Damage Control: Downplaying WikiLeaks Revelations

When truths are too disturbing to conceal, downplay them, change the subject, and blame others, not responsible Washington officials and key allies, culpable politicians and media misinformation masters suppressing and misreporting the facts, their well-oiled spin machine counterattacking WikiLeaks — revelations too sensitive to explain, a potential game-changer otherwise, so pundits and reporters duck them.

Above all, WikiLeaks “Afghan War Diaries” are a powerful indictment of wars, their true face, the mindless daily slaughter and destruction too disturbing to reveal, for Julian Assange:

“the vast sweep of abuses, everyday squalor and carnage of war… one sort of kill after another every day going on and on and on… one damn thing after another… (endless) small events, the continuous deaths of children, insurgents, allied forces… (many) thousands” of war crimes needing exposure, accountability, and prosecutions.

The “Diaries” document them, suppressed by the major media, choosing embedded complicity and Pentagon handouts over real journalism, WikiLeaks “high quality material” and solid analysis their antidote, so far not enough to stop Congress.

One day after their release, following the Senate’s passage days earlier on top of $130 billion already approved this year, the House overwhelmingly passed a $60 billion supplemental spending bill, including $37 billion for America’s wars, mostly for 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. Obama tripled the force since taking office, now around 100,000 and increasing by about 2,000 a month, their numbers exceeded by private military and other contractors, making the annual cost per US soldier $1 million and rising, reason enough to end both wars and bring them home.

Yet more escalation is planned, breaking candidate Obama’s October 27, 2007 pledge saying:

“I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home, We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank,” perhaps an insolvent one under FDIC receivership.

A day after the WikiLeaks release, he ignored old promises, evaded indictable war crimes evidence and a deepening unwinnable quagmire, urging the House authorize more supplemental funding, then engaged in contradictory, deceitful damage control saying:

“While I’m concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information from the battlefield that could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations, the fact is these documents don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate about Afghanistan. Indeed, they point to the same challenges that led me to conduct an extensive review of our policy last fall.”

Instead of withdrawing as earlier promised, he plans escalation, the same Vietnam misjudgment, force levels there reaching 540,000 in December 1969, yet not enough to win, resulting in drawdowns, withdrawal and defeat, now repeating in Afghanistan, then Iraq no matter each country’s troop level. Mindless of history, Obama added:

“We’ve substantially increased our commitment there, insisted upon greater accountability from our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developed a new strategy that can work and put in place a team, including one of our finest generals, to execute that plan. Now we have to see that strategy through,” no matter its illegality and futility, what he and Pentagon brass know but won’t say, what Congress and the media won’t address, supporting a killing machine in violation of US and international law, explained in this writer’s July 28 article.

Deceitful Media Misinformation

Released in advance to the Guardian, Der Spiegel, and New York Times, the “paper of record” collaborated with White House officials to sanitize it, clearing it in advance before publishing. Its Washington bureau chief, Dean Baquet, confirmed that he and two reporters (Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt) “did in fact (tell them) what we had,” Obama officials “prais(ing) us for the way we handled it, giving them a chance to discuss it, and for handling the information with care. And for being responsible.”

Responding to readers, Times editor Bill Keller wrote:

The administration, while strongly condemning (the release), did not suggest (we not) write about them. On the contrary, in our discussions… while challenging some of (our) conclusions… thanked us for handling the documents with care (read sanitizing disturbing truths), and asked us to urge WikiLeaks to withhold information that could cost lives. We did pass along that message.

In addition, he concealed daily war crimes, including mass civilian deaths, many willfully committed. Also, Task Force 373, death squad assassins killing suspected insurgents, cold-blooded murder The Times suppresses, collaborating with imperial lawlessness.

Instead, it focused on “Pakistan’s Double Game,” a July 27 editorial “confirm(ing) a picture of Pakistani double-dealing that has been building for years,” saying, “If Mr. Obama cannot persuade Islamabad to cut its ties to, and then aggressively fight, the extremists in Pakistan, there is no hope of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan.” The Times, of course, supports the Afghan and Iraq wars.

For many decades, it’s suppressed disturbing truths, functioning like a propaganda ministry, masquerading as real news, commentary and analysis — why WikiLeaks gave the Guardian and Der Spiepel its documents for more accurate reporting if three papers, not one, had them.

A wise decision given the Times‘ history of supporting privilege, backing corporate interests, knowingly ignoring CIA efforts to topple elected governments, letting the Agency use its correspondents as covert assets, turning a blind eye to electoral fraud, and promoting imperial wars.

In the run-up to attacking Iraq, its star reporter, Judith Miller, bylined daily Pentagon handouts, scamming the public as a complicit Bush administration agent, a weapon of mass destruction against truth and real journalism by transmitting lies, deceit and agitprop, standard New York Times fare.

For months in 2004, it also concealed the Bush administration’s illegal domestic spying program, delaying its report until after the November election, and in 2000 endorsed Bush v. Gore, the first time in US history that the High Court ignored electoral fraud, annulled the popular vote (and final Electoral College count), installing its own preferred candidate over the winner.

The Wall Street Journal is unapologetic about supporting corporate interests, and under Rupert Murdoch the lunatic fringe, neocon extremism, and imperial wars, its July 29 editorial titled “WikiLeaks ‘Bastards’ ” an example, saying:

Julian Assange loves “crushing bastards.” We wonder if the ‘bastards’ he has in mind include the dozens of Afghan civilians named in the document dump as US military informants. Their lives, as well as those of their entire families, are now at terrible risk of Taliban reprisal.”

In fact, the Journal ignores Assange’s “bastards” — imperial warlords reigning death and destruction daily in Iraq and Afghanistan, unmentioned in Journal reports, op-eds or editorials, focusing instead on supporting the troops and “humanitarian” wars bringing “democracy” to beleaguered people, the kind that slaughters and enslaves them.

The editorial calls publishing disturbing truths “troubling,” though revealing “no big lies about the war (but) no small ones either.” Exposing details about “the military’s methods, sources, tactics and protocols of communication” harms national security.” In fact, what harms it is America’s presence, lawlessness and imperial agenda.

In a July 27 Journal op-ed, Bret Stephens calls civilian deaths, Special Forces teams targeting insurgents, and Pakistan aiding the Taliban “not exactly” news. “Still, you’d be forgiven for thinking it is, given the Pentagon Papers-style treatment now being accorded” the WikiLeaks release. “We’ll see about that,” so he focuses instead on a former Khmer Rouge prison commandant’s conviction for his role in the 1970s Cambodian killing fields, hardly worth discussing over 40 years too late.

Journal writers Siobhan Gorman and Jay Solomon also dodged the story, diverting attention to “Suspicion (and unproved allegations) of Iranian ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda,” alleging Tehran provided them arms, like earlier false claims about Iraq, the writers saying some accusations “stretch credulity,” yet they reported them anyway.

On July 27, the Washington Post headlined “Wikileaks’ release of classified field reports on Afghan war reveals not much,” saying:

The voluminous release “hardly merits the hype (nor) does it provide evidence for war crimes prosecutions — though in making that assertion, Wikileaks’ founder revealed his… antiwar agenda,” one supported by most Americans and majorities worldwide.

Saying the archives “add detail and texture,” the Post downplayed their importance, calling them old news, insignificant, unreliable, unconfirmed, not reflecting current policy — the kind escalating killing by a tripled force level and expanded war into Pakistan, its carnage and daily Iraq violence suppressed, the grim facts too disturbing to reveal, multiplied manifold in Afghanistan.

On his nationally syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh mocked WikiLeaks saying, “In the old days, the definition of winning a war was killing people.”

Fox News on-air host/commentator Greg Gutfeld headlined, “WikiLeaks’ Crusade Against the US Military,” saying its documents are “pure bullpoop times 12. The fact is, their goal is to ‘expose’ only the people they hate — meaning the US military — and get famous for it. (What) Julian thinks is ‘unethical behavior’ is only unethical if you’re an idiot… and if you disagree with me, you’re a racist homophobe who eats oil-soaked pelicans.”

Fox News calls itself “fair and balanced,” saying “we report, you decide.” Its above comments show otherwise – why Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) calls Fox “the most biased name in news,” its “extraordinary right-wing tilt” not reality or honest journalism, sadly lacking throughout the major media, cable and broadcast “news” looking more like Fox, racing to the bottom for ratings and profits, delivering a propaganda, junk food news and entertainment diet, their viewers misinformed and cheated.

Overall, the major media downplayed the WikiLeaks story, CNN like others saying:

“American officials from the president on down” minimized the disclosures, Pentagon officials finding no high classification level disclosures. Senator John Kerry said the leaks shouldn’t be overstated. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stressed they won’t affect congressional support for the war.

Trying to rebrand it, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton highlighted “the new counterinsurgency strategy implemented earlier this year, (a policy) to turn things around,” and a July 25 White House email told reporters “Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the President ordered a three month policy review and a change in strategy,” in fact, the same one escalated with more troops, more attacks, and more killings.

Others called the documents old news the way Pentagon Papers bombshells were dismissed, the Los Angeles Times saying WikiLeaks reports revealed few, just material “put(ting) the Obama administration on the defensive about its Afghanistan policy (that) may deepen doubts in Congress about prospects for turning around the faltering war effort.”

Not easily with major media support, complicit with Pentagon warlords, criminal politicians, and corporate bosses burying the story, calling it unimportant and moving on, backing the war effort by misreporting or silence.

As a result, antiwar sentiment must challenge official policy, enlisting others to resist and back efforts to revive a sick economy, lift living standards, save social benefits, and the remnants of democratic freedoms, fast eroding in America by design, the prospect too horrific to accept, making bad governance essential to change.

If not now, when? If not us, who? If that’s not incentive enough, what is?

Stephen Lendman wrote How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War. Contact him at: lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Hue Longer said on July 31st, 2010 at 2:01am #

    I’ve forwarded this article

    I’m in a hotel and have gotten caught up on what people are watching on CNN; knowing how bad it is doesn’t prepare one for what people are plugging themselves into, wow!

  2. mary said on July 31st, 2010 at 2:37am #

    Is is all the Princess’s wedding? It is here – the cost (which is obscene compared to the wherewithal of the victims of her father’s wars), the guest list, whether her father will be able ‘ to hold it together’, and funniest of all on the radio this morning, the fact that her future father-in-law has just got out of clink!

    Wedding Belle – Why Chelsea continues to fascinate

    and the most read item today on the BBC website.

    This is the website of the state broadcaster and the main terrestrial TV channel. What relevance has this spoilt madam to anything?

    Meanwhile, death, slaughter and mayhem in Afghanistan, Israeli air strikes on Gaza last night and global warming are ignored as is any mention of Wikileaks a few days after the release of the files.

  3. Don Hawkins said on July 31st, 2010 at 5:06am #

    The term “gird your loins” was used in the Roman Era meaning to pull up and tie your lower garments between your legs to increase your mobility in battle. In the modern age, it has become an idiom meaning to prepare yourself for the worst. Wiki

    There is the meaning for all of you that didn’t get invited to the big wedding. Nothing like having a investment banker in the family. Yes investment bankers where one and one is never two more like thirty and the kind of money you don’t run out of. The kind of money you don’t run out of what kind is that? Well in the age of universal deceit, corruption and good old fashion bullshit taken to new levels in old twenty ten it’s the kind of money that is worthless.

  4. Don Hawkins said on July 31st, 2010 at 5:26am #

    Humm just saw on CNN for the big wedding $600,000 for airconditioned tents. I think people in Haiti might just like tents or food and in Detroit same. I can hear it now as the so called elites are walking out someone will say is she eating right or that dress was just not her. When is enough enough oh that’s right one and one is thirty when you live on planet Zenon.

  5. Don Hawkins said on July 31st, 2010 at 6:16am #

    Bill Clinton it is said has a temper well well well he is human and I saw him walking in the streets yesterday talking to regular people in the little town. I wonder if they have an Elm Street in the little town. I really need to stop reading Stephen King Novels. Yes it looked like many in the little town just wanted to talk with Bill well Bill

    “You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”
    Bob Marley

    I think we are at the you can’t fool all the people all the time part and the games these people play with one another is now beyond good taste. Watch that temper Bill.

  6. kalidas said on July 31st, 2010 at 8:07am #

    It’s like a rerun of the Sopranos.
    Only worse.
    Much much worse.

  7. mary said on August 19th, 2010 at 12:37am #

    John Pilger John Pilger: Why Wikileaks must be protected
    19 Aug 2010

    In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes the importance of Wikileaks as a new and fearless form of investigative journalism that threatens both the war-makers and their apologists, notably journalists who are state stenographers.

    On 26 July, Wikileaks released thousands of secret US military files on the war in Afghanistan. Cover-ups, a secret assassination unit and the killing of civilians are documented. In file after file, the brutalities echo the colonial past. From Malaya and Vietnam to Bloody Sunday and Basra, little has changed. The difference is that today there is an extraordinary way of knowing how faraway societies are routinely ravaged in our name. Wikileaks has acquired records of six years of civilian killing for both Afghanistan and Iraq, of which those published in the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times are a fraction.

    There is understandably hysteria on high, with demands that the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is “hunted down” and “rendered”. In Washington, I interviewed a senior Defence Department official and asked, “Can you give a guarantee that the editors of Wikileaks and the editor in chief, who is not American, will not be subjected to the kind of manhunt that we read about in the media?” He replied, “It’s not my position to give guarantees on anything”. He referred me to the “ongoing criminal investigation” of a US soldier, Bradley Manning, an alleged whistleblower. In a nation that claims its constitution protects truth-tellers, the Obama administration is pursuing and prosecuting more whistleblowers than any of its modern predecessors. A Pentagon document states bluntly that US intelligence intends to “fatally marginalise” Wikileaks. The preferred tactic is smear, with corporate journalists ever ready to play their part.

    On 31 July, the American celebrity reporter Christiane Amanapour interviewed Secretary of Defence Robert Gates on the ABC network. She invited Gates to describe to her viewers his “anger” at Wikileaks. She echoed the Pentagon line that “this leak has blood on its hands”, thereby cueing Gates to find Wikileaks “guilty” of “moral culpability”. Such hypocrisy coming from a regime drenched in the blood of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq – as its own files make clear – is apparently not for journalistic enquiry. This is hardly surprising now that a new and fearless form of public accountability, which Wikileaks represents, threatens not only the war-makers but their apologists.

    Their current propaganda is that Wikileaks is “irresponsible”. Earlier this year, before it released the cockpit video of an American Apache gunship killing 19 civilians in Iraq, including journalists and children, Wikileaks sent people to Baghdad to find the families of the victims in order to prepare them. Prior to the release of last month’s Afghan War Logs, Wikileaks wrote to the White House asking that it identify names that might draw reprisals. There was no reply. More than 15,000 files were withheld and these, says Assange, will not be released until they have been scrutinised “line by line” so that names of those at risk can be deleted.

    The pressure on Assange himself seems unrelenting. In his homeland, Australia, the shadow foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has said that if her right-wing coalition wins the general election on 21 August, “appropriate action” will be taken “if an Australian citizen has deliberately undertake an activity that could put at risk the lives of Australian forces in Afghanistan or undermine our operations in any way”. The Australian role in Afghanistan, effectively mercenary in the service of Washington, has produced two striking results: the massacre of five children in a village in Oruzgan province and the overwhelming disapproval of the majority of Australians.

    Last May, following the release of the Apache footage, Assange had his Australian passport temporarily confiscated when he returned home. The Labor government in Canberra denies it has received requests from Washington to detain him and spy on the Wikileaks network. The Cameron government also denies this. They would, wouldn’t they? Assange, who came to London last month to work on exposing the war logs, has had to leave Britain hastily for, as puts it, “safer climes”.

    On 16 August, the Guardian, citing Daniel Ellsberg, described the great Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu as “the pre-eminent hero of the nuclear age”. Vanunu, who alerted the world to Israel’s secret nuclear weapons, was kidnapped by the Israelis and incarcerated for 18 years after he was left unprotected by the London Sunday Times, which had published the documents he supplied. In 1983, another heroic whistleblower, Sarah Tisdall, a Foreign Office clerical officer, sent documents to the Guardian that disclosed how the Thatcher government planned to spin the arrival of American cruise missiles in Britain. The Guardian complied with a court order to hand over the documents, and Tisdall went to prison.

    In one sense, the Wikileaks revelations shame the dominant section of journalism devoted merely to taking down what cynical and malign power tells it. This is state stenography, not journalism. Look on the Wikileaks site and read a Ministry of Defence document that describes the “threat” of real journalism. And so it should be a threat. Having published skilfully the Wikileaks expose of a fraudulent war, the Guardian should now give its most powerful and unreserved editorial support to the protection of Julian Assange and his colleagues, whose truth-telling is as important as any in my lifetime.

    I like Julian Assange’s dust-dry wit. When I asked him if it was more difficult to publish secret information in Britain, he replied, “When we look at Official Secrets Act labelled documents we see that they state it is offence to retain the information and an offence to destroy the information. So the only possible outcome we have is to publish the information.”


    (The above was posted on the MediaLens messageboard by the editors)

  8. mary said on August 19th, 2010 at 12:38am #

    He’s so good I seemed to have named him twice.