Debunking The 'Wikileaks Puts Lives In Danger In Zimbabwe' Myth

from the political-operative dept

While Wikileaks critics keep claiming that the site has "put lives in danger," it's never been able to back up those statements. Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates has admitted those claims (some of which he made early on) were not true. So it wasn't much of a surprise to see Wikileaks critics jump on the claims that the site had set back democracy in Zimbabwe, and potentially put one of the country's political leaders, Morgan Tsvangirai (an opponent to long-time leader Robert Mugabe, who effectively destroyed the Zimbabwe economy), in danger.

The issue is a US diplomatic cable revealing what Tsvangirai had told the Americans about Mugabe. The country's attorney general, who was appointed by Mugabe, quickly began an "investigation," suggesting that Tsvangirai was guilty of treason, and Mugabe has used the incident to attack Tsvangirai, which could lead to an abandonment of the already shaky coalition government, leading Mugabe to seize back more complete control.

There's no doubt that the situation in Zimbabwe is not great, but the anger towards Wikileaks is quite misplaced. The strongest article on the subject, which many people have been passing around, was published in The Guardian, by James Richardson, and blasts Wikileaks and Julian Assange for all the "damage" done in Zimbabwe.

The only problem? It wasn't Wikileaks who originally published that cable. It was The Guardian itself, who not only published the document prior to Wikileaks, but also admits that it, not Wikileaks or Assange, chose which cables to publish and when. It did alert Wikileaks to what it was going to publish, but the release and publication of this document was done by The Guardian -- the very same publication that Richardson then used to slam Wikileaks for supposedly being the one to create the problems in Zimbabwe. Oops.

Of course, Richardson is not a reporter. He's a well-connected political operative in the US, with ties to politicians who have been attacking Wikileaks. He ran online communications for the RNC during John McCain's presidential campaign. So it's pretty clear that there are ulterior motives in bashing Wikileaks, but it's quite ironic that he chose The Guardian as his publication of choice to do so, since they're actually the ones that broke the particular story. Will Richardson now write a similar piece suggesting The Guardian has blood on its hands?

Even more to the point is an analysis by Charles Homans, at Foreign Policy magazine, who notes that Mugabe has had it in for Tsvangirai for years anyway -- and that "Tsvangirai has been variously arrested, beaten, tortured, thrown from a 10th-floor window, and involved in a suspicious collision with a truck that claimed his wife's life" in just the last decade or so. The idea that this one leak is what really created problems in Zimbabwe is laughable. Mugabe has been plotting against this guy for ages, and would use any possible excuse to attack him again. The problem here is not Wikileaks. It's not The Guardian. It's an unstable country with a man in Robert Mugabe who likes to crush any political opposition. To try to pin that all on Wikileaks is beyond misleading and desperate. It's just plain deceitful.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2011 @ 10:31am

    "Tsvangirai has been variously arrested, beaten, tortured, thrown from a 10th-floor window, and involved in a suspicious collision with a truck that claimed his wife's life" [emphasis mine]

    I thought highlanders weren't supposed to hold political office. Like some sort of immortal hobo code or some such.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2011 @ 11:04am

    Wikileaks and Assange acted stupidly. They tried to do the right thing and edit the leeks. What they should have done is post All of then on line raw in a format that could not be traced back to Wikileaks and then disavowed any knowledge of the leaks. By trying to be responsible they were stupid bringing the cockroaches down on their head.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 5th, 2011 @ 11:06am

      Re:

      Yeah... no good deed goes unpunished.

       

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      IronM@sk, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 5:22am

      Re:

      They tried to do the right thing and edit the leeks.

      GMO's are bad, mmkay?

       

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      freak (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 7:48am

      Re:

      They are publishing the leaks so slowly, because they want to see each leak get the attention it deserves, rather than everyone focusing on the big ones and completely missing the small ones. Seems like the right thing to do, to me.

      Mind you, at the current publishing system, it'll be what, 2 & 1/2 years till all the leaks are published?

       

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        freak (profile), Jan 6th, 2011 @ 7:51am

        Re: Re:

        Realized my math error was off as soon as I posted.

        25 years. Magnitude of 10 difference there.


        Leads me to suspect that the grand majority of the 250k cables won't be published because they contain nothing in them.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2011 @ 12:22pm

    Clearly Julian Assange is Robert Mugabe's father.

     

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    KBucketeer, Jan 5th, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    Crackdown

    Go here to see the history of the Crack Down by source: http://www.kbucket.com/main/view_kbucket/35/713/2487?tag=crackdown&dummy=dummy - Then click on each of the other tabs to see how the government and news media has been covering the crackdown on Wikileaks - per country. The only true champions of free speech are the tech sites - and techdirt is leading the cause for free speech.

     

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    Richard (profile), Jan 5th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    The British Authorities

    are responsible for this problem. If they had simply allowed Peter Tatchell to arrest Robert Mugabe back in 1999. Then the whole sorry saga of Zimbabwe would not have unfolded the way it has.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    Okay, I have to ask the obvious question:

    Where did the Guardian get it's copies of the cables from?

    Manning? or Wikileaks?

    At the end of the day, if Wikileaks gave the media the documents, they are the source, and bear at least some responsiblity on how they were used.

     

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      Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 5th, 2011 @ 12:51pm

      Re:

      So wait, by extension, "at the end of the day", isn't the source Manning, since he gave them to Wikileaks?

      I agree that this does not necessarily absolve them of responsibility, but it certainly seems to put the greater burden on the Guardian. They still had the complete freedom to choose whether or not to publish the documents and which ones to publish - so to then criticize Wikileaks for the decisions they themselves made, and do so from within their own pages, is ridiculous.

       

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      Steven (profile), Jan 5th, 2011 @ 12:58pm

      Re:

      I throughly agree that we should hunt/find/make up anything we can/need to in order to in some way be able to paint Wikileaks, and Julian Assange personally, as bad, evil, and a threat to modern civilization as well as keep the focus on them.

      Otherwise we might actually focus on what has been released, the various failures of government(s), and maybe look for solutions to fix them (which would most likely result in the loss of some power, and/or additional headache, for currently ensconced government officials).

       

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      teka (profile), Jan 5th, 2011 @ 1:09pm

      Re:

      At the end of the day, if the US government created these documents, they are the source, and bear at least some responsibility on how they were used?

      See how silly that sounds?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2011 @ 7:17pm

        Re: Re:

        It sounds silly because the documents were not made to be widely distributed. Manning, Assange, and then the Guardian each has a hand in the documents being distributed. The government creating them has no hand in it, they didn't intend the documents to be given out.

        See how silly you sound?

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 5:07am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Really silly is the amount of notes that are not sensitive and still remain secret for some obscure reasons that no one is willing to talk about, and hints of corruption or improper conduct at the very least.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 5:56am

          Re: Re: Re:

          See how quickly your original drivel was clearly debunked and see how quickly you moved onto something else because you actually have no argument whatsoever?

          I did.

           

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2011 @ 12:47pm

    Okay, I have to ask the obvious question:

    Where did the Guardian get it's copies of the cables from?

    Manning? or Wikileaks?

    At the end of the day, if Wikileaks gave the media the documents, they are the source, and bear at least some responsiblity on how they were used.

     

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  •  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 6th, 2011 @ 7:52am

    So Anna Nicole Smith causing problems in the Bahamas deserves attention?

     

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