Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Why the Latest WikiLeaks Leaks Matter

Why should anyone care about diplomatic cables? So what if State Department bureaucrats say unflattering things about other world “leaders"? Some people may be asking this in response to WikiLeaks' latest disclosures. Okay, they say, leaks about atrocities on the battlefield (such as the first WikiLeaks disclosure, “Collateral Murder,”) tell us something we should know about – the gross misconduct by U.S. military forces, condoned by the command all the way up to the president of the United States.

But diplomatic cables? Who cares?

We all should care. The 250,000 documents serve as a timely reminder that the people who call themselves “the government” are professional liars. Lying is what they are paid to do. The biggest lie of all is that they do it in the people's interest. U.S. government officials have reacted to the latest document dump as though Julian Assange has struck at the very heart of the State. No surprise there -- because he has! When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the disclosures are an "attack on the world," she is really saying it's an attack on her world -- the world of power, of legal murder and plunder.

When American (mis)leaders profess confidence in the Afghan president and his government, while saying privately they are incompetent and corrupt -- stealing hundreds of millions of Americans' dollars -- that’s the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll the government’s lethal adventures.

When American (mis)leaders praise and encourage the Mexican government’s efforts in the criminal “war on drugs,” while privately believing they're practically worthless, that’s the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll that evil crusade, which harms Mexicans and Americans.

When American (mis)leaders bomb Yemen while conspiring with the Yemeni dictator to portray the murderous campaign as the act of Yemen’s government in order to make it more palatable to the Yemeni people, that’s the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll that imperialist policy.

When other countries' officials implore American (mis)leaders to bomb Iran, that is the people’s business – at least as long as they are compelled to bankroll militarism and suffer the “blowback” such an action would produce.

And on and on and on.

Sure, the American people already “know” at some level that their (mis)leaders and (mis)representatives are liars. Everyone laughs at the riddle asking how you know when a politician is lying: “His lips are moving.” But that knowledge too often fades deep into the background as the people are distracted or put to sleep by the solemn mendacity that issues from the politicians mouths on a daily basis.

So WikiLeaks performs a critical service by reminding us what those sanctimonious mountebanks really are. (The Guardian lists the key points of the cables here.)

Some will say that government couldn't exist without duplicity. I take them at their word.


Anonymous said...

Sheldon, I tend to agree with you, but I do have a question. If frank diplomatic exchange can avoid conflicts (and not merely promote them), then if diplomats and holders of political power cannot speak frankly with each other, is there some additional danger that avoidable conflicts will not be avoided? I don't think that such people have a "right to privacy," but I wonder if this kind of release may diminish diplomatic exchanges and discussions that could avoid conflict. Do you see that as a downside, that is offset by the other benefits that you mention? If so, is it possible that the downside could be, in fact, larger than the benefits, at least in some cases?

Sheldon Richman said...

Good question. If we have to err, I'd rather we err on the side of hampering the U.S. government's capacity to initiate or extend of conflict. If these guys are allowed to operate in private in the hope they will avert conflict, I am confident we will be unhappy with the outcome. There certainly is no way to bind them, and the incentive structure does not by and large promote peace.

More fundamentally, a noninterventionist foreign policy means just that: keeping the U.S. government out of other people's quarrels even if it is to prevent conflict. As long as the government exits, it should have no role abroad.