We may be witnessing the beginning of a whole new form of civil war, waged in cyberspace, and thus not in any particular country. An appropriate name may be War of the Nerds, since it is being waged in front of the keyboard rather than in the field. The issue is for or against WikiLeaks. The initial battles of this war has been described by CBS News (Dec 3rd, Dec 8th). Here is a timeline.
A complicating plot in the war are the accusations of rape and sexual molestation that has been waged against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, from two women in Sweden. This has led to conspiracy theories of links to CIA. After having read the little factual information that is out there (most of the facts are secret due to the ongoing investigation and privacy protection of the accusers), it seems to me that we are faced with a cultural misunderstanding.
WikiLeaks supporters (one may assume) have seen the accusations as so bizarre, and the prosecutor’s reaction as so out of proportion, that they have suspected a trap. Also Information Clearing House, in a piece that was an obvious Cuban propaganda article, accused one of the women of being a CIA operative.
The fact is that she is a Social Democrat, having a rather high position within an organization affiliated with the political party that ruled Sweden for much of the 20th Century, a party that is clearly anti-imperialist. She has visited Cuba and written critical of both the government of Cuba and of USA, instead expressing support for the social democrats on Cuba, a group that (according to her article) is not supported in any way by USA. She is also a feminist. To assume that she would be working for CIA reveals a tremendous ignorance about Swedish politics.
The other woman allegedly accuses Assange of having had unprotected sex with her while she was asleep. Since she was not in a position to say “no” it was not consensual, and thus it qualifies as rape in Swedish law (there are other accusations but the details are not public). Rape is a serious crime, so an international arrest warrant is not strange in this case. One does not need to resort to a conspiracy theory to understand what is happening; it is perfectly logical. Sweden and the Swedish women are acting from their laws and their frame of reference. For them it is completely irrelevant what happens in the US; US politics is not only irrelevant but unknown to them, to the extent that the very words left and right are associated to different sets of ideologies in Sweden and USA. To try to interpret their acts from a US perspective is as meaningful as the Chewbacca defense in South Park.
The simple explanation seems to be that Julian Assange behaved inappropriately in a culture he was not familiar with, and that this has nothing at all to do with WikiLeaks or the “War of the Nerds”. The threats of prosecution from the USA are not related in any way, shape, or form to the legal case in Sweden.
The War of the Nerds
Returning to the topic, what this is about is information, access to it to be precise. To deny others access to information is a prime tool for power. That includes wars. A dictator does not have to pretend, but in a democracy the power elite has to use some device to preserve their information superiority. A key tool is to classify information based on a self-proclaimed necessity for state security. In modern warfare, USA has declared an intent to have absolute global information superiority.
We can see three kinds of challenges to this objective by the US. First state actors. The Soviet Union was the only one that could stand a chance, but eventually they collapsed. This left USA as the sole superpower.
Second we have the terrorists. These are non-state actors that use physical means, in an asymmetric war. The problem is that the winner ultimately is the one that has the moral high ground, and since terrorists do immoral things, they can only get sympathy if the enemy does even more immoral things. For instance, ETA had a lot of support in the Basque areas during Franco’s dictatorship, but most of that support evaporated once democracy was introduced in Spain.
The third challenge is against the information infrastructure itself. This is where the hackers come in. This is the War of the Nerds. The opening salvo is to expose the truth, to reveal the hidden information. The reaction from the Empire must be to stop this leak, since its power is threatened by it. Of course, until the leak is severe enough, the Empire will not act, since it would make it look week. But when the leak really may hurt it, it will strike back.
The few cables that have been released so far have mostly contained gossip, things that are generally known to the politically savvy persons in the country that the cable was sent from. Only in some cases have embarrassing statements and secrets come out. In other words, if the Empire is upset it is not because of what has been leaked already, but because of what may come.
What could these secrets be? There is one obvious sore spot, a deep inflammation in the world of foreign policy, and that is Palestine. Most Americans support Israel, and thus their government does it. However, the American people support Israel only because they don’t know the truth. There can be little doubt that the American government knows the truth (Jimmy Carter has even written about it).
Americans tend to believe that Palestine was a largely empty land when the Jews, in the Zionist plan, started settling the land. They also tend to believe that those Jews were descendants of Jews that were forced to leave that same land thousands of years ago.
Arabs, on the other hand, know that Palestinians lived in Palestine already when the Jews first arrived over three thousand years ago, and that the Jews arrived as conquerors, their “God” allegedly having “given” them the land. They also know that at the end of the Ottoman Empire, there were about 10,000 Jews living in Palestine, in peace with a much larger population of Palestinians, and that there was no “empty land” in the country. Furthermore, they know that close to 1 million Palestinians were driven into exile when the state of Israel was established by the Zionists. They were driven from their homes, their lands, the graves of their ancestors. And they know that they still live in refugee camps to this day, in other Arab countries.
Returning to Cablegate, what dangerous secrets is it that the US government is hiding from its people?
The Palestinians that have been desperate enough to engage Israel as freedom fighters have been labeled “terrorists”. When the superiority of Israel became so extreme that guerilla warfare in Palestine saw rendered all but impossible, the asymmetrical war was continued outside Israel. Again they were labeled terrorists, now with more justification. When Arabs from other countries joined the asymmetrical war in sympathy with Palestine, the propaganda painted them as Moslem extremists. By implying a religious reason for their fight, the nexus with the conflict in Palestine was hidden from the US public.
If the cables shed light on how the US government conspired with either Israel of Zionists in fabricating this propaganda, it would be earth-shattering for international diplomacy.
It would, however, be good for peace and democracy.
As it stands, forces such as Ahmedinejad in Iran, Castro on Cuba, and Chávez in Venezuela, are exploiting the legitimate grievances of those who are disenfranchised by the US policy. They are courting them and pretending to be their friends. In reality, of course, they are evil forces, dictators, who are just shamelessly exploiting a weakness that the democracies have exposed.
That is why it would be best for peace and democracy to come clean, to be transparent, to wash the laundry and go on. Hold an election and get new people in, it’s a democracy, isn’t it?
It is hard to make predictions, especially about the future. However, WikiLeaks may have documents ready to leak that can expose not just the primordial propaganda lie since WWII, but also documents on the way banks operate, that may cause people to realize how the banks have been systematically stealing the profits from working men and women for decades. This creates a long list of potential enemies to WikiLeaks: The powers behind governments, the powers behind banks, the powers behind media, the powers that support Israel. In short, the entire US / EU power elite.
On WikiLeaks side we have the hackers. Forget Ahmedinejad / Castro / Chávez, they are just opportunists. The only ones with WikiLeaks are the normal, everyday Internet users. May the force be with you.