Friday, December 24, 2010

Wikileaks protected?

With Sarah "Shoot Him on Sight" Palin and Joe "Single Bullet" Lieberman ranting publicly about Julian Assange and his dangerous activities, many Americans have been convinced that Assange is guilty of something, so arrest him if you can't actually assassinate him, get him to Guantanamo or Egypt or Diego Garcia and at least torture him for a bit.

The Organization of American States, on the other hand, has soberly examined this question and is offering a rapporteurs' write-up of the approach that civilized people and nations should ethically take. They did the research into human rights law, journalistic ethics, and freedom of expression and specifically condemned the US and Canadian elected officials who have been illegally, immorally, and irresponsibly calling for extrajudicial harm to Julian Assange. The OAS language is clear:
"Calls by public officials for illegitimate retributive action are not acceptable."
In the end, we all live in democracies if we understand the latent power of civil society, and we have agency to vote. We can vote these killers out of power whether we live in Ludefiskistan or the Talib caves. We vote with our purchases, we vote with our submission or our resistance, we vote with our voices and we vote with our lives. It is vastly easier when we live in a political democracy, but it is possible even the most oppressive Taliban-controlled villages. We risk far less in the US, and so our excuses for not using our far greater human agency are flimsy. Julian Assange used his powers for the common good and knew he would likely be a target. What is amazing is that the American public is so easily convinced that exposing bad conduct, criminal conduct, by our military and by our elected officials, is the problem, not the conduct itself. Sarah Palin shoots to kill; when will we notice?

We are in a fight for our democracy and we will help or hurt all other democracies as well, depending upon the way we wage this fight and upon the outcome.

Frances Moore LappĂ© (2006) begins her book, Democracy’s edge: Choosing to save our country by bringing democracy to life, this way:

“Contemporary social critics see America divided—left versus right, conservative versus liberal, religious versus secular. I disagree and even find these framings destructive. They deflect us from the most critical and perhaps the only division we have to worry about. It is that between those who believe in democracy—honest dialogue, basic fairness, mutual respect, inclusivity, and reciprocal responsibilities—and those who do not. In the latter category are those willing to put ends over means, violating these core principles in pursuit of an ultimate goal” (p. 3).

Assange is not a perfect person, but unlike Palin, Lieberman, Huckabee and other degenerates, he does not call for people to die. Instead, he releases evidence that shows murders done by our military, terrorist acts that are done in our names because our military represents each of us in a democracy.

Footage of a civilian just walking by an abandoned building on 12 July 2007 that has been targeted by the US military, and that military choosing to shoot a rocket into the building at that second, rather that humanely wait for a minute or two until the man was safely down the street, this is footage of a war crime, a crime against humanity, a crime done in the name of every US voter and taxpayer. It is part of the longer wikileaks video. The US killing civilians is nothing new at all, sadly, but callously and intentionally choosing to kill a man who just happened to be walking by when they could have waited to engage in a military strike instead of a war crime is just so blatant, so lawless, and yet Assange is the problem, right?

If we allow Assange to be the bad guy--and he never had a role in planning any of the crimes, as did Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers release, after all--we are seeing the serious erosion of our democracy. Is this our fate, our future? This is all in our hands. Each of us makes our voices heard or we are silent and give our tacit consent. Each of us pays our taxes quietly or we resist, even if only a protest publicly as we pay, since they collect it one way or another at virtual gunpoint.

While Assange is no pacifist, neither has he committed any violent act. He has stolen nothing--all Wikileaks came to him, all the whistleblowing was done by people who sought a way to blow the cover off these misdeeds. If we allow the imprisonment of them, from Manning to Assange, we lose more vitality from our disintegrating democracy. Where are we when the chips are down? It's up to us.

LappĂ©, Frances Moore (2006). Democracy’s edge: Choosing to save our country by bringing democracy to life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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