено и сега хората очакват точно това от тях, а те никога не са го имали ……
Well, the Russian-style reaction seems to have fans in USA, too. Just read the opinion of Sarah Palin. If the people unfit fur public service could fly, she would be the Supreme Commander of USAF.
(Update: A link to her reaction.)
I never imagined that Stephen King’s Greg Stillson would turn out to be female…
Might be interesting for you:
@Григор – ако случайно решат да търсят реакции в нашето пространство
спокойно могат да ползват превода на гугъл. иначе ми се види малце фалшива историята – да подаваме обработени данни един вид.
@chaotic: Какво ще рече “необработени данни” в случая?
ми разговор м/у българи на български – иначе звучи сякаш коментарите се пишат само и само да бъдат прочетени отвън – не толкова за изказване на някакво мнение.
да уточня – не ме избива на патриотарщина. просто ми е малце странно.
@chaotic: Понякога разговор се води само между двама души. Понякога е поканен да се присъедини всеки. Разликата в случая е в езика, на който се води разговорът.
Въпрос на учтивост към околните е под запис на английски разговорът да на английски. Да, могат да го прочетат през превода на Гугъл, но това значи да ползват обработени (и то доста хумористично) данни. И това също е една от причините английският да е за предпочитане.