Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Most Dangerous Man Not in America

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein.)

If you were to ask Rush Limbaugh in between trips to the hubs of the child sex slave trade, he'd stubbornly insist it was Daniel Ellsberg. Then again, Limbaugh is a latter day Republican who still probably harbors a grudge about the Teapot Dome Scandal and, if Eisenhower was still President, he'd be calling for his impeachment for being a radical, anarchic Socialist for taxing the richest 1% up to 90% of their income.

But, as usual, el Rushbo fails to see the bigger picture and insists that Wikileaks founder and head Julian Assange, this decade's answer to Dr. Richard Kimble, is a traitor on a par with Ellberg.

Let's get a few things straight, starting with waving away the superficial similarities:

As with Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in the latter half of June 1971, Julian Assange made Wikileak's most massive disclosures a year and a half into the Obama administration. The first of these Four Horsemen were the videos of gunship troops killing over a dozen Iraqi civilians, two of them Reuters photojournalists, in 2007. The second was the hardly stunning revelation through 75,000 documents pertaining to Afghanistan that not all is going well there. Hot on its heels was Wikileaks' biggest disclosure yet: The release of nearly 500,000 documents pertaining mostly to Iraq that read like a massive police blotter going back to the invasion in 2003.

Then just after Thanksgiving, the State Dept's internal memos and cables, some of them going back to the Johnson administration, were released, making Secretary of State Hillary Clinton grab her phone to apologize to foreign governments for all the nasty things she and her underlings had said amongst themselves about them. In other words, it revealed that the State Dept. was filled with little Richard Armitages, petty gossips who apparently forgot their cables and internal memos are now part of the digital age.

It's almost like the Dreyfus Affair all over again, only real and multiplied by 251,000.

The Obama administration, because it's still a new one, can hardly be held as accountable as the eight year-long Bush administration for the embarrassing and outrageous disclosures that, just as embarrassingly, were brought to us courtesy of a fresh-faced Pfc. barely out of high school and who used little more than a memory stick and a Lady Gaga CD.

As with the Pentagon Papers and the two year-old Nixon administration, the latest Wikileaks furor and the two year-old Obama administration is outraged not because it's being blamed for originating the abuses and lies spoon-fed to the media, the US public and even foreign governments but for perpetuating those self-destructive policies.

But let's be clear about the even bigger differences: The mainstream media have not divulged the secrets of the government and one nowadays can hardly imagine it showing the same intestinal fortitude of its ancestors that had holed up for weeks in hotel rooms while dedicated reporters hammered out millions of words and braved the DOJ's barking.

Wikileaks, an online entity answerable to no one, did it from the safety of their anonymity and seemingly impenetrable firewall. This time, the press is spreading the news not as actual, crusading journalists but passive spectators. In fact, it could be said the passivity of the US press, especially during wars, since Watergate is the very reason for Wikileaks' existence.

Daniel Ellsberg was a hero, an insider who was a policy analyst for the Pentagon and the Rand Corporation in California who was genuinely tortured by his conscience and felt, rightly, responsible for helping to create the bloody juggernaut that was the Vietnam War. Julian Assange is an egomaniacal little martinet living safely beyond the grasp of a vengeful government that isn't even his by birth who doesn't possess one shred or molecule of the moral currency still wielded by Ellsberg, a man who never fled the country and was quite willing to go to prison.

Ellsberg was motivated by a conscience as tortured as an Iraqi detainee. Assange's motives for embarrassing the US government? No one really knows aside from perhaps an abstract sense of outrage. Or maybe Assange and Wikileaks are merely the Nexus phase of gossip, an indelible reminder that we live in the most Gotcha Age of all time, the Alan Funt of Uncle Sam.

It's still unclear whether or not Assange authorized the leak of any classified material. In Ellsberg's case, it was undeniable (Ellsberg even had his children helping him Xerox classified documents at Rand, even cutting off the "Top Secret" from the tops.). But one thing is clear:

It will set our diplomatic credibility back to the Stone Age, which is to say back to the Bush years, a time in which the Bush Doctrine boiled down to, Agree With Us or We'll Either Blow You to Smithereens or Ignore You Until You Agree With Us. It'll make it that much harder for foreign governments to trust us and work with us and will all but wash away whatever few inroads President Obama had made to repair our international standing.

But to accuse Assange of being a traitor is ridiculous since, unlike Ellsberg, he's not a US citizen.

Assange seems to have a problem with the United States in particular and, to a lesser degree, governments that keep secrets, which is to say all of them. It would be easy to look at these four highly publicized disclosures as the World against Julian Assange but the fact is the latest batch of disclosures shows it's Uncle Sam against the World, with a greasy thumb perpetually at the tip of his nose.


  1. We are appealing to President Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela to extend asylum to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. We are also requesting safe facilities for these people to continue their work.

    Chris Herz

  2. Julian Assange's alleged personality flaws and speculation over his motivation for creating WikiLeaks is not relevant. What is relevant is the fact that he is risking his life to reveal secret information that will allow people to examine millions of documents and hold the U.S., as well as other countries, and soon a major U.S. bank, accountable for their actions.

    Assange is a hero and deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Kevin Schmidt

  3. Sorry, Kevin, I vehemently disagree. Assange is just a glorified gossip and the transparency that he's forcing into existence is merely secondary. What his primary motivation is for doing this is anyone's guess but he had neither the moral credibility nor currency nor even the nationality to qualify as a hero.

    Ellsberg's a hero. Assange is a mere pretender and outsider who, unlike Ellsberg, hasn't a vested interest in US transparency any more than he has one for being imprisoned. Motivation has virtually EVERYTHING to do with credibility.


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