Today Wikileaks began its release of over 250,000 diplomatic cables in conjunction with media outlets around the world. I believe the work they are doing is on the emerging edge of resistance to US imperialism. The releases not only unmasks the powers in meticulous detail, but threaten the very mechanisms through which empire seek to influence, control and coerce. After all, if client states and their leaders know their collaboration with the U.S. could be published all over the world, they may be less ready to go along with imperial machinations.
For example in Newsweek, Christopher Dickey describe a cable in which Yemeni leaders promising to lie to their own people and parliament. He goes on to complain, “That bit of dialogue is not just embarrassing, it’s going to make the covert war against the most dangerous Al Qaeda franchise that much harder to wage.”
For once, it is the empire that it is on it’s back foot, scrambling to respond. The frenzied attempt at spin by the US State Department over the weekend speaks volumes. One congressman called on Secretary Clinton to designate Wikileaks as a foreign terrorist organization. Then there was the denial of service attack on the Wikileaks site an hour before the scheduled release. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is a clumsy attempt by the new U.S. Cyber Command (I’m not making this up) to flex their newfound muscles. The command reached “Full Operational Capacity” less then a month ago and they are already squabbling with the CIA over who gets the authority to launch attacks on non-military targets.
Even if the Wikileaks site is brought down temporarily, the cables are available through traditional media outlets such as the he Guardian. In an editorial on their decision to participate in the release, Simon Jenkins says that the self-image of the US as world police “runs ghostlike through these cables.” The cables, he says, paint a picture of an empire already well into overreach, its power projection faltering. Unfortunately a wounded bear (his metaphor) is often at its most dangerous.
This is not the first challenge to the bear from Wikileaks. Earlier this years, they released the Iraq War Logs, reports from soldiers on “Significant Action” covering 6 years. The cumulative statistics of the report are stunning: civilians made up 60% of the 109,032 deaths described for an average of 31 killed every day. But the individual logs are a window into the sad specifics of the soldiers and their victims. For more on these stories, see this piece from October by Isaac Villegas on Young Anabaptist Radicals.
Some of the attempts to silence Wikileaks over the last year have been more subtle. For example, much attention has been focused on Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. After all, what’s a story without an easy hero/villain? This approach is exemplified by the Daily Mail’s coverage which leads with a dramatic photo of Assange facing off against Prince Andrew with the caption “The astonishing claims of Prince Andrew’s (left) ‘inappropriate behaviour’ appeared on Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks site.” If Wikileaks began and ended with Assange, scuttling the site would be much simpler.
But the story isn’t about Assange, it’s about a a small and growing movement that is outmaneuver the world’s largest superpower. They have learned the digital landscape well and they have mastered the new tools for the struggle. This is what pro-active action to dismantle the war machine looks like. As Wikleaks widens our prophetic imagination, what other new and creative challenges to empire will emerge?
Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled
November 30 update: Here’s a very useful analysis of some of the theory behind Wikileaks as it relates to the “authoritarianism” of the US government: Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government”.