December 3, 2010

Wikileaks Documents: split mind politics and democracy

    Friday, December 03, 2010   No comments

During the 2008 presidential campaign, then candidate Obama challenged Hillary Clinton’s assertion that some things must be kept secret in order to be an effective leader. He argued that in a democracy, the voting public must be informed. We all know that now President Obama sits on secrets that neither he nor career policy makers would like to divulge; because, in the end, information is power.

The White House and the State Department both emerged to denounce the Wikileaks’ release of US embassies cables. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the first to condemn it, while Obama used his aides and the White House communication staff to condemn the act as “reckless and dangerous action.” Many analysts, observers, and foreign leaders also showed their displeasure.

A close examination of the facts, however, would suggest that there is no consensus over the wisdom and impact of the release of diplomatic correspondences. In fact, a case can be made that the availability of this information will help in the long run.

First, while Secretary Clinton condemned the disclosure of the leaked documents, she claimed during the same event that these documents in fact help make the administration’s case against Iran. In other words, Secretary Clinton wants to have her cake and eat it, too. The same documents that she thinks the voters should not see also contain information that shows that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are “a concern shared by nations on every continent.”

Moreover, although Wikileaks is the source of the leaked documents, it is the mainstream media that published them. The New York Times published a series of articles and achieved the documents on its main website. So did the Guardian and other major world media outlets. In other words, the mainstream media found that the correspondences are news worthy as well as substantively informative. It is safe to say that, had the government allowed “responsible” media access to these documents, the public would have been informed about these important issues without risk; and, surely, there would not have been a void to be filled by a website like Wikileaks in the first place.

In a democracy, the voters decide on the people and the issues. Keeping important information secretive allows persons in power to cherry pick the information to suit their personal or partisan agendas. The cherry picking of intelligence information concerning Iraq’s (phantom) weapons of mass destruction program is still fresh in the mind of all and it will remain so especially in the minds of the families of the victims at home and abroad.

The “irresponsible” dumping of 250,000 documents did not cause the death of innocent people as some predicted more than it embarrassed many Arab and foreign leaders who mastered doubletalk. If the Arabs (or other nations) are threatened by their neighbor Iran, they should and they must say so in public. They must be willing to risk it all, not goad and egg on the US to fight their battles. For this reason alone, the US government must provide more information to its citizens.

The mainstream media left a void that was filled by Wikileaks and other blogs. The government ought to work with the media to make critical information available responsibly and timely; that will be the sure way of marginalizing irresponsible outlets.


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