December 6, 2010
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The State Department documents that WikiLeaks is making public expose the desire of many mainstream journalists and commentators to stand up and be counted as the dutiful water-carriers for the prerogatives of United States foreign policy. Rather than focus on the substance of the diplomatic cables, American journalists tend to either frame the story as being about the "over-classification" of documents or the personal motivations and private life of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Lost in the media static are many tidbits of information such as the squandering of U.S. tax dollars to enrich Afghan officials like the former vice president, Ahmed Zia Massoud, who was ushered through customs in Dubai carrying $52 million; or the spectacle of corrupt Sunni Arab sheikdoms (including Saudi Arabia) joining forces with Israel in demanding the United States attack Iran; or Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili nearly snookering the U.S. into a shooting war with Russia; or the double-dealing with terrorist organizations by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Even when the New York Timesreports on the substance of the documents its editors couldn't resist pumping up the volume on the alleged sale of nineteen North Korean missiles to Iran, only to walk back the story a couple of days later.
Nearly forty years ago, Daniel Ellsberg exposed the official lies behind the Gulf of Tonkin "incident" that provided the rationale for the Vietnam War. A few years later Senator Frank Church's committee revealed the Nixon Administration's role in engineering the coup d'etat that overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile. In October 1986, when a cargo plane was shot down over Nicaragua carrying the American mercenary, Eugene Hasenfus, and a month later a Lebanese newspaper, Al-Shiraa, printed a story about secret U.S. arms sales to Iran it led staffers of Reagan's NSC to concoct false chronologies and destroy thousands of documents. Observing this recent history, one could reasonably conclude there might be a pattern here: Government lies are exposed causing a momentary shock on the part of the public, followed by a renewed effort from toadies in the press to facilitate a relapse of amnesia.
Republican Representative Peter King of New York wants WikiLeaks to be labeled a "terrorist organization." Joe Klein of Time magazine says: "If a single foreign national is rounded up and put in jail because of a leaked cable, this entire, anarchic exercise in 'freedom' stands as a human disaster. Assange is a criminal. He's the one who should be in jail." And not to be outdone, the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer wants Assange prosecuted under the World War I-era "Espionage Act" for the crime of "sabotage," and offers up this gem:
"I'm not advocating that we bring out of retirement the KGB proxy who, on a London street, killed a Bulgarian dissident with a poisoned umbrella tip. But it would be nice if people like Assange were made to worry every time they go out in the rain."
Krauthammer's reference to the KGB is fitting: The old Soviet news outlet, TASS, couldn't have asked for more obedience to the State from its "journalists" as American commentators like Krauthammer have shown in their attacks on WikiLeaks.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, (FAIR), the journalism watchdog group, printed in its December issue of its monthly magazine Extra! a summary of an exchange that took place on October 22, 2010 between ABC News's Diane Sawyer and Martha Raddatz when the first trove of WikiLeaks documents came out. After Raddatz summarized some of the revelations, which included "deadly U.S. helicopter assaults on insurgents trying to surrender . . . the Iraqi civilian death toll far higher than the U.S. has acknowledged . . . graphic details about torture of detainees by the Iraqi military." Sawyer's next question was: "I know there's a lot of outrage about this again tonight, Martha. But tell me, anything more about prosecuting the WikiLeaks group?" FAIR also quoted the former Bush State Department official and contributor to FoxNews.com, Christian Whiton, who called for the U.S. government to label Assange an "enemy combatant" and take "non-judicial actions" against him. FAIR's conclusion: "It's hard to think of another country where the opposition news media complains that the government doesn't assassinate enough journalists."