Much has been speculated, after the publication of a third batch of leaked documents from the bowels of the US administration, about who is behind WikiLeaks. Is it Israel - because there is hardly any mentioning of Israeli wrongdoing in the papers? Is it the United States - because the world leader itself benefits the most from the publication of these diplomatic cables? A little bit of embarrassment - ok. A little bit of akwardness - yes, sure. But consequences for the US foreign policies? None. "Many governments, so US defense secretary Robert Gates, deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation." The WikiLeaks papers have brought this point home in a stronger manner than ever before.
Behind WikiLeaks is a man from Australia who I think is extremely naive and therefore dangerous; mostly for himself, but also for the people and the priniciples he claims to be fighting for. Don't be fearful of the strong, fear the weak, so the saying goes. How could Julian Assange ever think that he could provoke the American eagle and get away with it? Admittedly he had some success in the past with his leaks - revealing internet censorship in Thailand, uncovering irregularities at JP Morgan and Barclays Bank - but taking on the United States is playing in a entirely different league. Meanwhile it should be clear in Washington that apart from a few personal and collateral dammages, these documents didn't do any bad to the United States and they will let Assange off the hook. Don't fool around with fools, let them go, let them be. (Or maybe they will fool around: the latest news is that the US is preparing a conspiracy case against Julian Assange.)
But Julian Assange is a dangerous man for the very prinicples he pretends he is fighting for: free speech, transparency and peace. Let's start with the free speech issue: of course MasterCard, PayPal, Amazon and tiny PostFinance from oh so clean Switzerland are all failed companies. With or without any pressure - I don't know which is worse - they canceled services to WikiLeaks and Assange just to be on the safe side if the American wrath were to come down on the world. In Switzerland there is now even a legal case considered against PostFinance because they revealed that Assange had a bank account with them. Breaking the bank secrecy is a criminal offense in money-wise and secretive Switzerland that is punished harder than killing the Pope (sorry Ben, just an example). But damn, you have a right to be a coward! The ensuing operation payback, where an international coalition of willing allies, led by Anonymous, a loose association of internet activists, bombarded the servers of the aforementioned companies with DOS attacks, was an all out assault on free speech and free implementation of opinions. I am in horror of a world full of cyber vigilantes who self-define what is right and what is wrong and then put a huge war machine into action just like...their sworn enemies, the United States and the big, globalized multinationals. It seems fitting to quote the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard here, as I have done in an earlier post this year (www.thewhtitehouse.xxx - your one stop shopping for porn), talking about the US: "In fact, the Americans - read: the cyber vigilantes - have been overtaken by their own power. They do not have the means to control it. And now we are part of this power."
How serious is Julian Assange about transparency? Not very much, it seems, or only if it's the transparency of others. He is keeping a lot of secrets for himself. Firstly, WikiLeaks - and I'm improvising on thoughts put forward by George Friedman in a Stratfor comment this week - is a very secretive organization itself. Its inner workings are not clear, their whereabouts neither. Secondly, Assange himself is a walking contradiction. He claims that he has more secrets in store only releasable when he feels or has been harmed. Spill it out Julian! Be the first role model of transparency and not only when leaking and openness benefits you or your cause. Diplomats know the hidden and the transparent part of their work, the secret diplomacy and the public diplomacy. The Unites States are the master of using both approaches wherever they see a higher benefit, a better outcome for them. Well, just like...our friends from WikiLeaks.
Julian Assange: press conference
"War is the continuation of politics with other means", Clausewitz has so well stated. The essence of politics is diplomacy. But diplomacy is all but made impossible if your are not allowed to be diplomatic. Civilization is built on behaving civilized, that you don't tell the guy in front of you what you really think of him: that he is a pretentious alpha dog; a Robin waiting for orders from Batman, that he is an blond-Ukranian-nurse-loving eccentric Arab colonel afraid of flying over water. No: you are gentle, you are firm, you make your points and you listen to his - you are being diplomatic. Now here comes Julian, ripping away the diplomatic cover from your face, baring the teeth of an aggressive bull terrier. What is left but fighting? It's a jungle out there and you use the means that have been given to you, that you are left with. Who talks peace but promotes war? It's the United States and it's...WikiLeaks.
Now here is it where the Iranians come in. Do they talk war and mean peace? Their twisted diplomacy is impenetrable even to WikiLeaks, and probably even got the Iranians themselves confused. In november of this year, Julian Assange held a press conference in Geneva - the city of diplomacy, the city of peace - explaining the goals and the future plans of WikiLeaks to an audience of journalists. The event was organized by a newly founded NGO called "International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights IIPJHR". That sounds nice, we have to admit, aren't we all for peace, justice and human rights? A closer look at the board of the organization is all but reassuring. Head of IIPJHR with individual signature is a lawyer of Tunisian descent who lives in Switzerland since 1992. He is a Jack of all trades, dealing with used cars, signing up for construction projects in Qatar, defending Hani Ramadan (the brother of the better known Tareq Ramadan; fired from his job as a professor for vindicating the stoning of a Nigerian woman and calling AIDS a God sent punishment), often cited in Islamic forums. And then, also on the board with collective signature, we have two gentlemen with Iranian names. If we forget about Shirin Ebadi for a moment, who would have linked peace, justice and human rights with Iran? Certainly not me, probably not you, certainly not the people from Twitter's #IranElection hashtag. Julian Assange did. Or maybe he didn't. Maybe he was not aware of it. Remember, he is naive. Maybe it doesn't matter, maybe they are fine gentlemen. But then again, this is WikiLeaks. We just don't know.