Monday, December 13, 2010

Wikileaks: Punks with computers

The WikiLeaks founder is an unscrupulous megalomaniac with a political agenda
by Christopher Hitchens on Slate

In my most recent book, I reprint some words from a British Embassy cable, sent from Baghdad to the Foreign Office in 1976. The subject is Iraq's new leader. His quiet coup d'etat is reassuringly described as "the first smooth transfer of power since 1958." It is added, as though understatement were an official stylistic requirement in official prose, that although "strong-arm methods may be needed to steady the ship, Saddam will not flinch." Admittedly, these words were used before the "smooth transfer" had been extended to include Saddam's personally supervised execution of half the membership of the Baath Party. But Saddam already had a well-established addiction to violence and repression.

I came across this cable after it had been declassified a few years ago, and I reprinted it because it very accurately reflected the tone of what I'd been told by British diplomats when I was visiting Iraq at the time. And I ask myself: What if I had been able to get my hands on that report when it was first written? Not only would I have had a scoop to my name, but I could have argued that I was exposing a political mentality that—not for the first time in the history of the British Foreign Office—chose to drape tyranny in the language of cliché and euphemism...

If I had decided to shame the British authorities on Iraq in 1976, I would have accepted the challenge to see them in court or otherwise face the consequences. I couldn't have expected to help myself to secret documents, make myself a private arbiter of foreign policy, and disappear or retire on the proceeds.

All you need to know about Assange is contained in the profile of him by the great John F. Burns and in his shockingly thuggish response to it. The man is plainly a micro-megalomaniac with few if any scruples and an undisguised agenda. As I wrote before, when he says that his aim is "to end two wars," one knows at once what he means by the "ending." In his fantasies he is probably some kind of guerrilla warrior, but in the real world he is a middle man and peddler who resents the civilization that nurtured him. This Monday, in two separate news reports, the New York Times described his little cabal as an "anti-secrecy" and "whistle-blowing" outfit. Such mush-headed approval at least can be withheld from the delightful Julian, even as we all help ourselves to his mart of ill-gotten goods.

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At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Triangular said...

Yes, Assange is a dangerous megalomaniac. What gives him the right to decide which government secrets should be kept secret and which should not?

I can't say no good has come from the whole debacle: it's appropriate to take a fresh look at the whole issue of secrecy, and it's obvious there were holes in our national security which, hopefully, will now be patched. But this guy and his ilk need to be stopped.

I am not a person who believes in violence. But I find myself hoping that someone will shoot him.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I don't think what Wikileaks is doing is a capital crime, but some of the earlier leaks on Afghanistan and Iraq put people working with us against the terrorists in danger. You can be sure that al Qaeda is taking a close look at those documents to see who to assassinate.

Otherwise, I have yet to see a leaked Wikileaks document that has serious political significance. Wikileaks is only a form of vandalism, a smug self-indulgence disguised as moral seriousness, like graffiti/tagging that tries to pass itself off as art.

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Kumpee said...

Rob, you could be writing about more local stuffs. there is some big plans happening. like Congestion Pricing, which is really good.

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous no parklets said...

Also Rob those hipsters are trying to put in 2 more parklets. Like anyone wants to sit in front of Ritual Roasters or farm:table.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The parklets are trendy annoyances, but they only take away a few parking spaces. Congestion pricing, on the other hand, is the anti-car movement's wet dream. Fortunately, it's very unlikely to ever be implemented, since SF public opinion is against it, not to mention Proposition 26, which would require a two-thirds vote of city voters for that punitive fee on motorists.


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