The Sham of Democracy

Shaswat Sinha

Truth is potent, truth is dangerous. Truth is what most governments fear and over times they have shrouded it from the masses in the cloak of secrecy. Under the garb of secrecy, they have committed most heinous crimes against humanity with utter disrespect for human life, values and dignity. WikiLeaks, a four-year-old online non-profit media organization undertook to subvert the secrecy regime that spawn all kinds of evils, exposing all such ‘secret’ documents of the governments all over the world. More specifically, it undertook to disclose a trove of secret US diplomatic cables about 400,000 in number, highest ever released in US history, and that has won it international praise and condemnation. WikiLeaks call themselves ‘transparency activists,’ and in the words of its founder Julian Assange, its Editor-in-Chief, only transparent governments can be just governments. Julian Assange, became the face of WikiLeaks to shield its employees and today faces one of the most vicious and malicious campaign against himself for publishing leaked secret diplomatic cables and documents which have put the most powerful governments to shame. WikiLeaks calls it “scientific journalism” where all their articles have proof alongside. While WikiLeaks has riled some powerful governments who want nothing less than Julian Assange’s head, many other governments have come out to openly defend Assange and have made a case for freedom of speech. Vladimir Putin ridiculed the US administration for its false pretense of upholding democracy and freedom of speech on one hand and filing a criminal case against Assange on the other. Ecuador offered an unconditional asylum to Assange. WikiLeaks exposed how the US staged an unsuccessful coup in Ecuador. The Bolivian Vice President has hosted WikiLeaks documents on his official website. It is interesting to note that though whistle-blowing is officially hailed around the world, only three countries in the world have laws to protect whistle-blowers; the rest all prosecute whistle-blowers.
The gaping abyss between what the political leaders and governments say in private and in public has sent a wave of disbelief, anger, frustration, disgust and a deep feeling of deception among the general public especially in Europe and Middle East. The US, which comes out as the biggest culprit and a pathological liar in the leaks has not seen as much of mass or media reaction as Europe and Middle East has seen. Instead, the mainstream media in the US (except NYT, that published the leaks) quietly deferred to and stood by the official line and made its contribution in demonizing Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. All major news channels have shown several American (and some Canadian) leaders who have in not so subtle terms proposed and demanded assassination of Julian Assange. A manhunt was launched for Assange by European governments and the US in tandem with Sweden – on the pretext of alleged rape charges against Assange by two women in Sweden. Whether or not the charges have substance is to be seen. But what is undeniable is that the charges, which were once dismissed by a prosecutor in Sweden, have now been revived and used to arrest and imprison Assange in Britain. A manhunt by Interpol for charges of sex crime that are at best quite ambiguous is all out of proportion and many well known feminists like Naomi Wolf have pointed to the contrast with the response of the state to sex crimes of far greater gravity all over the world. Daniel Ellsberg (the journalist who leaked the Pentagon Papers and exposed US war crimes in Vietnam), calls it déjà vu; in one of his recent interviews he said that he was targeted with a smear campaign which included false charges of sex crimes. Assange was granted bail in Britain, which was challenged by Sweden, but he is not free – he is under house arrest in Britain. There is talk of the US demanding his extradition and prosecuting him under US laws. Fortunately, some of the extremely ludicrous demands like that of “treason” were not pursued by the US as Assange is not even a US citizen.
Emperor’s New Clothes    
The leaks are so sweeping that the focus and the propaganda has been to kill the messenger rather than pay any attention to the message. It has of exposed war crimes against civilians as the rule rather than the exception in Iraq and Afghanistan. If it was not for WikiLeaks we would have never known the death of additional 15,000 Iraqis in the Iraq War. The Iraq and Afghanistan ‘War Logs’ released by WikiLeaks have put in black and white how hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians were killed in these wars; how many times, civilians were targeted under the false pretext of catching extremists. The ‘night raids’ in Afghanistan have been the deadliest attacks on the civilian population of Afghanistan where innocent civilians have been killed in the name of combating Taliban leaders. The torture memos of the US administration are out which are illegal under international law.   
The US’ covert activities to destabilize democracy in Latin America are well known where it has tried to overthrow every democratically elected government but the leaks also point to its operations in African continent where the US discussed ways to oust Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The leaked diplomatic cables also show how the US supports extremely corrupt Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan (a former Soviet state which now has medieval conditions of living with rampant corruption, indentured servitude and organized crime) because he allows a crucial military line to Afghanistan. It extends to climate talks; the recent WikiLeaks expose’ shows how the US pressured poor countries to accept weak and flawed climate deals in return for miniscule aid.
How Rulers Serve the US and Lie to People  
The leaked cables also expose the ruling class in a range of countries allied to the US, showing their slavish willingness to lie to their public in order to do the US’ bidding. In the Middle East, Saudi leaders, betraying overwhelming public opinion in the region, have been revealed to have repeatedly asked the US to wage a war against Iran. The government of Yemen, likewise, is revealed facilitating US bombing of their own populations, joking about the fact that they are lying to their Parliament and public by calling the airstrikes their own! Pakistan falls in the same category where Pakistani authorities supported drone attacks in private saying they did not care much about ‘collateral’ damage but explaining that they need to seen to oppose the attacks in their National Assembly. The Indian Home Minister, likewise, is shown asking access to Headley be granted even if it is only to keep up appearances, while the Indian Foreign Secretary cautions the US Ambassador not to instruct India in public (on matters such as relations with Iran), since the appearance of independent foreign policy must be kept up! Dangerously, the FBI office in Delhi is shown to be in touch with a mole in the Delhi Police Special Cell.
It is revealed that the British government assured the US administration that no case for war crimes would be brought against George Bush or any of his cohorts. The war crimes were constantly shielded whereas the public stance was exactly opposite to assuage huge anti-war sentiment in Britain. The revelations have riled the powerful governments to no end especially the US.
Some other countries and regions where massive corruption and injustices were exposed include Peru, Spain, Australia, Kenya, Germany, Western Africa and Iceland among others. Oil magnates of Peru were exposed, the false Australian law to control websites was exposed, Spanish government’s capitulation to US pressure for not prosecuting torture of its own citizen and death of its own journalist was exposed, capture and torture of a German grocer by CIA was exposed, and the list goes on. The leaks led to investigations and prosecutions of bankers in Iceland who caused biggest financial meltdown in Iceland. It is interesting to note that Assange’s arrest process sped up when WikiLeaks declared that their next big target was to expose financial institutions and big banks in the US.  
Eroding the US Claim to Moral Authority
Barack Obama condemned WikiLeaks in a call to the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, where he expressed “his regrets for the deplorable action by WikiLeaks.”  He was trying to mend diplomatic ties with Turkey which was mentioned in the diplomatic cables of US as an unreliable partner despite Turkey’s almost unconditional support to US for decades. It is instructive to remember that Turkey had declined the US request of providing its territories as a base to attack Iraq, under the pressure of its own population. Obama expressed similar sentiments in a call to his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon, where he was most forceful yet again against the website. It was President Obama who during his election campaign had said, "For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city,” and had promised end of the secrecy regime. But the charade, mere political theater to distract and placate the masses wore off under the light of leaks. This is what WikiLeaks has done, to uncover the charade and expose the truth. The diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks show unequivocally that the new administration began lying to the public almost immediately after Obama assumed office, and withheld important information that the US public (and many nations around the world) had the right to know and the need to know.
WikiLeaks has eroded the US claim to moral authority in the world and that has caused the strongest reaction from the corridors of power in the US. Ironically the Attorney General of the US, Eric Holder, filed a criminal case of “spying” against Assange when the leaked cables show that the US itself has been involved in extensive spying on international leaders including the UN General Secretary Ban-Ki Moon. The US embassies have not only spied to get crucial diplomatic information but also have indulged in collecting most personal information going to the extent of getting DNA samples. The cables reveal that the Secretary of State for the US, Hillary Clinton and her predecessor Condoleezza Rice, both ordered for extensive spying beyond any diplomatic norms. The cables show in the words of Noam Chomsky “utter contempt of our leaders for anything democratic.”  Chomsky along with others has signed an appeal to the Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard to give protection to Julian Assange who is an Australian citizen and not shamelessly follow US dictates. 
WikiLeaks has committed some minor mistakes and has taken some missteps in its short life span but overall the amount of injustice and corruption that it has exposed around the world in such short period of time is extremely commendable and shows its deep commitment and courage to stand up against powerful factions of the world alone.
The online community vowed to take it to the next level and declared cyber war on organizations that aimed to harm WikiLeaks. “Operation Payback,” as the hactivists (hacker-activist) called these cyber wars have already managed to stall the PayPal and MasterCard websites when these financial firms dropped WikiLeaks from their services. An executive of PayPal said in an interview that a US state Department circular intimated PayPal that activities of WikiLeaks were deemed illegal and consequently PayPal was forced to drop WikiLeaks. Amazon was forced to drop WikiLeaks in a similar fashion. The hactivists are setting up and alternative portal to transfer money to WikiLeaks from personal accounts; WikiLeaks runs only on donation. Christine Assange, Julian Assange's mother, was quoted as saying she was worried for her son because ''massive forces'' were ranged against him. Supporters of Julian Assange have been demonstrating for his release. As Reuters reported, WikiLeaks supporters wore masks of the "Anonymous" internet activists and an Assange mask, at a rally in Malaga, Spain. The hactivists have taken to strongly defend the freedom of speech and have changed the rules of engagement in this cyber war.
The WikiLeaks expose’ has laid bare the sham of democracy we live in, showing how the ruling classes the world over, serving imperialist power, deceive their people and perpetrate crimes against humanity. The modus operandi of imperialism has been irrevocably exposed and that is an achievement which will ensure WikiLeaks’ continued relevance and its place in history.   

It is also important to note that WikiLeaks is just publishing the documents whereas the unsung heroes are those who are leaking these documents also at great personal risk. Bradley Manning, a soldier in the US army who first leaked secret cables is now facing trial in the US and credit must go to such conscientious objectors who are doing all in their power to stop their powerful governments and keep the flame of democracy from being extinguished.