December 02, 2010

P.S. They'll Lie About Everything

At the end of July, in the first part of my series about WikiLeaks, I discussed the specific manner in which WikiLeaks releases material it has been provided. It is crucial to appreciate the significance of the two-pronged method of release WikiLeaks utilizes.

One of the articles I excerpted noted (this concerned the Afghanistan documents, but the approach is the same for all of WikiLeaks' major releases in recent months):
In joining up with the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel to release the Afghan war logs, Wikileaks has sought to combine the impact of front-page news and analytic skills of specialist reporters with the radical transparency of publishing thousands of original documents.
I also referred to an unusually valuable article by Jay Rosen, who teased out this issue still more:
5. And just as government doesn’t know what to make of Wikileaks (“we’re gonna hunt you down/hey, you didn’t contact us!”) the traditional press isn’t used to this, either. As Glenn Thrush noted on
The WikiLeaks report presented a unique dilemma to the three papers given advance copies of the 92,000 reports included in the Afghan war logs — the New York Times, Germany’s Der Speigel and the UK’s Guardian.

The editors couldn’t verify the source of the reports — as they would have done if their own staffers had obtained them — and they couldn’t stop WikiLeaks from posting it, whether they wrote about it or not.

So they were basically left with proving veracity through official sources and picking through the pile for the bits that seemed to be the most truthful.
Notice how effective this combination is. The information is released in two forms: vetted and narrated to gain old media cred, and released online in full text, Internet-style, which corrects for any timidity or blind spot the editors at Der Spiegel, The Times or the Guardian may show.
Given the impact of WikiLeaks' releases during the intervening months, I emphatically repeat my evaluation of this strategy: it is bloody brilliant.

In terms of the issue I want to focus on here, note again that, in addition to releasing the documents to a small number of newspapers (the "old media"), WikiLeaks also releases the original material online.

It turns out, entirely unsurprisingly to those people who understand how this deadly game works, that the availability of the original material is critical. It also turns out that very, very few people are honest about what's in that material.

Enter Gareth Porter, who has consulted the original document relating to a U.S. claim that has delighted the warmongers. Porter writes:
A diplomatic cable from last February released by Wikileaks provides a detailed account of how 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.

In fact, the Russians challenged the very existence of the mystery missile the U.S. claims Iran acquired from North Korea.

But readers of the two leading U.S. newspapers never learned those key facts about the document.

The New York Times and Washington Post reported only that the United States believed Iran had acquired such missiles - supposedly called the BM-25 - from North Korea. Neither newspaper reported the detailed Russian refutation of the U.S. view on the issue or the lack of hard evidence for the BM-25 from the U.S. side.

The Times, which had obtained the diplomatic cables not from Wikileaks but from The Guardian, according to a Washington Post story Monday, did not publish the text of the cable.

The Times story said the newspaper had made the decision not to publish "at the request of the Obama administration". That meant that its readers could not compare the highly- distorted account of the document in the Times story against the original document without searching the Wikileaks website.

As a result, a key Wikileaks document which should have resulted in stories calling into question the thrust of the Obama administration's ballistic missile defense policy in Europe based on an alleged Iranian missile threat has instead produced a spate of stories buttressing anti-Iran hysteria.
Porter offers more detail, and I suggest you read it.

Those who have read my last two posts can see how this connects to one of my ongoing arguments about those who lead and direct the American Empire and their method of operation:
The United States seeks global hegemony. To justify its quest, the United States invents a series of terrifying threats, all of which, in one way or another, are alleged to be "existential" threats to our very survival. With almost no exceptions at all, the leaders of the American Empire concoct these threats out of nothing.

I now think I should have expressed this point more simply and directly. Perhaps I ought to have said:


The "they" includes not only virtually everyone in the national political class but their many eager courtiers, including the media.

To anyone who has paid even minimal attention during the last few decades -- and whose views are not fatally distorted by tribal political loyalties -- this is a mindnumbingly obvious point. The Clinton administration lied about its policy in Yugoslavia ("We have to stop a genocide!" -- except there wasn't one until we intervened), almost everyone lied and continues to lie about Iraq, almost everyone lies about Iran and has for years. The United States government has lied its way into every war it's ever fought: it's "The American Way of Doing Business."

And in "The Slaughter of the Diseased Animals," I described the pattern in these terms:
For a very long time, the United States government has specialized in the pattern pursued by Israel. The vastly more powerful nation wishes to act on a certain policy -- almost always territorial expansion, for purposes of access to resources, or to force itself into new markets, or to pursue the evil notion that economic and ideological success depend on brutality and conquest -- but a specifically moral justification for its planned actions does not lie easily to hand.

So the powerful nation embarks on a course designed to make life intolerable for the country and/or those people that stand in its way. The more powerful nation is confident that, given sufficient time and sufficient provocation, the weaker country and people will finally do something that the actual aggressor can seize on as a pretext for the policy upon which it had already decided. In this way, what then unfolds becomes the victim's fault.

The United States government has utilized this tactic with Mexico, to begin the Spanish-American War, even, dear reader, in connection with the U.S. entrance into World War II, most recently in Iraq, possibly (perhaps probably) with Iran in the future, and in numerous other conflicts. It's always the fault of the other side, never the fault of the United States itself. Yet the United States has always been much more powerful than those it victimizes in this manner.
In my last two posts -- here and here -- I addressed in detail the criticism that WikiLeaks has provided aid and support (either inadvertently or otherwise) to those who desire still more war. As the example analyzed by Porter shows, WikiLeaks itself has done nothing of the kind. I further submit that the same will be true in broad outline of every alleged justification the warmongers offer based on this or any other WikiLeaks material, for it is invariably true of every justification for war they have ever offered.

For the sake of precision, I note that I don't view the Russian analysis of the missile question as necessarily true, either. However, the cable itself certainly seems to make the Russian case far more persuasive. But as Porter demonstrates, the story as so gleefully reported by several major "news" outlets is profoundly distorted. It may simply be the case that we can't reach any final judgment. I should also add that discussions of this kind are "arguing about the intelligence" -- which is always a grave and terrible mistake. As I often state the point: never, ever argue about "intelligence" -- at least, never do so without also arguing the policy. In the case of Iran, I stated my own view several years ago: "So Iran Gets Nukes. So What?"

Many of those who distort and lie about what is in the WikiLeaks material, including declining to publish the full text of key documents -- perhaps, as in this instance, "at the request of the Obama administration" -- are sickeningly eager to provide supposed justifications for future conflict. Thus, the statement in my title should not be treated as a postscript, which was only my small attempt at irony. Rather, it should be the immovable initial premise from which all analysis of the ruling class and its deadly activities proceeds. I repeat it once again for emphasis: