What we can learn from the Wikileaks situation

“The people at Wikileaks could have blood on their hands,” Senator Lindsey Graham said Nov. 28 in response to the whistleblower organization’s most recent publications of previously classified State Department documents. “I don’t know what the cables may say, but we’re at war. The world is getting dangerous by the day. People who do this are low on the food chain as far as I’m concerned. If you can prosecute them, let’s try.”

I was amused, though not surprised, to see these words coming from a person who does have blood on his hands. However, Sen. Graham’s response to the most recent actions of Wikileaks sum up the United States government’s general demeanor towards whistle blowing in general – “How dare you reveal the things we have done.” Americans can learn a lot about our government simply from observing its response to an organization like Wikileaks. Let’s consider just three of the dozens of such lessons.

There is no anti-war political party in Washington

The entire point of Wikileaks’ revelations about American foreign policy has been to demonstrate that there is a massive divide between what the United States government claims to be doing around the world and what it actually does. And, despite the thousands upon thousands of documents that have revealed substantial war crimes, abuses of power, and despicable acts that establish a pattern going far beyond a few isolated incidents, not a single major politician in Washington has stated that the incidents being revealed need to be investigated. Instead, Wikileaks is attacked for daring to reveal what the United States government deemed that its people did not need to know.

The Democrats, who many have traditionally fancied to be anti-war, have revealed their true colors in responding to Wikileaks. Hillary Clinton called the leaks “enormously embarrassing,” not because of their contents, but because of Wikileaks’ capabilities. Barack Obama, the bastion of hope, ironically stated that the leaks are counter to his goal of open and accountable government. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill said that those leaking the documents “need to do a gut check about their patriotism,” a line that could have been taken straight out of a cheesy 1960’s movie set in the Soviet Union.

Essentially, the lesson comes not from examining what government official have said, but rather what they have not said – that war crimes and mass murders, even if revealed via illegal means, should always be investigated if the United States is to truly claim to be the “land of the free.”

President Obama has changed nothing about our foreign policy

In 2002, President Obama claimed that he was opposed to what he called “a dumb war” or “a rash war.” It is difficult for me to find a dumber or rasher war in military history than our current wars in the Middle East. And yet, Barack Obama has done nothing other than extend the empty rhetoric characterizing his domestic policy to his foreign policy.

Were George W. Bush president at this moment, I cannot imagine that his reaction to Wikileaks would be in the least different from his successor’s. This is partially because the same military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about in 1961 has largely controlled them both. Sadly, the problem of the profit motive running our military has only gotten worse since Eisenhower’s farewell address, and with the exception of a select few, no one in Washington, Republican or Democrat, has stepped up to deal with it, President Obama included.

Government officials like Lindsey Graham do not have half the courage of people like Julian Assange

One of the most powerful governments in the history of the world is seeking retribution against Julian Assange, and has openly been doing so for some time. And yet, this man continues to do exactly what he has been doing for the past several years – simply revealing the truth. Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham and others like him sit behind desks in Washington pushing for preliminary military strikes to be carried out by other people’s children. Granted, Graham did serve in the military, but almost entirely in the role of an attorney. However, even had he seen combat (all my research has indicated he did not, though I could be mistaken), this would still not make it in any way admirable for him to be recklessly pushing for wars on nearly every front, always to be fought by others.

I completely understand the cognitive dissonance that pervades the thought of supporters of our current wars, and the idea coming from many such people that those who oppose our foreign policy are either “spineless” or “idealists.”  Still, I would say in response that I have rarely in my life seen someone act with as much courage and fortitude as Julian Assange has, in the face of more opposition and hatred than almost anyone in recent history.

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