Now buried in the tailings of the news cycle is the story of a US soldier named Manning who had conscience enough to expose the gruesome massacre of Iraqis—including a journalist—by a US Army helicopter crew in 2007. Manning’s fate was grim; he will remain in prison for telling a truth for years to come after being charged with leaking sensitive state secrets. That’s often a euphemism for telling the truth and the source that Manning leaked his tape to, the Australian sourced Wikileaks is a new form of media that seems to be dedicated to doing exactly that as a new exposé of more than 90,000 documents concerning US military operations in Afghanistan show.
So far, the unearthed documents have not shown anything that a dedicated, intelligent, investigative media couldn’t have found out and reported on. A litany of needless civilian deaths at the hands of US troops, the utter uselessness of Pakistan as an ally, dozens of intelligence failures, futile US efforts to win Afghan hearts and minds, and above all, the growing and flailing scale of the war itself seem to be coming out via this independent, non-standard media outlet that left the mainstream media in the dust.
Even though the White House was informed—and seemingly didn’t care if the data was aired—by the New York Times, which tattled off to the government as soon as the London Guardian ran with the data, the usual apologists for secrecy are raging that the leak endangers American lives in a war zone in war time. This remains to be seen. What it really does is show up the mainstream media that should have found this kind of stuff before, informs the American people of the extent to which the military is carrying out this war in their name to some unknown end, and most of all, exposes the age of the internet as the enemy of secrecy—at least for now.
But like what happened to Manning, the government will no doubt react with a heavy hand against Wikileaks and other whistleblowers who out the dirty laundry of realpolitik. It won’t be long before hawks in the spook business of national security call for limits on the net, citing safeguarding US lives in action as the excuse to impose Chinese-like preemptive censorship of information access, sharing and especially publication without prior approval.
When that dismal day comes, it will be imperative for every American to drop their party affiliation and say that enough is too much. For better and worse, the net’s open traffic gates have become the most important way of using and finding information on earth. Limiting it will cripple this country and people. Ultimately, the US is going to have to learn what the government learned during the Civil War—that fighting a war against the press and open flow of information is a waste of time and a drag on the nation. Maybe the US government should re-think its need to fight odd wars in the glare of scrutiny, instead.