[Update 10/12/10: A reader has alerted us to the fact that wikileaks.ch is somewhat unreliable due to attacks. It appears to be online at the moment though. For those with difficulties, try wikileaks.tard.is instead.]
On Sunday, November 28th, the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks released 219 of 251,287 leaked cables they intend to make public from US Embassies around the world. The leaks uncomfortably expose candid assessments by diplomatic officials, including their often unflattering descriptions of the local office boys of American imperialism. Secrecy and duplicity are and have always been at the heart of bourgeois diplomatic dealings. They are essential for those conspiring to carve up the globe, for those who send the working masses to die on the battlefield for them so that they can carry out their plans and divide up the spoils.
Now, for the crime of exposing this secret diplomacy, SPC Bradley Manning will likely spend 52 years in jail. Before being turned in to the police by a right-wing hacker, Manning told him these cables would show “how the first world exploits the third, in detail”. This is precisely why the imperialists intend to destroy his life, and that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has now been arrested. They want to send out a clear message that anyone who dares do what Manning and Assange have done will be dealt with severely.
WikiLeaks has provided the entire archive to El País (Spain), Le Monde (France), Der Spiegel (Germany), The Guardian (United Kingdom), and The New York Times (United States). Since the first release, more has appeared every day, and will continue to for the next few months. WikiLeaks believes a slow trickle of documents would ensure a better understanding of what is contained in the archive, and wants to “do it justice”. As this is the largest leak of state secrets in human history, we will be following the story and commenting on the more interesting discoveries in future articles as more documents are released. For a sense of the scale, by the time it will all be released, the total will be 261,276,536 words.
This is not the first dump of confidential material WikiLeaks has released. They previously released the Iraq War logs (391,832 documents) in October and the Afghan War logs (75,000 documents) in July. They were huge collections of American military reports, which included accounts of civilian casualties that had previously been covered up. While more documents were released in the Iraq War logs, word for word, this archive is seven times larger.
Among the revelations in those two previous leaks were that US troops, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, had been ordered not to interfere when they reported Iraqi and Afghan troops engaging in torture and abuse. Manning is widely thought to have been responsible for those logs as well, and also furnished WikiLeaks with the disturbing helicopter footage that documents the massacre of an Al-Jazeera cameraman and the passersby who attempted to save him, and their children.
The response to that video from the US government is the same response given to the release of these diplomatic cables. It is not the crimes revealed by the leaks which anger them, or concern them, but the fact that they have been revealed to the public at large, i.e. their crimes have been put on public show.
Collecting DNA and Spying on the United Nations
One cable directly from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asks American diplomats at the UN to collect personal information like credit card numbers and passwords.
“Reporting officers should include as much of the following information as possible when they have information relating to persons linked to : office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cell phones, pagers and faxes; compendia of contact information, such as telephone directories (in compact disc or electronic format if available) and e-mail listings; internet and intranet “handles”, internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information.” Cable 09STATE80163
The US Secretary of State was asking her underlings to carry this out at the UN headquarters in New York, where, as part of the agreement that gave the building to the organization, the US agreed to do no surveillance. Lenin described the UN’s predecessor, the League of Nations, as a den of thieves. And there is no honour amongst thieves. This is particularly hypocritical, considering she was also asking for the technical specifications of foreign diplomats’ communications systems so that they could pry into their state secrets. And yet it is Bradley Manning that is likely to be charged with espionage.
In another cable, Hillary sends out a similar directive to diplomatic staff to collect the DNA of key figures in African states such as Burundi and Rwanda.
“Biographic and biometric data, including health, opinions toward the US, training history, ethnicity (tribal and/or clan), and language skills of key and emerging political, military, intelligence, opposition, ethnic, religious, and business leaders. Data should include email addresses, telephone and fax numbers, fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans.” Cable 09STATE37561
It is of no surprise that US diplomats play a role in espionage operations. All of the imperialist powers operate in this way and assume that others do the same. The point is that all this is supposed to be kept away from the eyes of ordinary working people, least they start to see what the bourgeois state really is, how it operates and in whose class interests it does all this. These operations are jeopardized when confirmed so boldly.
Watching the allies
When it comes to the second and third-rate powers that American imperialism has gathered around itself, diplomats keep a close watch on political developments, and lean on local politicians to defend US interests. When the Spanish Socialist Party was organizing demonstrations against the Iraq war, the ambassador called a high ranking cabinet member to tell him to rein it in.
“The Ambassador contacted National Security Adviser Carles Casajuana on March 21 to express his concern regarding the increasingly shrill rhetoric on Iraq on the part of the ruling Socialist Party and its allies. The Ambassador said that the PSOE was dragging the USG [United States Government] into Spain’s domestic political arena, a fact that could only harm bilateral relations. The Ambassador said that he was aware of the political context, but that he was running out of patience with unfair Government and PSOE statements regarding the U.S.
“6. (C) Casajuana said that the political environment was “highly polarized” at the moment and blamed the PP for having stirred the pot on the ETA issue in an inflammatory manner. He acknowledged that the PSOE had judged that it could counter attack by resurfacing the Iraq issue and going after Aznar himself, particularly since the timing coincided with the fourth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq. Casajuana said he understood that the “spillover” of the debate had impacted USG sensitivities, but said he expected the Iraq issue to run its course in the next couple of days. Casajuana said he would relay the Ambassador’s concerns immediately to President Zapatero, emphasizing the Zapatero Government’s desire to keep this issue under control. The Ambassador asked that President Zapatero act to tamp down the matter and avoid fueling anti-American sentiment as the political campaign continued.
“7. (C) The DCM will follow up with a similar message to other officials and has requested meetings with PSOE Secretary Blanco and PSOE International Relations Secretary Elena Valenciano to ask that they leave the U.S. out of their political campaign.” (Emphasis ours in this and all the following quotes) Cable 07MADRID520
In other countries, the American diplomats have had years to cultivate a relationship with the ruling party, such as the “special relationship” with the UK. One interesting excerpt comes from a meeting between Jon Day, British MOD Director General for Security Policy and an American official, where they discuss the upcoming public inquiry into the Iraq war.
“Day also promised that the UK had ‘put measures in place to protect your interests’ during the UK inquiry into the causes of the Iraq war. He noted that Iraq seems no longer to be a major issue in the U.S., but he said it would become a big issue — a ‘feeding frenzy’ — in the UK ‘when the inquiry takes off’.” Cable 09LONDON2198
This inquiry was launched by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and publicly billed as a “historic” and “impartial” inquiry. The cable shows that behind the scenes, the New Labour bureaucrats manoeuvred to ensure it would not damage American interests.
But US diplomats do not restrict their activity to contact with governments of the day. There are other tools at their disposal to guarantee the safeguarding of American interests. In Sweden, in a meeting with the chargé d’affaires of the American embassy, Urban Ahlin volunteered, saying he could be “useful” for American imperialism on several issues. Ahlin is a right-wing Social Democrat member of parliament, and describes himself as such. Ahlin asked the embassy to help ensure Social Democrat MPs would vote for an extension and expansion of Sweden’s military role in Afghanistan, despite the anti-war mood of the rank-and-file.
“In anticipation of the debate on this extension, Ahlin emphasized it would be necessary for the Social Democrats to be able to explain why they are supporting the UN’s and NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan. This story could best be told by Afghanis. Ahlin asked for our help in getting a senior Afghanistan government official to come to Sweden to relate humanitarian stories such as how the Swedish and NATO efforts are allowing girls to go to school, keeping the country from being taken over by drug lords, and keeping the Taliban from oppressing the people. Ahlin suggested it would be useful for NATO to distribute at its Bucharest summit a sheet telling the story of NATO’s humanitarian role in Afghanistan.
“[…] Ahlin noted that he is perceived as being on the right wing of his party on security issues and relations with the U.S. He is well-wired across the spectrum in Stockholm, and is willing to play a useful role regarding Afghanistan and Kosovo.” Cable 08STOCKHOLM51
The cable also refers to Lennmarker, a representative of the governing party who was in the same meeting. So here we have both the government and the main opposition party providing their services to the US embassy, and meeting to arrive at a common strategy to implement policies which suit American imperialism.
Elsewhere, embassies are busy managing the empire’s public image. In Canada, the embassy seemed to become concerned that the entertainment of their neighbours to the north was painting the CIA and Homeland Security negatively.
“CIA rendition flights, schemes to steal Canada’s water, ‘the Guantanamo-Syria express,’ F-16’s flying in for bombing runs in Quebec to eliminate escaped terrorists: in response to the onslaught, one media commentator concluded, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that ‘apparently, our immigration department’s real enemies aren’t terrorists or smugglers — they’re Americans.’ While this situation hardly constitutes a public diplomacy crisis per se, the degree of comfort with which Canadian broadcast entities, including those financed by Canadian tax dollars, twist current events to feed long-standing negative images of the U.S. — and the extent to which the Canadian public seems willing to indulge in the feast – is noteworthy as an indication of the kind of insidious negative popular stereotyping we are increasingly up against in Canada.”
The embassy is also upset that Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar is referenced on one show. The CIA kidnapped him in a case of mistaken identity and sent him to Syria to be secretly tortured. The facts of this case were a scandal in the country, and Canadian courts awarded him substantial compensation because of the involvement of Canadian intelligence (CSIS) in the events.
“The clash between the Americans and Canadians got started early in the season and has continued unabated. In episode one a Syrian terrorist with a belt full of gel-based explosives is removed from a plane in Canada while the Canadian-Syrian man sitting next to him is rendered by the CIA/CSIS team to Syria — a fairly transparent reference to the Maher Arar case. Fortunately for the incarcerated individual, the sympathetic Canadian Immigration and Customs Security official recognizes the mistake and shrewdly causes the government to rescue him from a Syrian jail through organized media pressure. The episode ends with a preview of things to come when one of the Canadian immigration officers notes with disgust, ‘Homeland Security is sending in some hot shot agent’.” Cable 08OTTAWA136
The CBC is a state owned television network, whose budget allowed it to develop its own programming in the past. One such programme was a mini-series mentioned in the report, which revolves around an American-sponsored coup in Canada. That budget has since been cut by the Conservative Harper government.
Leaders from the advanced capitalist countries who have appeared in these leaks are understandably upset. These leaks speak volumes about the real worth of bourgeois democracy. In case after case, we can see how the decisions are made not at the ballot box, but often behind closed doors, and sometimes with the direct intervention of the American embassy. This is at the root of the indignation being vented by all the governments that have closed ranks around the US and joined a chorus of legal and public attacks on WikiLeaks.
Iraq, Iran and the Middle East
While the Ottawa embassy may have enough time to extensively report on local spy dramas, in the Middle East the American diplomats are in crisis mode. In the conversations with allies in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, the focus is on Iran and a possible bombing campaign against its nuclear programme.
In the UAE, the ruling class is particularly concerned about the blowback from any US or Israeli strike, and the possibility they may be a target for Iranian retaliation.
“Iran is recognized as Israel’s biggest threat in the region and Israel will attack Iran with little or no notice. Following an Israeli attack, the UAE is convinced Iran will lash out against those who ‘help Israel,’ or the allies of Israel’s friends, most significantly the UAE.” Cable 09ABUDHABI192
Saudi Arabian royals have been pressing the US to bomb Iran, fearing the consequences of allowing Iran’s ruling class to continue expanding its ambitions in the region and to bolster its position with nuclear arms.
“The King, Foreign Minister, Prince Muqrin, and Prince Nayif all agreed that the Kingdom needs to cooperate with the US on resisting and rolling back Iranian influence and subversion in Iraq. The King was particularly adamant on this point, and it was echoed by the senior princes as well. Al-Jubeir recalled the King’s frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program. ‘He told you to cut off the head of the snake,’ he recalled to the Charge’, adding that working with the US to roll back Iranian influence in Iraq is a strategic priority for the King and his government.” Cable 08RIYADH649
Publicly, no Arab leader could admit to encouraging the US or Israel to carry out such an attack, but this is the position of the client states of US imperialism, all of whom are watching Iranian influence and economic interests grow, particularly in Iraq and Lebanon. Where Iranian interests grow, theirs are nudged out, and a nuclear Iran cannot be easily knocked back down. Saudi Arabia particularly has a long term investment in Lebanon with the Hariri family, and is watching with concern as Iran freely operates in Iraq. Iran and Syria have conquered markets for their goods there, and Iran is increasing its influence on local militias, just as it did in Lebanon.
“[Name removed] commented that most farmers support PM Maliki for his increasingly non-sectarian political message and success in improving security. However, he complained that Iran and Syria were waging economic warfare on Iraqi farmers by flooding provincial markets with low cost/quality produce that are heavily subsidized by their respective governments.” Cable 09BAGHDAD3195
American imperialism has attempted over the past period to find a way out of Iraq, first by attempting to come to some sort of entente with the Iranian regime, or failing that, by attempting to come to a deal with the Syrian state apparatus to break it away from its relationship with Iran and away from Hamas and Hezbollah. The Syrian state is open to coming to some sort of arrangement with American and Israeli imperialism, but it is not completely optimistic about such a prospect. It therefore leans on Hamas, Hezbollah, and maintains ties with Iran as a counterweight to Israeli power, and it makes clear this will not change until after a deal has been reached:
“On comprehensive peace, Asad reiterated Syria’s strong desire to return to Turkish-facilitated indirect talks with Israel as a means to establish agreed terms of reference for direct negotiations. Syria’s relations with Iran should not be linked to Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations. Syria’s ties to Hamas, Hizballah, and other groups could be satisfactorily resolved only after the achievement of a comprehensive regional peace, Asad maintained.” Cable 10DAMASCUS8
This is further made clear in a discussion between an envoy of American senators and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad:
“Regarding the disarmament of Hizballah, Asad argued ‘Hizballah has no specific interest in Israel besides securing Lebanon’s borders and preventing threats to Lebanon’s integrity, like Israel’s daily violations of Lebanese airspace.’ Asad noted Hizballah was the most powerful political party in Lebanon, was democratically elected, and if peace in the region were to be achieved, ‘the small things’ with Hizballah and Hamas would disappear. ‘Let’s talk about the peace. This is the big picture that will solve everything.’ Asad likened the U.S.’s approach to Hizballah to trying to patch an old suit when a new suit was needed. Senator Cardin countered that peace would very likely go forward if Syria would stop the arms flow to Hizballah. The senator noted many countries thought Syria was concerned about possible repercussions with Iran if it were to take the initiative on stopping arms to Hizballah. Asad responded Syria had been in negotiations with Israel with no concern for Iran’s opinion. He told the story of how Iranian President Ahmedinejad called him just before the Annapolis conference and implored him not to send anyone, that it was a ‘bad meeting,’ but that they sent a representative anyway. ‘I told him I know it (Annapolis) is just a photo op. But I am sending someone anyway. We do what we think is good for our interests; it’s not dependent on Iran,’ he contended.” Cable 09DAMASCUS179
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has a different kind of solution to wresting control of Iraq from the Iranian-backed militias and building a stable client regime. In a discussion with Senator Baird, he is very frank about the need to have a military coup and install a dictatorship. Considering the fact that Hosni Mubarak is one of the most important American allies in the region, and receives arms and funding on a scale only second to Israel, this free advice on how to impose American interests is indicative of the kind of regimes that the US relies on:
“Asked about whether the U.S. should set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, Mubarak said ‘you cannot leave’ because ‘you would leave Iran in control.’ Mubarak explained his recipe for a way forward: ‘strengthen the armed forces, relax your hold, and then you will have a coup. Then we will have a dictator, but a fair one. Forget democracy, the Iraqis are by their nature too tough.” Cable 08CAIRO1067
In the meantime, Israeli imperialism is actively making preparations to attack Iran, an act that could plunge the region’s working masses into a very bloody war, including the Israeli workers who would have no part in the decision. American diplomats discussed the delivery of weapons to facilitate such an attack, and how to ensure this weaponry would not be traced back to American imperialism.
“The GOI [Government of Israel] described 2010 as a critical year — if the Iranians continue to protect and harden their nuclear sites, it will be more difficult to target and damage them. Both sides then discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran.” Cable 09TELAVIV2500
These cables further reveal the extent of the instability in the Middle East. As we’ve said before, George Bush invaded Iraq hoping to make of it a quick example and strengthen American imperialism’s hold on the region and the world. Instead, its weaknesses were exposed for all to see. The mess created opened the door for Iran, and in the years since the war it has gained a strong foothold in Iraq, in Lebanon and in Gaza. It is clear from the cables that the local office boys of US imperialism are worried, and increasingly see an attack on Iran as the only way out. In reality, this would only lead to an even more volatile situation, but their increasing desperation may precipitate an attack sooner rather than later. Please see our article Tension rising in Middle East: Could Israel attack Iran and why?, which has been confirmed in large part by the contents of these secret cables.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and the “Great Game”
Iran is an irritation further east as well, where America is still fighting a war in Afghanistan and even inside Pakistan. This is a strategic region, which has previously seen such a rush to divide the spoils. In earlier times, major powers, with Britain on top, were engaged in a similar scramble for control. Prince Andrew, who seems to still be living in his romantic ideal of British colonialism, made clear at a brunch in Bishkek that the great game is back.
“Addressing the Ambassador directly, Prince Andrew then turned to regional politics. He stated baldly that ‘the United Kingdom, Western Europe (and by extension you Americans too)’ were now back in the thick of playing the Great Game. More animated than ever, he stated cockily: ‘And this time we aim to win!’”
And of course, the Great Game means being able to take control at any cost, it means lubricating the gears of the local officials, even if it takes a little bit of bribery.
“The brunch had already lasted almost twice its allotted time, but the Prince looked like he was just getting started. Having exhausted the topic of Kyrgyzstan, he turned to the general issue of promoting British economic interests abroad. He railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the ‘idiocy’ of almost scuttling the Al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia. (NOTE: The Duke was 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. END NOTE.) His mother’s subjects seated around the table roared their approval. He then went on to ‘these (expletive) journalists, especially from the National Guardian, who poke their noses everywhere’ and (presumably) make it harder for British businessmen to do business. The crowd practically clapped. He then capped this off with a zinger: castigating ‘our stupid (sic) British and American governments which plan at best for ten years whereas people in this part of the world plan for centuries.’ There were calls of ‘hear, hear’ in the private brunch hall.” Cable 08BISHKEK1095
Here we can see clearly to what extent the bourgeois state acts directly in the interests of the capitalist class, even defending their right to use corruption to gain advantages against their competitors. Then it should be no surprise that the “democracy” that western youth are being sent to die for in Afghanistan includes $52 million dollars in cash for the country’s Vice President, no questions asked. The New York Times described one cable which has yet to be released in full in the following terms:
“When Afghanistan’s vice president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local authorities working with the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash. With wry understatement, a cable from the American Embassy in Kabul called the money ‘a significant amount’ that the official, Ahmed Zia Massoud, ‘was ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money’s origin or destination.’ (Mr. Massoud denies taking any money out of Afghanistan.)” Leaked Cables Offer Raw Look at U.S. Diplomacy
Neither should it be surprising that the US work closely with President Karzai’s younger brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, even though he is known to be a corrupt drug dealer:
“Unprompted, AWK raised allegations of his involvement in narcotics, telling the SCR that he is willing to take a polygraph anytime, anywhere to prove his innocence and that he has hired an attorney in New York to clear his name. […]AWK dismissed the narcotics allegations as part of a campaign to discredit him, particularly by the media, saying the allegations are ‘like a spice added to a dish to make it more enticing to eat.’ […] He appears not to understand the level of our knowledge of his activities, and that the coalition views many of his activities as malign, particularly relating to his influence over the police. We will need to monitor his activity closely, and deliver a recurring, transparent message to him of where are redlines are and what we expect of him in the months ahead.”
In the same cable, we are reminded of the reality that the Afghan war strategy is being shifted towards coming to some sort of agreement with elements of the Taliban, with Ahmed Wali Karzai encouraging the Americans to remove some of their fighters from the wanted list so they could make a deal:
“Senior Taliban fighters in Pakistan may be prepared to reintegrate, he said, but are forced by the Pakistan Government to continue to fight. AWK said some Afghan Taliban commanders cannot return to Afghanistan because they are on the Joint Priority Effects List (JPEL) and are told by the Pakistanis they must continue to fight or will be turned over to the coalition. It is important to remove such fighters from the JPEL for reintegration to work, he argued” Cable 10KABUL693
This deal of course, will not mean any improvement of life for the Afghan working masses. The same religious barbarian Taliban, that were in power and maintained control through brutal methods nine years ago, will be back in power to some degree, perhaps in a coalition of some sort. So for regular Afghans, it will be like coming full circle. Thousands have died and been maimed, only to see the return of the Taliban to power, only that this time round it would be a Taliban faction that is more open to American plans for the region.
Over the last decade, American cluster bombs have played a big role in the destruction of the country. These are bombs that scatter across a vast area before exploding, ensuring maximum death and mutilation. There is nothing targeted about them: innocent people are often caught in the blasts and they have become the focus of much of the hatred of the occupation in Afghanistan. When a treaty banning their use was agreed, US embassy officials scrambled to find a loophole. The US is not a signatory, and regularly uses these weapons, but the Afghan government did sign. As we see, even UN treaties, public bourgeois diplomacy, are nothing but a cover for the real decisions made behind closed doors.
“According to timely Post reporting, President Karzai decided at the last moment to overrule Spanta [the then Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs] and sign the CCM [Convention on Cluster Munitions] without prior consultation with the USG or other key states engaged in operations in Afghanistan. Information from Post and the press indicates that even ardent supporters of the CCM who had been lobbying Kabul for some time were unaware of the change in policy until December 3, when Afghanistan formally signed the treaty. Moreover, at least parts of the Foreign Ministry appeared unaware of the policy change, as of December 10 (ref C). Given the political sensitivities in Afghanistan surrounding cluster munitions as well as air and artillery strikes in general, the Department believes that a relatively low-profile dialogue at the sub-ministerial level will be the best way to ensure a common understanding between the USG and GIRoA [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan] that the CCM does not impede U.S. and ISAF military planning and operations.” Cable 08STATE134777
Within the labour movement internationally it is very common to see the United Nations presented as some kind of impartial arbiter that can be counted on to solve conflicts. We have always explained the falseness of this view. For anyone who may have held out some hope in UN treaties, this cable shatters any illusion that such treaties and institutions are anything more than PR for imperialist interests. They are pieces of paper to be bandied about for public consumption while the imperialist get on with their serious business behind the scenes.
Revolution, Counterrevolution and the Coup in Honduras
Embassies in Latin America have also been busy. US imperialism was very concerned to control the message it sent out during the Honduran coup in 2009, eager not to be seen as being implicated. They worked to preserve deniability in case the coup backfired as was the case in Venezuela in 2002, but also diligently avoided the use of the term “coup”.
Later, they would give backing to an election organized by the coup-plotters to legitimize the coup. While the cable on the coup seems to imply that the embassy was not involved in the direct planning of the events, it bluntly refers to it as an illegal coup in a way that was not done publicly.
Had they publicly admitted that what had occurred was a coup, they would have had some problems in justifying before “public opinion” their manoeuvres, as US law would forbid them from having any further dealings with the coup plotters. The law states that military and financial aid would have to be cut off immediately if a democratically elected government were overthrown by a coup. So, one month after the cable made clear that there was no doubt that this was an illegal and unconstitutional coup, the public response was to pretend not to know what was happening:
“And you’re correct that there are provisions in our law that have to be applied if it is determined that this is a military coup. And frankly, our lawyers are looking at that exact question. And when we get the answer to that, you are right, there will be things that – if it is determined that this was a military coup, there will be things that will kick in.
“As you know, on the ground, there’s a lot of discussion about who did what to whom and what things were constitutional or not, which is why our lawyers are really looking at the event as we understand them in order to come out with the accurate determination.”WikiLeaks Honduras: State Dept. Busted on Support of Coup
US imperialism, though it may not have directly sanctioned the actions of its local allies, carried out a public relations campaign on their behalf once the deed was done, intended to convince the world precisely of the opposite of what its own diplomats were privately saying:
“The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch […]
“Regardless of the merits of Zelaya’s alleged constitutional violations, it is clear from even a cursory reading that his removal by military means was illegal, and even the most zealous of coup defenders have been unable to make convincing arguments to bridge the intellectual gulf between ‘Zelaya broke the law’ to ‘therefore, he was packed off to Costa Rica by the military without a trial.’[…]”
But why allow a good coup to go to waste? American imperialism attempted to negotiate Zelaya’s return by bringing both sides into some sort of agreement, alluded to in the cable. Presumably, such a negotiated deal would have needed Zelaya to give up any thought of further reforms which would harm the interests of the very same oligarchy that was behind his overthrow and of the American government which was their patron.
“Nonetheless, the very Constitutional uncertainty that presented the political class with this dilemma may provide the seeds for a solution. The coup’s most ardent legal defenders have been unable to make the intellectual leap from their arguments regarding Zelaya’s alleged crimes to how those allegations justified dragging him out of his bed in the night and flying him to Costa Rica. That the Attorney General’s office and the Supreme Court now reportedly question the legality of that final step is encouraging and may provide a face-saving ‘out’ for the two opposing sides in the current standoff.” Cable 09TEGUCIGALPA645
And when that didn’t work, they called an election to legitimize the coup.
In Venezuela, the American embassy was directly involved in deciding the next step in the battle against the revolution. The embassy felt the opposition needed to seize on the failures of the revolution by promising “additional programs to redistribute the oil wealth”. It also lays heavy emphasis on the need to contrast the failings of the revolution with the amounts being spent abroad in aid, whipping up nationalism.
“The Opposition Has Failed…
14. (C) Some of Chavez’ opponents appear to be trying to inflame a prejudice against Cubans that is uncommon among Venezuelans. They rant about ‘Cuban invaders’ and ‘sovereignty violations’ that resonate little with the Venezuelan poor. Opposition politicians also berate Chavez for attempting to introduce Cuban communism, although few Venezuelans believe he will do so. […]
15. (C) The political opposition does little to exploit alleged medical malpractice in Mision Barrio Adentro or to report on returning Mision Milagro patients’ impressions of Cuba. In fact, much of the opposition remains ignorant of how such missions work because it does not reach out to poor neighborhoods for the most part. […]
…But Finally Getting the Picture?
16. (U) Primero Justicia (PJ) has been the only political party to criticize Chavez consistently for his handouts to other countries. Promising additional programs to redistribute oil wealth, PJ presidential candidate Julio Borges has asked the BRV [Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela] to explain why ordinary Venezuelans are not receiving the money sent to Cuba, according to press reports. With the closure of the Caracas-La Guaira bridge, other elements of the opposition are also beginning to contrast BRV gifts abroad with problems at home.” Cable 06CARACAS219
This cable seems to foreshadow the shifts in the opposition’s tactics, which have borne fruit in the most recent National Assembly elections. It shows that the imperialists understand that the real weakness in Venezuela is to be found in the fact that the revolution has not done enough to solve the problems of the masses, and that the opposition should seize on this by promising to do more. This flies in the face of the arguments of the reformists, who claim that the revolution is moving too fast. The enemy knows otherwise!
Imperialists in a frenzy
On the diplomatic cables released, Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, had this to say, as reported in the British Guardian newspaper:
“‘It is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.’
“The US had been working hard to deal with the global recession and the threat posed by terrorists, Clinton said; the leaks undermined this work.
“‘There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing brave about sabotaging peaceful relations between nations on which our common security depends,’ she said.
“While she said she would not comment directly on the cables or their substance, she said that the government would take ‘aggressive steps’ to hold responsible those who ‘stole’ them.
“‘The United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential, including private discussions between counterparts or our diplomats’ personal assessments and observations,’ she told reporters.” Hillary Clinton attacks release of US embassy cables
When Barack Obama took office, he promised to make government transparent:
“[…] the way to make government accountable is make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they’re being made, and whether their interests are being well served. […] Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.” REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN WELCOMING SENIOR STAFF AND CABINET SECRETARIES TO THE WHITE HOUSE
Those words of Obama reveal that he is the perfect diplomat. He knows how to put together pretty words, and lie eloquently. According to Obama and Hillary, those who “sought to make” these confidential documents “known” committed a crime. As with all of Obama’s promises, his role as defender in chief of American imperialism takes precedence over any nice speeches about transparency and truth.
In the week before the release of the documents, Clinton and other US diplomats spoke to the governments of Afghanistan, Britain, the People’s Republic of China, France, Saudi Arabia, Germany, United Arab Emirates, India, Iraq, Turkey, Canada, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Pakistan, Denmark, Russia, Norway, Iceland, Colombia, and Sweden to prepare them for the details that were about to be released.
But other preparations had already begun when Bradley Manning was arrested in May of this year, and the hacker who betrayed him revealed he had told him he had provided WikiLeaks with these cables.
In Sweden, on the night of August 20th, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was charged with sexual assault. Assange responded by claiming he was being smeared: “the charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing”.
The very next morning, August 21st, chief prosecutor Eva Finné overruled the prosecutor on duty the previous night and withdrew the charges saying: “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape”. On September 1st, orders came from even higher in the Swedish government, Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny decided to reopen the case, claiming new information had been received.
And only a week before the release of the cables, having ignored all attempts by Assange to voluntarily answer any questions at the Swedish embassy in London, Sweden issued an international arrest warrant, claiming they were unable to contact Assange for interrogation. It has since emerged that the two women who brought forward the charges originally did not want to pursue them, but only to ask Assange to take a test, because a condom had broken during consensual sex.
Whatever the truth of the allegations, they are clearly being used politically, and a fair trial is ruled out under these circumstances. Katrin Axelsson, of the organisation Women Against Rape, in a letter to the British Guardian has pointed out that: “Many women in both Sweden and Britain will wonder at the unusual zeal with which Julian Assange is being pursued for rape allegations… There is a long tradition of the use of rape and sexual assault for political agendas that have nothing to do with women’s safety.”
One can be justified in asking the question: had Assange not been the founder of WikiLeaks but an unknown figure guilty of rape, would there have been an international arrest warrant sought against him, would there have been any attempt to extradite him?
However, just in case the accusations of rape should not suffice to achieve their aims, US officials have also made clear that they are looking for ways to charge Assange under American espionage laws.
Assange voluntarily gave himself up to police in Britain on Tuesday, where he was promptly arrested and denied bail, when it is standard practice to grant bail in such cases. Extradition proceedings to send him to Sweden are expected soon, and diplomatic sources have already leaked that discussions have begun to extradite him to the US from there.
But the attack on WikiLeaks is not only a legal one. At the very beginning of the leaks, the site was the target of a mass distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack which brought it down for the first few days. Now, corporations across the world have begun to take action against the site. First, amazon.com, whose EC2 storage service WikiLeaks had been using to back up the site, cut it off. Then EveryDNS, a service which allows users to access the site by typing the wikileaks.org address instead of the IP number, booted it off. As the chorus grew from politicians across the world calling on companies to follow suit, PayPal shut down the account WikiLeaks uses to collect donations. In the past few days, Switzerland’s Postfinance closed down Assange’s legal defence fund bank account because he did not meet “residency requirements”. That may well be the first ever case of a Swiss bank paying any attention to the residency requirement laws. They were followed by MasterCard and Visa both blocking transactions to the site.
In a statement, PayPal made crystal clear what was behind all of these attacks:
“What happened is that on November 27th [the day before Wikileaks began releasing cables] the State Department, the US government basically, wrote a letter saying that the Wikileaks activities were deemed illegal in the United States. And so our policy group had to take a decision to suspend the account… It was straightforward from our point of view.” Wikileaks under attack: the definitive timeline
Since then, a group of thousands of anonymous youth have brought down the sites for many of these companies, even managing to distupt MasterCard transactions across the internet entirely, for brief periods. (See: Operation Payback cripples MasterCard site in revenge for WikiLeaks ban).
The site has also been copied to thousands of other servers, in an attempt to prevent it from being taken down.
The attacks continue, with Tom Flanagan, a former senior advisor to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling for Assange to be assassinated. US Republican Sarah Palin, called for him to be deemed a terrorist and “hunted down”.
Bradley Manning, Sacrificed to Protect “Secret Diplomacy”
“We know, furthermore, that our “defencists” vehemently support the Milyukovs’ refusal to publish the secret treaties. These so-called socialist have sunk so low as to defend secret diplomacy, and the secret diplomacy of the ex-tsar at that. Why do the supporters of the imperialist war guard the secret of these treaties so zealously?” (V. I. Lenin, One of the Secret Treaties)
Lenin and the Bolsheviks always stood against bourgeois secret diplomacy, which is the conspiracy of the imperialist powers against the working masses of the world. There is no difference between the secret treaties of those days, and the embassy cables of today. In both cases, the purpose of keeping them secret is to ensure the bourgeoisie’s ability to continue manipulating the working class, sending them out to die to protect profits and conquer markets and resources for the bosses.
Soldiers may honestly believe their life is worth sacrificing to protect women’s rights and bring democracy to Afghanistan, or to defend their “homeland” against the use of “weapons of mass destruction”. It is much more difficult to convince them to make this sacrifice for Ahmed Wali Karzai’s dirty money or for returning the Taliban to power while protecting America’s economic interests. Neither can they convince the working classes of the need to cut their standards of living, without hiding the fact that so many billions have been spent on wars that are nothing but the defence of criminal dealings across the world.
After the October revolution, the Bolsheviks threw open the books on these kinds of secret treaties. Trotsky issued a statement explaining why, which we feel is as relevant today as it was back in 1917.
“Secret diplomacy is a necessary tool for a propertied minority which is compelled to deceive the majority in order to subject it to its interests. Imperialism, with its dark plans of conquest and its robber alliances and deals, developed the system of secret diplomacy to the highest level. The struggle against the imperialism which is exhausting and destroying the peoples of Europe is at the same time a struggle against capitalist diplomacy, which has cause enough to fear the light of day. The Russian people, and the peoples of Europe and the whole world, should learn the documentary truth about the plans forged in secret by the financiers and industrialists together with their parliamentary and diplomatic agents. The peoples of Europe have paid for the right to this truth with countless sacrifices and universal economic desolation.
“The abolition of secret diplomacy is the primary condition for an honest, popular, truly democratic foreign policy. The Soviet Government regards it as its duty to carry out such a policy in practice. That is precisely why, while openly proposing an immediate armistice to all the belligerent peoples and their Governments, we are at the same time publishing these treaties and agreements, which have lost all binding force for the Russian workers, soldiers, and peasants who have taken power into their own hands.” (Statement by Trotsky on the publication of the secret treaties, 22 November 1917 )
The exposure of these secrets deals a real political blow to the bourgeoisie’s moral authority. Without moral authority, passive support from the working masses they exploit, the bourgeoisie could not maintain its position. In Latin America, and in many other parts of the world, they have periodically lost this authority, and have had to resort to military coups to stem the tide of the masses, i.e. they have had to impose their will through brute force.
They understand, however, that brute force alone is not enough to hold down the masses. The working people are the overwhelming majority in society. If they move en masse against the ruling class there would be no force on earth that could stop them. That is why the ruling class invests so much in all kinds of means that are designed to keep a hold of the minds of millions of ordinary people. Wars are justified as being “for democracy” or for “security”, when in reality they are to defend the profits, privileges and prestige of the ruling classes.
The reaction of the mighty and powerful to the public exposure of their secret dealings has brought out real rage. They are using everything they can to put the genie back in the bottle. They have attempted to close down the WikiLeaks site, strangle it of financial backing by getting Credit card companies to boycott it, and demanding the arrest of its founder.
They are also planning on destroying Bradley Manning’s life to protect their right to hide their true face. Manning is 23 years old, a working class kid who worked as an intelligence analyst stationed in Iraq.
After having passed off all of the documents to WikiLeaks, Manning contacted Adrian Lamo, a former hacker turned security specialist. In a chat with him, Manning revealed what he had done and what had motivated him.
Some of the more salient parts of the chat are the following:
“(12:15:11 PM) bradass87: hypothetical question: if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… say, 8-9 months… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?
“(12:21:24 PM) bradass87: say… a database of half a million events during the iraq war… from 2004 to 2009… with reports, date time groups, lat-lon locations, casualty figures… ? or 260,000 state department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world, explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective?
“(12:59:41 PM) bradass87: uhm… crazy, almost criminal political backdealings… the non-PR-versions of world events and crises… uhm… all kinds of stuff like everything from the buildup to the Iraq War during Powell, to what the actual content of “aid packages” is: for instance, PR that the US is sending aid to pakistan includes funding for water/food/clothing… that much is true, it includes that, but the other 85% of it is for F-16 fighters and munitions to aid in the Afghanistan effort, so the US can call in Pakistanis to do aerial bombing instead of americans potentially killing civilians and creating a PR crisis
“(1:00:57 PM) bradass87: theres so much… it affects everybody on earth… everywhere there’s a US post… there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed… Iceland, the Vatican, Spain, Brazil, Madascar, if it’s a country, and its recognized by the US as a country, it’s got dirt on it”
[To see the whole chat and comments go to: Wikileaks: a somewhat less redacted version of the Lamo/Manning logs]
Unfortunately for Bradley, he was being naive to the extreme. Despite promising him that this conversation would be kept in confidence, Lamo handed the logs of the chat over to the US government, calling it an act of “conscience”. In this Lamo merely revealed his allegiance to the interests of the US ruling class.
This awkward youth, gay and the son of divorced parents, ostracized within the army, saw enough in Iraq to convince him that the world had to find out. The chat logs show how uncomfortable he was with the possibility that his face would be everywhere as a result of his actions.
“i just… dont wish to be a part of it… at least not now… im not ready… i wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me… plastered all over the world press…”
He did not seek fame; only felt it necessary to expose what he had found on the global network that shared diplomatic, intelligence and military reports between different departments. But before he stumbled onto the documents, he had already begun to lose faith in the mission in Iraq in his regular duties at Forward Operating Base Hammer. In Manning’s chats with Lamo, he described one particular event as being a turning point:
“Manning had been tasked with evaluating the arrest of 15 Iraqis rounded up by the Iraqi Federal Police for printing “anti Iraq” literature. “The Iraqi federal police wouldn’t cooperate with U.S. forces, so I was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the ‘bad guys’ were, and how significant this was for the FPs,” he wrote.
“But when Manning had the literature translated, he discovered it was a scholarly critique of Iraq Prime Minister Al-Maliki titled Where Did the Money Go?, he wrote. The document was nothing more than a “benign political critique … following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet.
““I immediately took that information and ran to the [U.S. Army] officer to explain what was going on. He didn’t want to hear any of it. He told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding MORE detainees.”
“He continued. “Everything started slipping after that. I saw things differently. I had always questioned the [way] things worked, and investigated to find the truth. But that was a point where I was a part of something. I was actively involved in something that I was completely against.”” Suspected Wikileaks Source Described Crisis of Conscience Leading to Leaks
Bradley Manning is an honest working class kid, who decided to do something about what he had seen. His “crime” is that he has exposed the secret dealings of American imperialism, the secret massacres in Iraq and Afghanistan. What cynical hypocrisy it is, to call this a crime. The real crimes are committed by the world’s bourgeois, as they conspire behind the backs of the masses to divide up the planet. Using working class youth like Bradley as pawns, sacrificed like lambs to impose the will of oligarchs on peoples in distant lands.
The working masses in Iraq and Afghanistan have far more in common with the Bradley Mannings of this world than with the local gangster bourgeois class he exposed in the cables. In these cables, it becomes even clearer just how much these elements are wedded to the imperialist powers, and how lucrative such an arrangement can be for them. As their people die and starve, they make off with millions.
This is what Manning has exposed. However, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone who has any understanding of how capitalist society functions. Most of what has been revealed has merely confirmed what Marxists have always maintained. However, it is one thing for the advanced layers of the working class and youth to be conscious of all this, it is a completely different matter if the wider masses are made aware of these secret dealings.
In normal times, most people accept the dominant views as expressed through the media, the education system, the local church, and so on. According to this outlook, the state is an impartial “democratic” institution. We are all supposed to be equal before the law. The truth is very different.
As Marx put it in the Communist Manifesto, “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” Engels put it thus: “As the state arose from the need to keep class antagonisms in check, but also arose in the thick of the fight between the classes, it is normally the state of the most powerful, economically ruling class, which by its means becomes also the politically ruling class, and so acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class.”
The secrets of diplomacy are one of these means, and normally they remain precisely that, secrets! Bradley Manning stumbled on these secrets. They confirmed to him what he was already beginning to suspect from his experiences in the army. In this sense his revelations are an accident. But it was an accident waiting to happen, especially in the epoch of the Internet!
All this comes about at a key juncture in history. Capitalism is in the throes of a crisis that in the long run threatens to devour it. In all the major advanced capitalist countries severe austerity measures are being imposed. Pensions are being cut, people are being forced to work longer, healthcare is under attack; everything that makes for a civilised existence is under threat. Education is to become a privilege reserved for those with money, while for the children of workers higher education will become beyond their reach.
While all this is happening we have one scandal after another that reveal the rottenness of the system. In Britain we had the MPs’ expenses scandal. In Italy we have Berlusconi using his personal wealth to wield influence well beyond his remit as prime minister. In France Sarkozy is seen as living it up while the masses suffer. In the underdeveloped world it is far worse, where we see ruling elites living in the lap of luxury while all around them people suffer in the depths of poverty.
The financial crisis that started in 2007 led to a situation where the whole banking system was facing the possibility of collapse. The state everywhere stepped in and handed over billions to the bankers, and now the working people of the world are being forced to pay.
All this is creating a very angry mood among ordinary working people. The bourgeoisie has enough on its plate trying to convince the workers and youth that austerity measures are necessary. What they didn’t need was WikiLeaks spilling the beans with the biggest exposure of their secret dealings ever seen in history.
Now WikiLeaks and its founder Assange are under attack as the high and mighty do everything to try and stem this tide. The individuals involved, people like Manning and Assange, have done a service to all people who seek truth and justice. But the truth by itself is not enough. Individuals, however heroic they may be, stand no chance alone against the power the bosses have amassed in their industries and their state. To break open the vaults where their secret dealings lie hidden, we must break their power, as the workers did in Russia in the October revolution. Then there will be nowhere for them to hide.
However, anyone hoping that the imperialists will be shamed into changing their behaviour by these exposures should take a look at the prison cells where Bradley Manning and Julian Assange are being kept; look at the way the multinational corporations are closing ranks and using all their power in an attempt to silence WikiLeaks.
Simply exposing their dealings – although a positive step – is not enough. Only the overthrow of capitalism will put an end to the scandals exposed, scandals which merely highlight the everyday functioning of imperialism. When ordinary working people finally achieve real power, the power to decide their own destiny, which means power over the means of production, will secret diplomacy finally end.
Hands off Bradley Manning and Assange!
Down with bourgeois secret diplomacy!