5 WikiLeaks Hits of 2011 That Are Turning the World on Its Head -- And That the Media Are Ignoring
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This article has been updated.
Between Collateral Murder , the Iraq War Logs , the Afghan War Diary , and Cablegate, it appeared as though 2010 would go down in history as the most shocking year in WikiLeaks revelations. Americans discovered that trigger-happy soldiers who have been trained to kill are likely to shoot innocent civilians, including journalists and children. They learned that the US military handed over detainees they knew would be tortured to the Iraqis, and as a matter of policy, failed to investigate the hundreds of reported torture and abuse by Iraqi police and military. The Afghanistan logs showed many more civilians killed than previously known, along with once-secret US assassination missions against insurgents. And Cablegate shed light on a US foreign policy that values self-interest over democracy and human rights at all costs, perpetuating anti-American sentiment in the process.
Is 2011 capable of exceeding 2010's revelations? And what discoveries in 2011 has WikiLeaks unearthed thus far?
1) The Arab Spring: Information is power. In January of this year, the North African country of Tunisia captured the world's attention, as a relentless and inspiring democratic uprising managed to overthrow the autocratic President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in just a matter of weeks. Protests were initially sparked by food price inflation and staggering unemployment, as demonstrated by the self-immolation of a disillusioned young man named Mohamed Bouazizi.
But we should never underestimate the power of information when it comes to stirring things up. The role of the WikiLeaks Embassy cables, which revealed the US government's view of the president and his ruling circle as deeply corrupt, cannot be overlooked.
Of course, Tunisians were well aware of their government’s corruption long before Cablegate. However, the Tunisian government felt threatened enough by the leaks to block access to the Lebanese news Web site Al-Akhbar after" it published U.S. cables depicting Ben Ali and his government in an unflattering light,” says the Committee to Protect Journalists. They went on to block not just WikiLeaks, but any news source publishing or referencing leaked cables that originated or referenced Tunisia. Their repressive reaction to the leaks pushed protesters over the brink, as it epitomized the country's utter lack of freedom of expression.
And if there's anything the hacktivists at Anonymous hate, it's censorship, which is why they retaliated by shutting down key Web sites of the Tunisian government, an effort they dubbed "OpTunisia."
"The Tunisians were the first people in the Arab world to take to the streets and oust a leader for a generation," declared the Guardian’s David Leigh and Luke Harding. There is no denying that WikiLeaks acted as a catalyst in that effort, supplying more fuel to a fire that eventually toppled a regime. This helped inspire the revolt in Egypt and beyond, as uprisings against brutally repressive regimes extended to Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and Libya. As the protests spread, WikiLeaks cleverly released key cables revealing government abuse and corruption in those nations, which intensified the protesters' demand for democracy.
Amnesty International recently drew a link between the protests in the Arab world and the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic documents. In fact, the United Nations recently declared Internet access a basic human right in a report that cites WikiLeaks and the Arab Spring as driving factors.
2) The 'worst of the worst' included children, the elderly, the mentally ill, and journalists. In April of this year, WikiLeaks released the Guantanamo Files , which included classified documents on more than 700 past and present Guantanamo detainees. These files paint a stunning picture of an oppressive detention system riddled with incoherence and cruelty at every stage.