Civil Obedience: The law is not what a general says it is. The law is not what Hillary Clinton says it is


December 2, 2010 by tristan savage

By now everyone must have heard about Wikileaks’ massive information dump over the last few days.  The story, of course, has been spun in the media as disputes between catty politicians, highlighting petty insults and interpersonal slights, rather than the real story of the mechanics of US imperialism that have threatened democracy throughout the world.  One of the stories closest to my heart (and which, if revealed on its own, should have been front-page news for days) reveals that the US government recognized last year’s military coup in Honduras as an illegal and illegitimate act from the beginning, even while Hillary Clinton directed shadow funding to the military dictatorship.

Now, of course, every imperial government in the world is trying to destroy Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange. The United States is pursuing criminal prosecution, Interpol has out an arrest warrant, dozens of government spokespeople and many more pro-imperialist commentators have threatened to attack the website or its staff.

I know a lot of you are following various strands of the Wikileaks story very closely- I look forward to reading your analysis of the information they have made available.  In the meantime, I think it is clear that our task is to defend the people who make transparency possible: Support Wikileaks!

As Assange pointed out in an interview the other day,

Asked what his “moral calculus” was to justify publishing the leaks and whether he considered what he was doing to be “civil disobedience,” Assange said, “Not at all. This organization practices civil obedience, that is, we are an organization that tries to make the world more civil and act against abusive organizations that are pushing it in the opposite direction.” As for whether WikiLeaks was breaking the law, he said, “We have now in our four-year history, and over 100 legal attacks of various kinds, been victorious in all of those matters.” He added, “It’s very important to remember the law is not what, not simply what, powerful people would want others to believe it is. The law is not what a general says it is. The law is not what Hillary Clinton says it is.” (From TIME)

Write and post back- what are the most useful Wikileaks cables for your work?  What do you think the US government’s most hypocritical argument against transparency has been so far?

*UPDATE*: The website has been knocked off-line as of 11 AM on 12-3-2010, but you can still access their information on their IP address:



18 thoughts on “Civil Obedience: The law is not what a general says it is. The law is not what Hillary Clinton says it is

  1. Chris says:

    My hope is that we take Assange out before he endangers any more of our Servicemen and Women. There are several agencies looking for him but now my guess is that the Sayeret Golani – israeli special forces will get to him first. He has narrowly escaped two attempts thus far but the Israelis have the intelligence and the backbone eradicate this Modern day Korihor. May God bless our Service Men and Women and God Bless the United States of America and a return to it’s future restored conservative core values.

    • tristan call says:

      This is an example of why Julian Assange and others in Wikileaks need our support. Not just people like Chris (presumably a normal American) but also secret military units like Israeli special forces are dedicated to preventing us from having the information to hold them and other imperial governments accountable.

    • J. Madson says:

      hoping for the murder of another human being Chris? yes, stay classy. Korihor? really? so someone who actually seeks to undermine the gadiantons is Korihor now? Please explain what makes Julian Assange a modern day Korihor?

    • tariq says:

      Yeah, it takes alot of “intelligence and backbone” for a well-funded, well-armed military unit to murder in cold blood an unarmed, non-violent man whose crime is that he revealed facts that make the State look bad. Some “conservative core values.” What other conservative core values do you have, sending in the Marines to steal some kids lunch money on the playground? Doing that would require precisely the same amount of “intelligence and backbone” that killing Assange would.

      What America do you want to “return to”? The good old days when there was segregation? Or maybe you mean the really good old days, like when we had slavery and women had less political rights than men? You conservatives always talk about “returning to” something or “getting back to” whatever, yet I can’t see exactly what past you think was so great, unless of course you think that white supremacy and sexism are really great; but no conservatives are sexist or racist, right? So there must be some top secret part of U.S. history that only conservatives know about; a time that the country needs to “return to.”

      Today I heard or read the words of many conservatives who have called for Julian Assange’s death, even high ranking or highly popular conservatives, and frankly, even democrats have hinted at the same thing. Assange is a hero, and all you scumbags calling for his death are nothing but cowards, afraid of the truth. Rather than hear something that conflicts with your childish, patriotic preconceived notions, you would kill the messenger of truth.

      You don’t care about your country, you only care about preserving your patriotic fantasy, and you cling to it like a drug addict clings to his stash, because you’re addicted to lies. Your entire world view is based on lies. When the truth comes out, your fantasy world comes crashing down, but your fantasy world is all you know, and the real world scares you, so, like the cowards that you are, you would rather kill (or rather, send some young guys in uniform to go kill for you) than face the real world. It’s time to grow up.

  2. Joseph says:

    Thanks for sharing this Tristan. I was getting tired of NY Times stories about Putin having his feelings hurt because people were calling him “Batman” behind his back. Really, did these world leaders really think others were saying good things about them? Anyway, it’s nice to have links to some substantial information on what the documents reveal.

    And I second J. Please, Chris, tell us how Assange is a modern day Korihor. Bear in mind I’ve read the book you refer to quite a few times. And I’m a thorough reader when it comes to books.

    Oh and Chris, while you are at it, explain how someone revealing the truth is more of a danger to anyone than the incompentent military leaders who keep bungling everything, or, even more importantly, the politicians sending men and women into harm’s way based on lies. Praying for God to bless somebody and then leaving them in harm’s way is not only useless, it’s hypocritical.

  3. Forest Simmons says:

    May the day soon come when all of the secret abominations are not only exposed, but actually “shouted from the roof tops.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lord let Manning, Assange, Ellsberg, et. al. do the honors.

  4. ray says:

    Would everyone have felt the same if Wikileaks had revealed all the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Bush Administration? Somehow I doubt it. Always comes back to whose ox is being gored. Actually, if you listen to most experts who have pored through these leaks, they show a rather competent government at work.

    And yes, truth is always a good thing. But how exactly does a government — any government — work if there is no privacy and no expectation of privacy? How exactly does a government get honest judgments upon which to act? Somehow there must be a balance. Does the public really need to know everything Ambassador Huntsman, for example, passes on up the food chain? I can tell none of you patriots has ever worked in a government job with serious responsibilities.

    • tristan call says:


      Yes. We would have felt the same if Wikileaks had revealed these things about Bush and his own imperialist war crimes. Let us know if you’ve got access to the documents.

      As far as the “how, then, would goverments work” argument, I see two ways of looking at this. Either you concede that governments inevitably hide secrets and violence from their citizens, in which case things like Wikileaks are inevitably anti-state and no government could function at all with Wikileaks operating (presumably if you don’t like secrecy or hidden violence, this is a good thing). Or you say that “privacy” is not inherent to governments, and things like Wikileaks make it so that only public, transparent, accountable governments can exist (again, something most of us would consider to be a win).

  5. Chris says:

    Hey…that’s what I’m talkin about!! some real left wing, tree hungin, bleeding heart, pseudo intellectual debating going on now! I Love u guys always bitchin about transparency from the comfort of your macbooks. 90% of the bilge you spew you don’t even practice. I think life is precious as did Nephi before he was commanded to slay Laban. Julian needs to be eliminated for the greater good. Hey just curious, How many of you are 99 weekers? You sure have a lot of time on you green little hands.

    • James says:

      instead of answering the request to explain your jingoism, you resort to calling names…

      nephi was given loud and clear direction from the Lord to kill laban. did God tell you to kill assange? do you speak for God? i think what you are alluding to is cold blood murder, not divine intervention–an act more similar to korihor’s than nephi’s.

      i find this whole ordeal fascinating. those in power are trying to convince us that people are now in harm’s way, or they’re in someway compromised, but where is the evidence of this? transparency is a dirty word and once again they are using servicemen as their pawns.

    • Joseph says:

      Chris, I don’t see any debate. Just your responding to legitimate questions with name-calling and misuse of scripture.

      No, I haven’t been duped by a military recruiter, and I’m not gonna be.

      No macbook, just a library computer. I don’t have enough money for macbooks or that kind of thing. But yes, not being duped by the need for more and more money I do have time now and again to write.

  6. Forest Simmons says:

    I got combat pay for 99 plus weeks in Vietnam (from August 1967 to September 1969 minus five weeks R&R) if that’s what you are referring to.

    I was probably more ignorant back then than you are now, so i don’t blame you.

  7. Forest Simmons says:

    There can be a place for confidentiality in a democracy, for example the lawyer client privilege, the clergy parishioner privilege, the journalist source privilege, etc. But if these are used to cover up secret murders, etc. then the abuse must be exposed.

    “…when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men …”

    This quote from D&C describes what our elected officials think they should be able to get away with. Naturally they object to being caught red handed.

    “And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.”

    “For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.”

    The leaders of what Jesus called the “basilea theou” have no need to work in darkness. The basilea theou is commonly translated as “Kingdom of God,” but as Jesus explains how it functions, we see that a better translation is the “commonwealth of God.”

    Jesus prayed that the basilea theou would “come” so that the will of the Father might be done on earth as in heaven.

    Therefore, there is no excuse for Christians to go with Cheney over to the dark side.

  8. Kate says:

    Tristan, Thanks for your article.

    I think the psychotic (in the true sense as “loss of contact with reality, usually including false ideas about what is taking place or who one is (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)”) thing is that all of the talk in the media surrounds whether Wikileaks should/should not have released the documents or what the punishment for this disclosure should be.

    There is so little discussion of the huge, abundant piles of evidence of the crazy shit our government is doing and WHETHER OR NOT THAT IS OK WITH US.

    It is one thing to know that the government is deceitful or “of course they spy”… it is entirely another to have actual words, papers and evidence in its truest and purest form that they turn people over for torture, try to undermine the independence of the judiciary of a major European nation (Spain), and try to keep the U.N. from investigating war crimes (among other sordid and merciless things).

    “R. D. Laing named three rules that govern abusive family dynamics, that allow the family to not acknowledge the abuse:

    Rule A: Don’t.

    Rule A.1: Rule A does not exist.

    Rule A.2: Never discuss the existence or nonexistence of rules A, A.1,or A.2. “- from Derrick Jensen’s “Culture of Makebelieve”

    THE problem is not discussing the problem: it’s that the problem EXISTS! Evidence of government misconduct is not the problem, it’s the misconduct itself.

  9. Kate says:

    PS I think you should consider establishing a firm Comment Policy including:

    ABSOLUTELY NO: insults, mudslinging, name calling, wild/baseless accusations, personal diggs, hate speech, racist/sexist comments or general angry vitriol. “I disagree” is fine. “I think you are totally, 100% wrong because…” is okay. “I think you are a stupid idiot” is not.

    By making this clear and warning violators of this policy, everyone will know what is/IS NOT welcome in this space.

    • Tristan says:

      Kate- I think this is a good point. So far, I have been loathe to do much deciding what I allow or not in my comment sections. But it is probably time for the MWBlog community to discuss and figure out a solution we are all comfortable with. I would prefer to eject the kinds of comments you describe, but so far I’ve decided to hold back on the suspicion that the comments deconstruct themselves as long as we respond directly to them. I might be wrong on this, though, and I’m open to suggestions. Should we have a blog-wide rule? Or let individual authors of posts police their own?

  10. Tristan says:

    Here’s a great Q&A with Julian Assange from yesterday:

    I was particularly struck by this:

    Assange: The west has fiscalised its basic power relationships through a web of contracts, loans, shareholdings, bank holdings and so on. In such an environment it is easy for speech to be “free” because a change in political will rarely leads to any change in these basic instruments. Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has power and power is scared of it. We should always look at censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction. The attacks against us by the US point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade.

  11. Aaron says:

    Do we have a right to know who is in the witness protection program and where they are? Do we have a right to know what mobsters the FBI has under surveillance and what agents are reporting back on their observations? Do we have a right to know who is contributing big money to political campaigns? Oh wait, according to the Supreme Court we don’t have that last right. I guess transparancy only applies to certain things.

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