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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Manning and Assange: Modern Day Ellsberg and Woodward?

Will someone in government join Ron Paul.... RON PAUL, for crying out loud!!..... in rising up to support Assange?!?

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Whether you love him, hate him, or are ambivalent about Julian Assange, my support is growing for him, Bradley Manning, and the value of leaked information in holding our elected officials and their appointed representatives accountable to us.

The more I learn about Assange, Manning and people like them, the more they appear to me to be the modern equivalents of Bob Woodward and Daniel Ellsberg. Assange and Manning have brought varying degrees of secrets out into the open, and they are being attacked by people who are threatened by such exposure in very much the same way that Woodward and Ellsberg were attacked 40 years ago.

It makes me wonder, are our collective memories really that short? Are we really this collectively poor at knowing, understanding, and learning from history which for many of us is actual, living memory?

Here's an interview, Frost over the World - Julian Assange, of Assange by al Jazeera and offered by The Real News Network. I suspect that the vast majority of Americans will never even know this interview exists, let alone see it for themselves. I think it's well worth the 24 minutes. Assange answers questions and discusses who he is, what his organization is all about, how it operates, and what his extradition might mean.

Here are some other insightful sources of information about the man, the organization, and some of the absolutely unbelievable reactions they have generated.

Julian Assange Assails Fox News, Mike Huckabee, Palin On MSNBC (VIDEO)

Fox News' Bob Beckel Calls For 'Illegally' Killing Assange: 'A Dead Man Can't Leak Stuff' (VIDEO)

Assange lashes back at U.S. critics

So Biden is calling him a terrorist?

Fox commentators are calling for Assange's execution; even an illegal assassination or drone strikes?!?

Is this just pathetic hyperbole meant to drive ratings, or are they serious? Where's the outrage by mainstream media and citizens like us? When are criminal charges going to be filed against Huckabee, Beckel, and all the other fomenters of violence and assassination?

It appears to me that these leaks reveal a great deal about just how stupid, petty, and sinister government officials can be. In a Michael Moore interview by Rachel Maddow, Moore talks about leaked cables and Guardian articles that lie about Sicko being banned in Cuba, as well as threatening cables to New Zealand government officials about hosting a screening of Fahrenheit 911. At first these kinds of cables may seem simply to be stupid and petty. After all, such revelations certainly cannot be characterized as threatening to national security, can they?

But do they also signal something more sinister? Is this evidence of modern day McCarthyism that attempts to stifle truth and dissent?

Moore also makes the point in the interview that the Nuremberg Trials taught us that it's not an acceptable defense to simply claim that one was only following orders. It taught us that, as human beings, we have a moral obligation and responsibility to do whatever we can to stop people - and especially people in government and the military - when they create and perpetuate injustice or act criminally. I agree completely.

It's why the more I think about it the more I applaud, respect, and admire people with the courage to step forward. People like Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning if he (Manning) was, indeed, the one who leaked to Assange.

It's important to understand, too, that we still don't know with certainty if it was Manning and if he acted alone. Who knows if and when we will ever know for sure? He's reportedly being held in solitary confinement in a military prison.

We seem to be living in an age and in a so-called democracy where "extraordinary rendition" has not only become acceptable, it's policy. We now live in a democracy where habeas corpus has been indefinitely suspended for anyone our government decides to classify as a so-called enemy combatant. Even sadder, none of this has changed even with elections that changed the Presidency and at least for a little while, Congress. Guantanamo remains open for business, and we have no idea how many people are being held in other places.

Maybe if we're lucky more light will be shed on these issues from among the 250,000 documents recently released.

If it was Manning, then I consider him to be a hero. He is, in my opinion, a modern day Daniel Ellsberg, and Assange is equivalent to Bob Woodward.

It's why I'm finding myself more and more a supporter of Assange and WikiLeaks. It's why I thought sharing interviews of the man himself was worth doing. Let him speak. Let him tell his side with his own voice.

WikiLeaks as I see it isn't about Moore's movies or Qadhafi's nurse or the no-surprise-at-all embarrassment of diplomats saying one thing publicly and then mocking their hosts privately. It's about having the courage to speak truth to power and to shining the bright light of truth in places and on people who work for and represent us. It's about videos of helicopters firing on civilians and holding people accountable for such atrocities.

And now it's about the fear-mongering and not-so-borderline incitements to criminal actions by some in the media and in government.

It's also about the lessons we should have learned from Nazi Germany and the Nuremberg trials.

Lesson 1: Elected officials work for us, not the other way around, and they are a reflection of who we are and what we value.
Much to my chagrin, most of these last 10 years and even the last 2 years have been terribly disappointing. We and our elected officials are even meaner, more hateful, more fearful, and more xenophobic than I ever thought possible. Worse, we seem to revel in being intentionally ignorant and proudly stupid, and that's all a manipulative and malevolent ruling class needs to get away with whatever they like.

Lesson 2: The end never justifies the means.
That's true even in a dangerous world where 18 unassuming, middle class Saudis and one Egyptian can commit a heinous crime - not an act of war by a sovereign nation, but a terrible crime. We allowed ourselves to be duped by the lies of the Bush administration and plunged into a constant state of panic, fear and hatred. We seem nowadays to be eager to give our fears and our hatreds full throat. What other explanation can there be when so-called news outlets like Fox hire "pundits" who are intellectual midgets and political neophytes like Palin? We have empowered the already-powerful with all the excuse they need to keep telling us lies we want to hear about what is required to achieve security; launching and sustaining us on an amoral, illegal and dangerous military campaign of empire expansion throughout the Islamic world that will only serve to ensure the next 2 or 3 generations of terrorists intent on leaving their middle class lives and Hamburg apartments to do us harm.

Lesson 3: Simply following orders is not a defense
Sometimes being patriotic means resisting the will of government and the majority. It is our responsibility, whether we are in uniform or civilians, to hold those in power accountable. It seems reasonable that that will entail revealing information that the powerful would rather not be made public. It also includes holding former presidents accountable who not only lie to us about the reasons for invading other countries but who have spoken out publicly and in print about condoning and approving torture. I wonder if we will ever see justice done for those crimes, and if we will ever collectively understand how much more egregious state-sanctioned torture is compared with leaked diplomatic cables?

Without the Ellsbergs, Woodwards, Mannings, and Assanges of the world, how can we ever expect the people we put into power to ever feel they need to worry about being held to account for their decisions and their actions?


"For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic."
John F. Kennedy, Yale Commencement address, 1962

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