Assange in trouble for taking a leak
Back in May, Hamid Karzai was invited to the White House where President Obama praised and feted the Afghan leader as a trusted ally. Republicans and Democrats alike told us that the Karzai government was a solid partner in the war on terror and would have our back in a fight. Well, one good build-up deserves another, so Obama committed 100,000 troops to Afghanistan where they will remain until 2014. The problem is that the American public was duped, and deliberately so.
Obama and his diplomats knew long before May that Karzai’s regime was corrupt, fueled by a systematic narcotics industry and regularly skimmed money from American development projects. State Department representatives in Afghanistan had also cabled the president, telling him that Karzai was a paranoid wreck, and “an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts.” Yet Obama, like his gung ho predecessor, decided to cover up vital information so that American taxpayers would support an unjust, unwinnable war while our troops would be put in harm’s way under false pretenses with no support from their host nation.
So much for the new era of transparency. All of these shocking revelations came to light earlier this month when Julian Assange dumped some 250,000 government documents onto his Wikileaks website. The e-mails, cables, memos and reports were leaked to Assange by an Army PFC, and now everyone from Eric Holder to
Sarah Palin is out for blood, saying the Wikileaks founder is guilty of espionage. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration is embarrassed and angry over the massive leak, which also includes juicy tidbits about world leaders. Frankly I don’t much care that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is “an emperor with no clothes,” or that Italian prime minister Silvio Berluscomi is “feckless and ineffective,” but I do care that our president deliberately misled us so that we would support his decision to go to war.
Former US diplomat Peter Galbraith told CNN, “we have 100,000 troops committed to a strategy that won’t work, and that is a waste of resources — 120 billion dollars, and the lives that are lost. And frankly, it is wrong and immoral to send people to a mission that you don’t believe can be accomplished… without an Afghan partner, we cannot succeed.”
And yet, despite Obama’s shameless deceptions and the botched strategies they produced, most Americans see Assange as the bad guy. But how can a whistleblower be the bad guy? After all, our government regularly rewards people who come forward with the truth about publicand private-sector misdeeds. Last summer, for example, Hedy Cirrincione was awarded $10 million by the Feds for uncovering widespread Medicaid fraud. And we owe a debt of gratitude to countless other legendary whistleblowers, such as Jeffrey Wigand, Karen Silkwood, Mark (“Deep Throat”) Felt and Daniel Ellsberg, whose leaked Pentagon Papers eventually helped to end the Vietnam War, thus preventing thousands more casualties. For his part, Julian Assange is telling us that we can’t trust either the Afghan government or our own, and that if we don’t change course, more of our sons and daughters will die for nothing.
America needs whistleblowers. Unfortunately, we seldom embrace them while they are in the process of blowing those whistles. It usually takes many years and the perspective of history before we fully appreciate the contributions made by those who have the courage to speak out about or release controversial information. That’s probably how it will be with Julian Assange. Regardless, he has done America a great service by publishing information about Afghanistan which, if acted upon, could save lives, not cost them. Meanwhile, our president shouldn’t be trying to kill the messenger. Instead, he should learn from the message.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).