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Pentagon ‘dirty tricks’ can’ close can of worms

Published Aug 25, 2010 2:49 PM

A new generation of “Plumbers” seems to be at work, trying to discredit the leak of secret government war documents. Their first attempt has failed.

An arrest warrant on a rape charge filed in Sweden on Aug. 21 against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was withdrawn within hours. Karin Rosander, spokesperson for the national prosecutor’s office, told reporters that when the chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, reviewed the case, she found no reason to believe that Assange had committed rape.

The warrant, which was never served, was issued while Assange was in Sweden hoping “to establish a secure base for himself and WikiLeaks in Sweden because its press laws provide broad protections for news organizations that publish secret information.” (New York Times, Aug. 22)

Assange is quoted as telling a reporter shortly after the warrant was issued, “I do not know what lies behind this. But we have been warned that, for example, the Pentagon plans to use dirty tricks to undermine us.”

There is no question that Assange is in the Pentagon’s sights. On July 25, WikiLeaks published online a collection of 77,000 classified documents it calls “Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010.” Like the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 during the Vietnam War, this was a massive leak of information the government wants kept secret.

Back then, the “leaker” was Daniel Ellsberg, a Marine combat veteran who had served in Vietnam and became a theoretician of Cold War tactics and strategy for the Pentagon, attaining the highest civil service grade of GS-18, equivalent to a major general. He knew the war inside out — and came to hate it and his role in it.

Ellsberg smuggled out and gave to the media copies of a 7,000-page secret Pentagon report that showed the public had been lied to about the war and concluded that it couldn’t be won. In retaliation, he was charged with treason. The Pentagon sent a covert squad it called “the Plumbers” to burgle Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in the hope of getting dirt on him. But the robbery was discovered and the ploy boomeranged. It became one more proof that the government would try to destroy anyone who told the truth about that horrible war of imperialist aggression.

Fast forward to 2010. Congressperson Mike Rogers, a member of the Select Intelligence Committee and a former FBI special agent, said Aug. 3 on MSNBC that the U.S. should have executed Ellsberg for treason. His remarks were in the context of also calling for capital punishment in the case of Pvt. Bradley Manning, who is being held by the Pentagon on charges of having released secret documents on the Iraq War to WikiLeaks.

Manning, a 23-year-old Army intelligence analyst, is alleged to have leaked videos showing U.S. air strikes in Iraq that deliberately killed many civilians, including children and news journalists.

Opponents of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have for years been saying that both were launched on false pretenses. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and it had no connection to 9/11. The Taliban in Afghanistan also had nothing to do with 9/11, but by now the propaganda machine has branded all Muslim groups that oppose U.S. military occupation as cronies of al-Qaida.

What the WikiLeaks struggle shows is that people who have not been longtime opponents of the war machine but rather have been part of it, people like Ellsberg, are now finding the courage to speak out. Ellsberg was a high-ranking civilian working for the Department of Defense when he leaked the Pentagon Papers. Manning is just a private. But today, because of the Internet, there are tens of thousands of soldiers at various levels who have access to at least some of the documents the government wants to hide.

Will the WikiLeaks exposures — and Assange says there are 15,000 more documents to be released soon — bring an end to these terrible wars? Not unless the progressive movements use them to mobilize public, visible opposition to the war.

It is not enough that those willing to search for the truth can now find it. It is not enough that an August Associated Press poll found that those supporting the war have dwindled to only 38 percent of the people.

The war machine represents a powerful concentration of U.S. imperialist interests — from the industries that do research, development and production of war materiel to the multibillion-dollar providers of mercenaries and to the energy corporations and the banks behind them. Even when they are losing a war, they have ample incentive to keep it going as long as they have willing troops to command, a compliant Congress to fund it and an administration yoked to the foreign policy ambitions of the military-industrial-banking complex.

Their resolve to keep troops in Iraq and Afghanistan must be broken by the militant struggle of the developing mass movements in this country against racism, xenophobia, poverty and unemployment.

Ending the wars is integral to the struggle for jobs and justice at home.