Forget the September 11 attack and the brouhaha on the war on terror, the Haiti earthquake, the West-infuriating Iran nuclear project or the South East Asia tsunami of 2004. It is cyclone WikiLeaks flooding the world, orchestrated by a 39-year-old Australian Julian Assange.
The impact so far is a mixed bag. The world is ambivalent about what action to take. There is something to talk, worry, think, joke, laugh about and something to know about the US diplomatic undergarments.
The US is the biggest loser in this leakage as their diplomatic chicanery is as fetid beyond imagination making it, perhaps, the biggest mortification suffered by a superpower in recent history.
The best rehabilitation for such an embarrassment would be humbling themselves or apologise where necessary. But this is not part of the USA DNA.
Like a voyeur caught red-handed, Hillary Clinton attempted to neutralise the damage by recriminating other foreign diplomats.
“I can tell you, in my conversations, at least one of my counterparts said to me, ‘Don’t worry about it; you should see what we say about you.’ Simply put, the US top diplomat is adopting that old childish strategy that it’s not a big deal because everyone is doing the same.
She went on to co-opt the “international community” by stating that “this disclosure (is not) just an attack on America’s foreign policy interests (but) it is an attack on the international community”.
So we should all turn our guns towards Assange for publishing confidential US cables? It’s not Assange who is disrespecting other leaders and calling them names through the American gossip cables.
Internally, the US impetuous reaction threatened to trash the democratic values into a groggy stupor, the Zanu PF style.
The Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs students were warned that talking about or posting links to WikiLeaks online or even discussing the leaked documents on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter could endanger students’ job prospects in the federal governments.
The State Department later refuted this statement.
This is quite familiar to our own local politics where instructions are refuted and yet being implemented. Where does this hypocrisy place the US when dealing with dictators?
As the US lawyers are gleaning for any slightest piece of legislation to nail down Assange, Sweden, one of the leading examples of democracy and modernity, has traded its reputation by being the holding-pawn with the reluctant help of Britain.
Assange is currently being held for rape allegations that took place in Sweden in August this year. Having consensual sex in Sweden without a condom is punishable by a term of imprisonment of a minimum of two years for rape.
But reports suggest that the warrant of arrest for Assange was withdrawn in August for lack of evidence only to resurface after he decanted US diplomatic dirty cables to the world.
It smells like the pre-election treason charges against opposition leaders in Zimbabwe? How is the US going to condemn a government for imprisoning a journalist on spurious charges if the West can do the same on Assange?
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sums it all: “If it is full democracy, then why have they hidden Mr Assange in prison? Is that democracy? As they say . . . some people’s cows can moo, but yours should keep quiet. So I would like to shoot the puck back at our American colleagues.”
By putting Assange behind the bars, the voice of democracy and the right to freedom of speech and information cannot be stifled, unless the US are reading from the First Amendment with their minds fixed in the 18th century underestimating the simple fact that, with the aid of technology, democracy is now a free ranger. It empowers everyone who has the means to express themselves.
Activists in the form of ccomputer hackers calling themselves Anonymous are cyber-attacking everyone bent on stifling WikiLeaks. Banks, government websites and other service providers are on the receiving end. It is democracy defending itself.
Anonymous announced that: “As an organisation we . . . take a strong stance on censorship and freedom of expression . . . and come out against those who seek to destroy it by any means. We feel that WikiLeaks has become more than just about leaking of documents, it has become a war ground, the people versus the government.”
Any kind of leak invariably causes discomfort, but it also offers an opportunity to see how much dirty is flowing in the pipeline.
For Julian Assange, transparency is his mission. As the US smarts from this serious image damage, the world awaits the reaction to the criminal activities, backroom deals, spying on US allies and reluctance to confront corruption and human rights abuses among US client states.