After the whistleblower group Wikileaks released Afghan war documents identifying local informants, its founder Julian Assange said in an interview with the Today Show that if American sympathizers were targeted in the divestment’s wake it would constitute his own collateral damage: “If we had, in fact, made that mistake then of course that would be something we would take very seriously.”
The subject of my editorial for today’s Guardian, we’ll see how seriously Mr. Assange takes murder in the coming days, as an African dictator moves to execute his leading democratic critic. An excerpt follows below the fold.
When WikiLeaks whistleblowers began circulating in April footage of a 2007 Iraq war incursion in which US military personnel unwittingly killed two war correspondents and several civilians, the international community was aghast at the apparent murder. With sobering questions on the material’s full context largely falling on deaf ears, the group was free to editorialise the scene as it pleased: “collateral murder”.
But now, with the recent release of sensitive diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks may have committed its own collateral murder, upending the precarious balance of power in a fragile African state and signing the death warrant of its pro-western premier.
Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsvangirai’s call to public service has been a tortured one, punctuated by death and indignity.
After Zimbabwe’s 2008 presidential contest – featuring incumbent Mugabe, Tsvangirai and independent Simba Makoni – failed to award any candidate with the majority necessary to claim victory, the election defaulted to a runoff between the two highest vote-getters, Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
Following intense negotiations, the two parties agreed in February 2009 to a coalition government, in which Mugabe would remain head of state – a post he had held uninterrupted for 30 years – and Tsvangirai would assume the premiership. Not one month later, Tsvangirai and his wife were involved in a suspicious collision with a lorry. Though the prime minister survived, his wife for 31 years died.
With little regard for the nuances and subtlety of soft international diplomacy, WikiLeaks released last week a classified US state department cable relating a 2009 meeting between Tsvangirai and American and European ambassadors, whose countries imposed travel sanctions and asset freezes on Mugabe and his top political lieutenants on the eve of Zimbabwe’s 2002 presidential election.
Now, in the wake of the WikiLeaks’ release, one of the men targeted by US and EU travel and asset freezes, Mugabe’s appointed attorney general, has launched a probe to investigate Tsvangirai’s involvement in sustained western sanctions. If found guilty, Tsvangirai will face the death penalty.
And so, where Mugabe’s strong-arming, torture and assassination attempts have failed to eliminate the leading figure of Zimbabwe’s democratic opposition, WikiLeaks may yet succeed. Twenty years of sacrifice and suffering by Tsvangirai all for naught, as WikiLeaks risks “collateral murder” in the name of transparency. …