THE CAMPAIGN to shut down WikiLeaks and discredit Julian Assange reached fever pitch with the latest release of US diplomatic cables. Though Assange has been released on bail, he still faces the threat of extradition to the US.
US politicians have lobbied their friends in corporate America (Amazon, Apple, Bank of America, MasterCard, and so on) to cut ties with the WikiLeaks web site and the US Vice-President Joe Biden has condemned Assange as a “high tech terrorist”. As Solidarity goes to press, the US is desperately trying to find a way to charge him under the 1917 Espionage Act.
Julia Gillard joined the frenzy, even asking the Australian Federal Police to find out if Assange had broken any Australian laws after she proclaimed him “guilty of illegality” (as it turns out, he hasn’t).
There is concern that his extradition to Sweden for questioning over sexual assault charges will be used as a way for the US to get its hands on him.
Some US politicians have even gone so far as to demand Assange be assassinated, and not just far right loonies like Sarah Palin.
A former advisor to the US Democrats, Bob Beckel said: “We’ve got special ops forces. I mean, a dead man can’t leak stuff… there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”
World leaders are in a rage because the leaks reveal the brutal reality about the way they run the world and the lies they tell to conceal it. From dealings with corrupt Arab dictators, to war crimes and corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the US bribing other nations to accept the useless Copenhagen Accord, the leaks show the ugly reality of the United States’ efforts to control the globe in its economic and political interests—and the Australian government’s self-interested support for it.
The lies exposed by the leaks reveal the utter contempt with which world leaders regard the vast majority of the world’s population. The politicians we elect to “represent” us are guilty of systematically distorting the truth to protect their own interests and the interests of the rich and powerful they serve—and now that their ability to do so is under threat, they are using every means at their disposal to demonise WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.
Their reaction shows that the so-called Western values of free speech and democracy mean nothing to them.
Private Bradley Manning, the US soldier charged with leaking documents to WikiLeaks is presently in solitary confinement and facing 52 years in prison for exposing information about the workings of US imperialism.
The WikiLeaks cables and the subsequent crackdown have connected with a broader feeling of distrust and disillusionment with political leaders. A survey conducted in December found that 59 per cent of Australians support WikiLeaks and 63 per cent oppose any prosecution of Assange for releasing the documents.
Information and action
But we need more than information to really, as Assange hopes, “change the relationship between governments and citizens”.
WikiLeaks’ deal with major corporate news outlets has allowed those agencies to pick and choose the headlines and have given the rich and powerful plenty of time and space to spin their side of the story.
Assange has said he believes many of the outlets are not publishing files related to Israel, no doubt because they are worried about offending the US client state in the Middle East.
The New York Times has sometimes even notified the White House of what they were going to publish, giving them extra time to prepare their gloss. Some of the most interesting information (see p10) does not get the attention it deserves.
The WikiLeaks mission to make the world a more transparent, democratic place has not been realised simply by the release of information. So far only one US diplomat has faced any sanction. Hillary Clinton is not on trial for spying on the United Nations, and Obama is no less committed to the war in Afghanistan, sending another 1400 troops there this month.
To force real change we need to build ongoing campaigns and a movement on the streets that our rulers will find it impossible to ignore.
The immediate task is defending Julian Assange from extradition. This has already mobilised thousands across Australia and can continue to do so. The protests are an important way to mobilise the sentiment of support for WikiLeaks, and to send a message to Julia Gillard that we won’t accept her lining up to attack Assange.
But we also need a broader fight against a system run by a privileged few who care nothing for democracy and will hurl millions into the hell of war. That is the reality of the world order that WikiLeaks has shown us.