And even if you haven't, please read this one.
The premise of my preceding post is that Wikileaks could be a psychological operation (psy-op), because it does not contain top secret materials and rather comprises solely "diplomatic cables," which might conceivably have been selected, for example, to speak negatively about Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, China, Venezuela, etc. while giving Israel a bye. However, there is near universal agreement that all of the released diplomatic dispatches are authentic and thus "...represent the ‘opinions and beliefs’ of the diplomatic establishment, a social group which is historically and presently deeply enmeshed and submissive to elite ideology and methodology." Thus, most of the cables mentioning Iran would naturally tend hype Iran's alleged nuclear abilities and hostility toward its U.S.-friendly neighboring states.
However, studied in detail these diplomatic cables reveal a previously untold tale of the inner workings of our government -- a tale not previously let out by the New York Times (which has been serving up the kind propaganda warned against by Thomas Jefferson in the quote heading my previous post). Thus, if Wikileaks was intended to be a psy-op, it has surely backfired by exposing to the public the fact "that diplomats as a class very seldom tell unpalatable truths to politicians, but rather report and reinforce what their masters want to hear, in the hope of receiving preferment." Therefore, Wikileaks should be regarded as valuable source material for spreading the truth in support of the coming "global political awakening."
The recent release of the 250,000 Wikileaks documents has provoked unparalleled global interest, both positive, negative, and everywhere in between. One thing that can be said with certainty: Wikileaks is changing things.
There are those who accept what the Wikileaks releases say at face value, largely due to the misrepresentation of the documents by the corporate-controlled news.
There are those who see the documents as authentic and simply in need of proper interpretation and analysis.
Then there are those, many of whom are in the alternative media, who approach the leaks with caution and suspicion.
There are those who simply cast the leaks aside as a ‘psy-op’ designed to target specific nations that fit into U.S. foreign policy objectives. Finally, then, there are those who deplore the leaks as ‘treason’ or threatening ‘security’. Of all the claims and notions, the last is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous. This essay aims to examine the nature of the Wikileaks releases and how they should be approached and understood. If Wikileaks is changing things, let’s hope people will make sure that it changes things in the right direction.
Media Propaganda Against Iran: Taking the Cables at Face Value
This perspective is perhaps the most propagated one, as it is largely influenced and undertaken by the mainstream corporate media, which present the leaked diplomatic cables as ‘proof’ of the media’s take on major world issues; most notably among them, Iran’s nuclear program. As per usual, the New York Times steps center stage in its unbridled contempt for truth and relentless use of propaganda to serve U.S. imperial interests, headlining articles with titles like, “Around the World, Distress Over Iran,” which explained how Israel and the Arab leaders agree on Iran as a nuclear threat to the world, with the commentary in the article stating that, “running beneath the cables is a belief among many leaders that unless the current government in Tehran falls, Iran will have a bomb sooner or later.” Fox News ran an article proclaiming that, “Leaked Documents Show Middle East Consensus on Threat Posed by Iran,” and commented that, “the seismic document spill by WikiLeaks showed one area of profound agreement -- that Iran is viewed in the Middle East as the region's No. 1 troublemaker.”
This, it should be understood, is propaganda. Yet, we need to properly refine our understanding of propaganda in order to assess what is specifically propagandistic about these stories. While one should remain skeptical of sources and disinformation campaigns (as those who critically analyze the media have known take place time and time again), one must also consider the personal perspective of the source and decipher between authenticity and analysis. These documents, I truly believe, are authentic. In this sense, I do not adhere to the notion that these are a part of a psychological operation (psy-op) or propaganda effort, in terms of the actual release of the documents. We must keep in mind that the sources for these cables are U.S. diplomatic channels, and thus the statements within them reflect the perspectives and beliefs of U.S. diplomatic personnel. The documents are an authentic representation of their statements and beliefs, but that does not imply that they are an accurate representation of reality.
This is where the media comes in to propagandize the information within the leaks. The two above examples claim that the leaks show that there is a “consensus” on Iran, and thus, that the U.S. and indeed Israeli positions on Iran for the past several years have been “vindicated,” namely in that they fear Iran is making nuclear weapons. This is nonsense. The media has essentially read and propagated the documents at face value, meaning that because U.S. diplomats, Middle Eastern and Arab leaders all agree that Iran is a “threat” and is trying to make a “nuclear weapon,” it therefore must be true. This is a non sequitur. If a military general tells several soldiers to commit a raid on a house because there are “suspected terrorists” inside, the fact that the soldiers carry out the raid – and that they believe there are terrorists inside – does not make it so. In contextualizing this example with the current Wikileaks release, just because Middle Eastern and Arab leaders see Iran as a threat, does not make it so.
Again, consider the sources. What makes the Arab leaders trustworthy sources for ‘unbiased’ information? For example, one ‘revelation’ that made its way around the world was the insistence of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to America to “cut off the head of the snake” of Iran, and urging America to launch military strikes against Iran. This has largely been interpreted in the media as “proof” that there is a “consensus” on the “threat” posed by Iran to the Middle East and the world. This has been the propaganda line towed by the New York Times, Fox News and the Israeli government, among many others. Yet, we need to properly contextualize this information, something which the New York Times has a long record of failing to properly do (intentionally, I might add). I do not doubt the authenticity of these statements or the beliefs of the Arab leaders that Iran is a ‘threat’. Iran, on the other hand, has claimed that the leaks are “mischievous” and that they serve US interests, and claimed that Iran is “friends” with its neighbours. This too, is propaganda. Again, we need to contextualize.
Iran is a Shi’a nation, while the Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, are predominantly Sunni. This presents a means of division among these nations in the region, at least on a superficial basis. The reality, however, is that Saudi Arabia and Iran are far from “friendly”, and have not been on good terms since the Shah was deposed in 1979. Iran is Saudi Arabia’s primary contender and competition for power and influence in the region, and thus Iran is, inherently, a threat to Saudi Arabia, politically. Further, the Arab states, whose claims against Iran have been widely publicized, such as those of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, the UAE and Egypt, must be understood in their relation to the United States. The Arab states are American proxies in the region. Their armies are subsidized by the American military industrial complex, their political regimes (all of which are dictatorships and dynasties), are propped up and supported by America. The same goes for Israel, although it has at least the public outward appearance of a democracy, much like the United States, itself.
The Arab nations and leaders know that the only reason they have and maintain their power is because the United States allows them and helps them to do so. Thus, they are dependent upon America and its political, financial and military support. Going against America’s ambitions in the region is a sure way to end up like Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The history of the Middle East in the modern era is replete with examples of how one-time puppets and personal favourites of the American Empire can so easily turn into new enemies and “threats to peace.” American sponsored regime change takes place, and a new puppet is installed. If Arab leaders said that Iran was not a threat to peace, they would soon find themselves targets of Western imperialism. Further, many, like King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, are so virulent in their hatred and distrust of Iran simply because they are regional competitors for influence. One thing can be said of all states and their leaders, they are inherently self-interested and obsessed with self-preservation and personal power expansion.
Saudi Arabia, in particular, is not a passive actor in the regional battle of influence with Iran. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia is involved in another American imperial war of conquest, in suppressing secessionist and indigenous liberation movements in the North and South of Yemen. Yemen, ruled by an American supported dictator, Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, is also working with the Americans to suppress its own population in order to maintain its hold on power. Much of the presentation of the conflict, however, is in propagandizing the conflict, portraying it as a regional battle for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran. While there is no doubt, and clear admissions, of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war, there has been no information that Iran has had any involvement, yet it is constantly accused by both Saudi Arabia and Yemen of being involved. This may be an attempt to draw Iran into a regional proxy war, if not to simply demonize the nation further. In the midst of this new Yemeni war, America made an arms deal with Saudi Arabia which broke the record as the largest U.S. arms deal in history, at $60 billion. The deal, of which it is no secret, is aimed at building up Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities in order to both engage more effectively in the Yemen war, but primarily to challenge and counter increased Iranian influence in the region. In short, America is arming its proxy nations for a war with Iran.
Israel did not denounce the arms deal as it was taking place, simply because it ultimately served Israel’s interest in the region as well, of which its main target is Iran. Further, Israel is left subdued to American interests, as an American proxy itself. If Israel’s military financing and hardware comes from America (which it does), thus making it dependent upon America for its own military power, Israel is in no position to tell America to not arm its other regional proxies. If indeed there is a regional war against Iran in the making, which it has appeared for some time that there is, it is certainly in Israel’s interest to have allies against Iran in the region.
Is Wikileaks a Propaganda Effort?
The leaders of Israel have been very adamant that the Wikileaks documents do not embarrass Israel to any extent. Prior to the release, the U.S. government briefed Israeli officials on the type of documents that would be released by Wikileaks regarding Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “there is no disparity between the public discourse between us and Washington, and the mutual understanding of each other’s positions.” The Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, claimed that the documents “show a more accurate view of reality.” One top Turkish politician stated that looking at which countries are pleased with the releases says a lot, and speculated that Israel “engineered the release” of documents in an attempt to advance its interests and to “pressure Turkey.”
Further, the Internet and various alternative news organizations are abuzz with speculation that Wikileaks itself may be a propaganda front, perhaps even a CIA front organization, a method of “controlling the opposition” (which, historically we know, is no stranger to CIA activities). Yet, this speculation is based upon the use of the information that is released in the cables, and it strikes me as a lack of contextualizing the documents.
So, how should one contextualize this? Let’s begin with Israel. Certainly, Israel is without a doubt a criminal state (as all states essentially are), but its criminality is amplified more so than most states on this planet, possibly outdone only by America, itself. Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is one of the most horrific and long-lasting crimes against humanity seen in the past 50 years, and posterity will view Israel as the vicious, war-mongering, dehumanizing and abhorrent state it is. Yet, for all that Israel is, one thing Israel is not, is subtle. When the Israeli PM states that the Wikileaks releases are not embarrassing to Israel, he is mostly correct. This is not because Israel has nothing to hide (remember, the Wikileaks documents are not ‘top secret’ documents, but merely diplomatic cables), but because the diplomatic exchanges Israel makes largely reflect the reality of the public statements Israel makes. Israel and its political elite are no strangers to making absurd public statements, to constantly threatening war with Iran and other neighbours, or to propagandizing their beliefs that Iran is making nuclear weapons (something which has never been proven). Thus, the leaks do not ‘hurt’ Israel’s image, because Israel’s image, internationally, is already so abysmal and despicable, and because Israeli diplomats and politicians are generally as brazen in what they say publicly as they say to each other, that Israel’s image has largely remained the same. Of course, Israeli leaders – political and military – are using the leaks to suggest that it “vindicates” their perspective on Iran as a threat, which of course is an absurd propaganda ploy, the exact same technique taken on by the corporate media, in taking the cables at face value.
While Iran has slammed the Wikileaks releases as Western propaganda aimed at Iran, this statement itself should be taken as a form of propaganda. After all, Iran claimed that it is “friends” with all its neighbours, a claim which is an historical and present falsity. Iran, like all states, uses propaganda to advance its own interests. Iran is not by any means a wonderful nation. However, compared to the American favourites in the region (such as Saudi Arabia), Iran is a bastion of freedom and democracy, which isn’t saying much. Those who attempt to battle the spread of misinformation and propaganda, myself included, must remain highly critical of media representations and campaigns against Iran, of which there are many. Iran is firmly in the targets of America’s imperial ambitions, this is no secret. Yet, there is nothing in the current batch of Wikileaks releases that strikes me as inauthentic in relation to Iran, especially those documents pertaining to the perspectives of Western diplomats and Arab leaders in relation to Iran. No doubt, they have these perspectives simply because they reflect the policy priorities of America and the West, itself, not because they are factual in their substance. In this, we must decipher between authenticity and accuracy.
Iran stating that the Wikileaks documents are propaganda is a misnomer and is misleading. Analysts must not only critically assess the authenticity of documents (and the sources from which they come), but also, and perhaps even more importantly, they must critically analyze the interpretation of those documents. So while I do not doubt the authenticity of documents pertaining to Western and Middle Eastern perceptions of Iran (as it fits in with the wider geopolitical realities of the region), it is the interpretation of the documents that I view as active propaganda efforts on the part of Western governments and media. The methods of this propaganda effort, however, are in depicting the documents as ‘factual assessments’ of the on-the-ground reality, which they are not. The documents are factual in how they represent the views of those who wrote them, which does not mean that they are factual in their substance. There is a difference, and acknowledging this difference is incredibly important in both the exposure of propaganda and assessment of truth.
The Truth About Diplomacy
Craig Murray is one voice that should be heard on this issue. Craig Murray was a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan who made a name for himself in exposing intelligence from Uzbekistan related to al-Qaeda as entirely unreliable, due to the methods of torture used to get the information (such as boiling people alive). This intelligence was passed to the CIA and MI6, which Murray said was “factually incorrect.” When Murray expressed his concerns with the higher-ups in the British diplomatic services, he was reprimanded for talking about “human rights.” The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) told Murray that he had one week to resign, and was threatened with possible prosecution or jail time for revealing “state secrets.” He was subsequently removed from his ambassadorial position, and has since become something of a political activist. In short, Murray is exactly the type of diplomat a person should want: honest. But he was also exactly the type of diplomat that Western imperial powers don’t want: honest.
In the midst of the latest Wikileaks releases of diplomatic documents, Craig Murray was asked to write an article for the Guardian regarding his interpretation of the issue. As Murray later noted, the paper placed his article, largely reduced, hidden in the middle of a long article which was a compendium of various commentaries on Wikileaks. Murray, however, posted the full version on his website. In the article, Murray begins by assessing the claims of government officials around the world, particularly in the United States, that Wikileaks exposes the United States to “harm,” that it puts lives at risk, and that they will “encourage Islamic extremism,” and most especially, the notion that “government secrecy is essential to keep us all safe.” Murray explains that having been a diplomat for over 20 years, he is very familiar with these arguments, particularly that as a result of Wikileaks, diplomats will no longer be candid in giving advice, “if that advice might become public.” Murray elaborates:
 Fox, Leaked Documents Show Middle East Consensus on Threat Posed by Iran, Fox News, 29 November 2010: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/11/29/leaked-documents-middle-east-consensus-threat-posed-iran/