Simply fascinating and mind-boggling - Dr Muzaffar Iqbal - Friday, December 24, 2010

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Suppose a robber or a murderer is caught red-handed while committing his heinous crime because a secret camera records the deed and sends an alarm signal over the internet to the nearby police station. Furthermore, suppose that when his deed is brought to light, he tells the jury that the device which recorded his deed or the use of the internet was immoral. What would the jury do to such a person?

The analogy may enrage those who have been so dumbfounded by the disclosure of their deeds by Wikileaks, but to invent lies to invade a country, kill, maim, displace, and dislocate over two million human beings is not an insignificant act of diplomacy. The world knew when Iraq was invaded that this war is neither moral nor legal, and so what Wikileaks has revealed about this invasion and its aftermath is mere detail. But one would expect that the information now available in the public domain would have led to some remorse, regret, or acknowledgement of wrongdoing. What we have, instead, is an unending array of mind-boggling confusion.

On December 16, 2010, US Vice President Joe Biden said that there has been no “substantive” damage to US foreign policy from Wikileaks. Biden made that comment in an MSNBC interview, which was recorded on December 15, 2010. His exact words were: “Some of the cables that are coming out here and around the world are embarrassing, but nothing that I am aware of goes to the essence of the relationship that will allow another nation to say ‘they lied to me, we don’t trust them, they really are not dealing fairly with us.”

Four days later, the same person, the same cables, the same material evidence, but an entirely different scoop: Vice President Joe Biden now described the Wikileaks founder as a dangerous “high-tech terrorist”. A man who could be brought to the US and tried! “We’re looking at that right now,” Biden told NBC’s Sunday talk show, “Meet the Press”, but stopped short of elaborating on just how the administration could act against the head of Wikileaks: “I’m not going to comment on that process.”

“Look, this guy (Assange) has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world,” Biden said.

What is simply mind-boggling in this schizophrenic reaction to Wikileaks is not so much the flip-flop, but the intellectual and moral makeup of the political leadership of a country which has arrogated the right to be the world’s policeman. How can these men and women not understand what every illiterate person knows so clearly in a very large part of the world? How can this leadership be so blind to the basic reality of their misdeeds around the world?

That it is impossible for any one nation to control all humanity is such a simple and basic thing that even the most ordinary person knows it, yet the highly educated and supposedly well-trained leadership of the United States of America cannot see this basic truth and continues to play havoc with the lives of millions of people around the world. What Wikileaks has done is simply open up to the world what goes on behind the scenes all the times. There is nothing that has been added to the information which was not so accessible before, there is no colouring, no subtext – everything appears in its raw form. And what it reveals is astounding.

What is truly amazing is the fact that not a single cable has been refuted by anyone; all that has come out in the press against Wikileaks is that the information is not “lawfully” disclosed, whatever that may mean. But no one has denied a single report or information so far leaked.

One danger of such a large cache of raw information is indeed its vastness and there are already signs that Wikileaks is no more news. One did not expect that there would be any major change in the world because of these cables, but at the same time, one did not know such a fundamental disclosure could be taken as routine matter so quickly. The overwhelming impact of Wikileaks may have made people numb with horror and the enormity of the crime may have been cause for the quick “routineness” which has now set in. Because there is so much, so specific, and so real, it may all somehow seem overwhelmingly unmanageable. At times like this, specific details pertaining to individuals and events can help to refocus attention.

Robert Fisk, with his characteristic penchant for detail and specificity, was quick to do exactly that: “Despite rumours to the contrary,” he wrote, “she told me on the phone, she was not a spy but a mere attaché, wanting only to chat about the future of Lebanon. These were kidnapping days in the Lebanese capital, when to be seen with the wrong luncheon companion could finish in a basement in south Beirut. I trusted this woman. I was wrong. She arrived with two armed British bodyguards who sat at the next table. Within minutes of sitting down at a fish restaurant in the cliff-top Raouche district, she started plying me with questions about Hezbollah’s armaments in southern Lebanon. I stood up and walked out. Hezbollah had two men at another neighbouring table. They called on me next morning. No problem, they said, they saw me walk out. But watch out… That was some 30 years ago. And then up pops the very same cable on Wikileaks, breathlessly highlighted by The New York Times and its dwarf the International Herald Tribune, as if this is an extraordinary scoop.”

It has been simply fascinating and mind-boggling to watch US leadership – from Joe Biden to Hillary Clinton – initially denounce Wikileaks in the name of an non-existent “international community”, and then attempt to minimise the genuineness of the documents, while at the same time using their considerable influence to destroy Wikileaks financially and technically, and, finally, try to find a law which can be used to bring the head of Wikileaks to America for a trial.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:

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