Thursday, 9 December 2010

Wikileaks: An unpopular opinion

Before I peel the onion back and tell you what I think, let me tell you about myself first. It's important to understand where I'm coming from. I am a Socialist, like Ed Millliband , Pierre Trudeau or the great reformers of the Victorian era. I think the state has a responsibility for the greater good and that I as a citizen have my duties towards it. 

My family was honoured to have hosted in our home, the talks that led to the first Polish Constitution after WW1, my Grandfather was the local mayor after the war, whose job it was to make sure that everybody got along and that things worked well. Then during the second war, every member of my family in one capacity or another were involved in the struggle for the liberation of Poland and the World from Nazi and Soviet domination.  After the war, in the UK, Canada and the United States, we involved ourselves in the organization of the ex-pat Polish community, worked in local, and national politics and worked to make sure nobody ever forgot about KATYN. In later years, when it was my turn, I entered politics and community service. It seemed like the logical thing to do considering the family history.

In all that time several principles were drilled into us.

1- The best interests of the community
2- Honesty
3- Fairness
4- Judicious use of action depending on circumstances.
5- Discretion when needed, full disclosure when needed
6- Making sure you had the backing of the people most needed to make something work and the     agreement of those for whom things were done.
7-  Always seeking to avoid violence and death as much as possible
8- But defending ourselves when the time came.

These same principles govern every state ever created going back 10,000 years in one degree or another.In our "modern " enlightened times, the more radical, bang them over the head approach seems less and less necessary or desired. The problem is that we as a World community, do not all sing from the same hymn book, or worship at the same temple. And yet we have to get along, so we can trade, keep from shooting at each other and not forget that for every action , there is an equal but opposite reaction.  It  is here that politics enters the picture, it  is the art of the possible, the art of compromise without loosing face or giving up too much. In order to do that, we need to sometimes not speak every word that comes to mind loudly and without care. Sometimes we need to discuss amongst ourselves the options and speak frankly to each other in private to reach , lasting and proper decisions. Sometimes altruistic self interested motivations move us to act, other times it's altruistic actions that could be perceived to harm our direct interests, but are the correct thing to do.  But these actions, are at times harder to implement when governments are pretty much up front about it and stripped to basics.

Where does this lead to? Well for one, if you are familiar with the party model of the British Parliamentary system, you get a body called caucus, which is secret, precisely because it allows the Members of Parliament to come to some kind of agreement they can all as a governing party or opposition party, agree on as an acceptable public face to take to the voters and the Commons. Same goes for the cabinet, where cabinet solidarity requires a minister to vote with  the government or quit the ministry if he or she cannot bring themselves to do so.  But where would this system be if every word spoken in caucus or cabinet was leaked to the public? Where would our reasonable solutions be? The notion of allowing people to hash it out in private, before going public, leads to decisions, not always perfect, but at least generally acceptable to the party, the members and the Commons, and if they get it wrong, we vote them out in favour of another lot.

Policy, a question of good government is created by much debate, on the back of grey papers, green papers and white papers, each one  less divisive and provocative than the previous one, yet they are designed to be that to make sure there are no stones unturned or possibilities missed. But is it necessary to publish every discussion paper ever written, especially out of context and often on subjects that are sensitive to begin with. Packed with the very information that should it be made public, would be the very thing that would cause public consternation , legislative hardening of the arteries and much jumping to conclusions, which of course leads to even even bigger problems.

Then of course, we expect our Governments to protect us. But in so doing we sometimes have to expect the police, the army and the revenue service amongst many services, to be less than up front about what they do. I can just see it, Hello evil dooer, we are the police, we are required by total disclosure principle to warn you we are coming, we'll be there in 5 minutes, there will be 5 of us, two up front three in the back but nobody on the side, run fast now, .... we'll be in the ford mondeos, here are the police frequencies so you can listen, signed Bob Smith ..... And of course if you are bearing witness against a nasty person or other government and MI5 are hiding you in a safe house, the last thing you expect is to have your name and location broadcast all over the internet.

Why even have elected governments?  Because there is a compact, between the state and the people, that the state will do it's level best to work for the best interests of the people in all dealings be they public or private. Furthermore each political party agrees that there are certain basic foundations of belief in our societies  worth defending and building on. For without that agreement, we would not have peaceful hand overs of power from one  party to another. It's on these general principles that Governments work and engage other governments in, on a daily basis. For trade, for peace and for protection of the populations they govern. We end up in blocks, sometimes mutually satisfactory, sometimes awkward, but it does, in fact keep us from blowing ourselves off the face of the Earth in endless wars.  I hear you say , but there are wars. And you're right, but the number and the severity we'd have if every government and alliance was brutally honest and above board about the way they felt about everything, would be staggering. I mean  White Cricket robots bad, it would be back to warring city states like in the bad old days, but with far more fearsome weapons.

Governments talk for years sometimes to avoid shooting at people or dropping bombs. Witness the seemingly endless amount of finger wagging and cajoling in public and private, before the West finally had to step into Yugoslavia and stop the carnage. But when the decision was taken to start shooting, it was because every other avenue had been exhausted. Do you think they came to that decision lightly? No, were they perfect, or somehow idealistically without fault of any kind? No, but it was the only avenue left open to stop the killing of innocents. What would happen if the peace process, deeply flawed as it is, in the Middle East stopped? I can tell you that instead of a few Israelis or Palestinians dead, it would be on the scale of World War three. But those of you who still think there is an international conspiracy of the ultra rich to take over the World, go ahead, support WikiLeaks, 

Only in an idealistic, no consequence fanatically pure utopia can you be so perfect as to be near to G-d in wisdom. The World however does not work that way.  But you can have guide lines, you can have rules. And when somebody crosses the line, it's important to call them out. That's what journalists are for, historians and the opposition parties. Their job is to say, hold a minute there, you just did something awful and dangerous and for no good reason. You endangered lives , you broke your covenant with the people and with the nation you claim to represent.

What does that mean in practical terms? It means information must be made available as and when it is deemed necessary to verify the legitimacy and transparency of the process of Government. Specific documents that may show a Health Minister is taking kick backs and bribes from cigarettte industrialist, or perhaps a Minister hiring prostitutes to run his office instead of qualified staff. All legitimate, all proper targets. But when you start naming law abiding citizens, their companies, their employees, and the people who in our names, risk their lives in  our defence for the sake of "Transparency".,you cross a line. When you destabilize months perhaps years of negotiations by revealing sensitive information, draft treaties and briefing notes, you thumb your nose at the work being done to lead to an equitable agreement that will safegaurd lives, peace and tranquillity as well as local good government. When you disclose Security targets that are important to a government and insure that you  underline the most vulnerable, you not only work to undermine those targets, but the very people working there.

 The files are sufficiently precise and detailed that the only reason we don't know more from the news, is because the World's major media  have been holding back. Even if the press self censor you can be sure the terrorists and criminals of the World won't be as worried about sharing this information with each other.

And before you go all "We have a right to know" and "no one was harmed " or "it's idealism of the purest and highest  kind"  My uncle worked at a company on that list, a mate of mine was on mission in a part of the world against fanatics, and was exposed to unneeded danger. My own son wants to go fight in Afghanistan, so let me tell you, it's not academic to me. It's not academic to every soldier, civil servant, employee or diplomat whose work and security has been breached by this.

Now let me quote from a site my anarchist lefty freinds might want to visit., unless of course they don't want to know the truth.

A certain secretive fellow, currently in custody, attempts to conceal his record:
Julian Assange had a blog. But he deleted it.
Thanks to Peter Risdon, however, we can take a look.
UPDATE. Assange in August:
1,300 people were eventually killed [in Kenya], and 350,000 were displaced. That was a result of our leak.
Assange today:
WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed. 

It's OK for ASSANGE to leak the locations of poorly defended people and places, MI5 Safe houses and the people in care, but not his address... You can't have it both ways mate. 

For the full details  

Julian Assange and his acolytes have behaved no better than the radical elements that rocked Europe in the 70's preaching total revolution, tear it down , then we can build from the rubble. But at what cost. How many died from the bombs? how many were murdered from kidnappings? WikiLeaks is just information you say, it's harmless.  Well information is power, and it kills. It kills as surely as a plane smashes into a high rise, as surely as a Taliban unit  sneaks into a town and blows up a school full of girls. Some have compared the Watergate tapes to WikiLeaks,  but I tell you it's not the same. Watergate brought down an administration, a corrupt one. It did not however strip away every layer of the US Government and it's operations in the entire world. It took down a few justifiably reviled criminals, it did not however, put in danger thousands of people across the globe and in many locations, most of whom are merely doing their jobs.

The critics of the crack down on WikiLeaks have the temerity to claim it's  McCarthyism on the net. What a load of hypocrisy, these self same people have targeted not just  the president of the United States, or the Republican Party, or the Democratic Party, but the entire state apparatus of the United States of America. And by association, that of the states who have anything at all to do with them.  That is by my reckoning a massive attack that I can only qualify as e-terrorism. What government on Earth will correspond or cooperate with the USA now,  what administration regardless of politics in the USA will be able to do anything at all now until such time as every leak is plugged,  and by the way freedom and transparency loving folk who have till now cried trendy tears for Julian Assange, that means even less transparency in the future, not more.  Giving money to this man and his cronies, is like giving money to the Real IRA, or a radical cell of animal rights loonies who don't care who they hurt as long as the animals are ok.

I live in the real, practical , day to day world, I understand there is price for my security as a citizen of a country and this planet. I know I have rights but also have responsibilities. I know that sometimes there are things I don't need to know right away or ever, but there are other things I need to know now. I trust my Government to behave honourably and responsibly. But if ever there was a hint of wrong doing, I would attack it and the wrong dooers with as much vigour as I defend the compact they are supposed to be upholding. I am a soft left of centre socialist who thinks we should take care of the least among us without closing all avenues of initiative or difference of opinion on some things. I would never vote Tory, I'm not best pleased with  the Lib Dems, but I, because I feel best represented by Labour,  will support and  help them. But this assumes that I agree with the basic premise laid down by Charles Trevelyan in forming the modern civil service that is repeated in every western democracy, that they will regardless of my politics, protect me, work in my best interest and protect the government services we take for granted in every country by reflecting the will of the people as elected to the Commons, and in so doing, be qualified for the job .

If I for a second supported WikiLeaks and the current campaign to undermine the very basis of diplomacy, and security in the World, I would be harming myself. But the facts are even clearer, and more pressing, as I watch the news, and hear of one more place within miles of me, a company in the next country, yet another salacious memo designed to further enrage and embolden rogue states into rash actions or cause friction between allies, a security initiative revealed in some part of the world foiled that will lead to deaths and set backs, all for the vanity and vengeance of Julian Assange on the United States he so hates.  I'm no fan of the Bush White House, there are loads of things wrong in my eyes with America, but I would never go so far as to systematically destroy the entire Government even to the point of dragging in people thousands of miles away. It takes a certain kind of fanaticism reminiscent of  religious fundamentalists on the right and total anarchy as prescribed by the early communists and fascists alike.  I like my revolutions gentle, that take time and cause as little upheaval as possible without sinking into the kind of legislative coma some tired reformers sometimes fall into. Like the nobility of 18th  and 19 century Britain, I prefer we come to some kind of agreement and try and stick to it.

I was most shocked by the very real chill in the sincerity and openness of discussion by some of the most supposedly free thinkers and activists I know on this subject. It seems you are either with Assange or you are some kind of conservative throwback to the days when anybody who disagreed with you was evil and free speech meant shouting louder than the man trying to speak at the podium . If this is the future under Assange and his mates, they can stuff it up their holier than thou arses. I mention this because two days ago I was de friended on facebook by a WikiLeaks apostle along with the person, who horror of horrors, agreed with my two comments,  I was also told that I could have all the freedom of speech I wanted, but not on her time and told to stop "harassing" her, by that she meant of course, being wrong on her status.  I then found myself steering clear of any further discussions on the matter. Seems I wasn't alone, as the pro WikiLeaks people attracted few comments or likes and seemed pretty pleased with themselves.What did I say that was so terrible?

I pointed out three simple things.... 1- Given the magnitude of the leaks, regardless of what she thought or I thought, the governments of the world will be even more closed in, now more than ever before. 2- Naming companies and locations of important facilities around the world in order of least secure, as well as MI5 safe houses, was an invitation to less scrupulous types to use this information and lastly 3- That whatever she may think of diplomacy, it has over time stopped far more wars than it ever caused.  Whatever bogey men she may have fought in her life, she has clearly not taken the time to think that just maybe This guy has gone wayyyyy too far in his alleged Holy War  for whatever philosophical purity he espouses. At the end of the day I much prefer dealing with rational reasonable people who aren't going to take ME down because their neighbours dog peed on their shoes.
Last word on this, here is a quick quote from one my favourite songs in the 70's.Trooper's "Raise a little Hell"

If you dont like what you got, why don't you change it?
If your world is all screwed up, then rearrange it?

If you dont like what you see, why don't you fight it?
If you know there's something wrong why dont you right it?
Raise a little hell , raise a little hell, raise a little hell! 
Trooper didn't tell us to burn the house down, unleash the armies of Hell, and lay waste to our neighbours to give us a better sense of security; they said try and make it right, don't be silent and make sure you are on the side of justice. Raise a LITTLE hell.  What is being done in the name of transparency is plain and simple hooliganism that dictates if you hate the Bank of Scotland or McDonald's you need to beat up the clerk at the till and burn the bus at the corner.   The cyber attack by hackers closing  Mastercard, Paypal and  the attack on the lawyers defending the women in Sweden,  is the kind of thing that makes me sick about fanatics likes this. They are proving they are nothing but bullies who care nothing about whom they hurt and are only interested in their personal version of Utopia. I have no room for anarchists who wouldn't know justice if it bit them on the arse, no more than I want to talk to closed minded messianics who think this is some kind of game with no consequences.The sooner sanity is restored and the hackers and WikiLeaks are dealt with, the better.

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