Friday, December 10, 2010

Media Try To Minimize Impact of Wiki-Leaks

By John Catalinotto
Published Dec 8, 2010 10:02 PM

Imperialist diplomacy is constructed on lies and secrets. No one is surprised by the secrets. Few are surprised by the lies. Still, a sudden exposure of the lies and secrets can arouse a strong political reaction.

WikiLeaks is a group dedicated simply to releasing state and corporate secrets. Last spring it released a dramatic video exposing some of the daily murderous activity of U.S. helicopters in Iraq. In November WikiLeaks released 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables to four major corporate media in four imperialist countries. It has also released about a thousand of these cables to the public via the Internet.

Spain’s El País, Germany’s Der Spiegel, Britain’s Guardian and France’s Le Monde set up teams to search the cables. The Guardian shared the data with the New York Times, which in turn passed it back to the U.S. government.

A quarter of a million cables is an avalanche of data. To do its reporting, Der Spiegel created a team of 50 people, half researchers and half document experts. Similar teams worked for the other four media, searching for key words and then reading the cables. Most popular organizations not only don’t have access to the complete files, they don’t have the forces to quickly evaluate all the documents.

These five corporate media outlets are all loyal to imperialism in general and even more loyal to their own ruling classes, which own them and pay their editors. Like the Times, the four in Europe can and do spin the interpretation of the raw cables so as to minimize the damage to the strategic interests of the European Union countries and the U.S. and to harm the interests of states and movements that oppose these imperialist powers.

Thus some of the Times’ earliest reporting twisted the information in an attempt to purportedly show the following: China had sharp differences with north Korea and would put pressure on Pyongyang; the kings and other undemocratic leaders of some Arab states were aggressively pushing the U.S. to bomb Iran; and Russia agreed that Iran had obtained rockets capable of reaching Europe.

A closer look shows that the Times often disregarded the facts and used a false interpretation of the cables to promote U.S. policies.

Some key exposures

Whatever crimes might or might not be exposed, it is immediately apparent that the leaks are an enormous embarrassment to the U.S. government and especially its diplomats. Allegedly secret, U.S. data are insecure. This was central to Der Spiegel’s coverage on its website on Dec. 6. A large photo showed a concerned Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with a story entitled, “Washington fights to rebuild shattered reputation.”

Regarding information useful to progressive or anti-imperialist forces, the leaks revealed the following:

• The U.S. Embassy in Honduras was fully aware that the June 28, 2009, removal of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was a military coup, even though the Obama administration refused to define it as such. The false definition allowed the U.S. to continue sending aid to the coup regime and recognize the rigged Honduran election.

• NATO last January agreed to defend the Baltic states and Poland against Russia. “Nine NATO divisions — U.S., British, German and Polish — have been identified for combat operations” should there be war in that region. (Guardian, Dec. 6) But in public NATO called Russia a “partner.”

• The cables show the U.S. using its diplomatic corps to spy on both allied and other governments and U.N. officials. This is unsurprising news, but now it is official.

• At the December 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, according to the Guardian, “Embassy dispatches show [the United States of] America used spying, threats and promises of aid to get support for Copenhagen accord.” This accord, which wasn’t reached, would have protected the interests of the big U.S.-based energy monopolies.

Exposing the spin weavers

Regarding how the Times spun its coverage of WikiLeaks stories on Iran, the Arab states and Russia, Inter Press Service reporter Gareth Porter, with help from Jim Lobe, wrote an article Dec. 6 showing that the alleged quotes from Arab kings about the U.S. bombing Iran were made in the context of constant pressure from the George W. Bush administration to condemn Iran.

The cables showed that the “Gulf Arab regimes — including Saudi Arabia itself — have been seriously concerned about the consequences of a strike against Iran for their own security, in sharp contrast to Israel’s open advocacy of such a strike.”

Regarding Russia and Iran, Porter wrote Nov. 30 that the cables showed that “Russian specialists on the Iranian ballistic missile program refuted the U.S. suggestion that Iran has missiles that could target European capitals or intends to develop such a capability.” This completely contradicts the way the Times spun the story.

Regarding China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, regardless of what U.S. informants claimed, China has continued to criticize the aggressive maneuvers of the U.S. military with its Japanese and south Korean allies in the region.

All the media outlets that received the full set of WikiLeaks cables gave them their own spin, not always aimed at defending Washington’s particular interests, but always loyal to imperialism. El País, for example, which has waged a relentless propaganda war against socialist Cuba, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and other progressive Latin American leaders, used information in cables from U.S. diplomats to continue to demonize these leaders.

U.S. war against WikiLeaks

On Dec. 7 the founder and main spokesperson for WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, turned himself in to British authorities to answer charges stemming from an alleged sexual incident in Sweden. These same charges, which were made only after Assange became a high-profile critic able to embarrass the U.S. government, had earlier been dropped. However, they reappeared in a European warrant. Assange was refused bail and Sweden is asking for extradition.

This followed a week of government and media demonizing WikiLeaks and Assange, including actual threats of assassination from government officials in Canada and completely unfounded charges in the U.S. that WikiLeaks was a “terrorist” organization.

During that week, a cyber attack on the WikiLeaks website made it unusable. The U.S. also pressured and PayPal to stop doing business with WikiLeaks and got the governments of Iceland, Switzerland and Sweden to join in persecuting Assange and his organization.

By Dec. 7, in response and solidarity — and this is still possible under the current use of the Internet — more than 700 website owners had “mirrored” the WikiLeaks site, meaning they now have sites with the same content as WikiLeaks and are linked to a full file of diplomatic cables. This story is far from over.
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