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8 Ways WikiLeaks Cables About a Tiny Country Like Iceland Expose the Dark Depths of American Empire

A Chelsea Manning-leaked cable showed how Iceland asked the U.S. to stop European "bullying," just the first of a deluge of revelations detailing how America throws around its weight.
 
 
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View of the WikiLeaks homepage featuring its founder Julian Assange.
Photo Credit: haak78 / Shutterstock.com

 
 
 
 

As Chelsea Manning serves a 35-year sentence for the heinous crime of informing Americans about their government, an obscure milestone in her journey passes this autumn—the fifth anniversary of Iceland's financial collapse. In early 2010 —with 251,287 diplomatic cables, records from Guantanamo Bay, and reams of raw intelligence from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—Manning reached out to WikiLeaks, having been spurned by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Because Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg had traveled to Iceland, where they were lauded for publishing a loan portfolio detailing sketchy loans made by the collapsed Icelandic bank Kaupthing, Manning took an interest in the country. She learned about the so-called Icesave dispute between Iceland and Britain and the Netherlands in a WikiLeaks chatroom, and, as she later told a military court, decided to leak a cable describing the conflict, with Icelandic diplomats begging the U.S. to stop “bullying” them.

“Iceland was out of viable options and was coming to the US for assistance. Despite the quiet request for assistance, it did not appear that we were going to do anything,” she said. “I felt that I would be able to right a wrong by having [WikiLeaks] publish this document.”

It was published in February 2010. The deluge came after.

But the so-called Reykjavik 13 cable isn't the only globally noteworthy cable to emerge from WikiLeaks' Icelandic treasure trove. I read through every cable sent from America's northernmost embassy and discovered eight tasty tidbits that you might want to know about.

1. The U.S. organized a trip for foreign journalists to promote war.

According to a March 28, 2007 cable written by Ambassador Carol von Voorst, the U.S. Embassy was fretting that Iceland was losing interest in maintaining its small (but proportional) contributions toward the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. She bemoaned the Icelandic government's plans “to withdraw its Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (ICRU) from Chaghcharan, northern Afghanistan in late April, where it has played an essential part in the region's humanitarian missions since 2004,” attributing the move to Icelandic officials being “greatly influenced by public opinion, especially in the run-up to national elections this May."

Von Voorst wrote that the Embassy “believes it is imperative at this time to shore up Iceland's support of NATO's ongoing mission in Afghanistan” and, therefore “is nominating one of the country's most influential broadcasters to participate in the upcoming USNATO opinion-maker tour in Brussels and Washington, D.C. to help explain the importance of NATO's reconstruction and security assistance mission to Afghanistan.” This was a veteran radio journalist working for the state broadcaster by the name of Jon Gudni Kristjansson.

Von Voorst characterized him as the optimal choice for the “US government-sponsored travel.” He was described by the ambassador as someone who “would appreciate the opportunity to participate in the USNATO tour to receive first-hand information about the US and NATO missions in Afghanistan”:

Mr. Kristjansson believes the USNATO trip would deepen his understanding of the complex situation in Afghanistan, and would give him the opportunity to obtain on-the-record comments from US and NATO officials, which he would use in developing stories to send back to Iceland during his trip.

Like most ambitions of an imperial nature, this did not exactly go as planned. In an email, Kristjansson, who confirmed that he went on the trip and said that it was paid for by the U.S. government, stressed that it was “next to useless” from a journalist's point of view. He said U.S. and NATO officials put forth “the message that everything was going fine in Afghanistan, but the 'information' was too one sided.” He, therefore, didn't use the trip to produce any sort of reports on Afghanistan.

 
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