Journalism is not an Attack, Wikileaks is not Warfare

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on Firedoglake or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Wikileaks is under attack!

Journalists and politicians are calling for the criminalization of Wikileaks, or worse, the assassination of its members. The US government is coercing companies into blocking access to Wikileaks, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is normally very strong on internet freedom, has been forced to “evolve” her positions.

If you’re a supporter of Wikileaks, or even a relatively dispassionate observer, you likely find these actions to be offensive, or even downright criminal. How dare the US move so arrogantly, so aggressively, against Wikileaks for what seems to be nothing more than the second coming of the Pentagon Papers? We believe in free speech, in transparency and accountability for our government. It’s outrageous that Washington would move so decisively to crush a project like Wikileaks.

But are Wikileaks’ supporters actually feeding this response from the government? In our rush to rationalize and defend Wikileaks and their actions, have we inadvertently opened the door to attacks by the US government?

The answer can be found in how we’ve chosen to frame the debate so far. Continue reading “Journalism is not an Attack, Wikileaks is not Warfare”

Individual acts and the collapse of Pakistan

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Earlier this week, I wrote about an impending civil war in Pakistan, projecting a possible “complete collapse of Pakistan as a recognizable entity,” referring not to its geography (it has survived breakaway provinces before, with national identities still intact) but rather to its structure as a modern, democratic society.  Some readers were understandably skeptical.

Beyond the violence and anti-Americanism we see in western press, Pakistan is actually very recognizable to us as foreigners. They have powerful military and civil society institutions much like the West, but it’s also Pakistan’s fervent patriotic pride, their struggles with women’s and minority rights, and their constant battle between secular progressives and conservative fundamentalists that will be instantly familiar to any American. Far from the alien, failed state portrayed on television, Pakistan is a vibrant cosmopolitan society dealing with the same grand cultural questions as the United States, or most other countries for that matter.

So how then do you get from that to the complete collapse? How could their painstakingly constructed democracy just disintegrate away, and how could their powerful, western-backed military fail so miserably to protect the nation in the face of what seems only to be illiterate, fascist hill people and their sickeningly backward superstitions?

The problem is not only one of perception, that we take both the Pakistan we love (liberal, educated patriots) and the Pakistan we hate (wicked, violent Taliban) for granted – always there, never changing. But more than that, Pakistan’s uncertain future is the direct result of deliberate policy choices, by the United States, Pakistan, and certainly many others. The collapse will not be sudden and spectacular, it will be the slow culmination of years, decades, of decisions and policy actions, both large and small, from the enormously important to the pathetically insignificant. Continue reading “Individual acts and the collapse of Pakistan”