TARGETING WIKILEAKS: Instead of responding to the revelations contained in the US diplomatic cables made public recently by WikiLeaks, at least one member of Congress wants to shoot the messenger—perhaps literally. New York Congressman Peter King, an influential Republican who is in line to chair the Homeland Security Committee in the House, demanded that the WikiLeaks website be declared a “terrorist organization” so that the government can “go after anyone who provides them with any help or contributions or assistance whatsoever.” Senator Joseph Lieberman called on the United States to do “everything we can to take down their website.” Top Democrats weren’t much more cautious. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the leaks an “attack” that “threatens our national security.”
There appear to be few defenders of the American principle that the people have not just a right but a need to know what is being done in their name and with their tax dollars. Thankfully, a courageous few are defending whistleblowers and WikiLeaks. It’s not a blind defense—even supporters of transparency may quibble with some steps taken by the WikiLeaks crew. But Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg notes that the leaks are more embarrassing than threatening and argues that those involved have performed a public service so that “the American people can begin to get some grip on our incoherent policy and enforce a more humane and productive thrust to it.” This response recalls the values celebrated by President John F. Kennedy when he declared fifty years ago, “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society.” JOHN NICHOLS
HAITI ELECTION SURPRISE: All around Port-au-Prince, on the November 28 presidential election day and afterward, an amazing number of Haitians grinned at one another hopefully and repeated simply, “Tet Kale.” The Kreyol words mean “peeled head.” The expression is the campaign slogan of 49-year-old Michel Martelly, whose shaven pate was on purple election posters everywhere and whose last-minute surge shocked the government and its handpicked candidate. The results won’t be officially released until at least December 7, but as we go to press, early reports suggest that Martelly has enough support to head into a runoff with former First Lady Mirlande Manigat, while President René Préval‘s anointed successor, Jude Celestin, trails.
Martelly, or “Sweet Micky,” has long been one of Haiti’s most popular musicians, but until recently no one would have given him a chance in politics. His swift rise is another sign that nearly one year after a killer earthquake, Haitians are fed up with their government’s inept, corrupt response and also with the agonizing, unconscionable delays in promised international aid. Martelly’s views are vaguely populist, and he appeals to voters disgusted with traditional politicians.
About 1.5 million Haitians still live in tents, and a cholera epidemic is slicing through their country. If Préval’s unpopular government tries to block Martelly from advancing to the January 16 runoff vote, Haitians, who have shown Job-like patience until now, will certainly take to the streets. JAMES NORTH