The Common Good
April 2011

Enemy of the State of Denial

by Ray McGovern | April 2011

WikiLeaks takes away the excuse of ignorance about military abuses abroad.

“EVIL THAT IS in the world always comes of ignorance,” wrote French philosopher Albert Camus, adding “the most incorrigible vice [is] that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.”

By spreading documentary ground truth—especially about U.S. military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan—the WikiLeaks website has made it more difficult for us to use ignorance as an excuse to let our institutions continue to sin in our name. For example, WikiLeaks posted Army documents that show authorization for secret assassinations by U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. Or, if you consider seeing to be believing, watch “Collateral Murder,” the gun-barrel video showing 30mm cannon fire from a U.S. Army Apache helicopter that killed a dozen Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters employees, in Baghdad on July 12, 2007. And do not press the “stop” button until you have witnessed the murder of an Iraqi “good Samaritan”—a man who stopped his van to pick up one of those who was shot but was still squirming—and the wounding of his two now-fatherless children in the van.

Small wonder that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is under fierce attack from government officials who need secrecy to cover up crimes committed in our name—and from the faux-journalists who hide those crimes. For that (and not for the alleged sexual misconduct for which he has been charged in Sweden), he has been called a “terrorist.” All manner of dirty tricks have been employed to “kill the messenger”—so far, only figuratively speaking, but how long he can escape physical harm is anyone’s guess; politicians and pundits keep calling for him to be “taken out.” Fox News commentator Bob Beckel, for example, made a “pretty simple” proposal on Dec. 6: “A dead man can’t leak stuff ... I’m not for the death penalty, so the only way to do it is to illegally shoot the son of a [bleep] ... Every night in Afghanistan there are special-ops forces who go after the enemies of the United States. This man is an enemy of the United States.”

Other media coverage has been less crude, but equally unsupportable. On a Dec. 12 CNN story (on which I was interviewed, presumably for “balance”), the lead-in placed Assange squarely in the same category as Bonnie and Clyde and other criminals. Five days earlier, Washington Post pundit Anne Applebaum warned that among Assange’s “vast ambitions” is “the end of American government as we know it.”

Why the repeated attempts to proclaim Assange guilty of causing a meltdown for U.S. diplomacy? On Nov. 30, Defense Secretary Robert Gates pooh-poohed such claims as “fairly significantly overwrought.” Gates continued: “Is [WikiLeaks] embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.”

Why, then, the sturm und drang from media pundits? Well, just compare the highly revealing WikiLeaks material with the lax, government-inspected, thin gruel offered on TV news. Talk about embarrassing and awkward!

Asked in April 2010 to explain WikiLeaks’ objective, Assange said it is “to put the ‘civil’ into civilization,” and for that “you have to understand what is actually going on.” He argued, “Our goal is justice; the message is transparency.”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel would have applauded. He told us, “Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods.” And out of the same prophetic tradition, Jesus of Nazareth tells us: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington, D.C. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years.

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