Anonymous asked: I don't understand why you idolize Julian Assange. I don't mean that hatefully in anyway because I love your blog and your commentary and I think you're one of the most intelligent people on Tumblr, but I just don't understand. What he did threatens national security - and I know you're not American or British, but still. It's a national security issue.
Overall, I feel like there are some things we, as citizens of a country, should never know, because information is powerful, and power drives people insane. We should never understand or know the full inner workings of government - even if we elected it into place.
Just a couple thoughts, and I would love an explanation :). Again, I don't mean anything rudely, I'm just curious.
First, thanks for asking the question and thanks too for the compliment.
I should tell you that I do not feel that I idolize Julian Assange. He is just a human, like you and I. Far greater individuals in this world deserve our respect more than him. I am always conscious of tempering my opinions on individuals because people are corruptible and always have motives that you may not know of fully. But I do feel that over the past two years, Julian Assange has become one of the most important people living on this planet. That is because what he has done/is doing is giving power back to the people. Not through guns. Not through arms or money or promises of better lives, no, he is giving power back to the people through information, with no regard for his own safety or his financial gain. That is honorable. Not many of us would make that choice. Not many would even consider it. We feel good about ourselves blogging about kidnapped/lost children. We feel good about ourselves by critiquing policy and making our opinions known, but we do all that from the safety of our homes, for some of us, it happens behind the obscuring facade of internet anonymizers and screen names. Few stand up and fight as directly as he has. That, to me, is unique and if that admiration seems like idolization, then so be it.
Moving to the question of national security. There is one thing that I agree with you on wholeheartedly in regards to this debate and that is, as you said, “Information is powerful, and power drives people insane.”
You make that statement in regards to citizens (wherever they are from). Similarly, I would make that statement for governments. Under the guise of national security, there are so many things hidden from us and ‘classified’ away from our eyes, that knowledge of such issues becomes powerful. It becomes a force and asset unto itself and it starts to drive those in power mad. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And thus, there need to be checks and balances in the system that allow for citizens to know what is going on and what is at stake. Otherwise, those that have money and power and institutions on there side can buy their way into secrets while leaving the average citizen out of the loop. All under the cloak of national security.
Take for example a recently leaked cable that shows that the CEO of Shell’s operations in Nigeria claims, assertively and without doubt, mind you, that she has people on her payroll in every ministry in Nigeria. She goes on to say that her company’s permeation into all Nigerian ministries is so intense that, 1) Its as if people have forgotten that Shell has full infiltrated them, and 2) Nothing happens in Nigeria without Shell knowing about it, and tacitly approving it. I don’t think I need to go into detail as to why this is a bad thing. Take another example: one US cable shows Pfizer (the pharmaceutical) pushing through shoddy research and tests to get a drug approved.
I said in my most recent post on the issue that information is a right. It has to be. Or we are missing one of the key ingredients in our arsenal of freedom, and by extension are not truly free. What use is it for me to have the right to vote, or speak up, or protest, when I don’t have the right to know everything that my govt. is doing in the first place. Should the govt. that I have put in place.. that is representing me in the first place not be responsible to report back to me with findings? I speak generally of course, but the thrust is clear.
The fact of the matter is that none of this information actually threatens national security. If it did, the world would have been turned upside down in the last two weeks. Bombs would be flying off everywhere, ships would be staking claims in foreign seas and diplomats expelled in minutes. The fact is that all this information is doing is airing out the world’s dirty laundry (not just the United States’).
Why should the citizens of Saudi Arabia not know that its King is lobbying the US to attack Iran? Why should Qatari citizens not know that the Emir told Sen. John Kerry that after 30 years of experience in dealing with Iran, he would suggest that US listen to 1 out of every 100 words spoken to them by Iran?
Why should citizens in China not know that its govt. is propping up a dictatorial regime (North Korea) just for the sake of it? That it in fact supports reunification of the Korean peninsula but is holding off on moving in that direction because it feels it would not fully benefit China now and may do so in the future?
Back during the Vietnam war, national security was used as a reason to send hundreds of thousands of people to war. To not tell people what was actually going on in Vietnam. To drop enough napalm on a country to raze it to the ground. To destroy three generations of life in a small country that had nothing to lend to anyone’s national interest except pride. Then Daniel Ellsberg came and blew up the whole charade and almost overnight the US public erupted in an outpouring of anger, of grief, of seething resentment at its own government for having hidden the truth. The Vietnam war ended soon after, and in large part due to that release. No one’s national security war harmed. The US continues to exist. China continues to exist. Russia is doing well. And Vietnam, miraculously, has survived.
National security was also used as a reason for going into Iraq. We now know that was a lie. National security was also used to justify a haphazard attack on Afghanistan. We now know that was a terrible idea. Perhaps it was needed, but if all information had been debated openly, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the quagmire we are now. Countless wars have been fought, battlefields littered and arms readied to shoot due to national security, in places as obscure or crucial as: Guatemala, Panama, Suez, the US-Mujahideen war in Afghanistan. All lies. All unnecessary. All fought in the interest of national security but that usually meant profits rather than actual life and death security concerns as were always led to believe.
My point is that ‘national security’ is a term coined by those in power to keep the rest of us in fear of the truth and wary of what may come out and hurt us more. But that is not the case. I’ll leave you with a quote from Ron Paul’s speech on WikiLeaks on the House floor (link: http://bit.ly/eAleQ3 ) in which he says, “Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on Wikileaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?”
Democracy hinges on rights. It hinges on allowing people to choose the best leadership collectively based on the best information provided in a open format. If that ingredient is missing, then we are one step away from tyranny- not in the traditional sense perhaps, but a new 21st century sense. But that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.