Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Secrets of Wikileaks - Julian Assange's Deal With the Devil

By Israel Shamir for Counterpunch

In Part One of my report last weekend here on the CounterPunch site I showed that the US was secretly funnelling money into Belarus to fund the unelected opposition. Previously, the claim had been routinely denied. Now we have sterling proof. It is engraved in a confidential cable from a US Embassy to the State Department. It is undeniable.

That is, if you found the cable and were able to understand it.

And you happened to understand the political background of the cable.

The cables are raw data. Not as raw as Afghan Diaries, the previous coup of Wikileaks, but still quite raw. They are written in obscure state department lingo; much of the story is implied, as the cables were composed for colleagues and definitely not for strangers. They simply have to be explained, interpreted, annotated and then finally delivered to the reader. Dumping raw cables onto the web would not do: you’d never find the relevant cables and probably you wouldn’t be able to understand its significance even if you did find it.

The main job of a newspaper or news website is to process raw data and transmit it to a reader. This work requires an experienced and highly qualified staff. Not every newspaper or website has such resources, and none of the independent sites can compete with the mainstream outlets for readership. If all the cables were published in a local newspaper in Oklahoma or Damascus, who would read them? In order to get our news to you, our reader, we are forced to make use of the dreaded mainstream media.

That is why Julian Assange chose to partner with a few important Western liberal newspapers of the mainstream media. Let us make it perfectly clear that we understand that all mainstream media are at their heart embedded; in bed with the Pentagon, the CIA, with Wall Street and all its counterparts. Let us also make it clear that we understand that not every journalist on the staff of The Guardian, Le Monde or The NY Times is a crooked enforcer of imperialist ideology; no, not even every editor. We do understand that not everyone is willing to sacrifice their career to field a story that will attract storms of protest. From this point of view, the difference between the soft liberal and the hardline imperialist media is one of style only.

For instance, if they plan to attack Afghanistan, the hardline Fox News would simply demand a high-profile strike against the sand rats, while the liberal Guardian would publish a Polly Toynbee piece bewailing the bitter fate of Afghani women. The bottom line is the same: war.

Modern embedded media constitute the most powerful weapon of our rulers. The modern Russian writer Victor Pelevin succinctly explained their modus operandi: "The embedded media does not care about the content and does not attempt to control it; they just add a drop of poison to the stream in the right moment."

Furthermore, they skilfully arrange the information in order to mislead us. The headline might scream MURDER MOST FOUL but the article describes an unavoidable accident. We do not look beyond the headline, but the headline has been written by the editor and not the journalist who penned the article. Twitter is nothing but a mess of headlines; we are being trained to think in terms of slogans.

In the case of Belarus, the Guardian published three cables the day before elections in order to maximize the exposure and to influence the results of the election. One of the headlines, published on December 18, 2010 said: “WikiLeaks: Lukashenka’s [sic] fortune estimated at 9 billion USD”. It was a very misleading headline. Wikileaks made no claims about Lukashenko’s wealth. Read the entire article, and you will find that it was nothing more than a US embassy employee who had heard a rumor and transmitted it to the State Department. Only in the second to last sentence of the article do they mention that the cable admits: “the embassy employee couldn’t verify the sources [sic!] or accuracy of the information”.

So a corrected headline would read: “Wikileaks reveals: US diplomats spread unverifiable rumors about Lukashenko’s personal wealth.” But the Guardian made it appear as if it was Wikileaks itself that made the claim.

Let us suppose that one day Wikileaks will publish cables from the Russian Embassy in Washington to Moscow Centre. Shall we expect to see in the Guardian a screaming headline like: "WikiLeaks: The Mossad behind 9/11!!"

Isn’t it more likely we would be soberly told: “Wikileaks reveals that Russian diplomats in Washington report the persistent rumors on Israeli involvement in 9/11”?

Another cable on Belarus published on the same day was headlined: “US embassy cables: Belarus president justifies violence against opponents”. Again, a misleading headline, and again the majority will never read beyond it. In reality, this very interesting report contains the debriefing of the Estonian Foreign Minister after his long chat with President Lukashenko. The most interesting factoid was deliberately not highlighted in the article: Lukashenko told the Estonian visitor that the opposition in Belarus would never unite, and only existed “to live off western grants.” When you read the article, your eye gravitates to the highlighted section, skipping the valuable information just above. In fact, the highlighted section itself says nothing about justifying violence against opponents. The text says something completely different: “Lukashenko stated the opposition should expect to get hurt when they attack the riot police”. Again, it is sterling truth: in every country, people who attack riot police end up getting hurt. In Israel they also get shot, but that’s another story.

Thus the Guardian made use of Wikileaks in order to influence Belarus voters and Western audiences, and prepare them for an Election Day riot.

So here we are: in order to get valuable data to the people, Julian Assange had to make a deal with the devil: the mainstream media. It was most natural for him to deal with the liberal flank of the mainstream, for the hardliners would not even touch it. But since the liberal papers are also embedded, they freely distort the cables by attaching misleading headlines and misquoting from the text.

For me, a Guardian reader since I worked at the BBC in the mid-1970s, it is painful to say that the Guardian has become an impostor. This paper pretends to provide the thinking liberal and socialist people of England with true information; but at the moment of truth, the Guardian, like a good Blairite, will switch sides.

Next, the Guardian apparently decided to destroy Wikileaks after using it. The Moor did his job, the Moor may go. The Guardian’s embedded editors, understanding full well that the Wikileaks crew won’t be tamed or subverted, are preparing a book called The Rise and Fall of Wikileaks. It’s not quite released yet; they have still to arrange for the fall.

This will be done in two ways.

First, by slandering the Wikileaks chief Julian Assange. Destroy the head, and the body will wither and die. This is not the place to deal with allegations in detail, but I’ve never seen an article more crooked and lying than the one the Guardian published recently on Assange - and I’ve seen some beauties. It is trial by media in the best tradition of Pravda 1937. Its author Nick Davies ingratiated himself into the vicinity of the trustful Julian and then bit him in the best scorpion’s manner. Davies wrote years ago in his Flat Earth News that the practice of journalism in the UK is "bent"; now he proven it beyond a doubt by his own writing.

There is no doubt: Assange never raped. The day after the alleged rape, the alleged victim boasted to her friends in a twitter that she had a wonderful time with the alleged rapist. It was all published.

Moreover, if Swedish authorities are primarily concerned about prosecuting Julian for rape, why do they attach a special condition to their demands of extradition, specifically reserving the right to pass him on to US authorities?

Nick Davies clearly performed a cruel hatchet job. But was publishing the article a simple case of bad judgement by the Guardian, or the beginning of a smear campaign? "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action", as James Bond in Goldfinger put it neatly. Here is the second attack. The third piece was surprisingly an attempt to smear Assange by association with me.

This last attack was written by Andrew Brown has been described as “The Guardian‘s resident moron”, and with good reason. I always enjoy discussing my views, though Brown completely missed the subtleties and nuances of my writings. Andrew Brown is a man who understands the public’s need for screaming headlines. Now we are left with a lot of crazy bloggers who claim I am the Mossad’s liaison to Wikileaks and that Wikileaks is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mossad.

I do not for a moment think that anybody sane takes these ridiculous accusations seriously – they are just more things to throw at Julian. I am not a member of Wikileaks, not even a spokesman, just a friend. But even without me, Brown will still be able to attack Assange for quoting Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize winner and “notorious antisemite whose works are being published by a racist site.” Quoting a popular blog, Brown “is beneath contempt, and, from now on, beneath notice”. Still, the Guardian editors let him off his leash from time to time, to their eternal disgrace.

The second mode of attack on Wikileaks is to use it as a source of misinformation. These US State Department cables are double-edged swords. They are full of rumors, trial balloons, and hopeful thinking. Worse, the newspaper headlines often declare that Wikileaks is the source of the rumor, and leave it to the discerning reader to discover that an embassy staffer was the real source of the story. Readers often do not understand that headlines are little more than come-ons, and reflect a very loose interpretation of the article content. They tend to believe the misleading headline that says, “Wikileaks: Iran prepares nuclear weapons” or, “Wikileaks: all Arabs want the US to destroy Iran”. Wikileaks never said it! It was the Guardian and the NY Times that said it, and loudly. A corrected headline would look like this:

Wikileaks reveals that US diplomats spread unsubstantiated rumours on the Iran nuclear program in order to ingratiate themselves with the State Department

But you will not live long enough to see this headline. Such is the price for using mainstream media: they will eventually poison the purest source.

However, I would rather place my bet on Assange. He is smart, and he has a mind of a first-class chess player. He has many surprises up his sleeve. It is possible that the Guardian will have to rename their book The Rise and Rise of Wikileaks.

The Israeli Angle

Now you can understand the mystery of Israeli satisfaction with Wikileaks. While the US officials were furious at the disclosure, Israelis were rather smug and complacent. Haaretz has this headline: “Netanyahu: WikiLeaks revelations were good for Israel.”

Simple-minded conspiracy junkies immediately concluded that Wikileaks is an Israeli device, or, in the words of a particularly single-minded man: a “Zionist poison”.

The truth is less fantastic, but much more depressing. The Guardian and the New York Times, Le Monde and Spiegel are quite unable to publish a story unacceptable to Israel. They may pen a moderately embarrassing piece of fluff, or a slightly critical technical analysis in order to convince discerning readers of their objectivity. They may even let an opponent air his or her views every once in a blue moon. But they could never publish a story really damaging to Israel. This is true for all mainstream media.

Furthermore, no American ambassador would ever send a cable really unacceptable to Israel – unless he intended to retire the next month. Yet even supposing this kamikaze ambassador would send the cable, the newspapers would overlook it.

Even with thousands of secret cables about Israel in their hands, the mainstream media delays and prevaricates. They don’t want anyone to yell at them. That is why they have postponed publishing the articles. Once forced by circumstance or competition to publish the contents of the cables, you can bet they’ll twist the revelations into toady headlines and bury the truth in the final paragraph.

Always kind, Julian Assange attributes this behavior to the “sensitivity of the English, German and French audience”. I am not that kind; I call it cowardice, or if you insist, prudence. Any journalist who confronts the Jewish state will be made to suffer.

In such a situation, the mainstream media just can’t help us. Professional journalists have families and careers to protect. We can’t count on them when the rubber meets the road. We shall never know and will never fully understand the truth behind any Israel-connected event as long as the cables remain only in the hands of the mainstream media.

Edited by Paul Bennett

Israel Shamir can be reached at