When the Wikileaks sensation began, India was still in a fuzzy pink glow from its Obama honeymoon. Wisely, it stressed that it would wait to see what the cables reveal. On WikiLeaks, India to ‘wait and watch’. Fair enough. We are a country that values relationships.
And then, the US great cover up began. The first to fall were many countries who reassured the US of good relations (of which we were a part: India declines comment, defends U.S. ties), but wait. We aren’t even a week into knowing the full picture which could take months. What is the hurry to do all this goody goody business? Are we saying that no matter what US does, we will be good with it?, even when one of the first disclosures was one of violating the sanctity of the UN itself?
That was a big clue. Either that no one really respects the UN, or as the Wikileaks have consistently been showing, laws and treaties don’t apply to the US and we agree. The next to fall?
- American newspapers have colluded with the US government
- How the US media is dumping on WikiLeaks – and censoring the cable disclosures
- Foreign Policy started a blog which mostly trivializes, reduces to Page 3 variety gossip and politicizes wikileaks. If at all it publishes any honest reporting, it will be about the duplicity of Pakistan – which is what its standard stance is (nothing yet). Absolutely chilling silence on pressures on ally governments and outright breaking rules, human rights violations, breaking laws to be able to continue use of cluster amunitions, bulldozing through objections of UK to use their base for CIA renditions… (too many links – putting all together apart, there are a number of many concerning things, which any country in its rightful mind should not be able to accept. Though I guess we got lucky with the Ambassador in Pakistan being the insightful and compassionate person she shines through as. If it were one of the other superior people, I guess Pakistan would only have become more unmanageable after 26/11.
On the other hand, we see the confirmation of the setup for the next war to save the world in the dangerous country of Vietnam Iraq oops I meant Afghanistan or Yemen, no Pakistan Iran. Iran. I meant Iran. And the evil intent is well in place with American newspapers holding back information on the much hyped missiles Iran has. Information from the same cable. Information that says that Russian experts had argued against that honeymoon threat scenario. Iran is still evil, never fear.
Julian Assange has got an Interpol warrant for being – pay attention – under suspicion of sex crimes. What are the sex crimes? Unprotected sex – that too, condom broke! Wow. Interpol sure seems to have nothing to do. Perhaps countries should send in lists of all people they suspect of sex crimes? Is there any such precedent? But many precedents are apparently being created. What is more, check out an independent investigation into the accuser by a nosy supporter.
The man to uncover possibly the largest series of crimes in modern history lives in fear of his life with an Interpol warrant to his name. Politicians are openly calling for murder and assassination for endangering lives around the world, when the Pentagon itself admits that that is not true (remember the cartoon riots – “Kill those who say Islam is violent?” – sound familiar?). There was talk of treason (Julian isn’t a US citizen). Others have deemed him a terrorist worse than Osama Bin laden and called for him to be hunted down like Osama Bin Laden, which raises many questions:
- How harmful was Osama Bin Laden at all, if a transparency activist is more dangerous?
- Is the truth dangerous to one who is innocent?
- So what law has Assange actually broken? What is his crime? Is it more critical than the countless crimes flooding into view with no end in sight?
- How is it criminal for a journalist to publish information of a government using secrecy to exploit the country’s resources and commit criminal acts in its name, no matter what his sources are?
The US Constitution’s First Ammendment is supposed to have protected him from proscecution in the US, and he doesn’t fulfill the circumstances for their Espionage Act (he didn’t obtain the documents himself – they were submitted to his website). Get this. They are passing new legislation – even when in most modern countries, under normal lawful circumstances, laws can’t apply to things that happened before they were created!
The website came under repeated DDoS attacks and political pressure was applied to get it off Amazon, which Amazon claims to be because they violated TOC because they didn’t own rights to the documents they were publishing. Sounds about right, no? NO.
This is the equivalent of shutting down the site of a newspaper that published news about wrongdoing using data from a sting operation for example. Investigative journalism rarely involves ‘released’ content. As I write this post, I notice that the service that was providing analysis graphs for the data has taken them off (and enjoys the massive free incoming traffic, I guess).
America is not a democracy. India is entering the superpower circles. Apart from the glamour and glory, there is a responsibility to influence the world for the better. If nothing, there is a responsibility to run a functioning democracy with freedom of speech protected, with media rights protected (no matter how sensation mongering and corrupt they seem these days). If we watch without comment as the voice of truth is persecuted into silence, if we blindly allow anything the US considers appropriate in spite of knowing that it is very, very wrong, will we be a good influence on the world?
The US already has a UN seat. If we cannot be an entity that can bring integrity and new values that should influence the world, why should the world be inflicted with an echo of already damaging influence? If we are serious about this UN thing, we cannot in all conscience remain quiet about this. We MUST NOT at any cost express okayness with what the US is up to. Otherwise, covering up scams is going to be easy. Use classifications and wait storms out. Be it CWG, Adarsha, cablegate, barkhagate (couldn’t resist) or 2G. We might as well give up and accept whatever people in power do because they can.
Before anyone says, why us, when other countries are quiet, we need to ask why do we want the UN seat when other countries are there. And other countries are not quiet. They are objecting to specific instances, but the need of a democratic world is for the process of democracy itself to be upheld, lawful behaviour to be enforced. The point is not about Spain initiating proceedings into a murder cover up being blocked, or Germany demanding legal process for its citizen being tortured or the UK demanding accountability for its bases being abused for human rights violations. It is that a responsible world power must speak out on lawlessness by a country regardless of who the victim is or the absence of a strategic interest. If we cannot speak out, we are in good company.
Many countries are in a state of paralyzed horror. However, we must not condone. Thoughtful people are protesting this suppression, demanding the information as their right. Pravada’s legal editor David hoffman has written a scathing and deeply insightful article about America’s way of operating around the world. EU Commissioner Ms Malmstrom concerned about cyber-attacks on WikiLeaks is quite clear and pointed on the need to protect sites, while a discussion paper prepared by the EU’s anti-terrorism co-ordinator Gilles de Kerckhove, for an EU interior ministers’ meeting this week, “state-driven or state-sponsored attacks” are identified as the number one risk to cyber security.
Journalists are writing to protest US actions and to reclaim the lost freedoms of journalism, which as a democratic country is one of our values – the public has a right to know of misconduct by their elected government. No matter what finger pointing lack of change or avoidance happens, India has never thought that the government has the right to hide what it wants from the people. Not in the name of state secrets, not in the name of scams. India must realize that this is no longer about the relations between two countries and who said what, but about the process of democracy itself. What it is that we cause to happen in the world through action, inaction or collusion?
And it is not about the UN seat only. It is about being true to our values. In all likelihood, who knows if the UN remains worth wanting a membership to by the time this thing ends? Yet that will not change our size, our growth and our desire to influence. We cannot escape this responsibility. Compared with this, the perceived slights that the Indian media has chosen to focus on – US’s opinion on Cold Start (inconsequential) or support for ISI/LeT (nothing new) are small fry.
Contrary to the superficial impression that Wikileaks doesn’t threaten India in any way, it does. It threatens us at an existential level. We were born a democracy. We are related with a country we believed to be a democracy. How do we proceed when we discover our new friend to have conducted very serious crimes, covered them up and harrassed the medium of their crimes being exposed?
Do we remember our founding values enough to keep us ethically true to our roots, or do we follow this much aped, powerful new partner away from democracy into an era of thugocracy?