WikiLeaks, Michael Lind, and the u2018New' Nationalism The authoritarian left comes out of the closet

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The international
debate engendered by WikiLeaks’ ongoing
publication
of classified US diplomatic cables has sent most
American liberals into hiding. Gone AWOL when it comes to the Obama
administration’s escalation
of the federal government’s war on civil liberties, mainstream liberal
defenders of WikiLeaks are few and far between.

On the cable
news circuit,
Rachel Maddow
, the supposed u201Cforeign policy wonk,u201D devoted a
brief segment to the issue, echoing the MSM’s party line that There’s
Nothing New Here. (Earth to Rachel: Since only a small percentage
of the cables have so far been published, isn’t it a little premature
for such a pronouncement? Just asking .) Her fellow MSNBCer, Chris
Matthews
, confined himself to a few snarling comments about
Julian Assange — u201Ca rapistu201D — with only Keith
Olbermann
(who can hardly be called u201Cmainstream,u201D in any event)
openly defending the last remaining symbol of what had once been
a free society.

By far the
most consistent and effective champion of WikiLeaks on what passes
for the u201Cleftu201D these days has been the heroic
Glenn
Greenwald
: not only in his widely-read columns for Salon.com,
but in numerous media appearances in which he has taken on the worst
of the very worst — and, yes, I do indeed mean John
F. Burns
, of the New York Times. Glenn has been everywhere,
a libertarian gladiator up against the Empire’s pundit warrior-slaves,
and winning every time.

News programs
which would normally interview only regimist u201Cexpertsu201D and commentators
have been forced, by the very nature of a contentious subject, to
bring in someone who doesn’t toe Washington’s line, and Glenn
— with his legal training and calm, reasoned demeanor — is almost
singlehandedly taking on the Powers That Be in this important fight.

Now, however,
a challenger has arisen from within the ranks of the Salon.com limousine
liberal set to take on our Spartacus: Michael Lind, who has staked
out a position as a u201Cnew nationalistu201D on the Obama-friendly left,
has entered
the arena
, outlining the case against Assange and WikiLeaks
that Eric Holder’s Justice Department will make in court if US goons
succeed in netting him from the Swedes, or perhaps even the Brits.
(If only we could read those diplomatic cables going to and fro
between Washington, Stockholm, and London!)

u201CThis controversy,u201D
avers Lind, u201Chas nothing to do with views of current U.S. foreign
policy.u201D It’s time to reel out his lefty, antiwar credentials, and
he does so:

u201CI denounced
the Iraq War in advance in print, on the radio and on TV, and after
it began in two books. I favor rapid disengagement from Afghanistan
and a far more modest American military role in the world.u201D

Yes,
but what has Lind done to advance the cause of downsizing America’s
overseas presence lately? These
cables
are a treasure trove for advocates of military modesty:
we’ll be poring over them for years extracting the lessons of the
rampant
immodesty
that has so far dominated the minds of US policymakers.

For revealing
the
true face
of America’s overseas empire, Assange should be hailed
as a hero by anti-interventionists of every stripe, much as opponents
of the Vietnam war supported and continue to honor Pentagon Papers
leaker Daniel
Ellsberg
. So why is the allegedly anti-interventionist — or,
perhaps, modestly interventionist — Lind coming out against
WikiLeaks? u201CI agree with the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan that
much, perhaps most, government secrecy is unnecessary and counterproductive,u201D
he writes,

u201CBut everyone
other than anarchists who oppose government of any kind must acknowledge
the need for diplomats and military officers, as well as civilian
officials, to be able to engage in confidential communications among
themselves and with foreign governments without fear of unauthorized
publicity. Even the government of an isolationist America would
insist on that prerogative.u201D

The government
of a country that was u201Cisolationistu201D (i.e. intent on minding
its own business
) and also authoritarian would undoubtedly
prosecute WikiLeaks, and any American or foreign national on American
soil who gave it aid and comfort. It would most certainly insist
that PayPal,
Bank of America, Amazon.com
, and all u201Cprivateu201D companies cease
doing business with WikiLeaks. This could indeed happen in an u201Cisolationistu201D
America in which the
Constitution
never existed, or in which the anti-Federalists
didn’t succeed in inserting those essential
Amendments
to the final document — notably the first, which
protects WikiLeaks and the media in general from government censorship
and prosecution.

As to whether
such a regime would do everything in its power to capture Assange,
and drag him, in chains, into a US court, is highly doubtful. Not
being an American citizen, the WikiLeaks founder is not subject
to our various laws regulating the release of classified information,
nor do we have the legal authority to prosecute him — unless one
assumes the US government has legal sovereignty over the entire
globe. This, however, is a doubtful legal premise for an u201Cisolationistu201D
administration, of any stripe, to uphold. Only the government of
an isolationist America with Lind in the White House would make
such a legal argument shortly before being laughed out of court.

In an isolationist
America, the jury would certainly take a dim view of the government’s
claim to supra-national sovereignty, but most of all they’d wonder
what all the fuss was about. After all, the content of the cables
would be far different: details of peaceful, non-invasive, non-threatening
cultural and educational activities, blow-by-blow accounts of cocktail
party conversations, etc. We certainly wouldn’t be hearing
about secret
bombing raids
, how we’re dragged into conflicts by reckless
allies
, and how our diplomats are directly intervening in the
legal affairs of other nations. And I very much doubt we’d be reading
about our u201Cisolationistu201D secretary of state ordering
US diplomats to collect credit card numbers and computer passwords
of their foreign counterparts.

In any case,
Lind, undeterred by the illogic of his position, is here merely
echoing Obama administration spokesmen who claim WikiLeaks is an
u201Canarchistu201D cabal. Discussing the various u201Clegalu201D options open to
the Obama administration, and their origin during the Wilson era,
Lind again raises a point of personal privilege:

u201CI’m no
defender of World War I-era paranoia, as my German-born great-grandfather
was a victim of it. However, if the Espionage Act did not exist,
I would favor passage of some sort of reasonable act to protect
legitimate government secrets, because democratic republics have
a right to protect themselves from genuine spies and real traitors,
as well as vengeful employees. If the perennial presidential candidate
of the Socialist Party, Eugene Debs, whom the Wilson administration
imprisoned for opposing the draft, had been elected president, I
doubt that America’s socialist commander in chief and chief diplomat
would have looked kindly on unauthorized publication of classified
government secrets.’

President Debs
would undoubtedly have released the secret unpublished protocols
of the Versailles
Treaty
— although they leaked out anyway, and soured a whole
generation of progressives on the idea of wars to u201Cmake the world
safe for democracy.u201D And surely there would be no Espionage Act,
and scant legal means to prosecute either WikiLeaks or Assange —
although, with extensive control over the economy, government officials
could simply order companies like Amazon.com to sever their links
to WikiLeaks. And I find it difficult to reconcile Debs the
person
, who saw himself as a challenger to authority and not
its enabler, ordering Assange’s imprisonment.

Read
the rest of the article

December
28, 2010

Justin
Raimondo [send him mail]
is editorial director of Antiwar.com
and is the author of An
Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard
and Reclaiming
the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement
.

The
Best of Justin Raimondo

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