I am still working out why I watch the high dudgeon sparked by Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks dump of a quarter-million State Department cables that has given rise to the most heated, bloodthirsty chorus I have ever heard in Washington, notably from conservatives, and feel strangely numb.
I observe the fits over “sovereignty” lost, and note that some of the same people find such emotion in bad taste when the prompt is our unsecured, non-sovereign border. I hear the arguments that our national security is hanging by a computer keystroke, and note the fecklessness of a U.S. government that hides from us, the people, its own confirmation that North Korea supplies Iran with Russian-made nuclear-capable missiles; China transfers weapons materiel to Iran (despite Hillary Clinton’s pathetic entreaties); Iran honeycombs Iraq; Syria supports Hezbollah; Pakistan prevents the United States from securing its nuclear materials; Saudis continue to provide mainstay support to al-Qaida (despite pie-faced denials come from Saudi-supplicating U.S. administrations). Everything good citizens need to know, in short, to see through the dumbed-down, G-rated (“G” for government), official narrative, all “engagement” and “outreach,” to throw the ineffectual bums out – all of them – and start from scratch.
But what we’re supposed to see in Assange’s Internet release of thousands of “classified,” mainly non-sensational, if often embarrassing, documents (something journalists usually call a scoop in the singular) is an act of “terrorism,” say Republican leaders, with Assange himself, as Sarah Palin would have it, playing the part of Osama bin Laden. Weirdly, I don’t recall bin Laden himself inspiring as many public calls for “execution.” Nor did the arrests of the notorious traitors CIA analyst Aldrich Ames in 1994 or FBI agent Robert Hanssen in 2001 ratchet up a fury approaching the emotional pitch over Assange that has drowned out all other news this week, including the murder of six American trainers by an Afghan “policeman.”
These six unnecessary, punishing deaths may well have resulted from the disastrous statecraft and policies that come under discussion in the leaked cables, but as far as news coverage went they just couldn’t compete with the leak frenzy itself. The establishment, right and left but mainly right, coalesced around melodramatic accusations that Assange did have, or would have “blood on his hands.” As I have read my way through some fraction of the leaked record, no evidence for this frequently leveled charge yet appears, certainly none that begins to compare to the blood already spilled to implement a hopelessly misguided U.S. foreign policy that, from the Bush administration to the Obama administration, determinedly ignores Islam in its prosecution of wars in the Islamic world. Exhibit A, at least this week, is the six dead Americans in that Muslim-on-infidel “training accident” mentioned above. In our attempt to remake Afghanistan in more or less our own image, we shut our eyes to all eruptions of Islam, hostile, undermining and antithetical to our utopian goals, that continually and inevitably warp our exhausting and disappointing effort.
More see-no-Islam evidence comes straight from the leaked cables. As noted by the British newspaper The Guardian, Anne Patterson, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, vainly conveyed to Washington her conviction that no amount of aid money would persuade the Pakistan army (motto: “Faith in Allah, fear of Allah, and jihad in the path of Allah”) to stop sponsoring what you might call similarly jihad-centric groups: the Taliban, the Taliban-allied Haqqani and Hekmatyar networks, and the Mumbai attackers. I say “vainly” because the aid money doesn’t stop – nor does Pakistan’s covert support for America’s jihadist enemies. This may sound like sticking coin after coin into a jukebox playing our own funeral march, but that’s official U.S. policy, as supported from the pro-war right to the Obama left. More than that, it’s part of the shambles WikiLeaks confirms U.S. foreign policy to be. Could this be why the establishment condemns WikiLeaks as the worst thing ever? The Pakistan cables alone should stop the presses, start a debate and inspire congressional hearings: “Pakistan: Ally to Spend Billions on, or Enemy to De-nuke?”
But the reaction instead is to kill the messenger – literally, say many. The more I read, however, the more I wonder whether the raging rhetoric is less about blood on WikiLeaks’ hands than about egg on the faces of others, including a secretive Uncle Sam.