There are many different views of the information on the Afghanistan war leaked by Bradley Manning though Wikileaks. The opposition is centered in Washington where Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post has called for Wikileaks to be stopped by any means necessary. Liz Cheney has similarly called for Wikileaks to be shut down. Congressman Mike Rogers has called for Bradley Manning to be executed.
The people who call for draconian measures to be taken against Bradley Manning and Wikileaks all invoke threats against the troops, or threats against allies, or threats against national security. The threats they describe are dark, frightening, and vague. They can’t point to one individual who has been harmed by the leaks. On the other hand, sending troops to Afghanistan has resulted in the death of more than 1200 American troops, and countless Afghans.
There have also been those, such as Obama, who claim that the leaks contain no new information. Without getting into the specifics of the Afghan leaks, it is reasonable to ask, what is the general value of leaks?
The government, and the supporters of the government, want to keep a monopoly on information. If the government can keep a monopoly on information, then the American people can be endlessly manipulated. The manipulation serves as a means to extract wealth from the public. Increasingly, the national security state is building an empire based on secrecy and murder. As Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”.
Thus, leaks are necessary to address the imbalance of power between the government and the population. The only relevant question is whether the leaks are accurate. No one is claiming that the Afghan leaks are inaccurate. In fact, the vociferous denunciations of the leaks from Washington testifies to the accuracy of the leaks.
Leaking government information can be considered an extension of the battle that began with the seventeenth century English Levellers. The key insight of the Levellers is that no one should have special privileges based on political position. Waging perpetual war while keeping the people in ignorance is a particularly egregious example of political privilege.
It seems fitting to close with another quote from the head of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, “I enjoy crushing bastards”.