On Amazon cutting service to Wikileaks

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2010-12-05 To Customer Service, Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos

I was appalled and saddened at Amazon's craven act in allowing the unspoken threats from Senator Lieberman to initiate your quick decision to terminate hosting of the Wikileaks website.

I know you have stated your reasons as purely technical and legal, i.e., because of a "violation of terms of service" by Wikileaks, but it is apparent, nonetheless, that your behavior in this act is a direct response to pressure from the Senate Homeland Security Committee. (And as Senator Lieberman has now stated, "What has transpired with Amazon will send a message to other companies.")

One might assume that as a purveyor of all kinds of books regardless of political content, your organization would support open discussion of issues of free speech -- that Right which is enshrined in the Constitution's First Amendment -- but that assumption is false when the world sees that Amazon made the hasty decision to stop providing an important service based on content, or based on partisan complaint.

In the past I have bought books and toys from Amazon. Because of your abject behavior towards Wikileaks I will henceforth have nothing more to buy from Amazon.

2010-12-12 Replying to friend Ron

I do appreciate your reasons for demurring on the side of caution before wholeheartedly approving (or "being fully on the side of") Wikileaks and Assange.

You mentioned concern about the security of classified information. First off, I too, think there are certain specific areas where governmental secrecy is of crucial importance, none more important than in the area of strategic weapons, systems and supplies, military planning, force projection, and strategy preparation and uses of live forces in and around the "theaters" of wars, etc. Military strategy planners require such secrecy -- for the physical security of their troops, if for no other reason.

But I note that the government's denunciations of Wikileaks have nothing to do with those areas. Instead, the vitriol and denunciations against Julian Assange have much to do, I think, with Wikileaks breaching and revealing government lying and deceptions in statements of policy and revealing coverups of some lawless military actions, coverups from the American public.

Listing a few items:

  1. A cable proving that it was the US, not Yemen, that perpetrated the cruise missile strike against AlQuaida targets killing many civilians, women and children -- and where Yemen president Salah says that he will continue saying the bombing was by the Yemeni military, not the US -- revealing collusion and treachery at the highest levels of both governments;
  2. A cable revealing that the Obama administration pressured Britain during Parliament's recent investigation of why Britain had so quickly agreed to join Bush's invasion policy in Iraq -- to not reveal the close connections with the Bush White House during the period leading up to the Iraq invasion -- Thus Parliament's investigation remained incomplete and unanswered. (Well, isn't that just too bad, tsk, tsk);
  3. A cable informing about instructions given by Hillary Clinton to the US diplomatic corps personnel to spy on and obtain all possible existing personal/physical information about all the other-country diplomatic corps members -- which, as one journalist stated, violates the Vienna Treaty of 1961, signed by the US, and thus breaking a US law;
  4. Two separate cables talk about the successful pressuring by the US State Department of the governments of Germany and of Spain not to allow any investigations of the CIA illegal renditions and subsequent torture of their citizens to proceed. Should these illegal CIA operations be kept hidden from the American public?
  5. A cable showing that there was a FORMAL POLICY of the US command in Iraq NOT to investigate the killings and brutalities carried out by the official police forces; i.e., a policy to turn a blind eye to those events -- (contravening the US stated policy of "bringing democracy and good government" to the people of Iraq);

Should that outrage -- in contrast to everything said and done in Iraq in our name -- be hidden from the American public?

The fact is that despite the corruption and wrongdoing and criminality revealed in these and other cables, this is really a very low level of secrecy that the US government has. (Some believe that the truly awful things exist on a much higher level of secrecy, at the top-secret level or even above.) But everything the government does is done, whether legitimately secret or not, reflexively behind a shield of secrecy. (Thus lots of innocuous information, such as the gossipy or titillating gossip about foreign heads of state is simply stamped "secret.")

But Wikileaks has been, apparently, more than an "honest broker" in its only four years in existence. When Wikileaks released the Apache helicopter video last summer showing the US cold blooded killing of non-combatants in Baghdad in 2007 they made an impression on the war consciousness of the US public which had not heard of Wikileaks before. But Assange and Wikileaks before that had been exposing corruption around the world.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald mentioned several of their successes in his interview on December 3rd with Amy Goodman -- in Peru, in Australia, in Kenya and in West Africa, incidents not well known in the US, but where Wikileaks single-handedly uncovered systematic improprieties that would not have otherwise been uncovered -- like corruption on the part of Iceland's biggest banks which let to prosecutions. Also an exposure of corruption in China, and by oil magnates in Peru. They exposed "the Australian government's efforts to target websites for shutting down under a program designed to target child pornography which in reality the sites that were targeted were political sites."

Ron, it stands to reason: The US government sends its military all over the world, invading bombing, occupying many countries, imprisoning their citizens, building permanent military bases all over their territories, torturing their sons and fathers, sending from afar pilotless drones to destroy their homes and villages, starving hundreds of thousands of children to death and/or disease -- and THEN it fabricates, with the help of its lackey mainstream media, the largest MYTH, so far, in American political culture -- that carrying out all of that violent aggression makes the US public SAFER while fighting terrorism, when in reality it provokes and sustains and permanently nourishes terrorism!

And the internal security powers of the government are now so almost total, and the Congress of the US, now dominated by the Republican Party in the House and with an extremely conservative Democratic Party in the Senate, and, as Glenn Greenwald observes, "Led by an administration that has actually increased secrecy, including the state secrecy privilege and other forms of immunity designed (originally by the Bush/Cheney administration) to shield high-level executive power wrongdoing and lawbreaking from all forms of accountability or judicial review..."

"Wikileaks is really one of the very few, if not the only group putting fear into the hearts of some of the most powerful and corrupt people. And that's why they deserve, I think, enthusiastic support from anyone who truly believes in government transparency..."

And that's why, dear Ron, your brilliant essayist friend Joe Bageant says:

"I for one am in favor of giving Assange the Medaille Militaire, the Noble Prize, 15 virgins in paradise, and a billion in cash as a reward for his courage in doing damned well the only significant thing that can be done at this time -- momentarily f*cking up government control of information...But for ten points, why was Julian Assange forced to do what the world press was supposed to be doing in the first place?"