Unlike some on the left, I don’t feel the need to justify or explain every action of Julian Assange.
The idea that the Swedish authorities would be more willing to extradite him to the US seems rather implausible, as does the idea that the sex crime allegations being made against him have been fabricated by the CIA. Is the US establishment really so threatened by Wikileaks as to go to such lengths?
Apparently so. Here’s TIME’s Michael Grunwald:
Michael Grunwald writes for Time Magazine and the Boston Glob,e and Washington Post before that. His work includes a book length defense of Obama’s economic policies.
While it is easy to dismiss Grunwald as a ‘Limbuagh of the Left’, his tweet (since deleted) provides a teachable moment about the problems of both the wiretap state and drone strike foreign policy: The security benefits are unprovable but the corruption of the political establishment is real.
Drone strikes don’t provide protection against terrorism because drone strikes are terrorism. And so is dropping bombs on civilian areas from military jets, for that matter. But knowing not to make such inconvenient comparisons is an essential qualification for getting ahead in the beltway establishment. And nobody, whether establishment or not should ever suggest that committing acts of terrorism abroad might encourage terrorist attacks against US targets.
During the cold war, US foreign policy degenerated into using the covert power of the NSA and CIA to prop up notorious dictatorships who were deemed to be on ‘our side’. Nothing frightens the establishment half as much as the idea that events might not be under their control. So Iran’s democracy was replaced by a brutal dictatorship and the same medicine was repeated wherever there was a risk of democracy breaking out until Nixon’s 1973 coup in Chile, the Watergate scandal and the Church Committee brought the CIA back under control.
Forty years later, the lessons of Church have been forgotten, and the US is once again playing the old game of taking sides in foreign civil wars. Only this time the tool of choice is the drone strike.
The contours of the Yemeni political crisis are not hard to grasp: The oil has run out, imports now exceed exports. In another ten years the water will be gone as well. And when that happens, the dictatorship that the US drone strikes are designed to support will be gone. A policy of targeted assassinations can only be effective when the underlying problem is people. The underlying problem in Yemen is that a country with a population of 23 million is close to having exhausted its natural resources.
Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. A drone strike on Assange would kill many Londoners who have nothing to do with Assange or Ecuador. It would be an act of war against the UK and Ecuador. The civilian consequences would be all over CNN and the Web. It is obvious that a drone strike in London would be a disaster rather than the magic wand Grunwald’s tweet suggests.
The disastrous impacts of drone strikes in the more remote parts of the world are less obvious and less immediate to Westerners than drone strikes in London. But ignoring those drone strikes, like the Grunwalds of the establishment appear to do, does not make them go away.