The moral force of WikiLeaks is the bent for the truth and that truth is in the interest of the common good. According to both Plato and Aristotle the common good can only be delivered and sustained as a result of truth. Not since Socrates challenged Athenians has anyone driven as passionately for the truth as has Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder drove an unprecedented contemporaneous calling to challenge the citadels of the powerful that forever degenerate to oppressor and oppressed dichotomies. WikiLeaks gave not only voice to the powerless but also to the sense of hope. In taking on the powerful, WikiLeaks took on the rulers of the world and the influence and control they have over institutions throughout our world.
The majority would say that no-one can defeat corruption, that corruption is an immutable constant, that exploitation is an immutable constant. Many would say there are millions of injustices each day under the sun on this earth, so why bother my brother? But there are some who think contrary, that the pursuit of truth should be met fearlessly. That truth does matter. WikiLeaks took on the rulers of the world – they who in effect control the fate of the world.
The influence of the most powerful mediates the formation of governments, influences the nature and the will of governments. Their influence almost mandatorily shadows the majority of the world’s heads of government, including Australia. This was clear as the light of day when Prime Minister Julia Gillard publicly condemned Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Prime Minister Gillard said that there is no moral force within WikiLeaks, that they are not motivated by any thread of a moral force. Amid a rambling condemnation of WikiLeaks Gillard applauded whistleblowers in general. The applause was a distraction but also ironical in that the Gillard Government toughened up whistleblower policies and laws, making it harder for whistleblowers – but so has one government after another. Prime Minister Gillard argued that WikiLeaks was motivated by other interests but which could not be defined as constituting a morally driven force.
Prime Minister Gillard was utterly wrong.
WikiLeaks is exclusively a moral force, pure in this. The whole purpose of WikiLeaks is the truth and a challenge to corruption at every level – particularly national and transnational corruption where governments or other citadels of corrupted influence meddle in the affairs of other nations to the detriment of those nations. WikiLeaks is not a profit oriented venture – since its inception it has not sought to make its founders wealthy materially.
On December 2, 2010, through Fairfax Radio, Prime Minister Gillard condemned Julian Assange and WikiLeaks after disclosures were published on the WikiLeaks website exposing the dangerous clandestine nature of ‘diplomacy’.
“I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the WikiLeaks website. It is a grossly irresponsible thing to do and an illegal thing to do.”
The presumptions of innocence and of whistleblowing in the public interest were hijacked by the then Prime Minister’s statement that WikiLeaks had acted ‘illegally’. Gillard and her government portrayed WikiLeaks as if a criminally bent organisation. The American administration was depicting WikiLeaks as a terrorist organisation. What led a highly skilled lawyer such as Gillard to abrogate the presumption of innocence, to dismiss the right of WikiLeaks as whistleblowers, as investigative journalists, as acting in the public interest? Prime Minister Gillard fell into line with the contrived rage from the American government and its clandestine institutions – a nation of which a majority of its conservatives and excessive self interest groups were calling for the smashing of WikiLeaks and for Assange’s blood. Psychosocially this was displaced anger – it was about guilt and being exposed. Censorship protects the guilty. This type of anger and the subsequent malice and vindictiveness have been a tragic constant in the human narrative; where moral forces shine the light on the immoral or amoral and are then punished for doing so.
President Barack Obama’s administration has prosecuted and jailed more whistleblowers than any previous American administration.
The David and Goliath like tussle between the oppressed and the oppressor continues.
Haiti is one of the world’s poorest nations. It is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. More than 80 per cent of Haiti’s predominately rural population lives in poverty. During the past decade the poverty has degraded further, becoming more extreme and dire. The life expectancy of a Haitian is 57 years of age. Less than half the Haitian population is literate and only one child in five attends secondary schooling. Less than 25 per cent of the population have access to safe water. The Haitian population continues to grow at about 200,000 per year.
In November 2010, WikiLeaks released 1,918 documents from 2003 to 2010 – ending six weeks after the January 12, 2010 earthquake which further devastated Haitian life. The documents were among the most disturbing I have read of the files published by WikiLeaks, in how America was controlling Haitian policy-making but to the detriment of the Haitian people.
It is not news that America meddles, bullies, wars with nations who do not abide. But it is darkly disturbing to read these documents and to see one of the world’s powerless nations downtrodden further by the world’s most powerful superpower. The Haitian cables wreak an air of hopelessness. One cannot not be moved by the Haiti cables.
The released documents begin nearly a year before the coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. Rene Preval took over from Aristide. In the interests of the Haitian people Preval negotiated an oil buying deal with Venezuelan oil company PetroCaribe. But the United States pulled in Chevron and ExxonMobil to do the dirty on the Haitian people. These American oil companies operating in Haiti were to refuse to transport PetroCaribe oil. The deal depended on the transport.
In one cable, the US Ambassador to Haiti, Janet Sanderson recommended that the US “convey our discontent with Preval’s actions at the highest possible level when he next visits Washington.” This followed Preval’s visit to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to craft an energy agreement that would bring electricity to millions of Haitian homes. But did the American administration care about connecting millions of the world’s poorest households to electricity?
It would not be long before Preval was reduced to another of America’s bit players. He finished up as president in 2009 passing the baton to Joseph Michel Martelly. A cable from June 1, 2009 from Ambassador Sanderson had a different tone to the 2004 cables, describing Preval as “Haiti’s indispensable man”.
Sanderson described Preval as “still moderately popular and likely the only politician capable of imposing his will on Haiti.” But the US could do better than Preval. America orchestrated the rise of Martelly who could be much more easily manipulated. A 2007 cable describes the effectively broken Preval as still unable “to resist displaying some show of independence or contrariness in dealing with Chavez.”
When Preval took office in 2004, Chavez was prepared to provide oil to beleaguered Haiti at below cost, and with Haiti paying only 60 per cent up front to Venezuela with the remainder payable at only 1 per cent interest over 25 years. But Washington sabotaged the PetroCaribe arrangement despite the unquestionable benefit to Haitians.
But with a semblance of some social conscience Chevron, though watering down some of the benefits to Haiti, ultimately signed the PetroCaribe deal in 2008. But this is not where Washington’s disgrace ends. The minimum wage in Haiti is 24 cents an hour and Preval tried to increase it by 37 cents an hour to 61 cents. But get this, Washington saw this as a 150 per cent wages rise. It would have improved significantly the lot of Haitian families but America could not have its exploitative companies in Haiti having to pay fairer wages to the exploited impoverished. You know, companies like Levi Strauss, Hanes who reckon they need the Haitian slave wages to get the clothing stock sewed. The American companies argued for the increase to be capped to 7 cents an hour. They had support – the American Government. Ambassador Sanderson pressured Preval to not push for a 31 cents increase and with textile workers to cap the wage per day to $3. Preval had wanted to increase the daily wage of textile workers to $5.
A Deputy Chief from the American Embassy to Haiti, David Lindwall, said of Preval’s plea for $5 per day that “it did not take economic reality into account.” Lindwall suggested that Preval was appeasing “the unemployed and the underpaid masses.” But let us take Hanes – in the year of that statement by Lindwall, there were nearly 3,200 Haitians earning $2 per day sewing t-shirts. This narrative of human misery totals to about one and half million dollars in costs to Hanes. But Hanes and others like them cried poor to their Washington buddies and Washington instead of staying out of this did the standover bit. But Hanes made a clean profit of nearly $220 million out of more than $4 billion in sales.
The release of the Haiti cables was in the public interest. We have a right to know. This is the only way forward with a world at odds with itself, nightmarishly meshed in an oppressor/oppressed dichotomy.
The vicious poverty trap in Haiti continues, aided and abetted by filthily wealthy transnational companies and the duplicitous and aggressive Washington administration. Preval’s Government could not achieve all it hoped for because of American meddling – the Haiti cables, thanks to WikiLeaks evidence this – but Washington preferred the effective American stooge, Martelly as president. Washington got its way and the Haitian people were physically and emotionally degraded further.
Janet Sanderson was rewarded, going on to become a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. Julian Assange remains in the martyrdom of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. WikiLeaks continues to be hounded.
Public outrage could grow if the majority of our world read the Haiti cables. WikiLeaks should be let free to be who they have promised to be – truth-tellers, whistleblowers.
WikiLeaks is a moral force. This is all WikiLeaks has ever been.
– This is the second of a 51 part series on Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks Publishing Organisation
Previous articles in the 51 part series: