By Prof. Inderjeet Parmar | 13 December 2010
Sarah Palin, a likely Republican candidate for the presidency in 2012, has called for Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, to be “hunted down in the way armed forces are targeting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda”. Assange, according to the potential next leader of the free world, is “an anti-American with blood on his hands”. Secretary of State, Clinton, suggests that Assange has attacked the entire “international community”. Other US leaders have assailed Bradley Manning, the youthful US army intelligence operative who passed secret cables to Assange, and called for his prosecution and even execution. Wikileaks, having been dismissed by Amazon and other internet service providers, has found refuge in Switzerland.
For some, it is impossible to oppose US foreign policy without being an irrational, backward, evil, fanatical terrorist, who is against all things decent. It is automatically to be branded “anti-American” – against Americans per se and, therefore, almost “racist”. The construction is not dissimilar to what some Israeli leaders say when anyone criticises their country’s behaviour in Gaza and elsewhere: you are an anti-Semite. In the latter case, a Jew who criticises Israel is labelled “self-hating Jew”. An American who criticises his country, like Bradley Manning, is smeared as “un-American”. Such an approach to criticism unites a broad range of Americans – liberals to conservatives to neo-conservatives, state agencies and private philanthropic foundations: it is a core element of an informal but powerful operational code that brooks little opposition and declares any criticism of the imperial hegemon as an attack on God himself or, in Clinton’s secular term, “the international community”.
As God, or the world community, the US is ordinarily used to controlling outcomes – at least that’s the operating myth. They are used to doing what they want and also portraying it they way they want. Al-Jazeera is bad enough but the wikileaks episodes have exposed America’s vulnerability at a particularly bad time. Having one’s secrets laid bare is galling but the knowledge that there’s more to come is truly frightening. And coming at a time when American power is meeting stern resistance all around the world – Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, from a burgeoning anti-war movement inside the US itself – and the American economy is failing to produce jobs and growth, more fully exposes US vulnerability.
Imperial powers rarely see anything in isolation. They tend to believe in the interconnectedness of things. They see the world as an interdependent system; when something goes wrong in one part of the system it has knock on effects across the system as a whole. Hence, wikileaks is seen as an attack on the entire “international community”, of which the US is self-appointed head. And imperial hegemons do not appease aggressors.
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