If we do our job, we will expose the same vile mendacity of our masters that has led to the clamour of hatred towards Assange, Manning and Snowden
The Independent Voices
I’m getting a bit tired of the US Espionage Act. For that matter, I’ve been pretty weary of the Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning saga for a long time. No one wants to talk about their personalities because no one seems to like them very much – even those who have benefited journalistically from their revelations.
From the start, I’ve been worried about the effect of Wikileaks, not on the brutal western governments whose activities it has disclosed in shocking detail (especially in the Middle East) but on the practice of journalism. When we scribes were served up this Wikileaks pottage, we jumped in, paddled around and splashed the walls of reporting with our cries of horror. And we forgot that real investigative journalism was about the dogged pursuit of truth through one’s own sources rather than upsetting a bowl of secrets in front of readers, secrets which Assange and co – rather than us – had chosen to make public.
Why was it, I do recall asking myself almost 10 years ago, that we could read the indiscretions of so many Arabs or Americans but so few Israelis? Just who was mixing the soup we were supposed to eat? What had been left out of the gruel?
But the last few days have convinced me that there is something far more obvious about the incarceration of Assange and the re-jailing of Manning. And it has nothing to do with betrayal or treachery or any supposed catastrophic damage to our security.
In The Washington Post this week, we’ve had Marc Theissen, a former White House speechwriter who defended CIA torture as “lawful and morally just”, telling us that Assange “is not a journalist. He is a spy … He engaged in espionage against the United States. And he has no remorse for the harm he has caused.” So forget that Trump’s insanity has already turned torture and secret relations with America’s enemies into a pastime.
No, I don’t think this has anything to do with the use of the Espionage Act – however grave its implications for conventional journalists – or “reputable news organisations”, as Thiessen cloyingly calls us. Nor does it have much to do with the dangers these revelations posed to America’s locally hired agents in the Middle East. I remember well how often Iraqi interpreters for US forces told us how they had pleaded for visas for themselves and their families when they came under threat in Iraq – and how most were told to get lost. We Brits treated many of our own Iraqi translators with similar indifference.
So let’s forget – just for a moment – the slaughter of civilians, the lethal cruelty of US mercenaries (some involved in child-trafficking), the killing of Reuters staff by US forces in Baghdad, the army of innocents held in Guantanamo, the torture, the official lies, the fake casualty figures, the embassy lies, the American training of Egypt’s torturers and all the other crimes uncovered by the activities of Assange and Manning.