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  Print view: Damage Control: Downplaying WikiLeaks Revelations

Damage Control: Downplaying WikiLeaks Revelations

by Stephen Lendman
Friday, 30 July 2010

"Truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."
—Joseph Goebbels,
    Nazi Propaganda Minister
Antiwar activism is not easy when major media is complicit with Pentagon warlords, criminal politicians, and corporate bosses by burying the terrible truth, calling it unimportant. But the ruling coalition's pursuit of never-ending unwinnable wars are not the solution to long-term recession, declining living standards and debt.

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 sort of kill after another every day going on and on and 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, supporting 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 manyfold 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

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at His blog is

Listen to Lendman's cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.

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This story was published on July 30, 2010.

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