Le Québécois Libre, December 15, 2010, No 284.
What damages US foreign policy more than leaked documents? The reaction of prominent Americans to leaked documents. The WikiLeaks trove of over 250,000 US diplomatic cables―which are being published at a trickle and whose publication will continue over the course of the next several months―contains embarrassing revelations, to be sure. Some of these revelations―such as US authorities' attempt to force the German government to cover up the kidnapping and torture of an innocent German citizen by American intelligence agents, or the use of US forces to kill 200 innocent civilians in a bomb attack in Yemen―are evidence of outright criminality on the part of the US federal government. US foreign policy has even facilitated violent pedophilia, as shown in documents describing how the security contractor DynCorp employed by the US government helped fuel the heinous Afghan practice of “bacha bazi” by supplying child sex-slaves to Afghan police.
Have the US government or its neoconservative apologists in the media and in think tanks denounced these criminal acts? Have they promised that such acts will never occur again and that their perpetrators will be brought to justice? Have they even so much as offered an apology for the tens of thousands of lives ruined via the murder, rape, torture, detention, espionage, and betrayal which were facilitated, directly or indirectly, by US foreign policy―waged by both the Bush and Obama administrations―in the last decade? No. Instead, the rarely cohesive American political establishment has come together on one position: that WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange are terrorists, traitors, spies, and enemies of America. This reaction is one of brazen, cavalier evil, and in the eyes of any reasonable person should utterly and permanently discredit the neoconservative Right and the establishment American Left alike.
Ludicrous allegations―comparable to the rhetoric of any totalitarian tyranny that attempts to insulate its subjects from the remotest semblance of truth or justice―have been spouted by the likes of Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Newt Gingrich, Peter King, Bill Kristol, Joseph Lieberman, Mitch McConnell, Bill O'Reilly, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Charles Schumer, Marc Thiessen, and Christian Whiton, to name just a few. The attacks have ranged from the empirically unwarranted assertion that the WikiLeaks releases endanger the lives of informants and innocent civilians―to date not one person has been harmed―to calls to outright assassinate Julian Assange and to “hunt down” WikiLeaks volunteers as if they were Al Qaeda. A shocking number of the American political elites have responded to revelations of criminality in US foreign policy by committing further criminal incitements to violence. The latest diplomatic embarrassments have laid bare the moral imperative of changing the way the US government conducts itself abroad, but rather than embrace the moral path, American political leaders and their media yes-men prefer to shred the First Amendment and the rights of due process and, moreover, to continue their reckless infringements of the rights of persons over whom they have no legitimate jurisdiction.
The most elementary reasoning shows that Assange cannot be a traitor to the US: he is not a citizen of the US government, and the US Constitution in Section 3 clearly defines treason as consisting only of “levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Assange is not a violent man and certainly does not wage war by any sane definition of that word (which must, at the very least, involve armies and killing). Nor has he aided any terrorist organization or “rogue regime” with which the United States can be said to have even an undeclared war. Nor can Assange be a spy, since a spy must have a national government that he is spying for. Nor can anyone associated with WikiLeaks be considered a terrorist without utterly stripping the concept of terrorism of all meaning and equating it with whatever the powers that be find inconvenient or objectionable. If the WikiLeaks volunteers are terrorists, then you, too, could be labeled a terrorist at any time, at the pleasure of the American political establishment.
Some neoconservative American pundits―the same ones whose rhetoric fueled the deceptions surrounding the American occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan―have compounded the criminality of US foreign policy by even calling for the assassination of Julian Assange and for treating as terrorists anyone who has even donated to WikiLeaks. Incitement to murder a peaceful civilian―without even a semblance of due process―is usually considered a crime, and those who have made such incitements should be tried as criminals. US government officials have not themselves openly advocated blatantly illegal actions like assassination, though they have come close by urging that Assange be treated as a terrorist or an enemy combatant. Yet, even their more subdued efforts to extradite Assange to the United States, despite admittedly having a hard time charging him with violations of any law, are frightening, as they turn to pulp anything that remains of the US Constitution. Numerous prominent American political figures have suggested that, if Assange cannot be found guilty under any existing law, then the Congress should simply pass a new law under which he and WikiLeaks would be defined as guilty. The so-called “SHIELD” bill introduced by Rep. Peter King, the forthcoming Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in the House of Representatives, is a bill of attainder―a law specifically targeting a person or group of people with the intent of declaring them guilty of crimes. Bills of attainder are expressly outlawed in the Constitution under Article I, Section 9.
Valid arguments have been made that WikiLeaks has not itself leaked confidential information from the US government. Rather, WikiLeaks has merely published information that was leaked to it by informants within the US government. Moreover, WikiLeaks has been publishing this information in tandem with major established newspapers, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, El País, Le Monde, and Der Spiegel. If WikiLeaks is guilty of anything at all, let alone terrorism, then so are these newspapers. Indeed, the enemies of WikiLeaks have begun to recognize this and, consistently with their totalitarian predilections, have begun calling for the persecution of these newspapers as well. Joseph Lieberman's public suggestion to “investigate” The New York Times is a prominent case in point. Lieberman, if he got his wish, will have sounded the death knell of freedom of the press and freedom of speech in the United States. Thenceforth, Americans will only be able to safely say and publish that which does not embarrass the US government or stand in the way of its policy objectives. That is a freedom that few tyrannies in human history have seen it necessary to deny their subjects.
The reaction of American elites to the WikiLeaks releases has confirmed and reinforced the malfeasance that the releases exposed. It is not WikiLeaks that has “blood on its hands”―as certain Pentagon officials would have us believe―but rather the American global hegemony, with its military, political, and pundit wings each being culpable in the broad spectrum of atrocities which were committed under the assumption that they would be concealed from the sunlight of transparency.
Of course, the reaction to the leaks also showed us where true integrity might be found in American politics. The defenders of freedom turn out to be a diverse assortment―from Ron Paul to Dennis Kucinich and Noam Chomsky. Libertarians, but not of the “Tea Party” variety, have generally been supportive of WikiLeaks, as could be expected. But I also do not hesitate to praise the so-called far Left―as opposed to the despicable establishment Left―for its generally admirable response. For instance, left-liberal feminists such as Naomi Klein and Naomi Wolf showed remarkable courage in publicly criticizing the trumped-up “rape” allegations with which Swedish authorities have (non)charged Assange and for which they desire his extradition from the United Kingdom. With regard to the prominent figures of the non-libertarian American Right, I am―quite unexpectedly―most impressed with the conduct of Glenn Beck, who, despite his stated personal dislike of Assange, devoted segments of his show to exposing the laughable nature of the Swedish extradition fiasco. Beck has even pointed out the important lessons of the recent releases: that the US government is and has been lying to its own citizens, and that a major information revolution is underway that promises to bring great benefits for liberty if it is not suppressed by power-hungry politicians. The WikiLeaks releases have been remarkably effective in showing us the true colors of some of America's most famous political and media figures. Those who have resisted the rabid calls to hunt down Julian Assange have earned much respect in my mind, and a serious hearing for their ideas, in areas where they could reinforce the causes of individual rights, free markets, peace, and human progress.
Internationally, the reaction to the WikiLeaks releases is gradually turning in favor of transparency and freedom of the press. In a stunning reversal of Cold War ideological alignments, Russian leaders have called for Assange to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and a plaque in his honor has been unveiled in Mexico. Alvaro Garcia Linera, the Vice-President of Bolivia, has published the WikiLeaks cables on his website, and Brazilian President Lula da Silva has publicly spoken out in support of WikiLeaks and Assange. US foreign policy is losing in the eyes of history, to the extent that even US government officials are openly admitting that US global power has been declining. This is for the best: nothing has been quite so un-American as the violent and perverse abuses committed in the name of America abroad and the devastating toll on liberty and prosperity inflicted by accompanying policies at home.
* Gennady Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist and philosophical essayist, and is Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator. He lives in Carson City, Nevada.