8 December, 2010
Is Julian Assange a brave fool, foolishly brave or just naive?
Of course it’s unthinkable that the Empire will stand by and allow such a challenge and as more is revealed about Assange’s casual encounter with a couple of babes in Sweden (who turned out to be ‘honey-traps’), it tells us just as much about Assange as it does about what the Empire will do. One thing Assange isn’t is a politician and it’s also clear that he is more than a little naive about the enemy he has challenged so brazenly. No wonder then that he ended up in the slammer.
At the time of the original charges against Assange it was obvious that Assange was being setup for a fall should he be foolish enough to release the cables and even though the charges were immediately dropped by Sweden’s top prosecutor, the die was cast for future attacks on Assange. Not that it makes much difference, there are now nearly 750 Websites mirroring the content.
All the more hypocritical is the situation of the corporate media in the shape of the Guardian and the New York Times that still release cables on a daily basis even as Assange languishes in a British slammer.
But then aren’t we all more than a little naive about what our governments will do in order to maintain the status quo? Taking out a sprat like Assange is small change compared to selling monstrous invasions under the pretext of ‘defending free speech and democracy’!
Yet there is something earth-changing about the release of these cables because it’s never been done before on such a scale. They make the previous Wikileaks releases positively pedestrian by comparison as they reveal not merely the strategies and tactics of the Empire’s servants but the mindset of the Empire’s trusty employees, its diplomats.
One has to go back almost forty years for anything comparable to the publication of US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks, and they were leaked no less than by the New York Times!
I’m talking of course about the Pentagon Papers that blew the lies on the war in Vietnam, but remember that Daniel Ellsberg was at the time an employee of the US government, one of an army of researchers and analysts without whom the Empire is powerless. Hauled into court by the Nixon administration, he got acquitted. One wonders if Assange, who has already been found guilty by the media, will end up locked away as a ‘terrorist’?
The degree to which the cables have implicated all Western governments in what are clearly war crimes that are global in scope is revealed by the media’s spin on the contents and why they have collectively refused to address these crimes; the media are directly implicated in spinning the lies on behalf of the Empire.
Here’s the BBC’s choice of ‘commentary’ on the leaks published the day after the first cables were released, 29 November and it’s most revealing of the state media’s mindset:
“Libby Purves argues in the Times [subscription required] that Wikileaks threatens to destroy the role of diplomats:”
“…there is real fear that the touchier countries around the world will be outraged. Especially in the Muslim nations, where it seems to be all right for pretty senior voices to refer to us as kuffar, dogs, infidels, etc, whereas the slightest reservation about anything Islamic is considered an atrocity second only to the Crusades.”
“…If diplomats no longer dare to send undiplomatic, unvarnished truths to their governments on encrypted cables, the world’s peace will be in more danger.”
And not a moment too soon by looks of it but okay, that sets the tone for the following:
“Blake Hounshell in Foreign Policy calls the leaks troubling:”
But follows this with:
“”[T]he likelihood is that the vast majority of material being hurled into the limelight by the insouciant Mr Assange will not reveal any actual treacheries or scandals. It will consist mainly of what diplomats call ‘frank assessments’.”
And ends with:
“”sometimes too much media attention can get in the way of quiet progress, as in the Arab-Israeli conflict.””
Progress? The predictable ultra-right Mr Boot would like to put his boot into the media for printing anything at all!
“Max Boot in Commentary magazine condemns newspapers’ involvement with the leak:”
“”We now seem to have reached a moment when the West’s major news organizations, working hand in glove with a sleazy website, feel free to throw spitballs at those who make policy and those who execute it. This is journalism as pure vandalism. If I were responsible, I would feel shame and embarrassment. But apparently, those healthy emotions are in short supply these days.””
The ‘light entertainment review follows where we read:
“In contrast Benedict Brogan argues in the Telegraph that the leaks are embarrassing but not serious:”
“The Wikileaks story is great fun. The embarrassment of others always is. But however much the Guardian, the New York Times and Julian Assange assure us that this represents a shattering blow to every assumption we hold about foreign relations, the fact remains that it’s a collection of little substance that will do nothing to reshape geo-politics.”
And just to remind us (again) just how lucky we are in the West to have a ‘free’ press:
“Writing on the website Arabist Issandr El Amrani says that while this may not reveal anything new for the US, the leaks are still significant [for the Arab world]”
And finally, one commentary that kind of addresses one of the substantive issues revealed by the release of the cables, the role of the media:
“The chief executive of Index on Censorship John Kampfner makes a prediction in the Independent about how Wikileaks will prompt changes in the law:
“Once this latest flurry is over, prepare for the backlash. Mr Assange’s industrial-scale leaking may lead to legislation in a number of countries that makes whistle-blowing harder than it already is. Perhaps the most curious aspect of the Wikileaks revelations is not that they have happened, but it took someone as mercurial as Mr Assange to be the conduit. Rather than throwing stones, newspapers should be asking themselves why they did not have the wherewithal to hold truth to power.” — ‘Daily View: Wikileaks release‘, BBC News Website, 29 November, 2010
But even here, it’s not the contents per se but why it took a ‘mercurial’ (not to mention ‘insoucient’ and ‘sleazy’) Assange to do it and not the media, but Mr Kampfner even blows this by saying that the leaks will make blowing the whistle more difficult? Even I can see the paradox here. Though what’s mercurial about Assange I have no idea (could it be his pale countenance?), except to say that he seems to be a very low-key, laid back guy, though he obviously likes his ‘extra-mural activities’ as he wanders around the planet, and so what!
But you get the drift, Index on Censorship is included to give the BBC’s selection of comments the illusion of impartiality but the drift is that either the releases are dangerous or that they’re foolish, or both. Nowhere is the issue of policy raised, the general drift is about how embarrassing or dangerous the cables are to individuals or governments, not how dangerous these governments are to us.
So for example, there is not one mention in any of the fifty or so BBC stories on the cables that refers to the US involvement in Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia in 2008 and the reason is not far away when you look at the BBC’s craven coverage of the attack.
“US deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said…Russia had invaded Georgia and was “dismembering” Georgia.” — ‘Putin blames US for Georgia role ‘, BBC News Website, 28 August, 2008.)
BBC television news aped the official view including broadcasting the video that purportedly showed a Russian invasion of Georgia when the opposite was true, it was Georgia invading South Ossetia, something that the US diplomats knew was happening.
“According to the cable of the US embassy in Georgia, ‘OSCE observers indicated that Georgian forces along with GRAD artillery are on the move, either as part of a show of force or readiness, or both.’
“The US diplomats had an impression that ‘Georgians are deploying troops to positions in Georgian territory to the south of the Zone of Conflict [a demilitarized buffer zone].’ They were in ‘a heightened state of readiness in order to show their resolve,’ the cable alleges.” ‘US embassy knew Georgians “moved forces” to South Ossetian border – WikiLeaks‘
As I said in an earlier piece, I think Assange was more than a little naive about exactly what he could get away with and I cautioned that caution was the best strategy when it came to dealing with the Empire. After all, it’s not the editors of the Guardian and the New York Times who are sitting in jail now but Assange.
Addendum: See also the BBC’s page of cable ‘highlights’, that the BBC claims represent “key revelations” contained in the cables:
At a glance: Wikileaks cables, 9 December, 2010