What we have learned, and may yet learn, from WikiLeaks


In all the fuss over WikiLeaks, what people seem to be ignoring (and this distortion has to be deliberate on the part of the mainstream media and the governments who must know better) is that (1) only a tiny fraction (about 1%) of the 251,287 cables have been released so far (the WikiLeaks website keeps a running total); (2) rather than being ‘indiscriminately dumped’ by WikiLeaks (as its critics are fond of saying), the cables are being vetted by mainstream media outlets in England (The Guardian), Germany (Der Spiegel), France (Le Monde), Spain (El Pais), and the US (The New York Times), though that last paper was not given access directly and instead had to beg The Guardian for them. As far as I can tell, the cables available on the WikiLeaks site are the ones that these publications have revealed.

So the charges that WikiLeaks is some kind of rogue organization that does things that no ‘responsible’ media (whatever that means) would do, that Assange is not a ‘real’ journalist, and that WikiLeaks is not a ‘real media organization’ are simply false. There is no reason why any charge brought against WikiLeaks should not apply equally to all these media.

The reaction of the US government and the mainstream media to the release has been incoherent, a sure sign that at least some of the speakers are lying. Some have argued that such leaks have damaged US foreign policy and put the lives of many people in danger, even though no evidence has been produced to that effect and even the Pentagon says that there is not a single documented case of a person being harmed by earlier WikiLeaks revelations, even though the same kinds of alarms were raised then. Even the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says that alarmist rhetoric over the current leaks are ‘significantly overwrought’.

Other people have taken the opposite tack and tried to minimize the importance of the latest WikiLeaks release of documents, saying that they contain nothing new, even though only a tiny fraction of the cables have so far been published. Others have claimed that the leaks actually show US diplomacy in a flattering light, despite obvious facts to the contrary.

In reality, we have already learned a lot, not just about the US government’s lying but also that so many countries in the world are colluding with it in deceiving their own people, either voluntarily or under pressure. Here are some more examples, in addition to the ones I posted yesterday.

  • Barack Obama, despite his fine words, continues the torture practices of his predecessor at the Bagram base in Afghanistan under conditions so brutal that, according to one military prosecutor, it makes Guantanamo look like a ‘nice hotel’ in comparison.

  • Also, the cables reveal that US Special Forces are conducting operations within Pakistan even though both governments deny it. In other words, the US is currently engaged in yet another war, a ‘secret’ one in Pakistan, in addition to the other ‘secret’ war in Yemen, and the open ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Scott Horton reports on the WikiLeaks revelations about how the US exerted pressure on Spain’s justice system in order to obstruct torture investigations.
  • The US also interefered in the legal system in Germany, exerting pressure to not enforce arrest warrants against CIA operatives who kidnapped a German citizen Khaled el-Masri who was mistakenly identified as a terrorist and then brutally tortured.
  • The WikiLeaks cables show that there is no problem at all in getting that much ballyhooed bipartisanship when it comes to stopping any investigation of torture by US officials.

What you can be sure of is that as more of the cables get published, there will be more revelations, a lot more.

In fact, I am beginning to suspect that the reason for the hysterical response to the WikiLeaks revelations is the dread that the US government has of what might yet be revealed in the remaining 99% of cables and of any future revelations of other material. I also wonder if the hostility of the US mainstream media to WikiLeaks, when they should be defending its right to publish, is due to their suspicions that the cables might reveal their own collusion with the US government to suppress this and other information that the American people have a right to know about the secret and open wars and torture conducted by their government.

For example, you may recall that in 2004 after the scandal of Abu Ghraib prison, there were allegations of the existence of far more damaging photos and videos that showed horrific acts of rape and torture and murder of women and even children in US custody. Even Donald Rumsfeld and Lindsay Graham acknowledged that this evidence was out there and warned of the consequences if it were released.

But that story quietly disappeared. I used to wonder what happened. Maybe the cables will reveal the truth.

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