December 4, 2010

Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Bradley Manning

Whether you like them or not, agree or not, Private Bradley Manning and Julian Assange of WikiLeaks have revealed the unadulterated truth about a few things going on in the world.  By putting the documents, videos and cables out there, they are forcing governments to resuscitate that first casualty of war: truth.  In case anyone forgot, it's a war out there.

I just watched the video of the shooting in Baghdad April 5th, 2007.  Forget what you saw on Nightly News, they broadcast a few seconds. To understand the implications, you have to watch at least the 18 minute version.  An Apache helicopter was circling around an open square. Several men were walking, amongst them two Reuters reporters. They had their cameras slung over their shoulders. The crew on the helicopter seemed to think they were carrying weapons and decided to open fire on the group.

The US military initially said they had no idea how/why/when the two reporters were killed. So yeah, understandably, a lot of high-ranking officials within the US government are extremely pissed off at both Bradley Manning for downloading all this stuff and for Julian Assange, for publishing it with a splash.

The videos (there is a short version 18 minutes in duration and a long version 39 minutes in duration) show the event. 

War is fucked up. I don't want to condemn anyone. Everyone reacts differently in stress situations. And since I have never been in a situation like that and probably never will, it's not for me to judge. Sure, you hear the pilots laughing or making light when the "bradleys" (code for tanks) arrive and roll over one of the killed victims.  But again, maybe that is the only way that particular guy could deal with the situation.  You see ground troops moving in. Two US soldiers each carry one of the wounded children. You see them. They request permission to evacuate them to a military hospital. That request is denied.
I can't imagine how that must have felt.

War is completely fucked up. I don't have any better word to describe it. Because, at the core, war is murder in camouflage. You are asked to kill another human being. You are given the green light to kill another human being. No matter what side you are on,  it's always the losing side. 

I can be as philosophical and idealistic as I want, fact is, there are thousands of soldiers out there, shooting, getting shot at. Trying to find their way in the chaos. We assume soldiers will do the right thing, act honorably, with humanity and integrity.  We forget the entire premise of war is inhumane.

Wikileaks allow us to look and make up our own minds.   Julian Assange may be somewhat of an arrogant bastard (the credits at the end of the video list him first as producer/creative director which made me squirm) but arrogant or not, he is shedding the light in deep, dark corners of government.  We can see stuff for ourselves without any spin or slant, if we want.

The mere existence of guys like Bradley Manning, the kid who downloaded all this stuff, and Julian Assange, allow for a modicum shift of unfiltered information/power over our way.  In my humble opinion, Bradley Manning did a pretty damn brave thing. I don't know what he was thinking. The guy is a private in the US army. He had access to SIPRN (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network).  He saw things he thought we should see too.

People, whistle blowers, if you will, are usually never very popular, especially amongst those listening to the high-pitched shill. Given the nature of the deed, these "victims" are powerful i.e. they have the means to spin hard.  They don't want us to know anything. At least not unfiltered.

James Moore wrote an excellent article on Huffington Post about the myth of journalistic objectivity.  He writes: "Objectivity may be a myth but fairness is an achievable goal. But neither will happen without information that goes un-spun by special interests. Which is why, for the time being, we all need WikiLeaks."

And we should use it. See for yourself.

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