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February 2011

Wikileaks / Assange

...Weirdly, I have realised that I have called Mr Assange Nicholas throughout this ramble. What was I thinking about? Changed now!

In a sense, the hounding of Wikileaks and Julian Assange has sorted this out for me, from a moral perspective.

I don't suppose my opinion is adding much to the pot, but: do I like Assange and the Wikileaks bunch? Well, I can't answer for the the rest of the Wikileaks crew, but I can't say I find myself particularly fond of Assange, who seems to have the single minded focus of someone who is slightly too fond of his own voice. If you were a firm supporter of him, you would probably say that he has 'missionary' zeal. I'm not so sure. Meanwhile, however, do I support the existence of Wikileaks? Hell yes. Hell, Yes.

Do awful things happen in war? Yes. Do terrible, morally dubious things happen which are covered up by major govts? Yes. Must there be a culture where whistleblowers feel that if they see things which are morally abhorrent, they can and should step forward to state publicly that bad and terrible things are happening? YES YES YES. At all levels.

What do I mean by all levels. I was making a link from the macro to the slightly more micro recently, where NHS whistleblowers, attempting to stand up and shout that malpractice has taken place have instead of being congratulated been hounded out of their jobs, despite govt assurances that support for whistleblowers has risen. It's the normal, every day story of the 'powers that be' saying one thing in public, to reassure, and doing another thing in private, to avoid the scandal of having missed opportunities, employed the useless, etc. So... if the official whistleblower channels are not to be trusted, where are people to go? In this country, we have the fantastic and solid gold wonder of "Private Eye" which of course every sensible human being should subscribe to. It's a pretty good outlet for anyone spotting malpractice, but it has its own agenda obviously so there's no guarantee that they'll cover problems until you become a juicy enough story (eg: you have complained locally and been dismissed!). The point though is that not only does it exist, but it is taken seriously as a source for legitimate follow up by fellow journalists. At least there's the chance of something.

On a macro scale, is there any trusted whistleblower third party? Marta Andreasen famously published her thoughts with regard to the legitimacy of the EU accounts (ie: they're not) after being hounded out of her job by a succession of high ranking officials (including, according to her, Neil Kinnock) when she attempted to show the gigantic holes, and went public after being ignored internally (well, that's her story, anyway).

Now we come to Wikileaks. What is becoming increasingly clear is that the current batch of leaks, being shared via The Guardian amongst others, are not simply the light hearted whitterings of a bunch of diplomats. Here for example, is an American newspaper responding to the news that the US attempted to cover up an emerging story that the US Security company, DynCorps held a party for Afghani police recruits. Including the human horror story that is "Dancing boys". Not sure what these are? The practice is one of the central tenets behind the lauded Afghan novel "The Kite Runner". It is the forced selling or abduction of very young boys for sex with high ranking Afghan warlord types. Duties are to dress up as sexy young girls, and dance, before being routinely raped. This is outlawed, but in a country with barely any laws being enforced (for those with influence), that's not really important. Here, RAWA, the self professed Feminist charity working out of Afghanistan republishes an article on the BBC's film about Bacha Bazi parties, earlier this year. More here, and here, and here, if you can bear it.

Did this, amongst other highlighted documents, deserve to become public? As much as previous scandals involving UN soldiers ignoring or condoning trafficking and other horror. But because this is the US, not the UN, the security services in the States have gone predictably nuts (ask the readers of the Houston Press what they think). Assange's arrest on sexual assault charges has been called politically motivated. I have no opinion on that, but I do have an opinion on the hounding of Wikileaks, which  - here's the thing. If we were, in fact, the civilisation which we espouse, then there would be no need for Wikileaks, would there. But there is. There really, bloody is. The vast majority of these leaks show harmless opinion of worldwide politicians. The US is ultra defensive given that at present, their role as apparent leaders of the 'free world' (whatever that means) is diminishing. Anything that encourages derision must be stamped upon.

But, there must and always must be a place for legitimate whistleblowing of appalling, significant human rights abuses, incompetence on a grand or granular scale and major problems in command/control. There must be. Tolerance of whistleblowing comes as part of the long march toward civilisation. The US, in its current reaction to Wikileaks, shows how far from that tolerance they really are.

So. We must support Wikileaks. That's it.


Had a break whilst I was getting my head around something - of which, more later! Meanwhile...


(Weird thing about blog posts - I really want you to see this first, then read my new rants... er... posts but now you'll read this last, probably).