Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Risk Factor


"When we deal with such serious issues and such (a) large amount of information, we have to accept the risk that it might, but this is balanced by the understanding that such information is also likely to save a great many lives."

--Julian Assange


Arguing that the additional risks to soldiers were a price worth paying, General McChrystal believes that if civilians began to support the Taliban, it would make the war unwinnable.

"In the long run it is more economical in terms of loss of life to operate this way because we can gain the support of the population," he said.

General McChrystal, who took over as commander of Nato's International Security Assistance Force last month, said: "We want to protect the lives of civilians, but I believe that risks we accept now save coalition soldiers in the long run. If you create antipathy in the population, you are going to create more insurgents.


"War is tough and difficult and mistakes are going to be made, and our troops put themselves at risk oftentimes in order to reduce civilian casualties," he said.

--Barack Obama

Regarding Assange I do not claim to know that what he did will cause more deaths or not. However, and this is a big however, I note that Assange now perceiving himself to being in a position of power is already misusing it by dismissing the deaths of human beings as unimportant. Well, let’s ask those people who though dying for the greater good how they feel about dying for the greater good. What? They are already dead? Well, that is a shame, better them than me, er, I mean I’m sure they would be happy to know that they died for a greater good. Obama, McChrystal, Assange, all willing to sacrifice other people’s lives, just not their own, for the greater good of course.


At August 19, 2010 10:22 AM, Blogger Jack Crow said...

Right to the cancerous marrow. Well done.

A caveat though, for my own self: I have no problem with people who agree to fight or kill each other, like boxers, football players or duelists.

It's when they decide that others should die too, along the way to settling the outcome of their contest, that the problems (to put it mildly) emerge.

At August 19, 2010 3:11 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


Hey thanks and I like your caveat, I call it evolution at work, Darwin would be pleased.

At August 19, 2010 6:06 PM, Blogger JM said...

I always thought Julian came off as arrogant and well, I can't blame the US government for wanting to prevent the releasing of names.

At August 19, 2010 7:18 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


What worries me is that the historical record shows that these types of leaks only result in an increase in state violence and indeed we are seeing an increase in state violence right on the heels of the leaked documents. I do feel Assange is correct in that Americans have a right to know what is being done in their name and with their stolen money. Some people believe that this is the way to stop the wars but I remain skeptical. Still, the public has a right to know and if the news media actually did what they are supposed to do the slaughter of innocent people would have been reported and there would have been no need for leaks.

At August 20, 2010 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please give me a brief sketch of the historical record to demonstrate your assertion that leaks of this type are responsible for increasing state violence. I can't think of any examples of my own, and quite frankly, I doubt there are any.

We were escalating the war in Afghanistan prior to the leaks. The leaks therefore cannot be responsible for increasing state violence there.


At August 20, 2010 2:15 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Here is a link for Yusef who can’t think of a single example, LOL.

Assange’s personal demeanor isn’t a real concern for me, maybe he is arrogant maybe he isn’t but what possible importance is that? The topic of the post is about how human beings, especially those who come into some kind of power, easily dismiss the death of other people because of some imagined greater good. Okay? Nobody knows what the ramifications of the leaks will be, yet. I suspect the end result will be even more erosion of civil liberties, if we have any left that is. But that was coming down the road anyway. If people die because of names of informants being in the documents than Assange would be an accessory to murder but we don’t know that this is so, it is conjecture while on the other hand there is plenty of historical evidence showing that these types of leaks cause an increase in state violence, meaning more death of innocent people. That’s the trouble with most people, they cannot discern what is important and what is not so the government has no problem sending them off on a tangent with a little propaganda. All the important issues are sent down the memory hole while people argue about things like a Mosque at ground zero and Terror Babies or if Julian Assange looks gay and has funny hair.

At August 20, 2010 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't give me that crap.

At least six million have died in Congo since 2000, nary a word of it in the American press, and you're telling me it's about humans.

Civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan are astronomical (when has this been a MSM focus--the US doesn't even officially count civlian casualties,) and you're telling me its about humans.

The refugee situation in both places--appalling. Over 4 million in Iraq; recent estimates in Afghanistan and Pakistan place the number about the same. But you're telling me it's about humans.

Not a single death attributed to the Wikileaks leak, but Assange's name and face all over the place, the potential for the loss of life blown all out of proportion, leading many people (myself included) to the impression of numerous deaths... But you're telling me it's about humans.

It's about US propaganda and smearing any attempt to get the truth out, and you're falling for it like a dumb dupe.

No one is dismissing the seriousness of human death. Just the opposite. The idea that a journalist is an accessory to murder--you're contributing--even though acknowledging the conjectural-- to the squelching of freedom of the press. Were the reporters who broke the Mi Lai story (Seymour Hersh and others) accessories to murder? It was alleged at the time. Or did they in fact help to end the war by bringing to light what was really happening--just what Assange says he is doing and in my opinion he is doing.


At August 20, 2010 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe Cockburn thinks the My Lai disclosures did little to end the war.

What Cockburn is doing is arguing a counterfactual. We know that the war continued another seven years after the My Lai disclosures. What we don't know is how long the war would have continued, or how furiously it would have been conducted, without the disclosures. Cockburn either slyly or stupidly leads us to think it would have ended sooner, less furiously. But I doubt it (though it is the nature of the counterfactual--no one can know what might have happened.

My personal experience was that the Pentagon Papers leak was transformative. Before reading the Pentagon Papers, there were many things I'd heard about but couldn't really believe. I couldn't bring myself to believe the US government was capable of such things. After reading the Pentagon Papers, I couldn't not believe. I knew. I still take lessons from the Pentagon Papers.

Yours and Cockburn's arguments remind me of the old say about Louis the Sixteenth being responsible for French civil liberties... the idea being that if Louis the Sixteenth had been a more capable monarch, the French wouldn't have revolted and these civil liberties would not have been gained. Tailoring that to this situation, you seem to be saying that if we be incompetent citizens, the wars will be bad but end up being better. This is unlikely.


I better add: I don't think the Wikileaks will do any good. I don't think anything is going to do any good. We're too far gone. Events now set in motion will take their dismal and disastrous course. I still admire Assange for trying. He is not to be blamed.

At August 20, 2010 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You didn't excerpt or discuss this part of Cockburn's article, Rob:

Here we are, more than three decades later, half buried under a mountain of horrifying news stories about a destroyed land of desolate savagery and what did one hear on many news commentaries earlier this week? Indignant bleats often by liberals, about Wikileaks’ “irresponsibility” in releasing the documents; twitchy questions such as that asked by The Nation’s Chris Hayes on the Rachel Maddow Show: “I wonder ultimately to whom WikiLeaks ends up being accountable.”

The answer to that last question was given definitively in 1851 by Robert Lowe, editorial writer for the London Times. He had been instructed by his editor to refute the claim of a government minister that if the press hoped to share the influence of statesmen, it “must also share in the responsibilities of statesmen.”

“The first duty of the press,” Lowe wrote, “is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation… The Press lives by disclosures… For us, with whom publicity and truth are the air and light of existence, there can be no greater disgrace than to recoil from the frank and accurate disclosure of facts as they are. We are bound to tell the truth as we find it, without fear of consequences – to lend no convenient shelter to acts of injustice and oppression, but to consign them at once to the judgment of the world.”

This, I couldn't agree with more, nor say it better.

Must be you're a liberal. Horror of horrors.

At August 20, 2010 7:52 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Yusef, you are a very confused individual, perhaps disturbed would be a better word.

At August 20, 2010 8:52 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


At August 21, 2010 12:54 AM, Anonymous blip on the radar said...

You're equating the behaviour and power of Julian Assange, whose actions cannot even be said to have caused anyone's death yet, with the behaviour and POWER of the people due to whose actions we *know* millions have died or suffered? Seriously?

I must say, this willingness to put the blame for the escalation of wars on people who disclose the war's atrocities is pathetic. Instead of holding the war criminals responsible when things like this happen, you all unanimously -- the left and the right -- band up to blame the messenger for the war crimes he reports.

Which is brilliant, as it serves the war criminals perfectly.

These noble critics rise up to claim that "the do-gooders do damage", which just serves to obscure the fact that the damage is actually done by the people who continue to sign up for the army (support the troops! even when they rape, torture and murder people!) and the commanders who order them around.

Because, you know, Julian Assange is to blame that the wars are escalating. Not your elected officials and generals, god no.

At August 21, 2010 10:14 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I don't talk to idiots.


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