WikiLeaks' Most Terrifying Revelation: Just How Much Our Government Lies to Us
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In the end, however, the most profound questions for Americans raised by the Wikileaks documents go far beyond the Muslim world. If we can free our minds of a lifetime of official propaganda identifying the U.S. Executive with the American people, the evidence is overwhelming that in foreign and military policy the U.S. Executive Branch is an undemocratic institution that does not represent its own citizens. It operates largely independent of Congress, the Judiciary or a mass media which has largely become an arm of Executive power, broadcasting its lies far more often than it exposes them.
A few months before President Obama's December 2009 decision to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, for example, only 24% of Americans wanted to send more and 43% wanted to decrease the number. Their wishes were ignored, as are the opinions of Americans today who, by a margin of 63 to 32, oppose U.S. war-making in Afghanistan. And, Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars revealed, even the President is largely a figurehead when it comes to Executive war-making. Woodward documents how the military thwarted Obama’s clear desire to begin a major pullout from Afghanistan in the summer of 2011. Last month, Obama was humiliated by being forced to endorse a hypothetical 2014 pullout date.
Most Americans would agree with the statement in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive " their just powers from the consent of the governed." But the governed can only give their consent if they are informed as to what they are agreeing to. This is obvious in our daily life. I cannot be said to have "consented" to buy your laptop if you deceived me by not telling me it was broken. One of our most basic legal principles is that a contract is null and void if it was obtained under false pretenses. By revealing massive U.S. Executive deceit Wikileaks has thus revealed that it does not legitimately represent the American people.
These Wikileaks documents thus raise the most fundamental question citizens can ask themselves: to what extent to citizens of a democracy owe their allegiance to autocratic leaders who obtain the consent of their citizens through massive duplicity? And to what extent can they trust either their judgement or their decency?
Americans may find themselves increasingly pondering such questions in coming years, as economic decline and future terrorist attacks cause U.S. elites to bring home the authoritarian mindset that has caused so much damage abroad. It seems certain that American democracy will face greater challenges than at any time since the country's founding.
But that is a long-term question. The key question now is whether Americans can hear the sound of suffering their leaders are causing abroad, as at this very moment innocent men, women and children are being murdered and maimed in what the Red Cross describes as the greatest civilian carnage since the Russians invaded 30 years ago.
Julian Assange should be applauded not persecuted for hearing the sound of their suffering.
Fred Branfman exposed the U.S. Executive's Secret Air War in Laos, which illegally and savagely murdered tens of thousands of innocent Laotian peasants. He has written frequently on Executive war-making for Alternet in recent years. See www.trulyalive.org for more information on his activities.