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The Anti-Globalization Revolution - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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My God! The entire situation has blown up in their faces, proving without a doubt that the force that which unleashed “globalization” upon the world follows its own logic. This comes despite relentless attempts to portray globalization as being in the interests of all mankind, saying that the communications revolution would eliminate all geographic barriers; the flow of goods, commodities, and labour would see the creation of an economic boom; and that communication and interaction would lead to cultural understanding, peace, security, and universal democracy resulting in an end to wars and world peace. At least that is what we were told! This model of globalization was extremely idealistic and optimistic; however human development is not a straight path, and in most cases a development occurs simultaneously with its antithesis. This is indeed what happened, and economic globalization was offset by the international financial crisis, security globalization was offset by the infamous 9/11 attacks and the wars that followed this, cultural globalization was balanced out by the clash of civilizations, and this year information globalization has been offset by WikiLeaks. This saw the innermost secrets of governments brought to light, and the sanctity of international relations and diplomacy violated with the revelation of the secret communications between countries.

In fact, WikiLeaks has become the talk of international media outlets after it began leaking classified US State Department documents on 28 November 2010. This treasure trove of documents was said to number 251,287 documents; 15,642 classified as being “secret.” These documents cover the period between 1966 and 2010, and include diplomatic cables from 274 US embassies around the world.

WikiLeaks was first established in 2006, and went online in January 2007. The website was founded by Australian journalist Julian Assange. Its name is made up of two words: “Wiki” which first came from the name of a bus shuttle service at Honolulu Airport [the Hawaiian word wiki means “quick] but which has come to mean any website that allows the quick creation and editing of inter-linked web-pages. The second name “leaks” is of course for any leaked documents or information. This name is a reflection on the website’s policy of seeking to obtain and disclose any leaked information or documents involving corrupt institutes or governments.

As it was aware of the grave consequences that could result from revealing all kinds of leaks and secret information, WikiLeaks was quick to hire a large group of lawyers to defend it, as well as protect those who provide it with information and leaked documents. Some media outlets have speculated that these leaks can be traced back to the computer network system that links the Pentagon with the US State Department, the so-called “Secret Internet Protocol Router Network” or SIPRNet, which can be accessed by as many as 2.5 million US civil servants. It is believed that US Private Bradley Manning is the man behind these leaks; he was arrested in May 2010 after WikiLeaks posted footage of a US helicopter firing upon and killing Iraqi civilians.

On 30 November 2010, Interpol issued an international warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange [he was later arrested in the UK and remanded in custody pending a hearing next week]; however this was not related to the leaked documents disclosed by his website, but due to an arrest warrant issued by a Stockholm court for Assange on charges or rape and sexual assault against two women in Sweden in August 2010. Thanks to the influence of WikiLeaks, US Time magazine has said that Assange is in the running to be named 2010 “Man of the Year” whilst in May 2010, New York’s Daily News newspaper described WikiLeaks as “one of the websites that could change headlines around the world.” Although facing significant and mounting pressure, WikiLeaks has ignored US warnings about posting more diplomatic cables, and continues to do so. This resulted in the US beginning to take action to contain the repercussions of these leaks. Washington first contacted many of its allies like Turkey, Israel, Great Britain and Australia, stressing the importance of containing these leaks. Washington also launched a PR campaign to improve its image on the international level. Thirdly, it began to legally examine the possibility of bringing charges against Julian Assange. This would be no easy task as it would require proof that the disclosure of these documents threatened US national security.

We must also recall that in July 2010 WikiLeaks disclosed 77,000 classified military documents about the US war in Afghanistan. These reports revealed violations committed by US troops which caused the deaths of Afghan civilians. In October 2010, WikiLeaks posted around 391,831 classified military documents on the US war in Iraq. These reports outlined that the US army failed to investigate reports of violations committed against Iraqi civilians between 2003 and 2009. These reports also indicated that around 15,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, with this figure not being officially recorded, and also referred to the formation of what were called “death squads” during Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s first term in office. These squads were part of a systematic campaign of violence against Iraq’s Sunni population. The report also referred to Iran providing arms to Shiite militias in Iraq. With all the furore and controversy that has been raised by the WikiLeaks website this year, one could be forgiven for thinking that it failed to reveal or disclose any controversial information prior to this, but this would be a mistake. Ever since its foundation in 2007, WikiLeaks has managed to reveal many secrets. For example WikiLeaks posted information about the members of the hard-line British National Party [BNP], including their names, addresses, and jobs. BNP members were revealed to include police officers, army personnel, doctors and lawyers among others. WikiLeaks also succeeded in posting a document expressing the constraints imposed upon detainee of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.

Returning to the introduction of this article, the issue here is not the leaking of secret information related to governments, but rather the dialectical emergence of the key features of globalization, which will ultimately turn all concepts of national security on their head. For the first time in history, governments all over the world will have to play the game with their cards exposed, and nobody knows whether this will lead to more war or more peace. The worst thing about this is that all personal information, our activities, our bank details, our personal relations, is now subject to infiltration, exposure and blackmail. This is a fact that is rarely mentioned whenever the issue of WikiLeaks is brought up. The discussion is usually confined to the conflict between national security and personal freedom, and the freedom of expression, however failing to delve deeper into this issue means that other issues relating to the right of privacy – which is sacrosanct except if there is a legal need for this to be breached – are ignored. It would be a great danger if our private lives were treated as public property.

Abdel Monem Said

Abdel Monem Said

Abdel Monem Said is the director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

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