The Cyber-War on Wikileaks
Srećko Horvat & Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London – Sunshine Press Publications.
When the ruling class is in panic, their first reaction is to hide the panic.
They react out of cynicism: when their masks are revealed, instead of running around naked, they usually point the finger at the mask they wear. These days the whole world could witness a postmodern version of the infamous quote “Let them eat cake”, attributed to Marie-Antoinette, queen of France during the French Revolution.
As a reaction to WikiLeaks publishing his emails, John Pedestal, the man behind Hillary Clinton’s campaign, posted a photo of a dinner preparation, saying “I bet the lobster risotto is better than the food at the Ecuadorian Embassy”.
A similar version of vulgar cynicism emerged earlier this month when Hillary Clinton reacted to the claim that she reportedly wanted to “drone” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (“Can’t we just drone this guy?”) when she was the US Secretary of State. Instead of denying her comments, Clinton said that she doesn’t recall any such joke, “It would have been a joke if it had been said, but I don’t recall that”.
One doesn’t have to read between the lines to understand that if Hillary Clinton had said that, she would have considered it a joke. But when emperors joke, it usually has dire consequences for those who are the objects of their “humor.”
Cyber-war Not with Russia…but WikiLeaks
During the last few months I have visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London several times and each time I came out of the Embassy, where he is spending his fifth year in political asylum under legitimate fear he might be extradited to the US, my thought was the following one: although he lives, without his family, in a postmodern version of solitary confinement (even prisoners are allowed to walk for up to one hour a day), although he has no access to fresh air or sunlight for more than 2000 days, although the UK government recently denied him safe passage to a hospital for an MRI scan, if his access to the internet would be cut off this would be the most severe attack on his physical and mental freedom.
The last time I saw him, which was only two weeks ago, he expressed the fear that, because he had already published leaks concerning US elections and with more to come, the US might find various ways to silence him, including pressuring Ecuador or even shutting down the internet.
What seemed a distant possibility only two weeks ago, soon became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When the Obama administration recently announced that it is, as John Biden said, planing an “unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia”, the first victim was not Putin, but precisely Julian Assange whose internet was cut off just a day after Biden’s self-contradictory proclamation.
No wonder Edward Snowden reacted immediately by saying that “nobody told Joen Biden what ‘covert operation’ means.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, a covert operation is “an operation that is so planned and executed as to conceal the identity of or permit plausible denial by the sponsor.”
It is no secret anymore that the Ecuadorian government has come under extreme pressure since Assange leaked the Democratic National Committee email database. We don’t know yet whether the US pressured Ecuador to shut down the internet, but it is clear that the present US government and the government to come is fighting a war with WikiLeaks which is all but “covert”. Is it really a coincidence that Julian Assange’s internet access was cut off shortly after publication of Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches?
If at the beginning we still had a “soft” version of postmodern McCarthyism, with Hillary calling everyone opposed to her campaign a Russian spy (not only Assange, but also Donald Trump and Jill Stein), then with Obama’s recent intervention it became more serious.
With Obama’s threat of a cyber-war, the “soft” McCarthyism didn’t only acquire geopolitical significance, but at the same time a new mask was revealed: Obama is obviously trying to cement the public debate and make the Russian threat “real”, or at least to use it as a weapon in order to help Clinton to get elected. Moreover, this new twist in something that has already become much more than only US elections (US elections are never only US elections!), shows not only how Obama is ready to strengthen Hillary’s campaign, but it also reveals that a cyber war is already in the making.
It is not a cyber war with Russia, but with WikiLeaks.
And it is not the first time.
What would Clausewitz say?
In 2010, when the Collateral Murder video was published, the Afghan and Iraq war logs were released, and we witnessed one of the most sinister attacks on freedom of speech in recent history. VISA, Mastercard, Diners, American Express and Paypal imposed a banking blockade on WikiLeaks, although WikiLeaks had not been charged with any crime at either state, federal or international level. So if the US government successfully convinced payment companies representing more than 97% of the global market to shut down an independent publisher, why wouldn’t they pressure Ecuador or any other state or company to cut off the internet?
The US is not only rhetorically trying to “get” Assange (it is worth to check out the Assassinate Assange video for evidence of the verbal masturbation of US officials), he poses a serious threat to the major elite factions in the US to remain in power. No wonder panic is rising in the US, which is now going even so far that a 16-year-old boy in Britain has been arrested on criminal charges related to the alleged hacking of email accounts used by CIA director John Brennan, which WikiLeaks published in October 2016.
What WikiLeaks obviously successfully challenged–and maybe one day (“history is written by the victors”, remember?) it will be learned in military strategy– is what the Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz would call the “centre of gravity” (Schwerpunkt), which is the “central feature of the enemy’s power”.
Instead of speaking about the Russians, we should start speaking about the Schwerpunkt of the actual leaks, their real essence. Just take the following quotes by Hillary Clinton exposed by WikiLeaks, which reveal her true nature and the politics behind her campaign: “We are going to ring China with missile defense”, “I want to defend fracking” and climate change environmentalists “should get a life”, “you need both a public and a private position”, “my dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders”.
What WikiLeaks has shown is not only that Hillary is a hawkish war-monger, first it was Libya (over 1,700 of the 33,000 Clinton emails published by WikiLeaks reference Libya), then it was Syria (at a Goldman Sachs conference she explicitly stated she would like to intervene in Syria), tomorrow it will be another war.
It is now clear – and this is the real “centre of gravity” where we should focus our attention – that the future Clinton cabinet may already been filled with Wall Street people like Obama’s was. No wonder WikiLeaks revelations create utter panic not only in the Democratic Party itself but also the Obama administration.
One question remains, isn’t WikiLeaks, by leaking all these dirty secrets, influencing the US elections? Yes, it certainly is, but the current criticism misses its point: isn’t the very point of organizations such as WikiLeaks to publish the material they have and to influence public opinion?
The question should finally be turned around: isn’t the US mainstream media the one influencing the US elections? And isn’t Obama, by announcing a cyber-war with Russia, influencing the elections?
WikiLeaks is not only influencing the US elections, but transforming the US elections – as they should have been from the very beginning – into a global debate with serious geopolitical consequences at stake. What WikiLeaks is doing is revealing this brutal fight for power, but, as the old saying goes, “when a wise man points at the Moon, the idiot looks at the finger”. Instead of looking at the finger pointing to Russia, we should take a look at the leaks themselves.
If democracy and transparency means anything today, we should say: let them leak!
Srećko Horvat is a philosopher and activist. He is co-author, with Slavoj Žižek, of What Does Europe Want? (Columbia University Press, 2014) and author of The Radicality of Love (Polity Press, 2015). Together with Yanis Varoufakis he co-created the movement DiEM 25. https://diem25.org/