Criticism of Bill Keller on Assange and WikiLeaks

I happen to support the idea of transparent governance as a whole.  Transparency is what the Internet is all about:  while closed, proprietary platforms decline, open source platforms are increasingly flourishing.  This is affecting our politics, particularly in the case of WikiLeaks.  While I recognize the value of secrets for diplomacy, most stuff that is labeled secret should not be.  WikiLeaks has unveiled documents that we have a right to know about and, for that reason, I am glad that we have access to this trove of materials.  Citizens of the US and others need to grow up and understand what’s going on in their home countries and in the world.

I happen to support a robust foreign policy and am not against our Iraq policy, although I recognize the ignorance, cynicism, unnecessary violence, and corruption that drove our policy there.  Nevertheless, I am glad that we have, for example, the WikiLeaks expose of soldiers indiscriminately killing Iraqi civilians.  This is war, and this is what unfortunately and tragically happens in war.  Do we naively believe that war is clean and neat and that soldiers always behave appropriately under incredibly stressful conditions?  War is filled with horror, moral degradation, and murderous rampages (we can read about that as far back as Homer’s Iliad and the Hebrew Bible).  This does not mean that we should never engage in war, although it should be a last resort, but it does mean that we need to acknowledge and recognize what actually does happen in war.  However, it will mean that citizens will have to be grown-up and adult about it.  They will have to have their eyes open before deciding to embark on a war.  That’s what Assange and WikiLeaks force us to be.

At the same time, I don’t think that this is a fair article.  Coleen Rowley criticizes Keller for his views on Iraq, not primarily for his portrayal of Assange in Keller’s recent New York Times piece. I don’t think that Keller’s views on Iraq automatically prejudice him in the case of Assange.  In spite of its massive flaws, I support our policy in Iraq, and yet I am glad for what Assange has done.  Keller was simply pointing out Assange’s strange personality and behavior.  Given the significance of WikiLeaks, Keller’s comments here are newsworthy.  Assange is part of the story.  That does not nullify or diminish the importance of what Assange has done.


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