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WIKILEAKS: THE IMPERIAL PRECEDENT December 23, 2010

Posted by wmmbb in Duckspeak, Humankind/Planet Earth.
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We cannot at this time fully anticipate what will be revealed by the further release of the US embassy emails or cables. It is inevitable that some information seems trivial, although some may prove important and useful.

For example, the evidence the information provides of BP ‘s previous example of carelessness, which might well implicate the behavior of Shell in the Niger Basin.

The severe reaction against Julian Asssange seems extraordinary and extreme when the obvious thing to do would be to tighten up the system. I suppose if one takes the reaction by the USG, as we know to describe them, particularly as it relates to measures enforced against Assange that we have observed, the implication that the intention to incarcerate him and subject him to torture  in a similar to Bradley Manning, takes on an authoritarian patina, to say the least. The aim it seems is to intimate individuals from any future revelations  of wrong doing.

No doubt the tabloid journalist will be sprouting the talking points for the captive televisual audience that the conjunction of transparency and government is a conjunction of naive minds rather than the reality that is it a fundamental condition of democracy. Governments, and the USG is not the exception, who are in the habit of controlling the information flows through the traditional media sources, often sourcing the leaks to frame the story, has now been blocked by the deluge of Wikileaks.  Potentially in the future leaks could significantly undermine the lies that, as David Swanson, writes create wars, invasions and other examples of military mass murder, and keep them going.

So I suppose from the perspective of the power elite the release of this material into the public domain, independent of its significance, and is a game change. One expected response will be to attack net neutrality, but I suspect that is a catch 22, on a number of levels. It is one thing to have oligopolies, corporatized and top-down, attempting to run the affairs of the planet in the interest of the few; it is another for the process to be apparent. Otherwise blocks of wood and stones might become less than senseless things.

While Wikileaks has been a game changer, it is of interest to find that it is not without precedent. James Renton, Senior Lecturer in History at Edge Hill University, writing in Open Democracy recounts how in December 1917 as the British were occupying Jerusalem, the newly installed Bolshevik Government in Moscow published evidence of secret agreements they found in the archives. James Renton comments:

This was the first major leak of international diplomatic documents, the scale of which has never been surpassed. If Julian Assange and his associates had access to the inner sanctum of the White House and the Pentagon, they might get close to documentation that was of similar significance. Pride of place amongst the material published by the Russians was a plan by the British and French governments in 1916 to carve up the middle east between themselves after the war. The Sykes-Picot Agreement, as it was known, divided west Asia into British and French spheres of influence. Thrust into the public domain, this document showed without any doubt that the British had been up to their old imperialist tricks. Their championing of Arab nationalism appeared to have been nothing but Machiavellian posturing.

. . . The long-term impact of the publication of the Sykes-Picot Agreement on the British Empire is instructive. There is no doubt that the unveiling of secret imperialist ambitions in the middle east posed a serious challenge to Britain. Unsurprisingly, Britain’s enemy in the middle east, the Ottoman Turks, made as much of the leaked agreement as they could. The loyalty of Britain’s principal Arab ally, Sherif Hussein of Mecca—the leader of TE Lawrence’s Arab Revolt— was thrown into doubt. It was feared in Whitehall that the whole edifice of the Anglo-Arab alliance could collapse as a result. As well, the Agreement flew in the face of the principles of the powerful US president, Woodrow Wilson, who had been arguing that secret diplomacy and imperialism were the root cause of the War. According to Wilson, national self-determination had to be the order of the day.

The British response to all this was not to change its policy in the middle east— though that had been extremely vague anyway. Instead, the British accelerated in the same direction in which they were already heading. Their aim was to dominate the middle east whilst portraying themselves as the principal champion of nationality. The government hoped to combine a modern-looking commitment to nation-building with the old imperial aim of political domination.

In the long-run, this project undoubtedly failed; but this wasn’t because of the publication of the Sykes-Picot Agreement. That agreement continues to this day to be a powerful symbol of British, and indeed Western, perfidy in the collective memory of west Asia. But it would have been long forgotten if it were not for Britain’s actions in the region over the following three decades and their violent legacies. The image of Britain as the champion of Arab freedom was demolished by the meteoric rise of Zionism under British auspices in Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s, support for anti-democratic elites across the middle east, and, above all, the determined effort to direct the politics of the region.

I suspect that the conclusion that the leaks reveal a “stubborn attempt” to live in the world of nineteenth century imperial politics is not correct. The behavior we observe is fundamental to the nation state system, otherwise described as the war system, which is based on intimidation and violence, not without its Orwellian logic as it relates to the economics of military-industrial production and consumption.

The industrial wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have not been discontinued. They have intensified to the point at which the tactics used against them have become the enemy. So that a form of double reinforcement of the frame of  dehumanization provided by reflective resort to violence has a occurred to the point that legal process and the principles of justice become irrelevant. One should note that the actions in the Baghdad Square that killed among others two journalists had no effect.

ELSEWHERE:

At Al Jazeera, David Frost interviews Julian Lassange (who is engaged in a media biltz):

Guy Rundle in The Sydney Morning Herald reviews the strange case that involves Assange and two Swedish women – and yet it is on this basis that he is arraigned in London. In what kind of legal system are allegations about possible crimes partially linked to newspapers?

Rundle wrote a more conspiratorial piece for Crickey in September.

At Al Jazeera, Mark LeVine comments on the significance of the Wikileaks revelations.

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