Tag Archives: Assange

WikiStuff Revisited… Again.

San Diego – I’ll be so glad when this episode is behind us and we can get back to Christmas and PHOTOGRAPHY and even photo education — which is what I expected this page to be mostly about.  But there is a continuing issue that to me is most unsettling about the whole WikiLeaks drama.  First, let me reiterate my basic feelings about the events:   I think the young soldier who is accused of collecting and distributing the material and documents to Assange, if convicted, is clearly guilty of a litany of crimes ranging from military dereliction of duty all the way to treason.  He is not a hero, not a whistle blower, not a Daniel Ellsberg, but a person who violated his oath, his general and special orders, and performed acts designed to aid and abet ANY enemy of this country.

Assange, who received the stuff from an insider is a bit more problematic.  There is no allegation he solicited it only that having received it he disseminated it.  Although, as I wrote earlier I think that has made, at least in the short term, the geopolitical world of secrets and diplomacy a much less stable place and therefore far more dangerous, I’m not sure the facts, as they have become public, really paint a picture of a spy, someone engaged in high stakes espionage, or rather simply an ideological idiot which is not, unfortunately, a crime.  I’d still get out the tar and feathers mentioned in my first note on this but that is largely to have him serve as an object lesson on the all too seldomly applied results of stupidity.

So I think and wrote (below) that the release of that information in such an indiscriminate manner was a dangerous thing for the world and for us.  I already wrote too that perhaps some good might come of it if we actually read it; and why not, now that it is available to everyone: it is important to know what our enemies know and willful ignorance never makes us safer or smarter or better?   We should use it as a springboard and engage in a dialogue about how can we, as a country, move toward the ethical high ground we espouse and upon which we were founded without making us easy targets to the real bad guys out there.  That would indeed be a good thing.

But meantime something, if we truly DO want that ethical high ground to return, is occurring that we need to decry and call for its ending, and that is the pre-trial treatment of the young soldier, Pvt Bradley Manning.  Oh spare me the retort that “But he is a traitor and deserves no less than drawing and quartering!”  First of all, he is a traitor when and only when he is adjudicated to be one.  At this point he stands accused of… releasing secret documents.  Not a good thing, to be sure but under our system he is merely the accused and not the convicted.  Lynch-mob mentality is something we say we abhor but it is certainly in action here.  But in the meantime, he is in the Quantico brig in solitary confinement and has been confined to 23 hrs a day in the next best thing to sensory deprivation for 7 months (2 months in Kuwait and 5 months in Quantico).  Our own court rulings in a number of cases have stated clearly that confinement in extreme isolation over extended period is a form of torture.  He is now on medications for depression to keep him marginally sane from the treatment.  Does that not give some message about it?

If in fact he is convicted of treason I have not problem with any sentence including a death sentence.  Treason is, in my book, a very big deal.  But until he is convicted, our Constitution and our traditional values abhor the kind of treatment that is meted out to political prisoners by the tin hat dictators and to dissidents by autocratic and all powerful regimes we say we hate.  I believe down to my toes that he was misguided and ideologically naive and in that blinded ideological state may have committed crimes up to and including treason  for which, I think, if convicted, he deserves punishment.  But in the meantime, if we the citizens, the voters of our country, have allowed our government to become so internally powerful (which is what it now clearly desires) that it is allowed to treat those who disagree with it and its policies like this without a fair trial or tribunal then we are no better than the hated regimes of dictators we demonize.

Don’t misunderstand me, I do not believe for a moment that WikiLeaks is an exercise of “Free Speech.”  Had Manning or Assange gone public and declared they had certain knowledge of ugly things and how countries around the world including ours were trampling on the rights of other people and lying about reality to serve their ends, THAT would have been free speech.  Had they written a book quoting salient passages but expurgating sections that put lives and diplomatic initiatives at stake, that would have been responsible free speech.  But not this.  If in fact Manning did as accused he is at least a criminal of the same stature as the Walker family of a few years ago; perhaps worse.  They gave up secrets to the Soviets while Manning, if the allegations are borne out, in effect gave them to everyone who might wish us harm.  Sorry, that is treason.  But it is ONLY treason when the court or tribunal says it is.   And until that time, putting him in military grade solitary confinement is a cruel and extreme punishment for crimes for which he is not yet convicted and in this country, under our values — or at least the ones we claim to hold dear — that is not acceptable.

What you can do to one, you can do to anyone.

Perhaps the argument is that it is intended to protect him from other military prisoners who would happily kill him.  But if in the greatest nation on earth we cannot find a means to confine him safely yet avoid the horrors of his type of solitary confinement reflective of the mother of all solitary confinement regimens perfected at the Supermax prison in Colorado for prisoners who were simply over the top violent and not for those considered, as Manning is, to be a model prisoner, then we need to simply admit the truth of it.  Or admit we simply want to get a jump start on the execution we expect to flow from a stacked deck in court and be done with it.

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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Wiki Brain Mush

San Diego – I so dearly wanted to stay out of this whole idiotic discussion but on my infantile Facebook account many who ought to know better are acting as if the so-called “Wiki Leaks” is a good thing because it exposes the bad guys which, for them, means us.  There are so many levels of inanity in that position it is hard to know where to start since all are interrelated and operational at once.  In a number of past posts I’ve offered my opinion as to why, despite our national forays into ill conceived and sometimes hypocritical if not downright stupid foreign and domestic realms, I believe we are still the last bastion of real freedom on this planet.  Of course real freedom, as I noted in the Thanksgiving Day post, brings with it the Freedom to Fail and pay the consequences for bad choices and stupid behaviors.  That is something those who believe in the communalistic approaches of most socialist/liberal based political theories finds abhorrent.  They believe, rather, that the people willing to work and who have trained and educated themselves so that they can, actually owe a large portion of the fruits of their labor to support those who won’t.  And since they do not believe in right and wrong they believe choices should be available with no consequences.

I could not possibly disagree more.  But that issue has been addressed a number of times in past posts.  I revisit it here only to posit that those who believe that way also believe that a capitalist, mercantile system such as ours is inherently unfair since it does not naturally support those who won’t work, and that it is, unfortunately in their eyes, so entrenched in our culture that the only way to stop it and start with a new course correction is to destroy it or render it so ineffective it collapses under it own weight… sort of like every single socialist experiment from small to national scales has done wherever it was tried.  Those needed no help in collapsing because they were built on nice sounding but fallacious theories of human nature.  Capitalism has worked, sometimes in spite of itself, because it accepts humans as they really are: acquisitive, inquisitive, territorial and predatory creatures; and capitalism creates a system that, for the most part, messy as it is keeps those predatory tendencies in just enough check to keep us from killing each other wholesale while allowing us to use those tendencies to grow and prosper based on our own individual initiative and efforts.  But it all seems so cosmically unfair to those of a victim and entitled mentality who feel they should be taken care of just because they are alive that they truly believe it needs to be changed for their benefit and to the detriment of those awful people who actually are productive and have the selfish nerve to want to keep the results of their productivity as their own.  So where would the targets of such an attack be found?

The country and its structure has had two bulwarks of protection that defended and maintained the system.  The first one was our strong economy and the second was our strength in a geo-political sense.  In the last decade  we have seen the economic structure under  such fierce assault it is now wavering and in places like California, and for the same reasons, it is facing collapse.  At first it was simply misguided policies but now, I believe, it is purposeful policies that are designed and serving to bring it down so that after its collapse and the horror to follow, a new order can be created  better fitting the socio-liberal philosophy.  We have to give credit where it is due.  Thanks to the somnambulistic tendencies of the American voter it is working pretty well.  They bestirred themselves a little in the last election but that was such an unusual event the politicians whose policies they clearly voted against are pretty much ignoring it.   We will have to wait a couple of years to see if the voters simply congratulated themselves and then went back to sleep or whether they will express irritation toward those who refused to get the message.

On the geopolitical side of the equation with so many players, each with their own needs and agendas, the status of being allies and foes of each other are a dynamic of constant movement as regimes, resources, needs, economies, and power fluctuates.  But what holds and has held it all together from erupting into a nuclear nightmare or even a return to massive international conflict have been two things: the first was the consolidation of primary power into the hands of two sources that in the 20th century turned out to be the Americans and the Soviets who, though antagonistic and competitive, had a mutual interest in survival.

Each of us used our allies as puppets and surrogates to foment unrest but each also held them in check should they seem to be getting so out of hand that it might actually lead back into international conflict.  The fall of the Soviet Union (when like all socialist states they finally ran out of other people’s money) ushered in an incredibly dangerous time of smaller rogue states and stateless groups that were not held in check by anyone.  Now Russia is re-asserting itself and again assuming a powerful role.  China too is generating a vast amount of international influence.  Two totalitarian socialist/communalist regimes against the one capitalist democracy.  A rough balance again.  But that balance gives us importance and power that is counter productive to those who want our system brought down and replaced with one that far better reflects those Marxist ideals of social justice which worked great in the book but failed utterly in practice.

What does this have to do with Wikileaks…a great deal.  The second thing that allowed these countries and power sources to maintain the status quo was diplomacy in which they were each free to meet and talk in private while giving public pronouncements designed not for truth but placation of their opponents and their constituents.  Back in private amongst themselves and between them and their sovereigns  it was essential for diplomats to be able to reveal the unvarnished, often ugly truth about each other and sometimes about themselves.  This is hardly a new concept: even the old “divine right” monarchs had a court jester who was the only one who could speak the truth because regardless of ego and intrigue, to rule successfully you had to know the reality of the world.

In our time, that diplomatic exchange in which representatives of various countries feel comfortable speaking the truth to each other because they know it is privileged and will never become public data, has been the mortar that held the stones of security for us all in place.  In public we told our own people and each other what we deemed was necessary to maintain security but in private discussions were (as we now know) brutally frank and communiques rarely flinched at calling things as the writer really saw them even though they would never say such slanderous things in public.  We could, int he dark, wrangle about things, get down in the dirt of secret deals and unseemly intrigues and black ops to give and take behind the scenes and thereby avoid disaster because nobody lost face in public and felt compelled to get stupid out of some sense of personal or national pride… because it was all secret.

But once a country’s ability to keep those exchanges out of the public eye is lost then mutual willingness to talk frankly evaporates and with it that mortar starts to crumble.  Powerful militaries help to keep major nations in check but the hope is that they are never going to be needed in all of their power because of the hoped for success on the diplomatic secret front.  Thank about it: we have the weaponry to turn Iraq, Afghanistan, actually nearly any place into a glowing field of glass but we have not done it.  When the Soviets were strong mutually assured destruction stayed both of our hands.  But if we had turned any of the worrisome middle east countries into a single smoking crater, which was certainly within the power of our arsenal, there was no power at the time who could have retaliated.   But we did not do it because it is not who we are and thanks to some secret activities was not necessary to achieve our goals.  The Jihadists, by contrast, would do it to us in a heart beat if the situation was reversed and they had the ability, but they are small minded, narrow viewed, sophomoric savages living in the 7th century with no clue of what that would do, thanks to the ripple effect, to their own areas because they are not part of such diplomatic activities.  For example, under the table we provide support second only to the Saudis to the Palestinians, half of the world that holds us in disdain are kept afloat only through our largesse, we have forgiven enough foreign debt to us that would it be repaid now in today’s dollars would nearly wipe out our own growing deficit.  And all of that tangled web that keeps us mutually dependent on each other sometimes in direct contradiction of public pronouncements that, if true would lead to conflict quickly, works for one simple if ugly reason… secrecy.

The only people who ought to be happy about the Wiki Leaks are those who want to see this country fail because that is a powerful hit against the other leg of our national power.  The administration and left  are assaulting the economic leg and now this is assaulting the diplomatic one.  If they both succeed then there is nothing left to prop us up and those who wish our destruction will succeed and discover, perhaps to their surprise and certainly to their horror that they have killed the golden goose that was all that, behind the scenes and in secret, kept their precious mud hut, third world, failed places afloat.  We didn’t hold them back as they think; they held themselves back with failed policies.  Think about it — heretical an idea as that is…  We are a country of  merchants, we want to do business with those other places so we can make money off of them, maybe even cheat them a little, and that cannot happen when they are incapable of doing business.  It is against our interests for them to fail and in line with those interests for them to succeed.  There is nothing to cheat from a place with nothing to give.

So get a grip and realize the incredible danger in which this whole Wiki Leaks event has placed not just on us, who you hate, but on the entire world.  If you think the resulting aftermath of our collapse will see a world where you entitled victims will have a good deal, you are terminally naive and equally ignorant of history.  It has normally been merely sadly amusing to watch my colleagues and students in academia, support the notion that we are the world’s bad guy and hear them sing in a nearly single voice songs from the hymnal of the evangelical church of secular liberalism written by saints in their liturgy from Godwin to Marx to Mao.  But this time it is no longer just laughable because it poses a danger to us as well as stability in the world.  It is time to pull back the curtain and remind everyone that in the modern history of radical and violent overthrows of society, from Lenin and Stalin, to Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, to Mao and Castro,  there is to be found a common thread.   It takes a brainless mob to do the dirty bloody work but that mob needs catalysts.  And those catalysts have consistently been the denizons of academia: students and professors who thought their annointed one would lead them out of the corrupt governments they abhorred into one of cosmic enlightenment and social justice but who squealed like stuck pigs when they were case alive onto the barbeque grills of the totalitarian regimes they helped bring into power.   That sordid history perfectly reflects Arthur C. Clarke’s (author of “2001, A Space Odyssey”) description of them as people whose “education has surpassed their intellects.”

To those who want to bring down America, the likes of Julian Assange of  WikiLeaks are heroes.  To those who would rather see us solve our problems and be around long enough to grow into the place we feel we can be and what the founders actually gave us to start with, he has undertaken one of the great acts of international espionage and done it with clear and expressed malice towards us.  I thin,k rather, he is just another idiot ideologue with the mental maturity of a high school sophomore playing a locker room prank with a hidden camera and microphones and then publishing the photos and audio to Facebook while arguing that the camera and mike don’t lie and we all have a right to know.  If it was you caught unaware on camera in the shower telling your most personal secrets would you think all of your so-called “friends” on the social network would have a right to play the tape?

But this prank could be more than embarrassing, it could become a country killer or at least a people killer.  I don’t see anything heroic about that.  Assange hides behind and throws quotes about free speech back in our face like a steel gauntlet as if he had a clue what that Right was really all about or as if he was operating out of some higher purpose.  Nonsense.  No spy activity in history has done so much potential damage to us on the world stage with both friends and not-such-great -friends alike.   And I believe that is how he should be treated and disposed of as a very public object lesson to tell the now wavering diplomatic community that though this one got by us we will do whatever it takes to safeguard any future diplomacy and dialogues.

If someone will light the fire under the tar pot I’ll go get the feathers…  And I will get enough for the willing “useful idiots,” as Lenin referred to them, whose own ideology allows, much less encourages, them to see him and his actions as in any way positive.

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Posted by on December 9, 2010 in Uncategorized


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