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Deadly Fictions

The classified diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks are the Pentagon Papers of the pro-Israel right

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a press conference in Tehran today. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has positioned himself as a left-wing whistleblower whose life mission is to call the United States to task for the evil it has wreaked throughout the world. But after poring through the diplomatic cables revealed via the site yesterday, one might easily wonder if Assange isn’t instead a clandestine agent of Dick Cheney and Bibi Netanyahu; whether his muckraking website isn’t part of a Likudnik plot to provoke an attack on Iran; and if PFC Bradley Manning, who allegedly uploaded 250,000 classified documents to Wikileaks, is actually a Lee Harvey Oswald-like neocon patsy.

With all due apologies to Oliver Stone (and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey), what the Wikileaks documents reveal is not a conspiracy of any kind but a scary and growing gap between the private assessments of American diplomats and allies in the Middle East and public statements made by U.S. government officials. The publication of these leaked cables is eerily reminiscent of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed a decade-long attempt by U.S. officials to distort and conceal unpalatable truths about the Vietnam War, and manipulate public opinion. The difference is that while the Pentagon Papers substantially vindicated the American left, the Wikileaks cable dump vindicates the right.

Here are eight of the most obvious examples from the initial trove of documents that has appeared online:

1. While the Israelis are deeply concerned about Iran’s march toward a nuclear program, it is in fact the Arabs who are begging the United States to “take out” Iranian installations through military force, with one United Arab Emirates official even proposing a ground invasion. Calling Iran “evil,” King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the United States to “cut off the head of the snake” by attacking Iranian nuclear installations.

2. It is not just Israeli leaders who believe Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reminiscent of Hitler; U.S. officials think so too, as do Arab leaders, who use the Hitler analogy to warn against the dangers of appeasing Iran.

3. North Korea, an isolated country that enjoys substantial diplomatic and economic backing from China, is supplying Iran with advanced ballistic missile systems that would allow an Iranian nuclear warhead to hit Tel Aviv—or Moscow—with a substantial degree of accuracy. Taken in concert with the North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria, it would appear that North Korea—acting with the knowledge and perhaps direct encouragement of China—is playing a significant and deliberate role in the proliferation of nuclear equipment and ballistic delivery systems in the Middle East.

4. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not a model Middle Eastern leader who has found the right admixture of religious enthusiasm and democracy, as U.S. government officials often like to suggest in public, but “an exceptionally dangerous” Islamist. U.S. diplomats have concluded that Erdogan’s anti-Israel rhetoric is not premised on domestic Turkish electioneering or larger geo-strategic concerns but rather on a personal, visceral hatred of Israel.

5. Tehran has used the cover of the ostensibly independent Iranian Red Crescent—a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, whose pledge of neutrality allows it access to war zones—to smuggle weapons and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force into Lebanon during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, and into Iraq, to fight against U.S. soldiers.

6. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman are more worried about Hamas than about Israel and are staunchly opposed to the expansion of Iranian influence in the region.

7. The Amir of Qatar is a dubious ally, who plays Washington and Tehran off each other. “The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100.”

8. America’s Arab allies do not believe that the Barack Obama Administration can separate Syria from Iran through any foreseeable combination of carrots and sticks. According to one cable, the UAE’s Sheik Mohamed Bin Zayed “showed no confidence that Syria could be separated from the Iranian camp” and quoted him directly as saying “If you want my opinion … I think not.” He advised that Syria would continue hedging on key regional issues (Iran, support for Hezbollah, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process) for the foreseeable future.

If these cables make many on the right look prescient, or at least in touch with reality, it is hardly a surprise that their domestic U.S. rivals are trying to spin the Wikileaks cables to their own advantage. For instance, leftwing academic specialists on the Middle East who have argued that the peace process is the key issue in the region and that the Gulf Arab states do not want the United States or Israel to bomb Iran are nonetheless celebrating the Wikileaks documents, even as their argument is now vitiated. Some university professors claim that their analysis is better than those of Washington’s Arab allies anyway. The New York Times is trying to make the case that in the wake of George W. Bush’s mismanagement the Obama Administration has managed to build a strong sanctions regime against Iran that includes Russia and China. Unfortunately, the cables prove only that Russian envoys are working to frustrate the U.S. effort by selling the Iranian position to the Arabs.

What comes through most strongly from the Wikileaks documents, however, is that U.S. Middle East policy is premised on a web of self-justifying fictions that are flatly contradicted by the assessments of American diplomats and allies in the region. Starting with Bush’s second term and continuing through the Obama Administration, Washington has ignored the strong and repeated pleas of its regional allies—from Jerusalem to Riyadh—to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Perhaps the most disturbing revelation in the documents is the extent to which both the Bush and Obama Administrations have concealed Iran’s war against the United States and its allies in Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and the Arab Gulf states, even as those same allies have been candid in their diplomatic exchanges with us. U.S. servicemen and -women are being dispatched to combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan where they are fighting Iranian soldiers and assets in a regional war with the Islamic Republic that our officials dare not discuss, lest they have to do something about it.

Members of the Washington policy establishment should be considerably less worried about how the foreign ministries of allied countries respond to the leaks than how the American electorate does. Even in a democracy, we accept that a key part of our diplomacy depends on concealing the truth, or even lying, in order to advance the interests of one’s own country. But it is hard to see how the public, mendacious, face of U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, serves American interests. By systematically misleading the American people, our policymakers have undermined the basis of our democracy, which is premised on the existence of a public that is capable of making informed decisions about a world that is only becoming more dangerous.

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This is a damning indictment of Bush II’s and especially Obama’s foreign policy.

Matt Zvi says:

Lee Smith, you are so… ambiguous! I can’t tell if you’re trying to repudiate the Wikileaks documents or not. I don’t think the wikileaks documents validate the right, nor the left. These documents say what the diplomats really think, and how could any self-respecting scholar claim to know more of what’s really being said behind closed doors than those who were actually behind those closed doors saying those things? Are we about to go as far as to claim that these papers are elaborate forgeries because they don’t justify an anti-Israel agenda?

Talk about spin, that’s what this analysis is. Firstly, the Wikileak documents provide no new facts. They just give us quotes of various “actors” opinions. And just likeactors in a theatrical production, many of the opinions expressed are by people trying to influence their audience in one way or another, so it is impossible to say which comments are the true opinions of the person quoted.

Specifically, when it comes to Iran, everyone knows the Arab states are basically aligned with Israel in their urge to take out Iran. So what? Does that mean such action is wise? Does it mean that Israel and the Arab states are correct or that such action is in US interests? Gates is quoted in one of the documents as saying that attacking Iran military might delay its development of the bomb but it would unite the Iranian people and guarantee the bomb’s creation. The fact that Iran has advanced missles is also something that has been known for quite some time, and has been the basis of US arguments for racheting up sanctions.

In fact, quite the contrary to Smith’s last paragraph, far from being mendacious, the leaks show the US public and private policy to be consistent: use diplomacy to create a world wide consensus to pressure Iran to stop developing a nuclear weapon. The leaks also show that the US is being quite successful in these efforts. The military alternative, urged by Israel, the Arabs and Jewish neo-cons, is a foolhardy adventure that the US government has been wise enough to aoid thus far. Nothing in these Wikileaks documents supports such adventurism.

I won’t go into further detail, but much the same can be said about US efforts to contain North Korea. In fact, unlike the Bush administration which was also bluster and disastrous adventurism, the Wikileak documents shows our current government to be responsibly dealing with complex threats.

littlebadwolf says:

while there is no way or reason to minimize the threat of a nuclear iran, one of the things going on here is that various islamist factions, some arabic, some not, want the u.s. to do their dirty work on sects they despise among the muslim nations. the sauds don’t want to be seen as taking the initiative against any muslim group, even seculars like the persians, long objects of saudi hatred and fear. through the kindness of american policy and energy needs, the sauds have plenty of air and fire-
power to take out iran’s nuclear installations, but they want the americans, or, by extension, the israelis, to get the blame for starting a world war. the turks, haters of jews that they might be, want exactly the same thing. demon israel and dirty america will have ‘started it all’.

“What comes through most strongly from the Wikileaks documents, however, is that U.S. Middle East policy is premised on a web of self-justifying fictions that are flatly contradicted by the assessments of American diplomats and allies in the region.”

the documents only provide what diplomats and foreign officials think about a wide array of issues … this is not evidence of what “America knows” (and is thus hiding from us), but rather what the American officials have been told about the opinions of various foreign officials. Simply because allies and diplomats come to a conclusion, doesn’t mean that is the right answer, and thus cannot “contradict” these “fictions” you place against them …

Yeah, everyone hates the president of Iran. didn’t we learn that a few years ago? If Meashimer says something different, do you still listen?

UntoldWar says:

All of this is happening of Israel and US’s ambitions of creating Kurdistan.
Israel has been training pesmerga.
US has been supplying weapons to PKK terrorist group
Trying to politicise the Kurdish cause
Agaist all this Turkey started working on having more influence in the region
A lot of islamic money flooded into Turkey.
Turkey is offering to create economic regions between muslim countries in middle east.
Has been in good terms with Syria, Lebnon, Libia, Iran. (This is to cut sea access to Northern Iraq.
Started politicsing the Hamas group in retailation to help of west to PKK
It is the untoldwar in middle east.

What bothers me about all this is the media. Diplomats are supposed to be, well, diplomatic. The press however marching in its conceptions has really not done its job, and it appears that it wont start soon. The big take home message which they will never print is that the Israeli Palestinian conflict doesn’t really matter much to them and is used as a cover to distract their people from the terrible job that their leaders are doing. Don’t expect to read this in the NYT.

Two more interesting details have emerged:
1) Peres admitted that Oslo was a mistake
2) Bibi supports territorial exchange

I guess all the liberals who rail about how evil Israel is and how the “settlements” are the stumbling block to middle east peace have the proverbial mud on their faces right now. (Not to mention that it seems the Jews really don’t run American foreign policy) Damn those conservatives were right after all…

perot junke says:

I guess John Foster Dulles is still alive and hiding somewhere in the White House.

Good soldier Hillary must be “plotzing”.

Obama’s State Department and his foreign policy? Dumb and Dumber !!

Reading all these talkbacks it is obvious that people do not agree on many facts and ideas. However ! it is clear that in the real world there are very few national leaders that talk and act as if there was such thing as One Islamic World or even one Arab world. There are Iranians, Kurds, Turks, Saudies, Egyptians, Libyans etc. about 20-30 countries each with its own problems and leaders who care about their countries and very little about these virtual so called “Worlds”. So in his famous talks to the “Arabs” and/or “Muslims” or about them to whom was the President of the USA talking? was he talking to the “people” above the heads of their leaders? a revolutionary practice well known from history, is he a new Nassar? a new hero who will unite these people. Is it going to work?

Also so little was written and said, up to now, in these documents, about the Palestinians who are supposed to be the “real” “main” “basic” problem of the ME if not the whole world. But that is what one hear all the time in public starting with Chomski and Finkelstien all the way to Foggy Bottom, how come?

And last but not least, leaks of that kind, while pretending to fight for truth and justice etc., are basically an attack againt one political entity, here the USA and they present a part of a new form of the very old very well known “thing”: propaganda war. In war as in war, so it should be expected that between 5-15% of the so called facts will be clever lies, the rest will be half truths, half known to half clever people. The joy of screaming “see I told you so” will help imbed the lies. People have been doing it for generations, even flowers mascarading as a female insect i.e. bees will also do it.

Sinz54 says:

A says: “use diplomacy to create a world wide consensus to pressure Iran to stop developing a nuclear weapon. ”

Thanks to guys like you, diplomacy has been rendered impossible, now that foreign governments will fear that anything they tell us in confidence will end up on Assange’s website in public.

You left-wingers can’t have it both ways. You can’t oppose military force and also cheer Assange’s attempts to torpedo peaceful American diplomatic initiatives.

Assange and you will have achieved the exact opposite of what you had intended: By cheering the attempts at sabotaging U.S. diplomacy, you leave the U.S. with no alternative but military action–or surrender.

And we Americans never, never surrender.

Miriam says:

“These documents say what the diplomats really think…”

OR perhaps they were created as a foil….not what ‘they’ think but what they want US to think…..a psyops/black ops game at which Israel-firsters are so creative and skilled at doing…its just another form of hasbara….there’s not much exposed or embarrassing about them, now is there?

WikiLeaks is being called good and bad names. In the The UK papers, ie ,
The Guardian, always refers to it as a WHISTLE-BLOWER. In this case, WikiLeaks exposed deep corruption, and inept diplomacy on all sides. What makes these leaks almost unbelievable, is the known vulnerability of the communication systems used.

Wikileaks says “Transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government, and stronger democracies”. Plato argues, “full disclosure; without accountability for our actions we would all behave unjustly “. Your Mr. Smith says “Even in a democracy, we accept that a key part of our diplomacy depends on concealing the truth, or even lying, in order to advance the interests of one’s own country”.

All Our interests should be, live, and let live, in peace.
I believe Wikileaks is a HELP.
Sy Fort Lee NJ

Don’t know if Assange is guilty of rape and molestation, or whether that is a maneuver to put him away, but if he is guilty, may the details come out since he is all about bringing “light” on the truth.

Old Bull says:

The desperate attempts of lefties here to minimize or wish away the truth as revealed in the diplomatic documents would be funny, if the consequences weren’t so severe. Lee Smith’s core point, that the documents reveal a government that is deliberately misleading its citizens about the dangers of the world, cannot be gainsaid. The Left loved “The Pentagon Papers.” Now they’d better learn to love the “Wikileaks Papers,” because the consequences are going to haunt them for a long time.

Hi Old Bull,
You are a smart old bull at that. To understand that your government is as you say “is deliberately misleading its citizens about the dangers of the world, cannot be gainsaid”, is a shonde, I say. Now that we know, smart bull, what do we do about it ?
Sy Fort Lee NJ

LT COL HOWARD says:

Unfortunately, Lee Smith is right. The readers who attempt to explain away the situation are dead wrong. I wish it were otherwise. I personally warned several US Secretaries of State that they were prisoners in a bureaucracy that viewed them as temporary occupants of the front office. Many of my colleagues have left government for high-paying jobs in various corporations doing business with the Arab governments in the Middle East. I fear that many policy decisions are being influenced by those who have retired and are now informally lobbying their former coworkers. Israel is a convenient foil for every Arab dictator to rally his people when the internal situation of his country looks troubling. A greater evil is the failure of liberals, especially Jewish liberal,s to recognize the reality: Israel is surrounded by enemies. One mistake by Israel and it can be destroyed. On the other hand, Israel’s enemies can try and try again. If they lose then they appeal to the UN and the international community to bail them out. That is reality. Too many of my professional colleagues go along with the fictions that Lee Smith identified. It is folly for Israel to believe that her security can be protected by anyone but herself. Jewish disunity in the past has led to destruction of Jewish entities. Unless Israel unites: left and right; secular and religious; “settler” and residents of communities within the 1967 borders; etc. Israels enemies will watch destroy herself.

LT COL HOWARD says:

Unfortunately, Lee Smith is right. The readers who attempt to explain away the situation are dead wrong. I wish it were otherwise. I personally warned several US Secretaries of State that they were prisoners in a bureaucracy that viewed them as temporary occupants of the front office. Many of my colleagues have left government for high-paying jobs in various corporations doing business with the Arab governments in the Middle East. I fear that many policy decisions are being influenced by those who have retired and are now informally lobbying their former coworkers. Israel is a convenient foil for every Arab dictator to rally his people when the internal situation of his country looks troubling. A greater evil is the failure of liberals, especially Jewish liberal,s to recognize the reality: Israel is surrounded by enemies. One mistake by Israel and it can be destroyed. On the other hand, Israel’s enemies can try and try again. If they lose then they appeal to the UN and the international community to bail them out. That is reality. Too many of my professional colleagues go along with the fictions that Lee Smith identified. It is folly for Israel to believe that her security can be protected by anyone but herself. Jewish disunity in the past has led to destruction of Jewish entities. Unless Israel unites: left and right; secular and religious; “settler” and residents of communities within the 1967 borders; etc. Israels enemies will watch destroy herself.

Name: Mark says:

Who’s the asshole? Have not read the report, but if I understand correctly, the VIPs are grumbling because they’ve been outbid by the king and moved to coach, from where presumably the plebes have been moved to other areas of the hospital because their standard wards were needed as private rooms for the displaced VIPs. Perhaps at the end of the day some poor people were rolled out into the street. So what? Somewhere in this model, the king has created jobs, I’m sure.

When Hillary Clinton and Obama plaid Poker with Israel, along came the WikiLeak. the hypocrisy is glaring. America was spying on it’s ally and I doubt we will see Roger Cohen owe up that the Arab states are terrified of Iran. Free Jonathan Pollard now! America should do the right thing. Of course the next strategic move for an Israel basher (as we see in the comments here) is to act like they aren’t surprised and knew all along… but they were denying it before and that was the point.

some commentators like at the news hour by Soros funded PBS had it’s regular Israel bashing analysis… (and this had me cackling) had ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI allude that Israel or a hostile party to Turkey was behind the Wikileak. One can easily see that the Wikileak will evolve in the Arab world into another variation of 911Troof. Too many of Israel’s enemies were really hurt by these cables… and it is very hard to spin that this didn’t help Israel’s survival away from a Holocaust.

Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey had the best take on the Wikileaks scandal:

“I believe the world will probably deal with this the same way regular people deal with post-one-night-stand-hook-up awkwardness: Everyone had their fun but seen each other naked and now they just wanna do their walk of shame and pretend it never happened.”

A’s analysis is rife with reason. Thank you for providing me with hope for America’s future. Why is it always necessary to take violent action? That option remains viable if all attempts at diplomacy fail, and our way of life’s at immediate risk, but what’s the rush? The bottom line is this: either humanity learns to resolve it’s disputes by reasonable and diplomatic means, or we’re doomed. Ultimately it’s inevitable that our enemies will develope means of mass destruction, whether, nuclear, biological, or through some technology currently unconcieved. It’s illogical to believe we will always be able to discover and eliminate every threat. And future threats will pose even greater danger. Then what? Societal devolution and anarchy, as I see it. Maybe even extinction. We’ve got to learn to resolve our issues in a nonviolent manner. Don’t you think it’s time we outgrow our biological and evolutionary predisposition to violence? Our knee-jerk neurobiological responce to fear? Monkeys, big cats, and cobras still fight for their survival, but they can’t speak, and we’ve been talking for a long time. Right now none of these issues matter as much as pursueing a way to peacefully resolve conflict. Consider it practice. The future will thank us.

What’s also interesting vis-à-vis Iran, is that the Arab states are also paralyzed because they have predicated their foreign policy profile on constantly taking a hard anti-Israeli line and so have painted themselves into a corner where they cannot publicly voice their assessments of any threats posed by Iran. The U.S., just in order to engage its Arab allies on any common diplomatic and security concerns, has to placate this otherwise crazy diplomatic posture.

How many of these Arab regimes can handle having to admit out in the open to their own people: “The biggest security threat we face isn’t Israel, but Iran and their proxies”?

Not sure if this leaked correspondence really validates “the right” as much as it makes it clear that the Arab world’s anti-Israeli posture is actually dangerous to much of the Arab world.

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Deadly Fictions

The classified diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks are the Pentagon Papers of the pro-Israel right

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