Foreign Policy Blogs

Wikileaks Critics vs. The Truth

On Anarchism

THE LIE: According to David Brooks, “Assange seems to be an old-fashioned anarchist who believes that all ruling institutions are corrupt and public pronouncements are lies.”  Gideon Rose stole this line and used it on The Brian Lehrer Show, saying Assange is “essentially an old-fashioned anarchist” with “an adolescent world view that all power and all authority is bad.”  Keith Yost also chimed in on Wikileaks, “They are nihilists. They are anarchists.”

THE TRUTH: According to Assange, governmental power is good if it contains a system of checks and balances, as the American Founding Fathers envisaged.  He told Time:

The United States has some immutable traditions, which, to be fair, are based on the French Revolution and the European Enlightenment. The United States’ Founding Fathers took those further, and the federalism of the United States also, of relatively powerful states trying to constrain federal government from becoming too centralized.   So there is a lot of good that has historically come from the United States.

On Whether Assange Cares About The Effects Of His Actions

THE LIE: According to David Brooks, for “someone with his mind-set, the decision to expose secrets is easy.”  According to Keith Yost:
In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Julian Assange, the director of WikiLeaks, was asked if he would ever refrain from releasing information he knew might get someone killed… In response to the interview question, Assange was blase. Yes, he admitted, there might be some “blood on our hands,” some “collateral damage, if you will.”
THE TRUTH: When TIme asked Assange about “the standards by which you do the redaction, how would you define that?”  Assange responded, “Carefully.”  And if you actually read the New Yorker article to which Yost refers, you’ll note that Yost completely invented the context of the quotes he uses.  Those quotes do appear in the article but not in response to a question about whether he would ever withhold information if he knew it would get someone killed.  In fact, Assange asked the State Department to tell him what to redact to protect American lives, writing in his letter, “WikiLeaks has absolutely no desire to put individual persons at significant risk of harm, nor do we wish to harm the national security of the United States.”
On Iran
THE LIE: According to Gideon Rose, when reading the leaked cables, “you see in this what the world thinks about Iran,” and this gives more credit to the U.S.’s Iran policy.
THE TRUTH: The cables do not show what the world thinks about Iran.  The cables show what Arab leaders think about Iran, and some do strongly favor preventive military action.  Public opinion polling, on the other hand, is what actually shows us what the world thinks about Iran.  In the Arab world, a majority of 57% views a nuclear-armed Iran positively.  That’s exactly why these disclosures are controversial.  In the world as a whole, a slim minority of 11% favors preventive military action, an option the U.S. still keeps on the table.