Thursday, August 12, 2010

Julian Aussage and Wikileaks - my 24 Hours Column for this Week

This is from 24 Hours. It was inspired by this Wall Street Journal article I read about the implications of the release of all these documents on the war in Afganistan

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Globally there is a whistleblower site called Wikileaks. It provides a secure place for people to leak documents. Recently they posted about 76,000 documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. Wikileaks seems much more interested in global notoriety than reviewing and releasing the information that is appropriate to publicize. Meanwhile editor Julian Assange seems to be basking in a smug glory from the release of the documents and ignoring the impact of his actions.

Within the documents there are the names of many people in Afghanistan that have been secretly working for the government against the Taliban. Estimates are that several hundred people are named within the documents.

The Taliban may be immoral thugs interested in personal gain but they are not morons, they have been combing the documents for the names of these people opposed to them. They have said they will be seeking out these people and their families and execute them.

The Taliban have a long record of attacking anything to do with modern society and tolerance. As an example, Vancouver carpenter Mike Frastacky was killed in 2006 for building a school. In 2010 the Taliban has increased their execution of community leaders, doctors and teachers. They are now killing five times as many as in 2009. The Taliban is trying to systematically destroy any sense of a civil society.

The Afghan people have been living in fear and terror of the Taliban for years. Over and over again it has been shown there is little popular support for the Taliban but what there is, is a great fear of retribution. Even with this there are many people willing to counter this tyranny at the peril of their own and their families lives. What crime did these people commit that their names should be given to the Taliban?

Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are important but they are also not absolute. Wikileaks had a moral duty to ensure no one came to harm from their release of the documents, they did not do so. I get no sense that Julian Assange feels any personal responsibility for putting all these people in harm's way.

Various well respected human rights groups have called Wikileaks on their actions that are endangering people. Amnesty International, Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, the Open Society Institute, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and the Kabul office of International Crisis Group have all called on Julian Assange to take responsibility and so far he has refused.

It may all be moot in any case as the Taliban warlords only need to wait until the western troops protecting the people leave like Canada will do in 2011 and the Netherlands have just done. Without a stable and well established civil society in Afghanistan it is likely the people of the country will be forced to endure many more years of hell on earth. The death of the Afghans named in the documents will bring this closer.
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