— I.F. Stone, journalist extraordinaire
A congressional cretin considers whether the Internet whistle-blower is a terrorist. Top government lawyers ponder a criminal investigation.
The Obama administration tells the old lie that publishing state secrets threatens national security.
Others lament that lives are put at risk. Some deplore that the government documents were stolen. Still other alarmists see an international crisis.
Attorney General Holder blusters that American law has been broken. Secretary of State Clinton huffs that “the international community, alliances and partnerships” have been attacked.
And the usually outrageous Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut denounced the website release as a “reckless and despicable action that will undermine the ability of our government to keep our people safe.”
The target of this ire is WikiLeaks. Last week it released 250,000 diplomatic cables.
The complaints are outlandish. The real governmental annoyance: acute embarrassment.
As press critic Norman Solomon writes: “Compared with the kind of secret cables that WikiLeaks has just shared with the world, every day public statements from government officials are exercises in make believe.”
Release of the documents is great for the public. As Jefferson wisely said: “Information is the currency of democracy.”
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is a First Amendment hero just as Daniel Ellsberg was for leaking the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971.
Writing in the Times case, Supreme Court Justice Black reminded public officials: “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”
The documents are particularly embarrassing to Madame Clinton: she has been exposed as a master spy.
Clinton sent a cable to State Department officials instructing them to spy on diplomats of other nations. They were ordered to get fingerprints, facial images, DNA and iris scans.
The cable release provoked aggrieved howls at the messenger rather than at these messages:
• Washington and Yemen covered up the use of U.S. warplanes to bomb Yemen; U.S. envoys shopped for nations willing to take Guantánamo prisoners; Slovenia was told it must take a prisoner as the price of a meeting with President Obama.
• U.S. officials warned Germany in 2007 not to enforce warrants for CIA officers who abducted an innocent German civilian; they got China’s backing for sanctions against Iran after pressuring Saudi Arabia to promise Beijing a steady oil supply; the cables revealed the folly of U.S. efforts to control what columnist Robert Scheer calls “the uncontrollable land of Afghanistan.”
• Special Operations Forces have been operating in Pakistan and directing drone strikes — the secret U.S. war in Pakistan; the cables show envoys demanding that Spain drop charges against high-ranking U.S. officials.
Ironies abound in the leaks. Some of the American politicians outraged by the release were the same politicans who authorized the carpet bombing of Baghdad and assaults on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
One troubling aspect of the leaks was the media cooperation with the Obama administration. The New York Times, for example, made some changes at the suggestion of the administration. Newspapers should never let the government decide what they can print.
The documents contain some undiplomatic truths that world leaders found all too stinging.
Of Russia’s Prime Minister Putin: under him “Russian democracy has disappeared” and government is “an oligarchy run by the security services.”
Of France’s President Sarkozy: an erratic man operating in “a zone of monarch-like impunity” being advised by yes-men.
Governments resort to “partial truths, deceptions and outright lies” in order to support the U.S. warfare state, press critic Norman Solomon rightly notes.
That’s why Washington allies with murderous dictators, corrupt tyrants, warlords and drug traffickers. These truths are revealed by the tell-all cables, truths you don’t get from government PR statements.
Media critic Noam Chomsky observes: release of the cables “reveals the profound hatred of democracy by U.S. political leadership.”
That leadership certainly believes in global empire.
Tom Engelhardt in his recent book, “The American Way of War,” notes that America “garrisons much of the planet.” It has 17 intelligence agencies. The U.S base at Balad near Baghdad has 15 bus routes and nearly as much air traffic as Chicago’s O’Hare.
Peace? Engelhardt writes with sardonic truth: “There’s no money in it.”
Will America ever have a president who says no to the American empire? Not likely.
Obama was “the last, best hope” but he failed dismally. He betrayed even hope itself.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.