Forty years ago I thought Daniel Ellsberg was a hero. Former Marine, Vietnam vet (as a civilian advisor), Pentagon Defense Analyst who put it all on the line to expose the massive lie that was the Vietnam war. With the wisdom of hindsight, I still think he's a hero. I have a much more conflicted view of what's going on with Wikileaks.
During the Vietnam War the government fed us a line of bullshit from the start. We were told that the war was going swimmingly, the commies were on the run and that before long there would be a Jeffersonian Democracy in South East Asia for the rest of the world to aspire to. Those darned Russians would be kicking themselves once again like they did in Berlin back in '48 and we'd all have ice cream.
The truth of course was far different. We were propping up a corrupt government and fighting a motivated and determined enemy. Our very reason for being there was a lie and just about everyone in the upper echelons of the government knew we were fighting a losing battle. Ellsberg, an employee of the Rand Corp. at the Pentagon was a contributor of a top secret study on the war commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara. As the war dragged on and he became more and more disaffected he decided to turn the papers over to the New York Times. The Nixon Administration made the next several years of his life a living hell but the cat was out of the bag. The lie was exposed and the dwindling support for the war all but evaporated except for a few hard liners.
Today we have Wikileaks which is similar but I'm having a hard time thinking that Julian Asange is a hero. For one thing I don't think anyone with half a brain was misled about the war in Iraq. For another, the sheer volume and content of information being released leads me to believe that Asange is nothing more than a guy with lots of technical know how and an axe to grind against the United States. What the hell good does it do anyone to know how our top diplomat in the Vatican felt when Josef Ratzinger was made Pope? How does it help anyone to find out snarky comments our diplomats made about diplomats from other countries? We all know that Afghanistan is a giant cluster fuck but doesn't feeding classified information to the Taliban make it even more of a giant cluster fuck?
I'll reserve judgment on whether these charges of rape against Asange are Kosher. After all, the government spread all manner of vile lies about Daniel Ellsberg trying to discredit him. What I do know is that history has judged Daniel Ellsberg well. He walked the walk and he knew where he was coming from. Julian Asange is a computer whiz with a history of run-ins with the law for hacking. He has spent pretty much his entire life kicking hornet's nests but he's never been a bee keeper. Ellsberg knew the streets of Saigon and the Imperial City of Hue. He understood the corruption of the South Vietnamese government and the futility of our venture. Asange knows the war from behind his computer monitor. He's decided not only to discredit the war effort but the entire government as well. His release of documents almost seems like a compulsion. He's not going to stop until he's emptied the vault. What does he do for an encore? Sell his story to the New York Times?