Friday, May 23, 2014

Wikileaks and Afghanistan

Earlier this week internationally recognized news organizations suffered heavy criticism from the anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks for redacting the name of a nation surveilled by the NSA. Even Glenn Greenwald voiced his support for redacting the country’s name for fears “that doing so could lead to increased violence.” Following this, the Wikileaks Twitter account (widely assumed to be run by Julian Assange directly), engaged Mr. Greenwald with vitriolic language and slurs, culminating in the account claiming that it would release the name of the target nation in 72 hours

72 hours passed, and Wikileaks did not released the name. 3 hours after the deadline the account posted the following tweet:
Bizarrely enough a mere hour and a half later, the handle did in fact publish the name which turned out to be Afghanistan.

While it is unclear if this in fact is true, it is certain that this action appears to be a desperate attempt at gaining attention. Anyone who has followed the news and has a memory beyond the last minute is probably more than aware of the strife in Afghanistan, and the widely varied sources of violence. It was only a few months ago when the Taliban, one of the most significant insurgent groups in the country attacked the United States Consulate in Herat, killing 3. Months before this, the Taliban set off a car bomb, murdering a US diplomat and four other Americans

The Taliban are not the only group which has attacked American and International interests in Afghanistan:

In September 2012 there were widespread riots over the film “Innocence of Muslims”, even though many of the rioters had not in fact seen the film clip. 

In February 2012 there were riots for a week over American troops dumping Korans in a garbage dump and burning them (the ones responsible were disciplined by the US Army). 

On April 1, 2011 the United Nations compound in Mazar-e Sharif, was stormed and as many as ten foreigners were murdered (some may have been decapitated) in response to the burning of a Koran a week and a half earlier by an American pastor. The riots continued throughout the country for a week following the attack on the compound. 

Earlier in 2011 thousands demonstrated in Qalat after young Afghan children alleged that foreigners had ‘disrespected the Koran’. 

What is clear from this brief catalogue of recent events is that Afghanistan remains a very tense place with unrest possible at any moment and for any reason. Something like what Wikileaks has alleged can prove to be deadly, even for innocents or civilians whose presence in the country is entirely innocent and well-intentioned. 

I do not know if Afghanistan is the country redacted by Glenn Greenwald, but if it is, the callousness of Julian Assange is horrifying. It would truly demonstrate how egomaniacal Julian Assange is and how little he values a human life that is not his own.