Knowing Saudi Arabia has urged the bombing of Iran, that Shell maintains an iron grip on the government of Nigeria, that Pfizer hired investigators to disrupt investigations into drugs trials on children, also in Nigeria, that the Pakistan intelligence service, the ISI, is swinging both ways on the Taliban, that China launched a cyber attack on Google, that North Korea has provided nuclear scientists to Burma, that Russia is a virtual mafia state in which security services and gangsters are joined at the hip … means we are far more likely to treat the accounts of events we are given in the future with much greater skepticism.
… What is astonishing is the number of journalists out there who argue that it is better not to know these things, that the world is safer if the public is kept in ignorance. In their swooning infatuation with practically any power elite that comes to hand, some writers … argue in essence for the Chinese or Russian models of deceit and obscurantism. They advocate the continued infantilising of the public.
Though who knows how many will take advantage, Wikileaks is potentially a destroyer of the government and corporate media enforced/generated naivete about how U.S. foreign policy works and what its real goals are. Let’s then understand, my fellow non-naive readers – we who are already well-informed by good, empirical sources and ideologically smart guesswork – that of course for us the leaks mainly remind and confirm rather than reveal (though there are some important revelations ‘even’ for us). But that doesn’t make meaningless the leaks revelations of the expected massive hypocrisy, condescension and brute force neo-imperialism.
Wikileaks’ contribution is not to slightly better enlighten the already well tuned in. Its purpose is to replace the naive, idealistic and U.S.-cheerleader ‘mainstream media’ perspective with the truth, for newbies wanting to go that route. So, yeah, ‘we’ already knew that the U.S. is the world’s most abusive neo-imperial state, reliant on blunt military and economic force. But most Americans, and most people around the world, don’t know that.
But if many more Americans did get clued in, what difference would ‘just knowing’ make? Very little, I think, if those Americans – like those of us here in the internet whineysphere – remain isolated individuals, now wisely skeptical if not dismissive of reality’s official media version. Hell, without some minimal ideological smarts and then political solidarity and action the only ‘real’ effect might be that the newly enlightened drone becomes a career-detractingly excessive dissident within the official reality prevailing at ‘the office’. (Not to be overly U.S.-centric: particularly in the greater Middle East, the revelations of various countries’ U.S. stooge status aids democratic and anti-imperialist movements.)
First of all, just a little ideology – i.e., follow the fucking money – matters a lot in reading the cable leaks. Sites like WSWS and Counterpunch, and writers like Pepe Escobar and Tom Englehardt assume the “follow the money” logic of capitalist elite political motivation, and therefore have long effectively understood what’s going on overseas and why, and conjectured what’s going to happen next and why.
The basic ‘money is the root of all evil’ perspective – is it too much to hope that much of the general public will ‘get’ that? – is all that is needed to point the newly skeptical and enlightened, whatever the ultimate ends of his/her particular democratic ideology, toward the essential populist goal, that of getting private, profit-seeking money out of politics. And we need to take the money-making motivation out of our mass media too, since any reasonable person knows – latest evidence the court stenographer media’s reaction to the Wikileaks phenomenon – that the political system and its mass communication system are one monolithic and very anti-populist thing.
With that fundamental agreement, maybe in 2012 all the peon classes can run a single Presidential candidate whose goals are milquetoasty except for one big thing: cancel the power of private money over our politics, and then let the democratic chips wherever.
But back to Wikileaks: what might the naïve and even you and me learn from the revelations so far?
1. The one party foreign policy of the U.S.
Of course, ‘we’ all knew this, but many were rah rah Obama naively disinformed as recently November, 2008. But, yeah, nothing changed when power was transferred from ‘brute force neoconservative’ Bush to ‘enlightened globalist’ Obama.
2. Israel is US
Israel has been largely untroubled by [the leaks] because US views on key Middle Eastern issues especially on Iran, Syria and Lebanon, are so close to its own.
Aside from doing sales work for U.S. corporations, as far as the Middle East is concerned U.S. diplomacy is Israeli diplomacy. All sorts of desperate U.S. diplomatic effort and coercion is focused on organizing boycotts of anything and everything Iran (including climate scientists) and promoting Israel’s attack Iran agenda.
The U.S. passionately pushes the Israeli foreign policy agenda, however far right, racist and paranoid that gets each year. Yeah most of ‘us’ knew that already. Actually, this is a case where I have revised my understanding. I had always assumed the U.S. ‘went along’ with an Israel-uber-alles Middle East policy but this is way more than ‘going along’: we pursue Israel’s interests, as its racist and lunatic leadership understands it, with a loyal and all-consuming passion and focus.
Specifically, what the U.S. says about Iran is simple re-drafting of Israeli government perspectives, now mouthed by U.S. diplomats.
These redrafted opinion statements, not worth much really, have now been trumpeted by the official U.S. media as new evidence of Iran’s evil, nuclear intentions. But it’s not just Iran, you also find the U.S. spending $100s of millions to defeat Hezbollah in Lebanon, and in effect doing locate-to-kill grunt work for Israel’s ‘assassinate Hamas politicians’ squads. But, yeah, what else should we expect U.S. diplomats would be doing, something actually beneficial to the people of the Middle East?
(See Jahanpour: US following Israeli 5-Point Plan on Iran: Wikileaks; WikiLeaks cables: US pressured UN climate chief to bar Iranian from job; NYT Still Stalking Iran; Actual Wiki Cables Belie NYT’s Version of Saudi / Gulf States’ Stance on Iran)
2. They lie all the time
Examples too numerous to catalog, but here’s one example: WikiLeaks cables: Whitehall told US to ignore Brown’s Trident statement.
3. Russia is on the U.S. enemies list
Despite surface changes since Obama took office, it’s locked in: Russia is a U.S. enemy. This is a long-term policy that our military-industrial complex needs, and so there you go. Russia doesn’t seem to understand the way it is, and so it continues to bend over backwards trying to please the U.S. A lot of good that will do them.
4. Diplomacy is for corporations
Politically powerful corporations (i.e., financial giants and war corporations) will receive relentless and pull-out-all-the stops diplomatic effort on their behalf.
5. Shell owns Nigeria
6. Gulf Arab reality vs. the New York Times
While the New York Times and therefore conventional U.S. punditry promotes the Israeli perspective that can often be found in U.S. diplomatic cables — that Persian Gulf Arabia is up in arms about Iran — there is also actual reality to be found. Oxford University’s Sharmine Narwahi describes it:
Far more interesting than slurs against Iran by the “usual suspects,” is the disintegration of uniform thinking on the Islamic Republic by the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries bordering the Persian Gulf.
Narwahi continues, more broadly (emphasis removed):
I research shifting centers of influence in the region, and have long pointed out that we are erroneously lumping Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas together as a exclusive club of four. This grouping … is perhaps the ground zero of a new and fast-growing “Worldview” emanating from the Mideast, but there are other important participants, namely Qatar, Turkey, maybe Oman, Iraq, and more.
This worldview — put simply — reflects a “desire to act in their own self-interest,” and its adherents, who come from varying backgrounds, place “opportunism” ahead of “ideology” which has led to new and unexpected political and economic alliances, both regionally and internationally.
7. Diplomacy: incompetence, childishness, and racist/imperialist condescension
Throwing caution to WikiLeaks wind
November 30, 2010
… I was disappointed … to see how some of the US diplomats positioned here in Ankara, including former US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey, who now serves in Iraq, were way off the mark in their analysis of what is really happening in the transformation of Turkey. …
Jeffrey also details his off-the-record conversation with Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy and concurs with him that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an simply hates Israel and that is what has led to the decay in relations between the two countries. He sent this cable to the State Department despite offering no evidence whatsoever. …
In some notes, I find hilarious comments made by some American diplomats who have little or no understanding of the Muslim religion. They would know better if they worked in the field to report back to the capital, and certainly, they need to familiarize themselves with the local culture, religion and customs to pass correct judgments. In a display of naïveté in a 2004 cable concerning a character analysis of Erdo?an, Ambassador Eric Edelman claims Erdo?an believes he was appointed by God. … if taken in literal form in Turkish, it would mean political suicide for Erdo?an. He could never make such a claim as it would invite the wrath of conservative and liberal Muslims alike.
Can ‘Desperate Housewives’ Defeat al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia? Wikileaks
Posted on 12/09/2010 by Juan
… the [U.S.] consulate argues on May 9, 2009, that changes in media are having a wider effect. Apparently allowing the viewing of ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘David Letterman’ is intended by state programmers to combat extremism and foster cosmopolitanism in strongly conservative Saudi Arabia.
This strategy, by the way, does not work. The Egyptian government has been trying it for decades now, since the 1980s. Salacious television as a way of convincing people to turn away from the puritan Muslim Brotherhood has long been a policy of the Egyptian government. But Egypt is nevertheless having a massive religious revival. It turns out you can be a fundamentalist, watch Hollywood, and still go out and demonstrate for a more just social order. …
When Saudi Arabia permitted municipal elections in 2005, the Salafi fundamentalists swept them. That is where I would put my money if I were a betting man, not on the supposed moderating influences of watching Letterman and Eva Longoria.
8. Klepto-puppets and allies in the wars against Afghanistan and Pakistan
… Tariq Ali, a Pakistani writer and historian, reacted to the WikiLeaks revelations swiftly and with a frustration and anger felt by many Pakistanis:
The WikiLeaks confirm what we already know: Pakistan is a US satrapy. Its military and political leaders constitute a venal elite happy to kill and maim its own people at the behest of a foreign power. The US proconsul in Islamabad, Anne Patterson, emerges as a shrewd diplomat warning her country of the consequences if they carry on as before. Amusing, but hardly a surprise, is that Zardari reassures the US that if he were assassinated, his sister would replace him and all would continue as before. Always nice to know that the country is regarded by its ruler as a personal fiefdom.
9. Look at how the state and its corporations react to free speech that matters
The west has fiscalized 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 [relationships]. … 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 U.S. point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade.
— Julian Assange
11. The U.S. opposes climate controls
Last year’s climate summit in Copenhagen was a political disaster. Leaked US diplomatic cables now show why the summit failed so spectacularly. …
Confidential US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks now show just how closely the world’s biggest polluters — the United States and China — colluded in the months leading up to the conference. …
When the leaders and representatives of 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen last December, everyone was talking about an agreement. However, at the decisive moment Europe’s politicians were forced to stand by helplessly while China, India, South Africa and Brazil met in a hotel room and took matters into their own hands. They took the draft Copenhagen agreement and struck off all binding obligations. Later on the plotters were joined by Barack Obama. The outcome of this paring-down is now known as the “Copenhagen Accord.”
WikiLeaks: The U.S. Must “Neutralize, Co-opt or Marginalize” Radical Latin American Bloc in Climate Negotiations
December 7, 2010
As activists launch protests at the Cancún climate summit in Mexico, could negotiators be engaged in cynical backroom deals? In light of recent WikiLeaks disclosures, such an eventuality seems more than likely. Indeed, U.S. diplomatic cables show that the Americans have been trying to strong arm other countries in order to get their way at international summits. The cables, which go back to last year’s Copenhagen summit, show the U.S. as a manipulative and opportunistic power seeking to water down important environmental agreements.
Judging from documents, the WikiLeaks scandal could well turn into the Climate Gate scandal. When reporting to his colleagues, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in La Paz John Creamer described Bolivian President Evo Morales’ climate justice activism in the most unflattering light. An impoverished Andean nation, Bolivia is poorly equipped to deal with the ravages of climate change and has been a leading critic of the United States and the Global North at international summits like Copenhagen. …
One would expect U.S. diplomats to be critical of Morales in their reporting, but in going over the WikiLeaks cables I’ve been struck by the remarkably supercilious tone and vindictive accusations hurled at the Bolivian leader. … Perhaps American diplomats genuinely had high placed intelligence on Morales upon which to base their reports, or maybe they simply wanted to satisfy their superiors in Washington with wishful propaganda.
History teaches us that when we discount what people are able to do, we are almost always wrong. Think of the perception of the French and after them the US government of what the Vietnamese peasants could do in the few years just before their liberation. Think of South Africa in the early 1980s. Algeria in the 1940s and 1950s. India in the 1920s and 30s. Think of the US South in the 1940s. Even here in Palestine, just think of the dismissal and opinions of pundits about the end of Palestine offered in 1928 (before the 1929 uprising), 1935 (before the 1936 uprising), 1955, 1970, 1981, 1986, and 1999.
That even the US administration has stood unable to effect even the minor change in Israeli colonial settler activities is just one indication that we are reaching a dead end in the old ways and the new ways and new actors must step forward. Things will change as power shifts to the people. Around the world, many are now realizing what is happening and few are leading the way of change.
WIKILEAKS deserves protection, not threats and attacks.