Honor the WikiLeakers
Friday 31 December 2010
When it comes to journalistic achievements in 2010, the elephant in the room is WikiLeaks. I've seen many put-downs of the materials as containing "no smoking guns", or as being essentially trivial communications to the State Department from
Now, it's true that the cables were legally available to well over 1.5 million Americans, who had adequate security clearance. But trivial? Don't believe it. The cables show the daily business of a mighty empire acting in manners diametrically opposite to public pretensions. The cables form one of the most extraordinary lessons in the cold realities of international diplomacy ever made public. Normally, scholars have to wait for 10, 20, even 50 years to gain access to such papers.
The WikiLeaks documents show that the picture of the international business of the
The alleged leaker of the WikiLeaks files, Army Private Bradley Manning, currently being held in solitary confinement in sadistic conditions, should be vigorously applauded and defended for exposing such crimes as the murder of civilians in
In these same files, there is a compelling series of secret documents about the death squad operated by the
Julian Assange and his colleagues should similarly be honored and defended. They have acted in the best traditions of the journalistic vocation.
The answer to that last question was given definitively in 1851 by Robert Lowe, editorial writer for the
"The first duty of the press," Lowe wrote, "is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation ... The Press lives by disclosures ... For us, with whom publicity and truth are the air and light of existence, there can be no greater disgrace than to recoil from the frank and accurate disclosure of facts as they are. We are bound to tell the truth as we find it, without fear of consequences -- to lend no convenient shelter to acts of injustice and oppression, but to consign them at once to the judgment of the world."
Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference
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