27 October 2010

What is the motive of Julian Assange?

Not too long ago the words "Wikileaks" and the name "Julian Assange" were not that widely known.  Wikileaks was a curious website, where unofficial information would be posted, and governments would be upset about what was posted.   However, the publicity generated in the past week has dwarfed all of that.

What has apparently been revealed is allied forces complicity in ignoring acts of torture by Iraqi government forces.   The implication being that the US Administration is uninterested in the fate of Iraqi civilians.  Now in and of itself it is disconcerting.  If you genuinely wish Iraq to become a country that is a bastion of liberal open civil society and secular transparent accountable (and small) government it is unacceptable to tolerate an Iraqi government that acts with impunity against suspected insurgents.  It is reasonable, always, for questions to be asked of governments engaged in military action when that action includes wilful blindness and tolerance of grievous acts of abuse.  

Yet does Julian Assange actually want Iraq to become a liberal open civil society with a secular transparent accountable liberal democratic government?  Who knows.  What is fairly clear is that his actions are designed primarily not to expose shameful acts by the Iraqi authorities, but rather to damn the entire allied military presence in Iraq.  The simple view of the Iraqi conflict, as spread by the leftwing peace movement (as distinguished by those who questioned the wisdom of the intervention rather than the motives) goes like this:
-  Bush wanted to overthrow the Iraqi regime (probably true);
-  It was all about oil (not true, but having a friendly regime in charge of Iraqi oil was helpful);
- A threat was fabricated  regarding weapons of mass destruction (false) and terrorism (exaggerated yes, but not empty);
- The US and it allies invaded Iraq with no concern for civilian casualties or the fate of the Iraqi people (false); and last but far from least..
- The US and its allies are responsible for the deaths and killings since the overthrow of the Saddam regime.

Christopher Hitchens in Slate writes about the imbalance in the reporting on Iraq.  You see the "anti-war" left want to portray all killing as being consequential of the invasion.  No consideration of how many Saddam's regime of thugs would have killed (but you can ignore that because the US did in the 80s, so Saddam deserved protection from ever being overthrown by the US because of that). 

He said "The continuing bloodbath is chiefly the result of an obscene alliance between the goons of the previous dictatorship and the goons of a would-be-future theocratic one. From the very first day after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, without ever issuing so much as a manifesto or a bill of grievances, this criminal gang awarded itself permission to use high explosives, assassination, torture, and rape against a population that was given no moment of breathing space after three decades of war and fascism."

Yet, those who opposed the US invasion in the West treated those who sought the Islamification of Iraq as heroes.  Ignoring there suicide bombings, random executions and Taliban like suppression of speech (including music) in areas they would control.

He continues "Not long ago, I read an interview with Julian Assange in which he declared his ostensibly journalistic objective to be that of "ending" the war. Most edifying. The easiest way of ending it would be for one side to cease fighting it. (That almost happened in Iraq before the surge, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and al-Qaida claimed control of a province or two.) I have an intuition that I know which side Assange wishes would capitulate."


You see it is one thing to rightfully want to ensure that the Iraqi government acts with respect for individual rights and freedoms.   It is another to be willfully blind towards the chief cause of the violence and killings in Iraq, and to be less than interested in the defeat of those who see the overthrow of Saddam an opportunity to create a brutal Islamist theocracy.

So yes, damn those allied soldiers who have acted with impunity, damn those in the Iraqi government who also do so.   However, if one's primary concern is the people of Iraq, is it not equally appropriate to be damning the Iranian backed insurgents who wish to convert Iraq back into a brutal totalitarian tyranny, but with a new (and imperialist) master?  


Jeremy Harris said...

I tend to support Ron Paul's position: it was none of our (the US) business, so we shouldn't of gone, so lets leave...

Robert van Mil said...

Even to suggest that this war was ever about the welfare of the people of Iraq is ludicrous to begin with but still, I have never heard Assange suggest that the situation before the war was enviable; he only laid further waste to the idea that this war did anything to improve life for the Iraqi people. It didn't. It never does.

Libertyscott said...

The war was about defence, and about securing a significant oil supply from an insane dictatorship. It is difficult to exagerrate how sadistically evil the Hussein regime was, but it is also absurd to claim that removing it didn't improve the lives of millions. Iraqi Kurdistan is a complete contrast today to what it has been for decades. Most of the civilian deaths in Iraq have not been because of the invasion, but because of those who wished to impose a new tyranny on Iraq.

The point is what does he want? Why does he (and so many who "care" about the people in Iraq) ignore that the problem has been Iranian Islamists seeking to take over? Or would he just want that to happen?

Why do those who claim the cost of the war in Iraq can all be attributed to the Western side, when if Iran had not intervened by proxy the cost would have been a tiny fraction of that? (oh and if someone wants to cheer on the resistance, like that felcher of Hussein, George Galloway, then why even pretend to be supportive of human rights)

Robert van Mil said...

"The war was about defence, and about securing a significant oil supply from an insane dictatorship."
Really think about that because as a statement it makes no sense.
Here is why:
There were no WMDs. Saddam was many things but he was not involved in terrorism and in fact Al Qaeda did not have a significant presence in Iraq until after the US showed up. Giving them democracy means that you now have given the world another Shiite country; to suggest that all that made the world safer is ludicrous.
As far as the oil supply is concerned, again that makes no sense. Think about how much was spend and how much was gained on that level. The equation just doesn't work.

If you want to know what this war was about follow the money.

There are ways to make the world a better place. War and occupation are rarely among them. If Wikileaks has a political message I suspect that would roughly be it.

One final point and it is an important one because like many US citizens you seem concerned with Islam taking over the world: Saddam's government was secular. This was in that regard very much a step in the wrong direction.
I am not going to tackle your point about the cost of this war being in part the responsibility of Iranian support for certain segments. It is silly; like saying hey it wouldn't have cost so much if they didn't fight back.

Libertyscott said...

First, I am not from the US. Can’t imagine why you’d think that.

Second. No WMDs? None were found, yet Saddam’s record on WMDs is extensive. Besides the use of chemical weapons several times domestically and against Iran, he has had at least two attempts to develop nuclear technology and significant amounts of WMDs were found post the 1991 Gulf War. Saddam did not allow full and open inspections of all facilities as requested by the international community, breaching UN Security Council resolutions. So it was very much a fair assumption that he was acting like he always was acting. The likelihood that enough of his underlings were hiding inaction on their behalf, and that his ambitions were not being carried out at lower levels shows the limits of Western intelligence.

Thirdly. Saddam not involved in terrorism? Oh please. Going back to the 1970s, Saddam provided support and protection for the radical Abu Nidal, involved in umpteen terrorist attacks in Israel and Vienna and Rome Airports among others. After the 1991 Gulf War his own domestic rhetoric became substantively jihadist, he had a Koran written in his own blood, he went on a mosque building campaign, his image appeared in the robes of a mullah throughout Iraq. He provide finance and arms to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and started openly paying bounties to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Saddam’s response to the 9/11 attacks was to say “the US had reaped the fruit of its crimes against humanity”. Yes Al Qaeda’s presence was insignificant, but to claim Saddam was not involved in terrorism is to be wilfully blind.

Fourthly. Saddam’s government WAS secular, in the beginning, but by the late 80s and early 90s this had faded away. A man who gets “God is great” added to the Iraqi flag, engages in a massive campaign of Islamist and pro-jihadist rhetoric at home, wraps his personality cult in Islamist language (I already mentioned the Koran in his own blood) is not secular. Nor is paying bounties for suicide bombings. He destroyed the secular forces amongst the Kurds, the Shia, the left and the liberals in Iraq.

Fifthly. You claim “they fought back”. Really? Ordinary Iraqis fought back? Or those Iranian backed Islamists who saw an opportunity to take Iraq from a family based tyranny into a full blown theocratic one? Guess it was ok that it happened, which speaks volumes about how much YOU care about the people of Iraq. Secretly hoping the Islamists won? You can pick sides on this. You can oppose the allied invasion of Iraq, fine. However, why not also oppose the Iranian insurgency? Or is anyone fighting the allies on the “right side”?

Finally. The oil. Well it is now in the hands of a state not run by a crime family, that is relatively friendly to the West. Not a good enough goal in itself, but that objective was achieved.

Robert van Mil said...

"You can pick sides on this."

It is not a matter of picking a side, it is a matter of what means you use to reach an objective.
The reason I commented on your blog was because I wanted to explain where Assange is coming from. War is at times necessary, I will grant that but as a means to an end in most cases but especially in this case it simply doesn't work. You may want to label that whatever way you want but that is how I interpret the Wikileaks position and his motive is thereby to show that. From that statement it doesn't follow in any way, shape or form that you assign to them, or to me some kind of secret love for Iran or any other extreme theocracy.
That is a leap that simply makes no sense not unlike the idea that if you want to rid the world of extreme Islam you can do so using an army. It doesn't work. You may want it too or feel just in your cause, and you could even be right in that because it would in my opinion be a noble cause but there is still one overwhelming problem to deal with: it doesn't work. Extreme Islam is more widespread today than it was 9 years ago; Iran is stronger now than back then and both the US and the UK (sorry about the nationality thing :) ), countries that I personally prefer to see economically strong have wasted countless lives and billions of dollars/pounds.

One overriding difference in the way you view things and the way I do is that I don't particularly think it is my business what kind of a government or society Iraq becomes. It is not England's place or the USA's place to try and influence that unless there are genuine threads to national security in either country. Even if you have the best of intentions take the time ones to have a look at the failed states index and look at in how many of these worst states in the world the Western world played a direct role in trying to excerpt influence.
Believing that we have to find better ways to do things does not automatically place a person on the "other side"

scrubone said...

Scary how many arguments about the Iraq invasion can be dismissed by one word: Kuwait.

Nice to see some common sense on the subject for once.

Libertyscott said...

Robert: Damning one side in a conflict, and being silent about the other is picking sides. It is mere semantics to claim neutrality.

I don't think Assange has a secret love for Iran or theocracy, but he is either naive or ignorant to think that what he has done does not provide succour for jihadists. It continues to paint the unbalanced picture that death and torture in Iraq is about the West, when in fact the bulk of it has been from the side of those who want Iraq to become an Islamist state.

I understand your argument and respect it. It is a legitimate argument to make that if it fails, it was the wrong strategy or if the cost in live and money for the allies is excessive, then it isn't worth it. That isn't the argument Assange is making, he is portraying the West as complicit in murder and torture in Iraq, whilst having nothing to say about the side that does MORE of this and indeed glorifies in it like a sport.

I can understand the non-interventionist argument, but I believe that after the 1991 Gulf War, and after umpteen UN Security Council resolutions, doing nothing was increasingly not an option. Once you set aside the duplicitous French and Russians (which saw Saddam's regime as a business opportunity), the arguments against intervention were ones only of cost. Saddam's regime had no right to exist, the people of Iraq had no say in their government and now they do.

The greatest failure in my view was the result of letting enormous US government bureaucracies plan for what happens afterwards. That was a disaster, but I still believe the invasion was morally correct and correctly motivated.