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.

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Comments on “Debunking The 'Wikileaks Puts Lives In Danger In Zimbabwe' Myth”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

KBucketeer (user link) says:


Go here to see the history of the Crack Down by source: – 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.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:


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.

Steven (profile) says:


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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