On November 28, the daily papers New York Times, The Guardian, El País, Le Monde, and Der Spiegel, began to publish some of the more than 250,000 confidential documents of the US State Department, leaked to the press by the WikiLeaks site. This is the third massive leak of documents, preceded by the disclosure of almost 500,000 reports on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, in which crimes committed by the occupation troops are described in detail. In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, announced that the site will next make public other documents referring to the practices of big corporations and banks, among which would be the Bank of America.
The US government is accusing Bradley Manning, 22, a young military intelligence analyst, who has been held since May, awaiting a court martial, of the biggest documents leak in history. It has also issued an international arrest warrant for J. Assange, who is now being pursued by Swedish authorities, for a dubious case. As was to be expected, the Republican Party is asking for a harsher policy, such as considering WikiLeaks a “foreign terrorist organization” and is using the scandal to accuse the Democrats of endangering national security and thus to favor a more repressive policy on the domestic front and a more aggressive policy internationally.
The speculations over who is behind this leak are extremely varied. At one extreme, groups from the Republican right-wing are suggesting the improbable conspiratorial explanation that this is a government operation to appear active in defense of US interests in the world, while the defenders of the Obama administration suspect the Republican Party or groups from the Pentagon that would be pressing for militarizing foreign policy still more.
Beyond hypotheses on the origin of the leak and on who would end up benefiting politically from the scandal, the fact is that once again, the vulnerability of state secrets and the divisions, not only between Democrats and Republicans, but also among the upper echelons of political and military power themselves, have come to light, as happened with the documents about Afghanistan and Iraq.
Although the documents published so far do not contain “top secret” information about US foreign policy, and they rather confirm the modus operandi already known about the main imperialist power, the magnitude of the leak represents a crisis for Obama’s administration, which saw its political capital vanish in scarcely two years in power and has just suffered a harsh electoral defeat at the hands of the Republican Party. But, above all, it is a more than eloquent sign of the decline of the United States empire..
A blow to diplomacy
The “cables” (which retain the old name of secret documents, prior to the information age) consist of reports, accounts, and interviews exchanged between the White House and officials of about 270 embassies and missions of the United States throughout the world, mainly dated between 2007 and 2010.
The publication of these documents left an open secret exposed: “that the US uses its embassies as part of a global espionage network, with diplomats tasked to obtain not just information from the people they meet, but personal details, such as frequent flyer numbers, credit card details and even DNA material” (The Guardian, 28-11-10).
As stated in the reports, the Secretary of State herself, Hillary Clinton, requested this type of espionage on the Secretary General and high-ranking officials of the United Nations, as well as allied and enemy political leaders.
Until now, some of the governments allied or semi-allied to the United States alluded to in the cables, like that of France, Great Britain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and even Russia, have given priority to the defense of secret diplomacy and the condemnation of WikiLeaks and appear to agree on diminishing the seriousness of the incident.
However, because of the nature of the reports and comments where the ambassadors make insulting descriptions of Presidents and officials, use arrogant language or recount in detail “indiscretions” heard in appointments, interviews or suppers, the real importance that the leak will have in international relations is still unclear. To this is added the disclosure that the alleged confidential information handed over to the US embassies by governments, officials, businessmen or informers, was immediately put up on the Sipdis network, which potentially almost 3 million people from the Departments of State and Defense can access.
The “reality” of media and imperialist decline
The policy of the US government is to try to play down the importance of the leak where the central problems and alliances of the United States are concerned. Hillary Clinton launched a dual operation, still under way, to limit the possible damages to US diplomacy. This operation consists, on the one hand, of trying to change the incident into a problem, not only of the United States, but of “the entire international community,” and, on the other hand, emphasizing that, according to the documents, governments that are enemies of the United States, like Iran or North Korea, have no ally and could face harsher policies.
The big imperialist press, related to the Democratic administration, like The New York Times, is collaborating actively in repairing the image of the Obama administration, in advance of what will undoubtedly be the Republican attack, by showing that Obama was successful where Bush had failed, for instance, in getting China and Russia to accept a hardening of the system of sanctions against Iran. The big media are also contributing to softening the blow that “Cablegate” could signify for US interests. Both The New York Times and Spiegel admitted they had accepted censorship by the US government in publishing the documents. As an analyst from Counterpunch charges, “…. the press, considering their readers’ interests, will focus on gossip and the unflattering remarks Americans made about their foreign counterparts” (“Hillary’s Blame Game,” by P.C. Roberts, Counterpunch, 12/01/10), thus diverting interest toward the domestic quarrels of various governments that are mentioned in the documents.
However, the most interesting thing about the published information is that it confirms not only the continuity of aims of the Obama administration with its predecessor, George W. Bush, and its decision to repair imperialist domination, but also the big challenges and limits that it confronts in order to achieve that, in the context of the crisis of the international economy and of the growing tensions among the great powers, as the deterioration of the United States’ relationship with Germany shows.
To name only the most difficult situations, in Iraq, the United States will have to cope with a second government headed by al-Maliki, that will have the support of the radical cleric al-Sadr, who represents a pro-Iranian Shiite group that confronted the military occupation with armed militias. The formation of this government, 8 months after the elections, was negotiated by Iran.
Although Obama had succeeded in lining up Russia and China behind a policy of more severe sanctions against the Iranian regime, up to now this policy has not been effective for the interests of the imperialists and the allies of the United States in the region, mainly Israel and Saudi Arabia, that are pressing for the launching of a military attack.
The situation in Afghanistan continues to be critical for the occupation troops. NATO admitted at its recent summit in Lisbon that combat operations would last until 2014, at least. The United States is obliged to support the government of Karzai, whom it considers to be corrupt, as an ally, and to accept negotiations, sponsored by Pakistan, with the Taliban leaders, to try to limit the scope of the insurgency. The resolution of the crisis that has begun on the Korean peninsula, based on the tense relationship between the United States and China, is still uncertain.
In the context of the international economic crisis that threatens to enter a more acute phase, anticipated by the European crisis and the so-called “currency war,” obviously the United States no longer has the strength to impose its own conditions.
Secret diplomacy and imperialism
The publication of the cables has exposed the nature of imperialist policy, its wars, its conspiracies, and its secret diplomacy in the service of defending and extending the interests of the US in the world, and also how the puppet and pro-imperialist governments serve those interests.
In a recent interview, the founder of WikiLeaks expresses expectations that the publication of secret documents could result in a “reform.” But secret diplomacy is inherent in the capitalist states and in imperialism. In November, 1917, the revolutionary Russian workers’ state decided to disclose the secrets of the tsarist regime’s diplomacy and the plans for colonial division of the Middle East among the allied imperialist powers. Trotsky, who was the first People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Russian workers’ state, in his statement announcing this disclosure, wrote: “Imperialism, with its dark plans of conquest and its criminal alliances and treaties, developed the system of secret diplomacy to an unprecedented level. The struggle against imperialism is, at the same time, the struggle against capitalist diplomacy, which has done enough damage to fear coming out to the light of day.” (Declaration on the publication of the secret treaties, L. Trotsky, November, 1917). These words are fully valid today.