After a year of leaks, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in particular an April video taken from a US helicopter in Iraq in 2007 showing GIs shooting at least 12 innocent Iraqis like rabbits, has emerged, thanks to the response of the US authorities, as a hero. Beginning in July 2010, his site issued half a million US military documents on the American-led predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The final straw that broke the US imperialist camel’s back was a batch of 250,000 US diplomatic notes (written between 28 December 1966 and 28 February 2010, but mostly relating to the past four years) leaked in November, laying bare a US diplomatic service increasingly acting as a branch of the CIA, as well as the duplicity and cynicism that characterised the imperialist regimes and their Arab stooges in their passion to destroy Iran.
These documents originate from 272 (sent to or from) US embassies or consulates and diplomatic missions, with more than 15,000 classified “secret”. To the seasoned students of imperialism, the secrets revealed by the latest diplomatic leaks may amount to absolutely nothing unusual, but for the average person to see the same in black and white would nevertheless be startling, for he will have his eyes opened to the fact that US diplomats spy as well as lie, that US diplomatic missions abroad are a mere cover for CIA spying and act as dens for the subversion of governments considered unfriendly by the US. They will be a source of huge embarrassment to the US ruling class, its imperialist allies, as well as its stooge Gulf statelets and other regimes in the Middle East. Listed below is a random bouquet of the revelations brought to light by these diplo leaks – clearly exposing the hypocrisy and duplicity which are the hallmark of US diplomacy, while providing unvarnished portraits of foreign leaders.
The cables reveal that leading government figures in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) refer to Iran as an “existential threat” – the expression routinely applied to Iran by the racist Zionist rulers of Israel. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is reported to have frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran. In one such plea, the King, alluding to the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, told the US that its best course was “to cut off the head of the snake”, while hypocritically making public statements that Israel was the enemy.
The president of the Jordanian state left nothing to the imagination when he told a US diplomat: “Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb”, adding that “sanctions, carrots, incentives won’t matter”.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, which is host to the US Fifth Fleet, in a somewhat guarded tone, told a US diplomat that Iran’s nuclear programme “must be stopped” as the “danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, having already expressed his agreement with a US military assessment that Ahmadinejad was “unbalanced” or even “crazy”, had as early as 2005 called for American action against Iran “this year or next”. Four years down the line, in July 2009, he predicted an Israeli strike on Iran by the end of the year, and appeared not to disapprove. “Ahmadinejad is a Hitler”, the author of another cable reported him saying.
These leaks will worry UAE sick, as the tiny oil-rich statelet has, while extending publicly a friendly hand to its giant neighbour, been telling Washington how “evil” Iran is and “must be stopped”.
The cables say that Saudi Arabia, a key US ally in the region, while fighting al-Qaida, remains the main sponsor of this network.
WikiLeak’s account of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh is only too likely to prove extremely sensitive. He is reported as telling General David Petraeus, the US commander for the region, that he would pretend air strikes carried out against al-Qaida in his country were Yemeni, not American, ordnance. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours”, Saleh told an official in the American embassy in Sanaa. These revelations will outrage public opinion in Yemen, which is already facing an increasingly potent revolt.
Regular directives from the State Department, signed “Clinton” or her predecessor “Rice”, sent to US embassies in Cairo, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Amman and Damascus, demanded the exact travel plans and vehicles used by leading members of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as to gather biometric information “on key Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank” and any evidence of collusion between PA security forces and “terror groups”.
The leaked cables go as far as to question the Western orientation of Turkey, a pillar of NATO’s southern flank. They refer to Israeli claims that “weapons-related material for Iran’s nuclear program transit Turkey, with prime minister Erdoğan’s full knowledge.” The letter is described by Eric Edelman, US ambassador, as having “overbearing pride”; “unbridled ambition stemming from the belief that God has anointed him to lead Turkey”; “an overwhelming desire to stay in power”; and “distrust of women”.
In a 2004 cable, Turkish foreign minister Davutoglu is characterised as “exceptionally dangerous”. In a plunge to banal gossip, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya is painted as a hypochondriac, who hates sleeping on upper floors, prefers not to fly over water, “seems to enjoy flamenco dancing”, and is always accompanied by a “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse.
Although nothing new about the attitude of the Gulf states towards Iran is revealed by the leaks, in the Arab public eye they will make them look indistinguishable from their Zionist enemy, thus making it extremely hard for US imperialism to exercise influence and win friends in the region. In the light of these leaks, it is less likely that Arab leaders or ambassadors will speak candidly to the Americans on Iran, Israel or any other sensitive subject; they are unlikely to trust the US government to keep a secret, if they think that the US would proclaim to the world the secrets it had learnt.
Not even the leaders of European imperialist powers, allies of the US in the war-mongering NATO alliance and participants in US-led wars for spoliation in Iraq and Afghanistan, are spared. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, is described as thin-skinned, arrogant and authoritarian, while the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is said to be feckless, vain, ineffective, and “appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin”.
The leaks record critical assessment of British prime minister, David Cameron, and his chancellor, George Osborne, by Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England; they make references to Britain’s “paranoia” about the special relationship with America. More importantly, they reveal how secret US military missions, involving torture, were started in Britain, while containing strong criticism by US commanders of Britain’s forces in Afghanistan. Their cumulative effect would be to cause great embarrassment in London and Washington. The US ambassador in London is unlikely to be greeted with a warm embrace as he will be rightly suspected of sending back far from flattering assessments of the efforts of Britain’s armed forces in Helmand (Afghanistan) and a portrayal of its leaders as fawning creeps to Hillary Clinton.
As for Germany, the diplomatic cables reveal that the US had a mole in the German Cabinet, said to be a “young, ambitious, minute-taker from the Free Democratic Party”. In addition to turning over scores of documents, he supplied barbed portraits of some leading government figures. While Chancellor Angela Merkel is described as “tenacious but risk averse and rarely creative”, her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, is portrayed as an “angry old man, neurotic, who sees enemies everywhere”.
Dimitry Medvedev, the Russian president is dismissively referred to as Robin playing to Putin’s Batman, while the Canadians are contemptuously accused of suffering from an inferiority complex.
A secret order by Hillary Clinton instructed US diplomats to act as spies around the world against friends and foes alike, according to the documents released by WikiLeaks. They were asked to collect personal details about Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, as well as personal information about UN Security Council permanent representatives from Britain, China, France and Russia. The cable, dated July 2009, required US diplomatic staff to find out individual passwords and encryption keys used by UN diplomats and officials in private and commercial computer networks; it also demands biometric information on “undersecretaries, heads of specialised agencies and their chief advisers, top SYG [Secretary-General] aides, heads of peace operations and political field missions, including force commanders”; in addition it requires intelligence on Mr Ban’s “management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat”.
Not content with all the above intrusive interference with the work of the UN staff, Mrs Clinton demanded credit card numbers, e-mail addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers, and even frequent-flyer account numbers for UN officials.
This secret “national human intelligence collections directive” was addressed to US missions at the UN in New York, Vienna and Rome, as well as 33 embassies and consulates, including those in London, Paris and Moscow; it was also sent to the CIA and the FBI, furnishing evidence of a massive spying operation deploying thousands of American officials.
Although not explicitly stated, it is clear that those required to comply with the directive would have to have resorted to computer-hacking as well as other methods of intrusive, not to say unlawful, practices. Bugging the Secretary-General is illegal under a 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities which states: “The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable. The property and assets of the United Nations, wherever located and by whomever held, shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative actions”.
Afghan puppet president, Hamid Karzai, is described in these leaks as driven by paranoia and an “extremely weak man who does not listen to facts”. His brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is referred to as corrupt and a major drug-trafficker. Afghan vice president, Ahmed Zia Massoud was said to have been caught carrying $52 million in cash by US officials from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) when he visited the UAE, but was ultimately allowed to keep the money without disclosing its origin or destination.
According to the WikiLeaks disclosures, while Russia was persuaded to back UN sanctions against Iran, but only after the US agreed to abandon its plans for stationing long-range missiles in Poland and replacing them with a floating version nearer the Iranian territory that Moscow did not perceive as a threat to its own interest, the EU governments had to be bribed or threatened to accept prisoners from Guantanamo.
The combined effect of the WikiLeaks disclosures, first, is to furnish clear proof that the US is engaged in relentless spying on its enemies as well as allies; that its 115,000-strong diplomatic service is no more than a cover for spies. US embassies will find it exceptionally hard to shake off this view. The effects of the revelations will be felt most of all at the UN and in the Middle East. At the UN, Washington will find it harder to garner support for its stance, while the US-friendly leaders of the Middle East, who are already struggling to cope with the anti-American and anti-imperialist sentiments of their masses, having been exposed as flunkeys of the US, and whose pretended solidarity with fellow Arabs and Muslims is revealed to be nothing but hypocritical, will find life harder and perhaps will be less inclined to render unquestioning obedience to US imperialism.
Second, the leaks present us with a picture of a world in which the most powerful nation in the world has a dog in every fight, but can expect little help from others – be it the EU, Russia, China, Israel or Pakistan. Clearly the leaks present a picture of US imperialism on the decline.
Although somewhat hyperbolic, the following words of Mr Robert Baer, a former case officer of the CIA, nevertheless, contain more than a grain of truth: “So this is what the eclipsing of American power looks like, with the disgorging of so much of its sensitive diplomatic correspondence in one fell swoop. Arguably not since Berlin fell to the Red Army in 1945 has there been a compromise of state secrets as breathtaking as that brought about by WikiLeaks. Yet while the drift of much of the ensuing commentary has been that there is not much new in the 250,000 leaked cables, the truth is that the damage to American credibility and diplomacy is incalculable.” (‘Secrecy makes the world go round’, Financial Times, 1 December 2010)
No wonder, then, that the response of US imperialism, as well as the dwindling number of its allies, to the leaks was nothing short of impotent rage. US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called them “an attack on America’s foreign-policy interests” and indeed on “the international community”, though she did not make clear which particular members of the so-called international community were the victims, or what exactly were they the victims of.
Sarah Palin, former US vice-presidential candidate, called for Assange to be “pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaida and Taliban leaders”.
“The man [Assange] is a high-tech terrorist”, said Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the US Senate, adding: “He has done enormous damage to our country, and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and if that becomes a problem we need to change the law.”
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former British Foreign Secretary, refusing to reflect even for a second on the long history of the British state’s worldwide terrorist activities, mindlessly asserted that WikiLeaks’ actions were “active assistance to terrorist organisations.”
Senator Joe Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, and Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein have called for Assange’s prosecution under the US’s antiquated Espionage Act of 1917.
WikeLeaks is by no means the only publisher of the US diplomatic cables. Britain’s Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables. Yet it is WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, who have attracted the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US administration and other representatives of the US ruling class. Assange has been accused of treason, even though he is an Australian, not a US, citizen. Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, has threatened to cancel his passport. There have been scores of serious calls in the US for Assange to be “taken out” by US special forces. While the empty-headed Sarah Palin calls for him to be “hunted down like Osama bin Laden”, a Republican bill waits before the US Senate seeking to have him declared a “transnational threat” and disposed of accordingly. An advisor to the Canadian prime minister’s office went on national television to call for Assange to be assassinated. An American blogger even called for Assange’s 20-year-old son, in Australia, to be kidnapped and harmed simply to get at the father. (The above paragraph is an adaption of the concluding part of Assange’s article ‘Don’t shoot the messenger for revealing uncomfortable truths’, in The Australian, a newspaper in his native country)
Angered by WikiLeaks exposure of US imperialism’s war crimes and of corporate corruption, the US authorities have resorted to extreme measures to silence it and its founder. Some internet service providers have been pressurised to discontinue providing their services to the Whistleblower. WikeLeaks was forced this year (2010) to switch to a Swiss host server after several US Internet service providers shut it down, alleging that it was endangering lives, although Assange made it patently clear that his site carefully vetted cables to avoid such an outcome. WikiLeaks was subjected to cyber attack and, under extreme political pressure, Post Finance (the Swiss Post office bank), Amazon, PayPal, Visa and MasterCard took the arbitrary and unjustified decision to cease doing business with WikiLeaks. The response of the US authorities and monopoly corporations to WikiLeaks has been a clear demonstration of what a blogger aptly described as “a violent amalgamation of Christian thuggery and ignorance, corporate nihilism, global plutocracy, and monetization of all values”.
Not being content with conspiring to sabotage the functioning of WikiLeaks and unleashing an avalanche of abuse on it, the US have coerced Swedish authorities to ask for Assange’s extradition on spurious rape allegations, which are entirely politically motivated.
In the end, bowing to political and legal pressure, Assange gave himself up to Scotland Yard on 7 December. Vindictively denied bail, he was locked up in Wandsworth prison for ten days. Since then, his supporters have provided £240,000 in cash as surety; he has been released on bail on conditions which constitute nothing but house arrest. In the new year, he will face extradition proceedings to Sweden on allegations of “rape, unlawful coercion and two counts of sexual molestation”, allegedly committed in August 2010. The spurious cases are related to consensual relations, one with a woman with close ties to the CIA and the other a spurned groupie.
The Swedish authorities have not charged Assange with any crime; they want him for questioning. The original charges against him were dropped by the senior-most prosecutor in Sweden, on the ground that there was not one shred of evidence to even warrant investigation, after which Assange was allowed to leave Sweden with the knowledge and consent of the Swedish legal authorities. Then came intervention by a politician and the involvement of another prosecutor in another Swedish town; it is this prosecutor who has begun a witch-hunt against Assange – a witch-hunt resting on two women, who claim that they had consensual but unprotected sex with him in August, which became non-consensual.
Mark Stephens, Mr Assange’s lawyer, quite correctly observed that the prosecution was driven by political pressure and “darker forces”.
The real danger that Assange faces is that he might be extradited, perhaps even without a proper legal hearing, to the US from Sweden. It must not be forgotten that Sweden, generally thought of as a liberal and law-abiding state, is actually one of those lickspittle little imperialist countries that does the bidding of the most powerful imperialist countries, such as the US, and it not so long ago permitted extraordinary rendition and torture flights to cross its territory.
Who is Anna Ardin?
Assange’s chief accuser is a lady called Anna Ardin, a gender equity officer at Uppsala University in Sweden. Though misleadingly described by the media as a “leftist”, she has links with US-financed anti-Castro and anti-communist groups. She published her anti-Castro diatribes in a periodical, which is the product of a well-financed anti-Castro organisation in Sweden.
This group is connected with Union Liberal Cubana, headed by Alberto Montaner, who has close links with the CIA; a fugitive from Cuban justice for acts of terrorism, he is a fanatical supporter of the most extreme reactionary elements of the Cuban-American mafia.
In Cuba, Ms Ardin interacted with the feminist anti-Castro ‘Damas de Blanco’ (the ladies in white), who receive US funding and, in turn, support US terrorism.
Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban-born Venezuelan anti-communist, former CIA agent, convicted in absentia of involvement in several terrorist attacks and plots in the Americas, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, and who has admitted his involvement in the 1997 targeting of fashionable Cuban hotels and nightspots, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and in the Iran-Contra affair – this nasty sub-human being is a friend of the ‘Ladies in White’.
More bizarrely, Ms Ardin, the alleged victim, chose to throw a party for the alleged assailant – after they had had the sex that even the Swedish prosecutors concede was consensual. She even tweeted to her followers that she was with the “world’s coolest smartest people, it’s amazing!”
The other alleged victim, Sofia Wilén boasted, just like Anna Ardin, of her conquest after the “crime”.
The boastful and exculpatory character of the mobile phone texts of these two ladies has been confirmed by Swedish prosecutors. Neither Wilén’s nor Ardin’s texts complain of rape.
Imperialist double standards
In the light of the foregoing, there is but one conclusion that suggests itself, namely, that the allegations against Mr Assange are fraudulent, designed merely to extradite him via Sweden, and to enable him to be prosecuted and locked up by US authorities for the reason that he and his organisation helped expose the war crimes of US imperialism, the lying and spying of its diplomatic service, the hypocrisy, cynicism and duplicity characteristic of its administrative, diplomatic and war machine.
In conclusion, just two examples of the hypocrisy and double standards of the US authorities:
P J Crowley, a State Department spokesman who denounced Julian Assange as an “opportunist” for leaking US diplomatic cables, without any apparent irony announced: “The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.”
In January 2010, in a speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton uttered the following brave words – words which have come to haunt her now – in favour of freedom of expression on the Internet:
“On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.
“This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the first amendment to the constitution are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone. …
There are many other networks in the world – some aid in the movement of people or resources; and some facilitate exchanges between individuals with the same work or interests. But the internet is a network that magnifies the power and potential of all others. And that’s why we believe it’s critical that its users are assured certain basic freedoms.
First among them is the freedom of expression. This freedom is no longer defined solely by whether citizens can go into the town square and criticize their government without fear of retribution. Blogs, email, social networks, and text messages have opened up new forums for exchanging ideas – and created new targets for censorship.
As I speak to you today, government censors are working furiously to erase my words from the records of history.”
It is Mrs Clinton and her government who are now “furiously working to erase … words form the records of history”.
Let it be noted in passing, that the very same imperialist governments that are trying to close down WikiLeaks and incarcerate or kill its founder, are the ones who, with great fanfare, recently attended a prize ceremony for a convicted Chinese criminal and admirer of colonialism and US’s criminal wars.
The wonders of the internet and various social networks are fine as long as they are directed at progressive and independent regimes, which are the targets of imperialist sabotage, subversion and regime change – countries such as the People’s Republic of China, the DPRK, Belarus, Ukraine, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, etc. But the moment they become instruments for exposing the crimes of imperialism, they suddenly are metamorphosed into tech-terrorists which must be snuffed out.
WikiLeaks itself, which included among its founders Chinese dissidents, was regarded very favourably by imperialism. A sudden change, however, in imperialism’s view of it descended the moment the site started exposing the dirty and criminal deeds of imperialism. Furious attempts are on to close down the whistleblowing site, to portray its founder as a womaniser, a sex pervert, and a rapist, and to have him eliminated on one spurious charge or the other.
Whatever the origins of WikiLeaks, and whatever the political and ideological stance of its founder, progressive and anti-imperialist humanity has a duty to defend him while he is under attack from the world’s most powerful terrorist and rogue state.
Instead of pursuing Julian Assange, and the real heroes of the story – WikiLeaks’ sources of information, who have risked their careers, freedom and lives – the US government should itself be the subject of an investigation into its own predatory wars and the criminal activities of its armed forces as revealed in the war logs.