Belmont Club

Murphy Rides Again

CBS News reports that Times of London reporters “scanning the [Wikileaks] reports for just a couple hours found hundreds of Afghan names mentioned as aiding the U.S.-led war effort.”

One specific example cited by the paper is a report on an interview conducted by military officers of a potential Taliban defector. The militant is named, along with his father and the village in which they live.

The news came as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange expressed fears he could be arrested. The Telegraph says he “has been warned by ‘inside sources in the White House’ not to return to the US as he could be arrested.”

He’s had more warning than the individuals in Afghanistan who will more than likely be identified by al-Qaeda support cells in Western Europe or the Middle East who will pore through the Wikileaks documents. The names of the traitors to radical Islam will be duly transmitted to the avengers who will then go out severally into the night on their missions of revenge. Recently Radio Netherlands described what Afghans who are suspected by the Taliban can expect to endure. The Taliban have cut off the hands of construction workers who build government-funded projects; sent a suicide car bomb against a district chief believed to have been working with US special forces.  Death in many forms will be their lot. One informant Radio Netherlands described “holds a thick yellow sheet tightly around his face”  to preserve his anonymity. Now it turns out he shouldn’t have bothered. If the London Times is right, his name might be one of the several hundred the British reporter has found in just a few hours.

Yet the dead are the lucky ones. The more unfortunate may wind up in a torture chamber similar to one found by Coldstream Guards. It features such amenities as chains to hang prisoners from walls. Not that the inmates would want to walk on the floor: that features broken glass. And there is limb amputation, kneecapping with an electric drill, eye gouging, bone-breaking or ritual rape to smash the will. Where the offender is not himself available punishment will be visited on his relatives.

When Julian Assange released these documents he assured the public that it had been carefully reviewed to avoid putting people at risk. He said it with the greatest apparent confidence. Now it emerges that either he didn’t know how to avoid putting innocents in the line of fire or didn’t care. But competence is not required to sit in judgment of others. Not today.  All it really takes is enough self-righteousness to impose your amateurish viewpoint on the world on the theory that nobody else has ever been as clever as you. We are always the people we’ve been waiting for.

Yet Assange can be forgiven for thinking that viewpoint and style were the sum total of qualification needed to engage in the life and death business of publishing secrets in time of war. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, explaining that the White House didn’t try to stop the publication, said he met with reporters from the New York Times and sent a message through its reporters to Assange asking that he redact information in the documents that could harm US military personnel. As for the Afghans? Well what about them? Wikileaks made its pathetic effort to sanitize the data, didn’t they? And if it was good for the Times and Gibbs, why shouldn’t Assange have concluded it was good enough period?

One or more of those connected with this story may in the next few weeks, under questioning from critics, express their sincerest and most heartfelt regret at the death or danger which their leak has exposed men, women and children to. But poise your finger on the pause button; watch for it carefully before it flashes past to the standard peroration on the noble purposes of showing the “true nature” of war. Because the regret may last all of five seconds, though for those who will lose a loved one to Taliban reprisal the pain will last much longer. But the wretched of the earth will endure, as only those who have accustomed themselves to being the moral guinea pigs and butt of jokes of the great and good can endure.

As for Assange, will he have any genuine second thoughts? Scott Fitzgerald may have described him when he wrote: “I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people … they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

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