december 12, 2010 at 6:36 am 6 reacties


The Lynch-Mob Moment

Door Tom Hayden

We know that conservatives are extremists for order, but why have so many liberals lost their minds and joined the frenzy over Julian Assange and WikiLeaks? As the secrets of power are unmasked, there is a growing bipartisan demand that Julian Assange must die.

Today once-liberal Democrat Bob Beckel said on FOX that someone should  “illegally shoot the son-of-a-bitch.” A few days ago center-liberal legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN that Assange is “absurd, ridiculous,delusional, and well beyond our sympathy.” The Washington Times called for treating him as an “enemy combatant”; Rep. Peter King of the Homeland Security Committee who wants him prosecuted as a terrorist; and of course, Sarah Palin wants him hunted down like Osama Bin Ladin or a wolf in Alaska.

This is a lynch-mob moment, when the bloodlust runs over. We have this mad over-reaction many times since the witch-burnings and Jim Crow, including the Palmer Raids of the 1920s, the McCarthy purges of the 1950s, the Nixon-era conspiracy trials, the Watergate break-ins, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11.

Most Americans know now that those periods of frenzy and scapegoating did nothing for our security but damaged our democracy and left in their wake a secretive National Security State. There’s wisdom in expecting calmer heads to prevail in the WikiLeaks matter, but what can be done when the calmer heads are going nuts or hiding in silence?

No one has died as a result of the WikiLeaks disclosures. But the escalation by the prosecutors in this case could lead to an escalation, with more sensitive documents being released in a retaliatory spiral of this first cyber-war. Imprisoning the messenger will amplify his message and further threats of execution.

I can understand the reasonable questions that reasonable people have about this case. It is clearlyillegal to release and distribute the 15,652 documents stamped as “secret.” Why should underground whistleblowers have the unlimited right to release those documents? There is a risk that some individuals might be harmed by the release? There is a concern that ordinary diplomatic business might be interrupted.

All fair questions. These concerns have to be weighed against two considerations, it seems to me. First, how important is the content of the documents? And how serious is the secrecy system in preventing our right to know more about the policies – especially wars – being carried out in our name? And finally, is there a reasonable alternative to letting the secrets mount, such as pursuing the “transparency” agenda, which the White House purports to support?

Let me weigh these questions with regard to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and the “Long War” scenario that has occupied my full attention these past nine years.

It will be remembered that the Iraq War was based on fabricated evidence by U.S. and British intelligence services, the Bush-Cheney White House, and even the New York Times through the deceptive reporting of Judith Miller. The leading television media invited top military officials to provide the nightly narrative of the war lest their be any doubts in the mesmerized audience. Secrecy and false narratives were crucial to the invasions, special operations, renditions, tortures, and mass detentions that plunged us into the quagmires where we now are stranded. The secret-keepers were incompetent to protect our national security, even when cables warned of an immanent attack by hijacked airliners.

The secrecy grew like a cancer. Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported in “Top-Secret America” that there were 854,000 people with top-security clearances. [William Arkin, Dana Priest, “Top Secret America”, Washington Post, July 19,  2010] That was the tip of the iceberg. The number of new secrets rose 75% between 1996 and 2009, to 183, 224; the number of documents using those secrets has exploded from 5.6 million in 1996 to 54.6 million last year. [Time, December 13, 2010] The secrecy cult appears uncontrollable: the Clinton executive order 12958 [1995] gave only twenty officials the power to stamp documents top-secret, but those twenty could delegate the power to 1,336 others, while a “derivative” procedure extended the power to three million more officials and contractors. [Time, December 13, 2010]

The 1917 U.S. espionage statute requires that Assange received secret documents and willfully, with bad faith, intended to harm the United States by releasing “national defense information.” That’s a tough standard but, according to a source close to the defense with experience in such cases, it seems clear that the US government will prosecute Assange with every tool at their disposal, perhaps even rendition. “What President Obama needs is a photo of Assange in chains brought into a federal court,” the source said.

This week the Assange defense team will appeal the London court’s decision to deny bail. If that fails, he will appear in court December 14 to face extradition to Sweden. Assange has the right to appeal an extradition order to the European Court of Human Rights. He has a very strong base of support in London where public anger over the fabrications that led to war still runs high. An extradition fight in London could carry on for weeks, providing an important platform for the defense. Or the UK government could take the risk of an accelerated emergency deportation process to send him to Stockholm, or even to the US in the most extreme scenario.

If Assange winds up in Stockholm, it could take several weeks to fight his way through a bizarre and complicated sexual harassment trial. Anything is possible there, from all charges being dropped, to the finding of a technical infraction, to jail time. Or Sweden could make an emergency finding to extradite him straight to the US, risking an adverse public reaction for serving as to a handmaiden of the Pentagon.

In the atmosphere of hysteria ahead, it is important for peace and justice advocates to remember and share what Americans owe to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

1. WikiLeaks disclosed 390,136 classified documents about the Iraq War and 76,607 about Afghanistan so far. No one died as a result of these disclosures, one of which revealed another 15,000 civilian casualties in Iraq which had not been acknowledged or reported before;

2. Fragmentary orders [FRAGO] 242 and 039 instructed American troops not to investigate torture in Iraq conducted by America’s allies;

3. The CIA operates a secret army of 3,000 in Afghanistan;

4. A secret US Task Force 373 is assigned to nighttime hunter-killer raids in Afghanistan;

5. The US ambassador in Kabul says it is impossible to fix corruption when our ally is the corrupt entity;

6. One Afghan minister alone carried $52 million out of the country;

7. US Special Forces operate in Pakistan without public acknowledgement, apparently in violation of that country’s sovereignty;

8. America’s ally, Pakistan, is the chief protector of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

9. Following secret U.S air strikes against suspected al-Qaeda militants, Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh told General David Petraeus, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”

The secretive wars exposed by WikiLeaks will cost $159.3 billion in the coming fiscal year, and several trillion dollars since 2001.  The American death toll in Afghanistan will reach 500 this year, or fifty per month, for a total of 1,423, and 9,583 wounded overall – over half of the wounded during this year alone. The Iraq War has left 4,430 U.S. soldiers dead and 32,000 wounded as of today. The civilian casualties are ignored, but range in the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis.

Is it possible that Julian Assange is the scapegoat for arrogant American officials who would rather point the fingers of blame than see the blood on their own hands? What else can explain their frenzy to see Assange dead?

It may be too late to prevent an escalation. The lynch-mob is rabid, terrorized by what they cannot control, completely out of balance, at their most dangerous. If they realize their darkest desires, they will make Assange a martyr – a “warrior for openness” – in the new age now beginning. A legion of hackers are fingering their Send buttons in response, and who can say what flood they may release?

The trial of Julian Assange is becoming a trial of secrecy itself. Wherever the line is drawn, secrecy has become the mask of power, and without new rules, the revolt of the hackers will continue.

Tom Hayden is een veteraan van de Amerikaanse anti-oorlogsbeweging.


Entry filed under: oorlog, Samenleving, The wild web, VS. Tags: , , .


6 reacties Add your own

  • 1. jefc  |  december 12, 2010 om 2:48 pm

    Gezien de forse kop plus foto lijk jij ervan uit te gaan, Tomas, dat Assange het Barbertje is dat zal hangen. Ik heb nog wel een paar andere namen in petto. Hillary Clinton. Misschien Obama zelf. Ahmedinejad?
    Barbertjes die zeker NIET zullen hangen zijn: Netanyahu en Avigdor Lieberman, het Afrikaanse duo Kagame en Kabila. En Benedictus XVI.
    Het interesseert mij ook wel te weten waar dat stuk van Tom Hayden in verschenen is? Het is positief dat hij in zijn laatste paragraaf pleit voor ‘new rules’ en niet voor totale deregulering.

  • 2. tomasronse  |  december 13, 2010 om 5:10 am

    Ik volg je niet. Hillary Clinton en Obama zijn slachtoffers in deze zaak? Wat bedoel je daarmee?
    Hier is de bron voor Haydens stuk:

    Die ‘new rules’ waar jij zo naief voor pleit zullen er overigens niet komen. Regeringen zullen blijven liegen en bedriegen en klokkenluiders zullen hen blijven ontmaskeren. Meer dan ooit, dank zij het internet. De geest kan niet terug in de fles.

    Bekijk ook even wat humorist Steven Colbert en Daniel Ellsberg die de ‘Pentagon papers’ lekte, te zeggen hebben over de heksenjacht op Assange:—daniel-ellsberg

    • 3. jefc  |  december 13, 2010 om 3:26 pm

      Naïef is voor mij de denkwijze dat iets/iemand volkomen goed of geheel slecht is.
      Obama? Slecht. Definitief bijgezet in de grafkelder van de non-valeurs.
      Assenge? Goed. Verheven tot het onfeilbare heldendom.

      Zo denk ik niet. Ik neig meer tot het bekende axioma: ‘Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.’

      Slachtoffers en daders zijn vaak dezelfden – zoals o.m. blijkt uit de verslagen van de Waarheidscommissie in Zuid-Afrika.

      En ja, Steve Colbert blijft uniek, in tegenstelling tot pakweg Geert Hoste.

      • 4. tomasronse  |  december 14, 2010 om 3:45 am

        Het is niet erg eerlijk om anderen opvattingen toe te dichten die ze nooit geuit hebben, om hen dan die opvattingen te verwijten. Niemand heeft hier geschreven, ook niet bij benadering, dat Obama “geheel slecht” of Assange “volkomen goed” is, laat staan “onfeilbaar”. Dat zijn je eigen verzinsels. Wat jij tegenover dat vermeende moreel absolutisme stelt is overigens ook niet zonder gevaar, als het ertoe leidt om het verschil tussen daders en slachtoffers uit te wissen. Heeft die commissie misschien ook aan het licht gebracht dat er eigenlijk ook geen verschil is tussen machthebbers en machtelozen, uitbuiters en uitgebuiten?

  • 5. jefc  |  december 14, 2010 om 9:07 am

    Jij hebt zelf als eerste het woord ‘naïef’ in de mond genomen en dat sloeg duidelijk op mij. Nu beschuldig je mij van oneerlijkheid. Ad hominem, Tom.
    Ik heb niemand op dit forum iets toegedicht. Of bericht FOX niet over Barack en bv. Alternet over Assange in de zin die ik heb aangegeven? Geen verzinsels, je kent die media goed genoeg.
    Lees bv. Antjie Krog’s ‘Country of my skull’. En misschien ga je dan wat minder zwart-wit denken?

  • 6. tomasronse  |  december 14, 2010 om 8:03 pm

    Ik heb inderdaad een opinie van jou ‘naief’ genoemd. Dat is een kritiek op een standpunt, geen ‘ad hominem’-aanval. Wel recht voor de raap. Maar jij verschuilt je achter de vaagheid van je formuleringen die je toelaat om te claimen dat je beschuldigingen van zwart-wit denken over Obama en Assange niet mij of anderen in het salon betroffen maar wel media als Fox en Alternet. Om in de volgende zin al meteen die ontkenning te ontkrachten door me opnieuw dat zwart-wit denken aan te wrijven.
    Nu mag je me best van zwart-witdenken beschuldigen, dat is kritiek, geen ad hominem-aanval. Maar je moet dat op een open en geargumenteerde manier doen en niet zoals je in je laatste commentaren te werk gaat.


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