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writing for godot

WikiLeaks, War and Hard Truths

Written by Lydia Howell   
Monday, 27 December 2010 06:08

"Truth is the first casualty of war."
George Orwell

One hundred and thirteen years ago, Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was incarcerated for two years at Reading Prison outside London, for what he poignantly called “the love that dare not speak its name”---that is, being gay. This week, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange was bailed out after a week in that same Victorian dungeon, when no criminal charges have been filed against him for fishy allegations of vague sexual misconduct in Sweden. The real reason Assange is being targeted is that he’s dared to do what journalism’s truest aim is supposed to be: exposing government lies, abuses and crimes--so, that citizens can know what their government does ---and respond accordingly.

In the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq, New York Times’ reporters Judith Miller and Michael Gordon disseminated US government propaganda about “WMDs” that UN weapons inspectors said didn’t exist. Now, the Times has made some restitution by publishing WikiLeaks exposures of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange is upholding the public’s right to know, putting his freedom on the line---and perhaps, his life, too, given some US politicians and pundits’ call for his assassination. The American people should at least be willing to know--that is, turn off so-called “reality TV” and finally face the real horrors of what has been done in our name. There’s no more excuses for jingoistic ignorance.

Iraqi civilians are regularly gunned down by US soldiers. Entire families are wiped out by unmanned US drones bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Far more Americans should be asking: how can such terror created by the US military possibly make us safer? Now, that WikiLeaks has exposed video footage of US soldiers machine gunning civilians, we can’t say we don’t know.

The world long made a distinction between the US government and the American people. That may be changing.

In the countries that our military occupies, families live with water contaminated by US depleted uranium munitions, in fear of soldiers kicking in their door or spraying their car with bullets. YouTube shows Americans’ mad rush for holiday sales or in long lines waiting all night for holiday sales or the latest digital gadget.

Yet, only a few hundred people--many of them aging peace activists and military veterans--- protested the wars outside the White House on December 16: 136 were arrested. The corporate media didn’t bother to report it. How many of those frenzied shoppers have spent even an hour at a peace vigil? Only 3% said the wars were an important issue in the mid-term elections.

Congress just repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, allowing gay men and lesbian women to serve openly in the US military. While I totally oppose any form of discrimination against GLBT people, this was one struggle my conscience wouldn’t allow me to be part of. There’s a long history of oppressed people thinking that their equality will come if only they participate in Uncle Sam’s wars. People of color in the military hasn‘t ended rampant police brutality or unemployment rates twice that of whites. Ask female soldiers about the sexual harassment and rape they face from fellow soldiers. Frankly, GLBT people should have been fighting to end these wars--not to be part of them. Equality can never be won through the oppression of others.

.It’s overdue for far more of the American people to apply common sense and compassion to US foreign policy. How would we respond if someone invaded our country? Bombed our home? Imprisoned our loved ones for years without charges? Given the American penchant for gun-ownership, it’s an easy prediction: we’d be so-called “insurgents”, striking at the invaders any way we could.

Thomas Jefferson said “Information is the currency of democracy.“ The modern media is mostly a propaganda machine for an increasingly corporative State with distractive entertainment to create passive consumers. WikiLeaks is doing what should be standard practice in a country that brags about a “free press.

Although he’s Australian, Julian Assange is the embodiment of our First Amendment. It is crucial that we defend him. The alternative is to refuse to face the hard truths Assange has told and be complicit with the State-sponsored terrorism of war. Real democracy demands more than voting every two to four years.

In this season, where “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men” is repeated, We The People must finally take responsibility for our government’s permanent state of war that has destroyed other countries. Do we give a damn when the dead are not American? How many hundreds of thousands of people can be murdered in the name of September 11th before the Americans say, “Enough!”?

Lydia Howell is an independent journalist in Minneapolis, winner of the Premack Award for Public Interest Journalism. She is producer/host of “Catalyst: politics & culture” at your social media marketing partner
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