Julian Assange: Neither Saint Nor Sinner

The WikiLeaks controversy is unfolding in exactly the way almost everything else in this country unfolds – in a yawning divide lined with yapping dachshunds.

The lefties see WikiLeaks’ head drip, Julian Assange, as a crusader to be hailed, not jailed. The right wants to off the miserable terrorist (Note to righties: Look up the defnition of terrorist before any more name calling) on general principles. The whole sordid affair has become a thermonuclear Jerry Springer show of freaks, geeks, and an audience cheering and jeering so loudly no one can think.

The vast majority of the 250,000-plus cables are mundane. The administrivia that keeps a bureaucratic juggernaut juggering. While a good number of these are classified, the nation probably would’ve suffered little if they had been declassified.

Karzai is Incomptent? I’m Shocked!
Then, there are the embarrassing missives. Unflattering things that local ambassadors said about their hosts. Memos along the lines of “Hamid Karzai is an incompetent pootiehead who can’t be trusted to run sheep herd, much less a country riven by war. And he wears a cape too for Chrissake.”

Karzai a cloaked incompetent? Who knew?

These revelations come as no surprise to those on the receiving end.  Cables from any other country on the planet contain similar comments almost word for word.

And mixed in with the rainforest-sized pile of dubious junk are those cables that actually reveal something important.  It’s rumored that some of them may actually contain truly classified information and would probably be better left secret.

Face it, the world needs whistleblowers. They help give the general public a bit of leverage against the crushingly powerful government and corporate  citizens. But as Assange is finding out, they usually end up in ruin. Ask Daniel Elsberg and the ratter outers of Philip Morris.

In the end, America will be unlikely to suffer any lasting damage other than a bruised ego. The hurt feelings will go away. However, the truly classified parts will casue some short-term dangers. But, aside than the sheer size of the leak, this is the kind of stuff that spies steal every few years. It may turn out that the most important task is figuring out how someone got so many of the crown jewels instead of containing the current damage.

With Assange under arrest, next up comes the legal wrangling.

The charges of rape sex by surprise (WTF?) may just be a way to hold onto Assange until they can get him on the higher charges or it cold be a political charade. Remember, one of the women making the allegations may have connections with a CIA operative. In any case, investigate and if there is sufficient evidence, try him.

Of the lesser leaks, either drop the charges because no actual damage was done or treat them lightly. You’ll have lots of other opportunities to shackle him in his cell at a country club federal pen.

Throw the Books at Him
Of the larger leaks, throw the book at him commensurate with what the evidence and law suggest. Not for treason as Moosilini wants (Note to Sarah: He’d have to be an American to charge him with treason.). Not as a terrorist, because (and I assume here that you righties aren’t still reading the definition) he isn’t one. Try him under US espionage laws. But if he drops his promised dime on the US banking system, I vote AMNESTY!

He broke those laws and he’s entitled to a fair trial under them. We can’t just become a lynch mob of Newt Gingrichi and hang him without a trial elst we cause more damage to our image than calling Putin a crook (Again, what a frickin’ surprise!).

In a way, the real issue here isn’t what he released or didn’t release, it’s who is impartial enough to decide which secrets are the ones we need to keep. Sunshine and legitimate national security secrets don’t always go well together.

If we leave the task solely to the agencies involved, you’d get a disaster similar to Gingrich’s newest great idea – letting companies decide how much tax they should play. Leave it solely to the professional politicians and every little securo-turd that flushes down the pipe will be thrown at their opponets before James Bond could get a plan together to steal them.

We need some balance, a referee. Perhaps Tony Hayward or  Joe the Plumber are available.

I hear they already have the striped shirts, whistles, and the poor (in)sight of any NFL referee.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Palin’s Monday Morning Leak Plugging

The world’s new infant terrible, WikiLeaks head Julian Assange, is the water cooler topic this week for dropping 250,000 secret State Dept. documents on an unsuspecting populace. There’s no dearth of analysis of the documents. There are numerous pieces citing the most damaging documents and lots of embarrassing sniping like thinking Hamid Karzai is an incompetent pootiehead – a “revelation” that could hardly be called a secret.

Opinions about whether the leak was a good thing or bad thing depend largely on where you stand. Journalists don’t necessarily say Assange was right, they mostly just concentrate on mining the information for interesting bits for reportage. Politicians and diplomats are foursquare against it since the cables are embarrassing and potentially dangerous. As usual, the public is schizophrenic.

Unless you’re a complete pollyana that believes all governments are intrinsically good and that speaking publically and directly between countries is always the right strategy, you miss the point that there are bad guys out there – sometimes even including the US. To deal with the bad guys, a certain amount of secrecy, spying, and circumspect diplomacy is required.

But not all secrets are created equal.

Not All Secrets are Created Equal
The government frequently classifies information more tightly than is probably warranted. After all, classifying secrets is a subjective task. I’m sure the leaks reveal some of these over-protected facts, but that’s not necessarily a reason to release them. Some are things the public has a right to know, others are better kept quiet. In other words, The Big Dick™ keeping his appointment calendars secret surely carries less weight – some would say no weight at all – than a memo revealing nuclear launch codes, but that’s “above our pay grade”.

Once the leaks are in the open, journalists are faced with their own dilemma – report on them thereby expanding their dissemination or keep mum even though the information represents a horse that has already escaped the barn. There are points to both positions.

The public is of both minds, although both minds probably read the leaks with interest and sometimes amusement – even the folks who are against the release. They’re like people who go to NASCAR races and swear they aren’t there to see the crashes.

Then in our present rancorosity, charges, counter-charges, rumor, and fact congeal into a dirty mess. Sarah Plain leads this camp. Big surprise here, she thinks Obama is an incompetent boob who let it happen. She trumpets that the administration should be pursuing Assange like Osama Bin Laden. She also thinks Assange is a traitor, apparently unaware that he is Australian so if there is any treason, it’s between him and the Land Down Under.

In fact, Obama is ultimately responsible because it happened on his watch, but that doesn’t mean his response is any more incompetent than Sarah’s would be in the unlikely event she was in Obama’s shoes.

Spying and leaks are notoriously difficult to detect beforehand. Normally, the culprit either needs to be the incompetent one or the information has to leave the building before you even know there’s a problem. To one degree or another, this has happened to every administration. The Obaminites already have Army Specialist Bradley Manning in custody and is conducting additional investigations to catch any new culprits and tighten security.

Hunting down Assange like the second coming of the Cave Dweller might sound all mavericky, but it isn’t necessary. Sweden has a detention order out for him and his lawyer has regular contact with him. Finding him using the investigative power of the entire western world shouldn’t be that hard. Heck, we could even send The Big Dick™ or his sock puppet George out to waterboard the lawyer to find Assasnge.

Legal Remidies are Never Quick
The administration isn’t letting the legal issue go away. AG Eric Holder is conducting an “active, ongoing criminal investigation” into the leak. However, it’s not clear exactly what the US can do legally to apprehend and prosecute an Australian who may be in Sweden and is already in legal hot water there not to mention the other countries looking for his crapulent hide. Legal remedies are never quick, especially with multiple countries involved.

As for freezing funds, the US can’t freeze funds elsewhere or as is likely in this case protected or hidden, without the legal help of those countries. Besides, I’m not sure anyone knows how much WikiLeaks or Assange has.

Does the Obama adminsitration deserve criticism for what has happened? Yes, it happened on their watch, just like 9/11 happened to the last administration’s. Do things need to be changed? Yes, there always are when something happens and you find holes in what you’re doing. Has the administration been slow on the uptake? Yes, but probably not any more so than similar problems happening in earlier administrations.

Assange says his next docudump is on a large US bank (rumored to be Bank of America).  Once this one comes around will Obama again be at fault or accused of some nefarious plan to intentionally cause the leaks as some have charged this time? I suspect so, but we’ll see. Miracles do happen, but there are some who believe Obama is some sort of Machiavellian schemer who “hates America”, which would seem to be at direct odds with the same people who think he’s too incompetent to tie his shoes.

The truth is none of us know what he’s doing or will do or how fast he will do it. At this point, it’s a secret.

You know, that thing he is supposed to be unable to keep.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

What Do Hamid Karzai, Lindsey Graham, and the Stock Market Have in Common? (And Some Great WV Elections!)

I haven't put out a diary in awhile, and therefore it makes me sad.  So in celebration of the end of my hiatus amongst the blogosphere, I have a diary of quality substance with several different stories chocked into one...hopefully.

Anyway, to answer the question posed by the title of this diary now.  What Do Hamid Karzai, Lindsey Graham, and the Stock Market all have in common?  If you answered that they were all mentioned by the media as potential SCOTUS nominees, you may partially be correct... but not for the context of this diary.  Though this title doesn't really pertain to the actual substance of the diary, I just wanted to point out that all three are incredibly moody.  I wish to see the day where Karzai and Graham both have Facebook and update their statuses with how great their day went, then 10 minutes later put up an emo status about how much their lives suck and how they really don't think its time to push that climate bill or "I'll just haul myself over to Taliban HQ and see what America thinks of THAT!"

Okay....  so now for real substance, sorry I just figured some lame comic-relief was needed.

Election day is today in West Virginia and I personally can't wait.  I will cast my vote, and not reveal who it is I am voting for.  The first Congressional district is up for grabs and it should indeed be an exciting race!  State Senator Michael Oliverio is up for the Democratic Party's nomination, against incumbent virtuoso Alan Mollohan (D-WV). I haven't found any recent reliable polls so the race is pretty up in the air.  The winner of this primary challenge will face the winner of a slew of Republican candidates.

In West Virginia's 1st Congressional District, incumbent U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., faces state Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, for the Democratic nomination to the seat. The nominee will face the winner of the Republican primary in the Nov. 2 general election. The six GOP hopefuls include Cindy Hall, Patricia VanGilder Levenson and David B. McKinley of Wheeling, Sarah Minear and Mac Warner of Morgantown and Thomas Stark of Parkersburg.

Source:  Wheeling Intelligencer

In my opinion, I think the district will stay blue regardless however it will be a battle.  

Not in the national spotlight but still an awesome story, is a race in the West Virginia House of Delegates.  David Eplin, a Democrat from Logan County, set out in a unique way to file his candidacy for House of Delegates.

When David Eplin traveled from Logan County to Charleston to file paperwork at the secretary of state's office this week, he took the typical route: U.S. 119.  But the 23-year-old says he trekked the 40-some miles by foot.

Eplin, a Chapmanville resident, is running for a seat in the House of Delegates 19th District. The Democrat works as a warehouseman at the Pepsi Bottling Group in Logan.

He wanted to prove his dedication to potential constituents, he said. So he walked -- and sometimes ran -- to the Capitol.

Source:  Charleston Gazette

A unique, and dedicated, way to file your candidacy and show the voters of your district that you care about them and want to serve them well.  This should come as now surprise, the citizens of West Virginia are among the most caring and thoughtful individuals this state has to offer.  Election day is going to be an exciting day, and I look forward to bringing a full report once results come in.

 

Will Obama Say Yes to Afghan Peace Talks?

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is coming to Washington next week to meet with President Obama. Afghan government officials have said that their top priority for these talks is to get President Obama to agree that the U.S. will fully back efforts of the Afghan government to reconcile with senior leaders of the Afghan Taliban insurgency in order to end the war.

On the merits, saying yes to the Afghan government's request for US support for peace talks would seem like a no-brainer.

There's more...

Karzai Demands US Hand Over Killers of Handcuffed Children

UPDATE: Latest NATO story after changing at least 3 times claims "non-military Americans" (AFP) were present and fired upon by villagers.  Initially denied presence of Coalition forces in region.

"NATO forces have disputed the results of the Afghan probe, saying the foreigners involved were non-military Americans on a sanctioned operation who fired in self-defence after being shot at by villagers."

Let me get this straight.  A squad of Blackwater thugs lands in helicopters at 3 in the morning in the middle of nowhere just to take a walk through the neighborhood.


If the allegations are true, it constitutes a war crime of ominous proportions.  Afghan President Hamid Karzai has forcefully demanded that the US military hand over the perpetrators of an operation in which Special Operations forces were air-dropped outside of Ghazi Khan village in Kunar Province last week, who then took children ranging from ages as young as 11 to 18 from their beds, handcuffed them, and shot them.  London Times:

President Karzai’s security chiefs have demanded that America should hand over the gunmen behind a night raid in eastern Afghanistan that government investigators and the United Nations say killed at least eight schoolchildren....

It is the first time that Mr Karzai has tried to hold foreign forces directly accountable for killing civilians, although he has issued impassioned responses to civilian casualties that threaten to undermine Nato’s mission in Afghanistan.

In the meantime Afghans have taken to the streets in huge anti-US demonstrations in cities across the country, many holding banners reading in English "Stop Killing Us" (video below)  

Kai Eide, head of the UN in Afghanistan, issued a statement reinforcing Afghan claims that most of the dead were schoolboys. "Based on our initial investigation, eight of those killed were students enrolled in local schools."

The London Times reported last week:

    "President Karzai sent a team of investigators to Narang district, in eastern Kunar province, after reports of a massacre first surfaced on Monday."

      "The delegation concluded that a unit of international forces descended from a plane Sunday night into Ghazi Khan village in Narang district of the eastern province of Kunar and took ten people from three homes, eight of them school students in grades six, nine and ten, one of them a guest, the rest from the same family, and shot them dead," a statement on President Karzai's website said.

      Assadullah Wafa, who led the investigation, said that US soldiers flew to Kunar from Kabul, suggesting that they were part of a special forces unit.

      Mr Wafa, a former governor of Helmand province, met President Karzai to discuss his findings yesterday. "I spoke to the local headmaster," he said. "It's impossible they were al-Qaeda. They were children, they were civilians, they were innocent. I condemn this attack."

      In a telephone interview last night, the headmaster said that the victims were asleep in three rooms when the troops arrived. "Seven students were in one room," said Rahman Jan Ehsas. "A student and one guest were in another room, a guest room, and a farmer was asleep with his wife in a third building.

      "First the foreign troops entered the guest room and shot two of them. Then they entered another room and handcuffed the seven students. Then they killed them."

What is little-noted is that the devastating attack on a CIA base last week came the day after the killings.  There is a possibility that insurgents were acting in retaliation for the child killings.

These are the most serious of allegations against any soldier.  And although all are innocent until found guilty, a weight of evidence and credible investigation has been established to warrant an independent investigation ordered by the President of the United States.  

There are many questions which we should be asking.  First, who ordered the operation?  Did the commanders know at the time of planning that school children would be found, and included in the "targets?"  If not, once inside, were the executions the work of one or two rogue individuals, or did the entire unit proceed with orders?  Once recognized to be children, did any of the soldiers protest the orders, or refuse to obey them?

The Karzai presidential website states,

President Karzai in a telephone contact expressed condolences and shared grief with the families of the victims of the recent attack in Kunar province.  Following the attack, President Karzai tasked a delegation on Monday led by the Chief of Complaints Commission and composed of representatives from the ministries of Defense, Interior, National Directorate of Security and the Office of Administrative Affairs for an immediate investigation of the incident.  

   The findings by the delegation concluded that a unit of international forces descended from a plane Sunday night into Ghazi Khan Village in Narang district of the eastern province of Kunar and took 10 people from three homes, eight of them school students in grades six, nine and 10, one of them a guest, the rest from the same family, and shot them dead.

   Eight of those shot dead were confirmed as school students by the village school principle.

Yesterday I made a comparison to My Lai.  I have been persuaded that this is not accurate.  It's worse.  At My Lai a company of young, frustrated soldiers followed the orders of bad officers in the heat of the day and ongoing combat to start shooting women and children.  Here, we are faced with a calculated and professional operation, by elite, seasoned Special Operations soldiers, acting methodically and in cold blood.  

A twelve-year old is a twelve year old.  Civilian casualties from bombs are one thing, as horrendous as they are and why many people oppose this war.  But our country does not shoot hog-tied children in cold blood.  This is something we can never, ever lose sight of, or ever make any excuses for.

What makes it worse yet, a command decision may have been made which calculated the likely political fallout to be tolerable, short-lived, and well within the containment powers of our fawning, military industrial complex-dominated media.  This is chilling beyond imagination.  If this stands, the Empire has crossed an invisible line of no return, going from accidental deaths that are the needless result of a needless war, to the  institutionalized, cold-blooded murder of children.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose 10% in the first 9 months of 2009, from an already horrific 2,100 in 2008 and 1,523 in 2007.

Who ordered it, and who was in command.  What happened.  It is not too strong to say America must know, and at stake is the very soul of the country.  Nothing in this war has called out so strongly, from beyond the graves of these children, for an investigation free of Pentagon whitewash.

The enablers, who voted to continue funding these wars on December 16,2009? ("Yea" is a vote for war funding.)
Contact Congress.

From the new anti-war coalition Peace of the Action:

 

We’ve marched, written, called and faxed but the wars continue. It is time for new creative strategies and bolder action. Peace of the Action will bring forward an historic escalation of Peace Activism like we have not seen in the United States in a very long time.

   "...you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop." -- Mario Savio 1964

"What then must we do?" - The Year of Living Dangerously

VIDEO, Afghan Protests

 

 

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