WikiLeaks. Julian Assange. We’ve all heard the names countless times, often spoken in an angry tone by frustrated and frightened politicians. As the result of perhaps misdirected coverage, the very mention of either WikiLeaks or Assange conjures up images in our minds of war, fierce political debates, and a mysterious platinum blonde figure that started it all.
The saga of WikiLeaks, the whistle-blower organization, created by Australian computer hacker Julian Assange in 2006 to leak highly classified war documents and logs, has turned into a megaspectacle, complete with all the elements that one would see in a thriller novel or movie; with strange plot twists and odd looking characters, and the apparent clearly defined good and bad guys. However, to make sense of it all, this post is going back to the start, and examining the WikiLeaks saga from the very point where the issue exploded – the release of the highly controversial video ‘Collateral Murder’, and discuss whether the reaction by various groups would be how the whistle-blower website intended them to react, or if we as a society missed the point completely.
Arguably, the world was naïve about the secrecy in which governments acted, until WikiLeaks in 2010 released the controversial video ‘Collateral Murder’. The reason this video was so shocking, and why western governments, particularly the US, wanted it taken down and the person responsible for its release locked up, is because it depicts the side of war that citizens don’t see, and also depicts, god forbid, the US, or the so called good guys, being in the wrong.
The video shows US soldiers within a helicopter choosing to casually and in an inconsiderate manner; begin shooting at civilians on the ground in New Baghdad, including two members of a news team, whose cameras were incorrectly identified as weapons. Two children were also harmed in this attack.
While the images within this video are deeply disturbing, what is arguably most horrific is the dialogue by a pilot, who after learning that a girl was injured, only replied with, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids to a battle.”
The release of Collateral Murder led to the condemning of WikiLeaks, with blogger Steven Aftergood stating that it “does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals.”
However, both WikiLeaks and Assange were only the messengers. Private Bradley Manning, currently in jail in Kuwait without trial, allegedly gave this video to WikiLeaks, but the circulation of this video has led to a witch-hunt focusing on WikiLeaks and Assange. Many activist groups have diverted their attention to supporting Assange, and are more than eager to write of the guilt and the sometimes atrocious acts committed by the United States. While this is indeed surely what WikiLeaks partly intended to happen, has the point been missed slightly?
At the time of this post, Bradley Manning has spent 878 days in jail without a trial, however this gets far less coverage than both WikiLeaks and Assange.
In regards to the video that started it all, WikiLeaks had this to say, “WikiLeaks wants to ensure that all the leaked information it receives gets the attention it deserves. In this particular case, some of the people killed were journalists that were simply doing their jobs: putting their lives at risk in order to report on war. Iraq is a very dangerous place for journalists: from 2003-2009, 139 journalists were killed while doing their work.”
Media student at the University of Wollongong, Paris Bridge had this to say on the issue, “Although the video (Collateral Murder) is highly gruesome and rather shocking, it’s definitely something that needed to be showed to the world. I don’t see anything major wrong with what they did. If it in anyway contributes to the potential end of suffering to some individuals lives, or provides some closure to victims, doesn’t that overturn anything illegal that they might have committed?”
Somewhere along the way, the main points that should have been discussed within the media surrounding the release of Collateral Murder became lost, and instead of discussing such issues including government transparency, secrecy, and the questioning of western countries involvement and purpose in war & conflict, the media chose to instead focus on other parts of the saga, mostly the more drama-filled elements, consequently leaving out the perhaps more noble principles, arguably less important to cover as they won’t make front page stories.
A website dedicated to supporting Bradley Manning has been set up at www.bradleymanning.org if one wishes to seek further information on this topic.