WIKILEAKS AND THE WORLDWIDE INFORMATION WAR
Andrew Gavin Marshall
The recent release of the 250,000 Wikileaks documents has provoked unparalleled global interest, both positive, negative, and everywhere in between. One thing that can be said with certainty: Wikileaks is changing things.
There are those who accept what the Wikileaks releases say at face value, largely due to the misrepresentation of the documents by the corporate-controlled news.
There are those who see the documents as authentic and simply in need of proper interpretation and analysis.
Then there are those, many of whom are in the alternative media, who approach the leaks with caution and suspicion.
There are those who simply cast the leaks aside as a ‘psy-op’ designed to target specific nations that fit into U.S. foreign policy objectives. Finally, then, there are those who deplore the leaks as ‘treason’ or threatening ‘security’. Of all the claims and notions, the last is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous. This essay aims to examine the nature of the Wikileaks releases and how they should be approached and understood. If Wikileaks is changing things, let’s hope people will make sure that it changes things in the right direction.
Media Propaganda Against Iran: Taking the Cables at Face Value
This perspective is perhaps the most propagated one, as it is largely influenced and undertaken by the mainstream corporate media, which present the leaked diplomatic cables as ‘proof’ of the media’s take on major world issues; most notably among them, Iran’s nuclear program. As per usual, the New York Times steps center stage in its unbridled contempt for truth and relentless use of propaganda to serve U.S. imperial interests, headlining articles with titles like, “Around the World, Distress Over Iran,” which explained how Israel and the Arab leaders agree on Iran as a nuclear threat to the world, with the commentary in the article stating that, “running beneath the cables is a belief among many leaders that unless the current government in Tehran falls, Iran will have a bomb sooner or later.” Fox News ran an article proclaiming that, “Leaked Documents Show Middle East Consensus on Threat Posed by Iran,” and commented that, “the seismic document spill by WikiLeaks showed one area of profound agreement — that Iran is viewed in the Middle East as the region’s No. 1 troublemaker.”
This, it should be understood, is propaganda. Yet, we need to properly refine our understanding of propaganda in order to assess what is specifically propagandistic about these stories. While one should remain skeptical of sources and disinformation campaigns (as those who critically analyze the media have known take place time and time again), one must also consider the personal perspective of the source and decipher between authenticity and analysis. These documents, I truly believe, are authentic. In this sense, I do not adhere to the notion that these are a part of a psychological operation (psy-op) or propaganda effort, in terms of the actual release of the documents. We must keep in mind that the sources for these cables are U.S. diplomatic channels, and thus the statements within them reflect the perspectives and beliefs of U.S. diplomatic personnel. The documents are an authentic representation of their statements and beliefs, but that does not imply that they are an accurate representation of reality.
This is where the media comes in to propagandize the information within the leaks. The two above examples claim that the leaks show that there is a “consensus” on Iran, and thus, that the U.S. and indeed Israeli positions on Iran for the past several years have been “vindicated,” namely in that they fear Iran is making nuclear weapons. This is nonsense. The media has essentially read and propagated the documents at face value, meaning that because U.S. diplomats, Middle Eastern and Arab leaders all agree that Iran is a “threat” and is trying to make a “nuclear weapon,” it therefore must be true. This is a non sequitur. If a military general tells several soldiers to commit a raid on a house because there are “suspected terrorists” inside, the fact that the soldiers carry out the raid – and that they believe there are terrorists inside – does not make it so. In contextualizing this example with the current Wikileaks release, just because Middle Eastern and Arab leaders see Iran as a threat, does not make it so.
Again, consider the sources. What makes the Arab leaders trustworthy sources for ‘unbiased’ information? For example, one ‘revelation’ that made its way around the world was the insistence of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to America to “cut off the head of the snake” of Iran, and urging America to launch military strikes against Iran. This has largely been interpreted in the media as “proof” that there is a “consensus” on the “threat” posed by Iran to the Middle East and the world. This has been the propaganda line towed by the New York Times, Fox News and the Israeli government, among many others. Yet, we need to properly contextualize this information, something which the New York Times has a long record of failing to properly do (intentionally, I might add). I do not doubt the authenticity of these statements or the beliefs of the Arab leaders that Iran is a ‘threat’. Iran, on the other hand, has claimed that the leaks are “mischievous” and that they serve US interests, and claimed that Iran is “friends” with its neighbours. This too, is propaganda. Again, we need to contextualize.
Iran is a Shi’a nation, while the Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, are predominantly Sunni. This presents a means of division among these nations in the region, at least on a superficial basis. The reality, however, is that Saudi Arabia and Iran are far from “friendly”, and have not been on good terms since the Shah was deposed in 1979. Iran is Saudi Arabia’s primary contender and competition for power and influence in the region, and thus Iran is, inherently, a threat to Saudi Arabia, politically. Further, the Arab states, whose claims against Iran have been widely publicized, such as those of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, the UAE and Egypt, must be understood in their relation to the United States. The Arab states are American proxies in the region. Their armies are subsidized by the American military industrial complex, their political regimes (all of which are dictatorships and dynasties), are propped up and supported by America. The same goes for Israel, although it has at least the public outward appearance of a democracy, much like the United States, itself.
The Arab nations and leaders know that the only reason they have and maintain their power is because the United States allows them and helps them to do so. Thus, they are dependent upon America and its political, financial and military support. Going against America’s ambitions in the region is a sure way to end up like Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The history of the Middle East in the modern era is replete with examples of how one-time puppets and personal favourites of the American Empire can so easily turn into new enemies and “threats to peace.” American sponsored regime change takes place, and a new puppet is installed. If Arab leaders said that Iran was not a threat to peace, they would soon find themselves targets of Western imperialism. Further, many, like King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, are so virulent in their hatred and distrust of Iran simply because they are regional competitors for influence. One thing can be said of all states and their leaders, they are inherently self-interested and obsessed with self-preservation and personal power expansion.
Saudi Arabia, in particular, is not a passive actor in the regional battle of influence with Iran. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia is involved in another American imperial war of conquest, in suppressing secessionist and indigenous liberation movements in the North and South of Yemen. Yemen, ruled by an American supported dictator, Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, is also working with the Americans to suppress its own population in order to maintain its hold on power. Much of the presentation of the conflict, however, is in propagandizing the conflict, portraying it as a regional battle for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran. While there is no doubt, and clear admissions, of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war, there has been no information that Iran has had any involvement, yet it is constantly accused by both Saudi Arabia and Yemen of being involved. This may be an attempt to draw Iran into a regional proxy war, if not to simply demonize the nation further. In the midst of this new Yemeni war, America made an arms deal with Saudi Arabia which broke the record as the largest U.S. arms deal in history, at $60 billion. The deal, of which it is no secret, is aimed at building up Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities in order to both engage more effectively in the Yemen war, but primarily to challenge and counter increased Iranian influence in the region. In short, America is arming its proxy nations for a war with Iran.
[For a detailed examination of the war in Yemen, see: “Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire.”]
Israel did not denounce the arms deal as it was taking place, simply because it ultimately served Israel’s interest in the region as well, of which its main target is Iran. Further, Israel is left subdued to American interests, as an American proxy itself. If Israel’s military financing and hardware comes from America (which it does), thus making it dependent upon America for its own military power, Israel is in no position to tell America to not arm its other regional proxies. If indeed there is a regional war against Iran in the making, which it has appeared for some time that there is, it is certainly in Israel’s interest to have allies against Iran in the region.
Is Wikileaks a Propaganda Effort?
The leaders of Israel have been very adamant that the Wikileaks documents do not embarrass Israel to any extent. Prior to the release, the U.S. government briefed Israeli officials on the type of documents that would be released by Wikileaks regarding Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “there is no disparity between the public discourse between us and Washington, and the mutual understanding of each other’s positions.” The Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, claimed that the documents “show a more accurate view of reality.” One top Turkish politician stated that looking at which countries are pleased with the releases says a lot, and speculated that Israel “engineered the release” of documents in an attempt to advance its interests and to “pressure Turkey.”
Further, the Internet and various alternative news organizations are abuzz with speculation that Wikileaks itself may be a propaganda front, perhaps even a CIA front organization, a method of “controlling the opposition” (which, historically we know, is no stranger to CIA activities). Yet, this speculation is based upon the use of the information that is released in the cables, and it strikes me as a lack of contextualizing the documents.
So, how should one contextualize this? Let’s begin with Israel. Certainly, Israel is without a doubt a criminal state (as all states essentially are), but its criminality is amplified more so than most states on this planet, possibly outdone only by America, itself. Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is one of the most horrific and long-lasting crimes against humanity seen in the past 50 years, and posterity will view Israel as the vicious, war-mongering, dehumanizing and abhorrent state it is. Yet, for all that Israel is, one thing Israel is not, is subtle. When the Israeli PM states that the Wikileaks releases are not embarrassing to Israel, he is mostly correct. This is not because Israel has nothing to hide (remember, the Wikileaks documents are not ‘top secret’ documents, but merely diplomatic cables), but because the diplomatic exchanges Israel makes largely reflect the reality of the public statements Israel makes. Israel and its political elite are no strangers to making absurd public statements, to constantly threatening war with Iran and other neighbours, or to propagandizing their beliefs that Iran is making nuclear weapons (something which has never been proven). Thus, the leaks do not ‘hurt’ Israel’s image, because Israel’s image, internationally, is already so abysmal and despicable, and because Israeli diplomats and politicians are generally as brazen in what they say publicly as they say to each other, that Israel’s image has largely remained the same. Of course, Israeli leaders – political and military – are using the leaks to suggest that it “vindicates” their perspective on Iran as a threat, which of course is an absurd propaganda ploy, the exact same technique taken on by the corporate media, in taking the cables at face value.
While Iran has slammed the Wikileaks releases as Western propaganda aimed at Iran, this statement itself should be taken as a form of propaganda. After all, Iran claimed that it is “friends” with all its neighbours, a claim which is an historical and present falsity. Iran, like all states, uses propaganda to advance its own interests. Iran is not by any means a wonderful nation. However, compared to the American favourites in the region (such as Saudi Arabia), Iran is a bastion of freedom and democracy, which isn’t saying much. Those who attempt to battle the spread of misinformation and propaganda, myself included, must remain highly critical of media representations and campaigns against Iran, of which there are many. Iran is firmly in the targets of America’s imperial ambitions, this is no secret. Yet, there is nothing in the current batch of Wikileaks releases that strikes me as inauthentic in relation to Iran, especially those documents pertaining to the perspectives of Western diplomats and Arab leaders in relation to Iran. No doubt, they have these perspectives simply because they reflect the policy priorities of America and the West, itself, not because they are factual in their substance. In this, we must decipher between authenticity and accuracy.
Iran stating that the Wikileaks documents are propaganda is a misnomer and is misleading. Analysts must not only critically assess the authenticity of documents (and the sources from which they come), but also, and perhaps even more importantly, they must critically analyze the interpretation of those documents. So while I do not doubt the authenticity of documents pertaining to Western and Middle Eastern perceptions of Iran (as it fits in with the wider geopolitical realities of the region), it is the interpretation of the documents that I view as active propaganda efforts on the part of Western governments and media. The methods of this propaganda effort, however, are in depicting the documents as ‘factual assessments’ of the on-the-ground reality, which they are not. The documents are factual in how they represent the views of those who wrote them, which does not mean that they are factual in their substance. There is a difference, and acknowledging this difference is incredibly important in both the exposure of propaganda and assessment of truth.
The Truth About Diplomacy
Craig Murray is one voice that should be heard on this issue. Craig Murray was a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan who made a name for himself in exposing intelligence from Uzbekistan related to al-Qaeda as entirely unreliable, due to the methods of torture used to get the information (such as boiling people alive). This intelligence was passed to the CIA and MI6, which Murray said was “factually incorrect.” When Murray expressed his concerns with the higher-ups in the British diplomatic services, he was reprimanded for talking about “human rights.” The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) told Murray that he had one week to resign, and was threatened with possible prosecution or jail time for revealing “state secrets.” He was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial position, and has since become something of a political activist. In short, Murray is exactly the type of diplomat a person should want: honest. But he was also exactly the type of diplomat that Western imperial powers don’t want: honest.
In the midst of the latest Wikileaks releases of diplomatic documents, Craig Murray was asked to write an article for the Guardian regarding his interpretation of the issue. As Murray later noted, the paper placed his article, largely reduced, hidden in the middle of a long article which was a compendium of various commentaries on Wikileaks. Murray, however, posted the full version on his website. In the article, Murray begins by assessing the claims of government officials around the world, particularly in the United States, that Wikileaks exposes the United States to “harm,” that it puts lives at risk, and that they will “encourage Islamic extremism,” and most especially, the notion that “government secrecy is essential to keep us all safe.” Murray explains that having been a diplomat for over 20 years, he is very familiar with these arguments, particularly that as a result of Wikileaks, diplomats will no longer be candid in giving advice, “if that advice might become public.” Murray elaborates:
Put it another way. The best advice is advice you would not be prepared to defend in public. Really? Why? In today’s globalised world, the Embassy is not a unique source of expertise. Often expatriate, academic and commercial organisations are a lot better informed. The best policy advice is not advice which is shielded from peer review.
What of course the establishment mean is that Ambassadors should be free to recommend things which the general public would view with deep opprobrium, without any danger of being found out. But should they really be allowed to do that, in a democracy?
Murray pointedly asked why a type of behaviour that is considered reprehensible for most people – such as lying – “should be considered acceptable, or even praiseworthy, in diplomacy.” Murray explained that for British diplomats, “this belief that their profession exempts them from the normal constraints of decent behaviour amounts to a cult of Machiavellianism, a pride in their own amorality.” He explained that diplomats come from a very narrow upper social strata, and “view themselves as ultra-intelligent Nietzschean supermen, above normal morality” who are socially connected to the political elite. In criticizing the claims made by many commentators that the release of the leaks endanger lives, Murray pointedly wrote that this perspective needs to be “set against any such risk the hundreds of thousands of actual dead from the foreign policies of the US and its co-conspirators in the past decade.” Further, for those who posit that Wikileaks is a psy-op or propaganda operation or that Wikileaks is a “CIA front”, Murray had this to say:
Of course the documents reflect the US view – they are official US government communications. What they show is something I witnessed personally, that diplomats as a class very seldom tell unpalatable truths to politicians, but rather report and reinforce what their masters want to hear, in the hope of receiving preferment.
There is therefore a huge amount about Iran’s putative nuclear arsenal and an exaggeration of Iran’s warhead delivery capability. But there is nothing about Israel’s massive nuclear arsenal. That is not because wikileaks have censored criticism of Israel. It is because any US diplomat who made an honest and open assessment of Israeli crimes would very quickly be an unemployed ex-diplomat.
Murray concluded his article with the statement that all would do well to keep in mind: “Truth helps the people against rapacious elites – everywhere.”
World Order and Global Awakening
In attempting to understand Wikileaks and its potential effects (that is, if the alternative media and citizens activists use this opportunity), we must place Wikileaks within a wider geopolitical context. Our human world exists as a complex system of social interactions. As powerful and dominating as elites are and have always been, we must understand that they are not omnipotent; they are human and flawed, as are their methods and ideas. There are other forces at work in the human social world, and these various interactions created and changed the world into what it is, and will determine where it is going. In effect, nothing is preordained; nothing is exact. Plans are made, certainly, by elites, in designing ideas and reshaping and controlling society. However, society – and in the globalized world, a ‘global society’ – react and interact with elite forces and ideas. Just as the people must react to and experience repercussions from changes in elite processes, so too must the elite react to and experience repercussions from changes in social processes. Today, we can conceptualize this dichotomy – the geopolitical reality of the world – as ‘The Global Political Awakening and the New World Order’:
There is a new and unique development in human history that is taking place around the world; it is unprecedented in reach and volume, and it is also the greatest threat to all global power structures: the ‘global political awakening.’ The term was coined by Zbigniew Brzezinski, and refers to the fact that, as Brzezinski wrote:
For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. Global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial domination.
It is, in essence, this massive ‘global political awakening’ which presents the gravest and greatest challenge to the organized powers of globalization and the global political economy: nation-states, multinational corporations and banks, central banks, international organizations, military, intelligence, media and academic institutions. The Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC), or ‘Superclass’ as David Rothkopf refers to them, are globalized like never before. For the first time in history, we have a truly global and heavily integrated elite. As elites have globalized their power, seeking to construct a ‘new world order’ of global governance and ultimately global government (decades down the line), they have simultaneously globalized populations.
The ‘Technological Revolution’ involves two major geopolitical developments. The first is that as technology advances, systems of mass communication rapidly accelerate, and the world’s people are able to engage in instant communication with one another and gain access to information from around the world. In it, lies the potential – and ultimately a central source – of a massive global political awakening. Simultaneously, the Technological Revolution has allowed elites to redirect and control society in ways never before imagined, potentially culminating in a global scientific dictatorship, as many have warned of since the early decades of the 20th century. The potential for controlling the masses has never been so great, as science unleashes the power of genetics, biometrics, surveillance, and new forms of modern eugenics; implemented by a scientific elite equipped with systems of psycho-social control.
Brzezinski has written extensively on the issue of the ‘Global Political Awakening,’ and has been giving speeches at various elite think tanks around the world, ‘informing’ the elites of this changing global dynamic. Brzezinski is one of the principle representatives of the global elite and one of the most influential elite intellectuals in the world. His analysis of the `global politicl awakening`is useful because of his repesentation of it as the primary global threat to elite interests everywhere. Thus, people should view the concept of the `global political awakening`as the greatest potential hope for humanity and that it should be advanced and aided, as opposed to Brzezinski`s perspective that it should be controlled and suppressed. However, it would be best for Brzezinski to explain the concept in his own words to allow people to understand how it constitutes a `threat`to elite interests :
For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. There are only a few pockets of humanity left in the remotest corners of the world that are not politically alert and engaged with the political turmoil and stirrings that are so widespread today around the world. The resulting global political activism is generating a surge in the quest for personal dignity, cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world painfully scarred by memories of centuries-long alien colonial or imperial domination… The worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening.
…America needs to face squarely a centrally important new global reality: that the world’s population is experiencing a political awakening unprecedented in scope and intensity, with the result that the politics of populism are transforming the politics of power. The need to respond to that massive phenomenon poses to the uniquely sovereign America an historic dilemma: What should be the central definition of America’s global role? … The central challenge of our time is posed not by global terrorism, but rather by the intensifying turbulence caused by the phenomenon of global political awakening. That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing.
… It is no overstatement to assert that now in the 21st century the population of much of the developing world is politically stirring and in many places seething with unrest. It is a population acutely conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree, and often resentful of its perceived lack of political dignity. The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches.
… The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well. With the exception of Europe, Japan and America, the rapidly expanding demographic bulge in the 25-year-old-and-under age bracket is creating a huge mass of impatient young people. Their minds have been stirred by sounds and images that emanate from afar and which intensify their disaffection with what is at hand. Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious “tertiary level” educational institutions of developing countries. Depending on the definition of the tertiary educational level, there are currently worldwide between 80 and 130 million “college” students. Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred.
Brzezinski thus posits that to address this new global “challenge” to entrenched powers, particularly nation-states that cannot sufficiently address the increasingly non-pliant populations and populist demands, what is required, is “increasingly supranational cooperation, actively promoted by the United States.” In other words, Brzezinski favours an increased and expanded ‘internationalization’, not surprising considering he laid the intellectual foundations of the Trilateral Commission. He explains that “Democracy per se is not an enduring solution,” as it could be overtaken by “radically resentful populism.” This is truly a new global reality:
Politically awakened mankind craves political dignity, which democracy can enhance, but political dignity also encompasses ethnic or national self-determination, religious self-definition, and human and social rights, all in a world now acutely aware of economic, racial and ethnic inequities. The quest for political dignity, especially through national self-determination and social transformation, is part of the pulse of self-assertion by the world’s underprivileged.
Thus, writes Brzezinski, “an effective response can only come from a self-confident America genuinely committed to a new vision of global solidarity.” The idea is that to address the grievances caused by globalization and global power structures, the world and America must expand and institutionalize the process of globalization, not simply in the economic sphere, but in the social and political as well. It is a flawed logic, to say the least, that the answer to these systemic problems is to enhance and strengthen the systemic flaws that created them. One cannot put out a fire by adding fuel.
Brzezinski even wrote that, “let it be said right away that supranationality should not be confused with world government. Even if it were desirable, mankind is not remotely ready for world government, and the American people certainly do not want it.” Instead, Brzezinski argues, America must be central in constructing a system of global governance, “in shaping a world that is defined less by the fiction of state sovereignty and more by the reality of expanding and politically regulated interdependence.” In other words, not ‘global government’ but ‘global governance’, which is simply a rhetorical ploy, as ‘global governance’ – no matter how overlapping, sporadic and desultory it presents itself – is in fact a key step and necessary transition in the moves toward an actual global government structure.
I feel that Wikileaks must be conceptualized within our understanding of this geopolitical reality we find ourselves in today. While indeed it is necessary to be skeptical of such monumental events, we must allow ourselves to remember that there are always surprises – for everyone – and that the future is nothing if not unknown. Anything, truly, can happen. There is of course logic behind the automatic skepticism and suspicion about Wikileaks from the alternative media; however, they also risk losing an incredible opportunity presented by Wikileaks, to not only reach more people with important information, but to better inform that information itself.
For those who view Wikileaks as a conspiracy or plot, as a psy-op of some kind, while indeed these things have taken place in the past, there is simply no evidence for it thus far. Every examination of this concept is based upon speculation. Many nations around the world, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia, are pointing to the Western nations as engaging in a covert propaganda campaign aimed at creating disunity between states and allies. Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan have made such claims. It is no surprise that most of these are nations, particularly Iran, are targets of U.S. imperial policy. Since, however, the Wikileaks releases speak heavily and negatively about Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, China, Venezuela, etc., one must remember that these are ‘diplomatic cables’, and represent the ‘opinions and beliefs’ of the diplomatic establishment, a social group which is historically and presently deeply enmeshed and submissive to elite ideology and methodology. In short, these are the foreign imperial envoys, and as such, they are ideological imperialists and represent imperial interests.
As has been the case both historically and presently, imperial objectives are hidden with political rhetoric. Since, politically, these are target nations of the American imperial elite, America’s diplomatic representatives will focus on these nations, and adopt the same ideas and beliefs. How many people have ever been given a raise by questioning and then disregarding their superior’s management technique? Thus, in their respective nations and operations, the diplomats will seek information that targets these nations or serve specific American imperial objectives. If all the information they come up with are rumours and conjectures and repeated talking points, that is what will be seen in the diplomatic cables. Indeed, that was exactly the case. The cables are full of rumours and unsupported allegations. So naturally, they would target these specific nations – deemed geopolitically significant by American imperial interests – and why there would be far less information on Israel and other allied nations. This is why it seems to me that these cables are authentic. They seem to represent the reality of the ‘diplomatic social group’, and thus they are a vivid exploration in the study of imperialism. We have been given the opportunity to see the ‘communications’ of imperial diplomacy. It is in this, that we are presented with an incredible opportunity.
Further, in regards to many Middle Eastern and Asian nations framing Wikileaks as a “Western plot,” as critical thinkers we must take note of the geopolitical reality of the ‘global political awakenng.’ All states are self-interested, that is the nature of a state. Elites all over the world are aware of the reality and potential political power of the ‘global political awakening’ and thus, seek to suppress or co-opt its potential. States which are often viewed by the critical press as ‘targets’ by Western imperial powers (such as Iran), may seek to use this power to its own advantage. They may attempt to steer the ‘global awakening’ and the ‘alternative media’ to their favour, which gives them political power. But the alternative media must not ‘pick sides’ in terms of global elites and power structures, we must remain critical of all sides and all actors.
Wikileaks is receiving an incredible readership and is reaching out to new audiences, globally, in the American homeland itself, and to the youth of the world. People’s perceptions are beginning to change on a variety of issues. The question is: will the alternative media ignore Wikileaks and isolate itself, or will they engage with Wikileaks, and prevent the mainstream corporate media from having a ‘monopoly of interpretation’, which becomes inherently propagandistic. Wikileaks is having global repercussions, and has been very good for the newspaper and mainstream news industries, which have been on a steady decline. This too, can be an issue to reach out to this new and growing audience, and to bring them to a new perspective. If we do not reach out, we are left talking to each other, further isolating ourselves, and ultimately becoming subverted and ineffective for change. We need to reach out to new audiences, and this is an incredible opportunity to do so. People are interested, people are curious, people are hungry for more.
Wikileaks and the Media
Instead of deriding Wikileaks as “not telling us anything we didn’t know” before, perhaps the alternative media should use the popularity and momentum of Wikileaks to take from it the documentation and analysis that further strengthens our arguments and beliefs. This will allow for others, especially new audiences of interested people worldwide, to place the Wikileaks releases within a wider context and understanding. The reports from Wikileaks are ‘revelations’ only to those who largely adhere to the ‘illusions’ of the world: that we live in ‘democracies’ promoting ‘freedom’ around the world and at home, etc. The ‘revelations’ however, are not simply challenging American perceptions of America, but of all nations and their populations. The fact that these people are reading and discovering new things for which they are developing an interest is an incredible change. This is likely why the corporate media is so heavily involved in the dissemination of this information (which itself is a major source of suspicion for the alternative media): to control the interpretation of the message. It is the job of the alternative media and intellectuals and other thinking individuals to challenge that interpretation with factual analysis. The Wikileaks releases, in fact, give us more facts to place within and support our interpretations than they do for the corporate media.
We must ask why the Wikileaks releases were ‘revelations’ for most people? Well, it was surprising simply for the fact that the media itself has such a strong hold on the access, dissemination and interpretation of information. They are ‘revelations’ because people are indoctrinated with myths. They are not ‘revelations’ to the alternative media because we have been talking about these things for years. However, while they may not necessarily be ‘revelations’, they are in fact, ‘confirmations’ and ‘vindications’ and bring more information to the analysis. It is in this, that a great opportunity lies. For since the leaks support and better inform our perspectives, we can build on this concept and examine how Wikileaks adds to and supports critical analysis. For those who are newly interested and looking for information, or for those who are having their previous perceptions challenged, it is the alternative media and critical voices alone who can place that information in a wider context for everyone else. In this, more people will see how it is the alternative media and critical perspectives which were more reflective of reality than say, the mainstream media (for which Wikileaks is a ‘revelation’). Thus, more people may soon start turning to alternative media and ideas; after all, our perspectives were vindicated, not those of the mainstream media (though they attempt to spin it as such).
We are under a heavy propaganda offensive on the part of the global corporate and mainstream media to spin and manipulate these leaks to their own interests. We, as alternative media and voices, must use Wikileaks to our advantage. Ignoring it will only damage our cause and undermine our strength. The mainstream media understood that; so too, must we. Wikileaks presents in itself a further opportunity for the larger exposure of mainstream media as organized propaganda. By ‘surprising’ so many people with the ‘revelations’, the media has in effect exposed itself as deeply inadequate in their analysis of the world and the major issues within it. While currently it is giving the mainstream media a great boost, we are still immersed in the era of the ‘Technological Revolution’ and there is still (for now, anyway) Internet freedom, and thus, the tide can quickly turn.
Like the saying goes, ‘the rich man will sell you the rope to hang him with if he thinks he can make a buck on it.’ Perhaps the mainstream media has done the same. No other organized apparatus was as capable of disseminating as much material as quickly and with such global reach as the mainstream media. If the leaks initially only made it into alternative media, then the information would only reach those whom are already reading the alternative press. In that, they would not be such grand ‘revelations’ and would have had a muted effect. In the mainstream media’s global exposure of Wikileaks material (never mind their slanted and propagandistic interpretations), they have changed the dynamic and significance of the information. By reaching wider and new audiences, the alternative and critical voices can co-opt these new audiences; lead them away from the realm of information ‘control’ into the realm of information ‘access’. This is potentially one of the greatest opportunities presented for the alternative and critical voices of the world.
Wikileaks is a globally transformative event. Not simply in terms of awakening new people to ‘new’ information, but also in terms of the effect it is having upon global power structures, itself. With ambassadors resigning, diplomats being exposed as liars and tools, political rifts developing between Western imperial allies, and many careers and reputations of elites around the world at great risk, Wikileaks is creating the potential for an enormous deterioration in the effectiveness of imperialism and domination. That, in itself, is an admirable and worthy goal. That this is already a reality is representative of how truly transformative Wikileaks is and could be. People, globally, are starting to see their leaders through a lens not filtered by ‘public relations.’ Through mainstream media, it gets filtered through propaganda, which is why it is an essential duty of the alternative media and critical thinkers to place this information in a wider, comprehensive context. This would further erode the effectiveness of empire.
With the reaction of several states and policing organizations to issue arrest warrants for Julian Assange, or in calling for his assassination (as one Canadian adviser to the Prime Minister suggested on television), these organizations and individuals are exposing their own hatred of democracy, transparency and freedom of information. Their reactions can be used to discredit their legitimacy to ‘rule’. If policing agencies are supposed to “protect and serve,” why are they seeking instead to “punish and subvert” those who expose the truth? Again, this comes as no surprise to those who closely study the nature of the state, and especially the modern phenomenon of the militarization of domestic society and the dismantling of rights and freedoms. However, it is happening before the eyes of the whole world, and people are paying attention. This is new.
This is an incredible opportunity to criticize foreign policy (read: ‘imperial strategy’), and to disembowel many global power structures. More people, now, than ever before, will be willing to listen, learn and investigate for themselves. Wikileaks should be regarded as a ‘gift’, not a ‘distraction.’ Instead of focusing on the parts of the Wikileaks cables which do not reflect the perspectives of the alternative media (such as on Iran), we must use Wikileaks to better inform our own understanding not simply of the ‘policy’ itself, but of the complex social interactions and ideas that create the basis for the ‘policy’ to be carried out. In regards to the diplomatic cables themselves, we are better able to understand the nature of diplomats as ‘agents of empire,’ and so instead of discounting the cables as ‘propaganda’ we must use them against the apparatus of empire itself: to expose the empire for what it is. Wikileaks helps to unsheathe and strip away the rhetoric behind imperial policy, and expose diplomats not as ‘informed observers’, but as ‘agents of power.’ The reaction by nations, organizations and institutions around the world adds further fuel to this approach, as we are seeing the utter distaste political leaders have for ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom of information’, despite their rhetoric. Several institutions of power can be more widely exposed in this manner.
A recent addition to this analysis can be in the role played by universities not in ‘education’ but in ‘indoctrination’ and the production of new ‘agents of power.’ For example, Columbia University is one of the most “respected” and “revered” universities in the world, which has produced several individuals and significant sectors of the political elite (including diplomats). In reaction to the Wikileaks releases, Columbia University has warned “students they risk future job prospects if they download any of the material,” which followed “a government ban on employees, estimated at more than two-and-a-half million people, using work computers and other communication devices to look at diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.” The University “emailed students at the university’s school of international and public affairs, a recruiting ground for the state department.” Good for Columbia! What do they think university is for, ‘education’ or something? How dare students take education into their own hands, especially students who will likely be future diplomats. This university reaction to Wikileaks helps call into attention the role of universities in our society, and specifically the role of universities in shaping the future ‘managers’ of the imperial apparatus.
Wikileaks as an Opportunity
If Wikileaks is a psy-op, it is either the stupidest or most intelligent psychological operation ever undertaken. But one thing is for sure: systems and structures of power are in the process of being exposed to a much wider audience than ever before. The question for the alternative media and critical researchers, alike, is what will they do with this information and this opportunity?
Julian Assange was recently interviewed by Time Magazine about Wikileaks, in which he explained to the inadequately informed editor of Time Magazine that organizations which are secretive need to be exposed:
If their behavior is revealed to the public, they have one of two choices: one is to reform in such a way that they can be proud of their endeavors, and proud to display them to the public. Or the other is to lock down internally and to balkanize, and as a result, of course, cease to be as efficient as they were. To me, that is a very good outcome, because organizations can either be efficient, open and honest, or they can be closed, conspiratorial and inefficient.
Assange further explained some of his perspectives regarding the influence of and reactions to Wikileaks, stating that the Chinese:
appear to be terrified of free speech, and while one might say that means something awful is happening in the country, I actually think that is a very optimistic sign, because it means that speech can still cause reform and that the power structure is still inherently political, as opposed to fiscal. So journalism and writing are capable of achieving change, and that is why Chinese authorities are so scared of it. Whereas in the United States to a large degree, and in other Western countries, the basic elements of society have been so heavily fiscalized through contractual obligations that political change doesn’t seem to result in economic change, which in other words means that political change doesn’t result in change.
In the interview, Assange turned to the issue of the Internet and community media:
For the rise of social media, it’s quite interesting. When we first started [in 2006], we thought we would have the analytical work done by bloggers and people who wrote Wikipedia articles and so on. And we thought that was a natural, given that we had lots of quality, important content… The bulk of the heavy lifting – heavy analytical lifting – that is done with our materials is done by us, and is done by professional journalists we work with and by professional human-rights activists. It is not done by the broader community. However, once the initial lifting is done, once a story becomes a story, becomes a news article, then we start to see community involvement, which digs deeper and provides more perspective. So the social networks tend to be, for us, an amplifier of what we are doing. And also a supply of sources for us.
As researchers, media, and critics, we must realize that our perspectives and beliefs must be open to change and evolution. Simply because something like this has never happened before does not mean that it isn’t happening now. We live in the era of the ‘Technological Revolution,’ and the Internet has changed economics, politics and society itself, on a global scale. This is where the true hope in furthering and better informing the ‘global political awakening’ will need to take speed and establish itself. True change in our world is not going to come from already-established or newly-created institutions of power, which is where all issues are currently being addressed, especially those of global significance. True change, instead, can only come not from global power structures, but from the global ‘community’ of people, interacting with one another via the power unleashed by the ‘Technological Revolution.’ Change must be globally understood and community organized.
We are on the verge of a period of global social transformation, the question is: will we do anything about it? Will we seek to inform and partake in this transition, or will we sit and watch it be misled, criticizing it as it falters and falls? Just as Martin Luther King commented in his 1967 speech, Beyond Vietnam, that it seemed as if America was “on the wrong side of a world revolution,” now there is an opportunity to remedy that sad reality, and not simply on a national scale, but global.
Despite all the means and methods of power and domination in this world, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As things progressively get worse and worse, as any independent observer of the world has noticed, life has a way of creating means and methods to counter these regressions. As ‘globalization’ has facilitated the emergence of a global elite, and several global institutions and ideologies of global power, so too has this process facilitated the ‘globalization of opposition.’ So while elites, globally, actively work to integrate and expand global power structures, they are inadvertently integrating and expanding global opposition to those very same power structures. This is the great paradox of our time, and one which we must recognize, for it is not simply a factual observation, but it is a hopeful situation.
Hope should not be underestimated, and it is something that I have personally struggled with in my views of the world. It is hard to see ‘hope’ when you study so much ‘horror’ in the world, and see how little is being done about it. But activism and change need hope. This is very evident from the Obama campaign, which was splashed with rhetoric of ‘hope’ and ‘change’, something that all people rightfully want and need. However, Obama’s ‘hope’ and ‘change’ were Wall Street brands and patents, it was a glorious practice in the art of propaganda, and a horrific blow to true notions of ‘hope’ and ‘change’. There is a reason why the Obama campaign took the top prizes in public relations industry awards.
Hope is needed, but it cannot be misplaced hope, as it was with Obama. It must be a hope grounded not in ‘blind faith’ but in ‘honest analysis.’ While indeed on most fronts in the world, things are getting progressively worse, the alternative media has focused almost exclusively on these issues that they have blinded themselves to the positive geopolitical developments in the world, namely the ‘global political awakening’ and the role of the Internet in reshaping global society. While these issues are acknowledged, they are not fully understood or explained within the wider context: that these are in fact, hopeful developments; that there is hope. Wikileaks strengthens this notion, if it is to be taken as an opportunity. A critique without hope falls on deaf ears. No one wants to hear that things are ‘hopeless’, so while an examination of what is wrong in the world is integral to moving forward, so too is an examination of what is hopeful and positive. This spreads the message and builds its supporters. The Internet as a medium facilitates the spread of this message, and after all, as one of the foremost media theorists, Marshall McLuhan, noted, “The medium is the message.”
Appendix of ‘Revelations’ and ‘Vindications’: A Call to Action for Alternative Media
So what are some of the supposed ‘revelations’ which can be used as ‘vindications’ by the alternative media? Well, for one, the role of royalty as a relevant and powerful economic and political actor in the world today. And by this I do not simply refer to states where monarchs remain as official rulers, such as in Saudi Arabia, but more specifically to West European and notably the British monarchs. For those who have studied institutions like the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, the relevance of European royalty in international affairs is not a new concept. For the majority of people (who haven’t even heard of the Bilderberg Group or Trilateral Commission), these monarchs are largely viewed as symbolic figures as opposed to political actors. This is, of course, naïve, as all monarchs have always been political actors, however, it is a naivety that has now been challenged on a much wider scale and to a much wider audience. There was a time when I would discuss the relevance of monarchs in the modern world, and it would be a subject that would be treated by many others as an absurd notion: “but the Queen has no real power, she’s a figurehead,” etc. Wikileaks has exposed that notion as a falsity, and it should be an issue that is expanded upon.
For example, within the Wikileaks cables, take the British Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, who has been subject to many cable ‘revelations.’ The U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan wrote a cable regarding a meeting she attended with several British and Canadian businessmen and Prince Andrew, who is a special U.K. trade representative to the Middle East and Central Asia. At the meeting, Prince Andrew ranted against “those [expletive] journalists … who poke their noses everywhere,” and he “railed at British anticorruption investigators, who had had the ‘idiocy’ of almost scuttling the al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia,” particularly “referencing an investigation, subsequently closed, into alleged kickbacks a senior Saudi royal had received in exchange for the multi-year, lucrative BAE Systems contract to provide equipment and training to Saudi security forces.” When he ranted against the media – specifically the Guardian paper – for making it harder to do business abroad, the U.S. Ambassador noted that the businessmen in attendance “roared their approval” and “practically clapped.” Again, evidence for how elites despise true representations of democracy and freedom.
At that same meeting, Prince Andrew made another startling claim, and one which had not been as widely publicized in the media to date. He stated that to the U.S. Ambassador that: “the United Kingdom, Western Europe (and by extension you Americans too) were now back in the thick of playing the Great Game,” and, “this time we aim to win!” Further, Prince Andrew – the ‘Duke of York’ – “then stated that he was very worried about Russia’s resurgence in the region,” and referred to Chinese economic and political expansion in the region as “probably inevitable, but a menace.” On the way out of the meeting, one British businessman said to the U.S. Ambassador, “What a wonderful representative for the British people! We could not be prouder of our royal family!” Well, there you have it, a rich prince running around the world with rich businessmen promoting their economic interests in foreign countries and referring to it as the age-old imperial competition between Britain and Russia in the “Great Game” for dominance over Central Asia. And we call our countries ‘democracies’ and exporters of ‘freedom’?
This is quite typical behaviour of the royal family, however, as a former South African MP and anti-corruption campaigner, Andrew Feinstein, explained, “the royal family has actively supported Britain’s arms sales, even when corruption and malfeasance has been suspected,” and that, “the royal family was involved in trying to persuade South Africa to buy BAE’s Hawk jets, despite the air force not wanting the planes that cost two and a half times the price of their preferred aircraft. As an ANC MP at the time, I was told that £116m in bribes had been paid to key decision-makers and the ANC itself. The royal family’s attitude is part of the reason that BAE will never face justice in the UK for its corrupt practices.”
The British royals are also very close with Arab monarchs, which makes sense, considering it was the British Empire (and the ‘Crown’ behind it) that created the Arab monarchs and gave them power in the first place. Prince Andrew went on hunting trips with the King of Jordan and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the UAE. Further, Prince Charles is considered a strategic diplomatic figure in regards to Saudi Arabia, as the cables reveal. The British media headlined with the ‘revelation’ that Prince Charles is not as “respected” as Queen Elizabeth, but the real story was buried in the same article beneath the royal gossip, as cables revealed that Prince Charles and his wife “have helped to overcome ‘severe strains’ following Saudi Arabia’s imprisonment and torture of five Britons from December 2001 to August 2003 and the UK’s official fraud investigations of British Aerospace operations in Saudi Arabia in 2004.” As one U.S. diplomatic cable explained, the British royals “helped re-build UK-Saudi ties” as “the House of Saud and the House of Windsor build upon their royal commonality.” In other words, they both represent unelected and unaccountable elite dynastic power, and so they should naturally work together in ‘their’ own interests. How ‘democratic’ of them. Further, a Saudi royal threw a lavish party for Prince Charles in Saudi Arabia with the help of an unnamed British businessman.
It looks, however, like the British royals will have to again move in to “smooth out” ties with Saudi Arabia, as ‘revelations’ about the country and its monarch paint a picture of a not-so-helpful Western ally. In short, Saudi Arabia and its monarch have received one of the largest public relations disasters in recent history. The British monarch may be too busy cleaning up their own mess, or have too much light on them at the moment, to be able to ‘gracefully’ maneuver through yet another ‘imperious’ royal visit. What am I referring to here in terms of bad PR for the Saudis? It’s quite simple, the Saudi royals, good friends of the British monarch, are incidentally the principle financiers of Sunni terrorists (which includes what we commonly refer to as ‘al-Qaeda’) worldwide.
While this comes as no surprise to those who have critically analyzed al-Qaeda or the “war on terror,” it is indeed a ‘revelation’ to the majority of people. While Western governments and media propaganda machines have for years blamed terrorist financing and support on ‘target’ nations like Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and more recently, Pakistan and Yemen, the Wikileaks cables ‘vindicated’ the historical and present reality that it is in fact the main Western allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia, but also the other major Gulf Arab states (and their monarchs), who are the main financiers and supporters of terrorism, and most notably, al-Qaeda. A memo signed by Hillary Clinton confirmed that Saudi Arabia is understood to be “the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba,” as well as al-Qaeda itself. Further, three other Arab states, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates are listed as other chief terrorist financiers. As the Guardian put it, “the cables highlight an often ignored factor in the Pakistani and Afghan conflicts: that the violence is partly bankrolled by rich, conservative donors across the Arabian Sea.” While Pakistan is largely blamed for aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is in fact Saudi Arabia as well as UAE-based businesses which are its chief financiers. Kuwait, another staunch U.S. ally, is a “source of funds and a key transit point” for al-Qaeda.
While the New York Times was busy declaring Wikileaks as providing a “new consensus” on Iran, with the Saudi King urging America to attack and “cut the head off the snake,” they mentioned only in passing, how “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda.” Now, while these are indeed ‘revelations’ to many, we must place these facts in their proper context. This is not simply to be taken as Saudi Arabia and Arab states being responsible, alone, for support of terrorism and al-Qaeda, but that they are simply playing the role they have always played, and that diplomacy is sidelined and kept in the dark on this issue as it always has been.
What I mean by this is that the contextualization of these facts must be placed in a comprehensive historical analysis. Looking at the history of al-Qaeda, arising out of the Soviet-Afghan War, with major covert support from America and other Western allies, the center of this operation was in the ‘Safari Club,’ which constituted a secret network of Western intelligence agencies (such as those of France, Britain and America) and regional intelligence agencies (such as those of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan), in carrying out the financing, training, arming and operational support of the Mujahideen, and subsequently the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The ‘Safari Club’ was established in 1976 (with the help of CIA director at the time, George H.W. Bush, another close friend of the Saudi royals), and was designed to respond to increasing political oversight of intelligence operations in America (as a result of the Church Committee investigations on CIA operations), and so the Safari Club was created to allow for a more covert and discreet network of intelligence operations, with no oversight. Diplomats were kept in the dark about its operations and indeed its existence, while the quiet covert relationships continued behind the scenes. This network, in some form or another, exists up to the present day, as I recently documented in my three-part series on “The Imperial Anatomy of al-Qaeda.”
[See: The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda. The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc of Crisis”; Empire, Energy and Al-Qaeda: The Anglo-American Terror Network; 9/11 and America’s Secret Terror Campaign]
In short, there is a reason that while diplomats complain quietly about Saudi and Arab financing and support for al-Qaeda, nothing is actually done: because through other avenues, the American imperial structure and apparatus supports and facilitates this process. Diplomacy is more overt in its imperial ambitions, thus the reality of the cables reflecting a focus on Iran and Pakistan, yet intelligence operations are a much more covert means of establishing and maintaining particular imperial relationships. This information again should not be taken “at face value,” but rather placed within its broader geopolitical context. In this sense, the information is not ‘disinformation’ or ‘propaganda’, but rather additional factual ‘vindication’ and information.
While Western governments and media publicly scorn Iran and accuse it of “meddling” in the affairs of Iraq, and of supporting terrorism and destabilization of the country, the reality is that while Iran certainly exerts influence in Iraq, (after all, they are neighbours), Saudi Arabia is a far greater source of destabilization than Iran is accused of being, and this is from the mouths of Iraqi leaders themselves. Iraqi government officials, reported the Guardian, “see Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state.” In a cable written by the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, it was explained that, “Iraq views relations with Saudi Arabia as among its most challenging given Riyadh’s money, deeply ingrained anti-Shia attitudes and [Saudi] suspicions that a Shia-led Iraq will inevitably further Iranian regional influence.” Further, “Iraqi contacts assess that the Saudi goal (and that of most other Sunni Arab states, to varying degrees) is to enhance Sunni influence, dilute Shia dominance and promote the formation of a weak and fractured Iraqi government.” In short, that would mean that Saudi Arabia is actually doing what the West accuses Iran of doing in Iraq. So while Iran certainly has been promoting its own interests in Iraq, it is more interested in a stable Shi’a government, while Saudi Arabia is more interested in a weak and fractured government, and thus promotes sectarian conflict. One interesting fact to note that came out of the cables, is the increasing perspective among Iraqi youth rejecting foreign interference from any government, with diplomatic cables articulating that, “a ‘mental revolution’ was under way among Iraqi youth against foreign agendas seeking to undermine the country’s stability.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that one top Saudi royal (in fact the former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency and thus the man responsible for handling Saudi Arabia’s relationship with terrorists), Prince Turki al-Faisal, said that the source of the diplomatic leaks should be “vigorously punished.” Turki, who has also been the Saudi Ambassador to the U.K. and America, said, “the WikiLeaks furor underscored that cyber security was an increasing international concern.”
What other areas can Wikileaks be used to further inform and ‘vindicate’ the critical media? Well, start with Saudi Arabia’s neighbour to the south, Yemen. Whether or not most Americans (or for that matter, most people in general) are aware that America is waging a war in Yemen, just across the water from where America is waging another war against Somalia (since 2006/07). This past October, I wrote an article about the imperial war in Yemen as a war being fought under the auspices of the “War on Terror” and fighting al-Qaeda (financed by the Saudi elite); but which in reality is about America and other Western imperial powers (such as the U.K.) propping up a despotic leaders who has been in power since 1978, by supporting him in his campaign to eliminate a rebel movement in the North and a massive secessionist movement in the South. Saudi Arabia entered the conflict in August of 2009 by bombing rebel holdouts in the North along the Saudi border, as the Saudi elite are afraid of the movement spreading to disaffected groups within Saudi Arabia itself.
America inserted itself into the war by increasing the amount of money and military aid given to Yemen (in effect, subsidizing their military, as they do heavily with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, all the Arab states, and dozens of other states around the world), as well as providing direct special forces training and assistance, not to mention carrying out missile strikes within Yemen against “al-Qaeda training camps” which American intelligence officials claimed killed 60 ‘militants’. In reality, 52 innocent people died, with over half of them being women and children. At the time, both Yemen and America claimed it was an al-Qaeda training camp and that the cruise missile was fired by the Yemeni government, despite the fact that it had no such weapons in its arsenal, unlike the U.S. Navy patrolling the coastline. The missile strike was carried out by America “on direct presidential orders.”
Several days later, there was the bizarre “attempted terrorist attack” in which a young Nigerian man was arrested attempting to blow up his underwear (who was helped onto the plane by a mysterious Indian man in a suit who claimed he was a diplomat, according to witnesses), and who was subsequently linked to “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (an organization which started up not much earlier when a Guantanamo inmate returned to Saudi Arabia only to ‘escape’ Saudi custody, and flee to Yemen to start a new al-Qaeda branch). This provided the justification for America to dramatically increase its military aid to Yemen, which more than doubled from $67 million to $150 million, and came with increased special forces training and assistance, as well as increased CIA activity, discussing using drone attacks to kill innocent people (as they do in Pakistan), and more missile strikes.
This previous September, the Yemen government “laid siege” to a town in the South while the Obama administrations top counter-terrorism official, John Brennan, was in Yemen for ‘talks’ with President Saleh. The town was claimed to be a “sanctuary for al-Qaeda,” but it has key strategic significance as well. It is just south of a major new liquid natural gas pipeline, and the town happened to be home to many people involved in the Southern secessionist movement. The Yemeni government “barred” any outside or independent observers from witnessing the siege, which lasted days. However, for the many who fled the conflict and “siege,” they were claiming that the Islamic militants were working with the government against the rebel movement in the North and secessionist movement in the South, and according to one NPR reporter, “this is more about fighting or subduing the secessionist movement than it is about al-Qaida.”
The Wikileaks ‘revelations’ further inform and confirm much of this analysis. In regards to the missile strike that killed innocent women and children on Obama’s orders, Wikileaks cables revealed that Yemeni President Saleh “secretly offered US forces unrestricted access to his territory to conduct unilateral strikes against al-Qaida terrorist targets.” As Saleh told John Breannan in September of 2009, “I have given you an open door on terrorism. So I am not responsible.” Regarding the December 21 strike that killed the innocent civilians, a cable explained, “Yemen insisted it must ‘maintain the status quo’ regarding the official denial of US involvement. Saleh wanted operations to continue ‘non-stop until we eradicate this disease,” and days later in a meeting with U.S. Central Command head, General David Patraeus, “Saleh admitted lying to his population about the strikes.” He told the General, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”
In regards to Pakistan, while it is important to be highly critical of the validity of the ‘perspectives’ within the cables in regards to Pakistan and the Taliban, since Pakistan is a current and escalating target in the “War [OF] Terror,” there are things to keep in mind: historically, the Pakistani ISI has funded, armed and trained the Taliban, but always with U.S. assistance and support. Thus, we must examine the situation presently and so historically. Wikileaks revealed (as I mentioned previously), that Arab Gulf states help fund the Taliban in Afghanistan, so the common claim that it is Pakistan ‘alone’ is immediately made to be erroneous. Is it possible that Pakistan is still working with the Taliban? Of course. They have historically through their intelligence services, the ISI, and while they have never done it without U.S. support (mostly through the CIA), the ISI still receives most of its outside funding from the CIA. The CIA funding of the ISI, a reality since the late 70s, picked up dramatically following 9/11, the operations of which the ISI has been itself complicit in financing. Thus, the CIA rewarded the financiers of 9/11 by increasing their funds.
The trouble with discounting information that does not fit in with your previously conceived ideas is that it does not allow for evolution or progress in thinking. This should never be done in regards to any subject, yet it is commonly done for all subjects, by official and critical voices alike. With Pakistan, we must understand that while historically it has been a staunch U.S. ally in the region, propping up every government, supporting every coup, American geopolitical ambitions have changed as a result of the changing geopolitical reality of the world. Pakistan has drawn increasingly close to China, which built a major seaport on Pakistan’s coast, giving China access to the Indian Ocean. This is a strategic threat to India and the United States more broadly, which seeks to subdue and control China’s growing influence (while simultaneously attempting to engage in efforts of international integration with China, specifically economically). India and Pakistan are historical enemies, and wars have been fought between them before. India and America are in a strategic alliance, and America helped India with its nuclear program, much to the distaste of the Pakistanis, who drew closer to China. Pakistan occupies an area of the utmost strategic importance: with its neighbours being Afghanistan, China, India and Iran.
American policy has changed to support a civilian government, kept weak and subservient to U.S. interests, while America covertly expands its wars inside Pakistan. This is creating an incredible potential for absolute destabilization and fragmentation, potentially resulting in total civil war. America appears to be undertaking a similar policy in Pakistan that it undertook in fracturing Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s. Only that Pakistan has a population of 170 million people and nuclear weapons. As America expands its destabilization of Pakistan, the risk of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India dramatically increases, as does the risk of destabilization spreading regionally to its neighbours of India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. The American-urged separation of the Pakistani military from official power in Pakistan (as in, it’s not a military dictatorships), was designed to impose a completely U.S. dependent civilian government and isolate an increasingly frustrated and antagonized Pakistani military.
As the Wikileaks cables revealed, General Kayani, head of the Pakistani military, threatened to depose the Pakistani government in a coup in March of 2009, and he discussed this in meetings with the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson. The cables revealed that the Pakistani Army Chief disliked the civilian government, but that they disliked the opposition even more, which was rallying people in the streets. This reveals the intimate nature the U.S. has with the Pakistani military, as it always has. The U.S. did not support this proposal, as it currently favours a weak civilian government, and therefore a strong military dictatorship is not in America’s (or India’s) interest. Thus, there was no coup. Hence, Wikileaks can be used to further inform and vindicate analysis of Pakistan. For those who have been speaking about the destabilization of Pakistan for years, and there have been many, Wikileaks provides more resources to a critical analysis, and suddenly more people around the world might be interested in new ideas and perspectives, as Wikileaks has challenged so many of their previously held beliefs.
The list of examples surfacing from the Wikileaks cables is endless in the amount of additional information it can add in the alternative media’s dissemination of information and analysis. These were but a few examples among many. Make no mistake, this is an opportunity for the spread of truth, not a distraction from it. Treat it accordingly.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). He is co-editor, with Michel Chossudovsky, of the recent book, “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century,”