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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