Tuesday, 26 October 2010

WikiLeaks, US Exceptionalism and the Media (Jon Kofas, Greece)

Posted on October 26th, 2010
In 2008, the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose Thorbjoern Jagland to chair the Committee. Jagland is a Labour Party politician, former prime minister, foreign minister, speaker of the parliament, and current secretary-general of the Council of Europe. On 21 October 2010, WAISer John Torok submitted a provocative but informative article by Japanese journalist Yoichi Shimatsu, who argued that under Jagland’s leadership the Nobel Peace Prize committee headed by “Jagland the warmonger” intends to send political messages regarding a new military world order with a strong NATO and a Cold War ideology. Shimatsu wrote that: “The goal of the West is not democracy and human rights; what its leaders really desire is domination and warfare.” John Torok rightly commented that the article reads a bit too conspiratorial, but it is posted on WAIS for all to read and reach their own conclusions. In light of WikiLeaks Iraq revelations, we have very clear evidence that the Obama administration ignored what could be termed as “war crimes.” Was Obama worthy of Jagland’s choice to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at a time that mass killings of Iraqi civilians were taking place? A few mainstream media organizations have called on the US to “investigate” the revelations brought to light by WikiLeaks docs–that is, the Pentagon would investigate itself to conclude that a few Iraqi and US “bad apples” were responsible for the massive “collateral damage” (civilian killings) in the field. I believe there will be an investigation, but it will be to determine how to better protect confidential sources in future and keep tighter control of non-mainstream media that poses a threat to “democracy” equated with national security, regardless of violations of the Geneva Convention as WikiLeaks claims.
Some mainstream media, including the New York Times, are downplaying the “war crimes” aspect and the elaborate cover up. Instead they are focusing on the flamboyant WikiLeaks Australian founder Julian Assange, as though this individual regardless of his style and tactics is the essence of the problem in US foreign and defense policies. There is a very interesting article in the Independent by Patrick Cockburn, “Echoes of El Salvador in Tales of US-Approved Death Squads.”
US mainstream media is more exercised about Juan Williams losing his NPR job as “Liberal” commentator after making a racist remark at the expense of Muslim (and immediately rewarded a lucrative Fox News contract) than they are about the serious issue of American Exceptionalism that has remained a cornerstone in US foreign policy from the Spanish-American War, when US Marines committed war crimes against civilians in the Philippines, to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After the WikiLeaks revelations in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, American democracy is on trial at home and around the world; yes, especially now with Obama who promised a more “democratic” America that respected human rights! In an election year that the majority seems to be leaning toward Republicans, with some Tea Party elements advocating a unilateral foreign policy, a hawkish defense policy, and tighter domestic security (anti-terrorist measures), the American voters have difficult choices. But how can they make informed choices in the absence of full disclosure of vital information by their government that conceals many issues under the “national security” label and feeds information to the media that has been reduced to an official mouthpiece. Unlike the Nixon era, when the White House tried to manipulate the press toward greater conformity, today’s mainstream media, with few exceptions, does a much better job of conforming to official policy and refraining from investigative reporting that could damage “national security,” as each administration defines it and equates with Democracy.
Given that the mainstream media for the most part is raising questions about WikiLeaks and leaks inside the Pentagon, instead of demanding government accountability, who will investigate whether Obama has indeed pursued Bush policies of imprisonments, torture and assassinations of civilians and whether these amount to war crimes? Where is the voice of international organizations, including UN and International Court of Justice, or are they too busy condemning and investigating minor Third World political criminals to bother with the major ones in the West? What if North Korea or Iran, neither of which is ruled by benevolent Boy Scouts and neither of which has the best human rights record in the world, had engaged in the same acts as we see evidence in summaries from WikiLeaks docs? If American Exceptionalism has no limits, does this necessarily entail that America has abandoned its Jeffersonian ideals in favor of imperial power and moved closer toward an authoritarian model as I argued in a previous essay about “Threats to US Democracy”? This is a point made in a number of books and essays, including Ted Gup, Nation of Secrets (2008). Gup argues that it has become part of the American mindset to be obsessed with secrecy, an issue that extends to the private sector, including the press. As the trend toward greater secrecy continues, it results in misleading and misinforming the public, thus making them less democratic and corrupting them. Beyond the significance of WikiLeaks docs on Iraq and Afghanistan that have revealed a great deal about Iran as well, the larger question is whether secrecy has become so ingrained in American culture that it has molded the political system and compromised basic freedoms. (For more on “Secrecy and Democracy” see:
http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/balancing-secrecy-and-democracy )

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