Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Pursuing 'Missionary Diplomacy', President Wilson appreciated the importance of molding foreign public opinion in his quest to influence Latin America and the European peace process. Missionary Diplomacy resulted in imperialism in Latin America and Wilsonian influence in Europe was hardly sufficient to prevent a second world war. Nevertheless, even during interwar isolationism, the US continued to influence foreign public opinion through various means from labor unions to journalism. The US campaign to mold public opinion abroad really took off during WWII when FDR employed many experts, including Hollywood producers, writers and directors to counter the brilliant propaganda tactics that the NAZI regime launched on a global scale.

The Cold War elevated the campaign to influence world public opinion. Every avenue from schools and labor unions to politicians and journalists was used through a number of directly-funded programs by US gov., foundations and universities, labor unions and other institutions that invited foreign nationals to visit and participate in such 'training programs' that were in fact indoctrination seminars. Funding came from Departments of State and Defense to Labor and Justice, presumably CIA according to Philip Agee, as well as from corporate sources interested in defeating Communist regimes.

Some administrations, Nixon working with Kissinger amid the Vietnam War, US counter-insurgency operations in Africa and Latin America and confrontation with the USSR over the arms race, were very interested in molding foreign public opinion through any means necessary. Carter and Cy Vance who opted to respect human rights were less aggressive in their methods of influencing world public opinion. Nevertheless,  programs designed to mold foreign public opinion involved NATO, UN agencies, friendly governments, and institutions from universities to labor unions.

After Bush launched the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, US gov. intensified the campaign to create a more pro-American atmosphere not just in Muslim countries, but around the world as it was clear from public opinion polls that the US was the least favorite country along with Israel. The solution was not to change policy, but mold foreign public opinion in favor of US GOV. A massive campaign started that included various programs among
them the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists that invites journalists and media professionals to participate in seminars for several weeks.

More than 600 people have taken part in this program alone since 2006 sponsored by the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. "They explore the role of a free press in a democracy, learn about the media and the social, economic and political structures of the United States and engage in professional development seminars and an international symposium with their peers."

This much is public record as is the history of US policy to influence foreign public opinion in time of war and peace in the last 100 years. What was always suspected and implied by those lacking documents to support their claims was that the US gov. was paying off foreign journalists and university professors among others in the business of influencing public opinion. Long suspected of receiving payoffs from businesses and governments, Greek journalists came under scrutiny again this week when a foreign correspondent stationed in Washington and New York, Michalis Ignatiou revealed that the US gov. contracted for favorable coverage with Greek journalists and university professors. The money of course is wasted given that Greece is one of the most anti-American countries in the world largely because of its 50-year history with the US as a dependency that could only somewhat loosen its traditional ties once it became part of the eurozone.

If the US had Greek journalists and university professors on payroll, it stands to reason, though I have no empirical proof, that Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy has been doing the same with other countries. The CIA openly advertises for Open Source Officer (foreign media analysts) and the State Department has contracted think tanks and consulting firms to determine how to best influence foreign public opinion. Given that the institutionalization of 'public diplomacy' designed to influence foreign public opinion and evidence of US gov. contracts with foreign journalists and university professors, the question is how Wikileaks fits into the picture.

For a number of months there have been UNSUBSTANTIATED stories that CIA & MOSSAD are behind Wikileaks. I have stated from the very first time that I wrote on Wikileaks that the existence of this operation raises questions about who is feeding it, why with such relative ease, why the types of documents, why the rather mild reaction by top administration officials if indeed national security is at stake. I have also stated that the entire operation, as useful as it is to scholars and to inform the public, smells of opportunism rather than ideology.

For example, just before he surrendered to police, Assange's latest surprise was to reveal US gov. secrets on UFOs. Not having any evidence of who or what, if anyone is behind Wikileaks, all one can do so far is speculate on the basis of the nature of docs Wikileaks has obtained and how they have harmed or served US gov. That Wikileaks released documents on Pakistan playing both sides - US and Taliban - and then Obama going to Lisbon to announce that NATO is planning a troop withdrawal in three to four years time seems like a 'planned coincidence'. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that released docs embarrass the US, but foreign govts deal with the US because it is the 'indispensable nation'. That Gates has been less exercised about the leaks than one might expect is curious.

Has Wikileaks furthered US gov goals, or hindered them? That Obama had to ban Wikileaks in US govt computers and then support INTERPOL hunt-down of Assange was a political response to Republicans and to be expected, otherwise it would have confirmed that indeed US was condoning if not actually providing docs to Wikileaks which after all has been cooperating with mainstream media. Although scenarios that CIA or some other entity is behind Wikileaks may never be answered,  US gov. is making good use of Wikileaks to achieve some of its own goals and that may fall under the broader category of 'public diplomacy'.

To what degree is US public diplomacy harmed by Wikileaks and to what degree has the US harmed its own efforts by the manner it has responded? That Assange is in custody pursued by the US amid 'the epoch of terrorism' for purely political reasons will only further divide those Americans who believe in civil rights and in freedom of speech and press from those lining up behind the right wing campaign to punish anyone and everyone the US deems causing political harm to its reputation. Outside the US, the Wikileaks and Assange case will be used to accentuate the 'undemocratic' methods of American Democracy. Whether Wikileaks is exactly what it appears on the surface, or whether it is something more and there are elements behind it that are not revealed is not at issue, but rather that amid immense US and EU social and economic problems, Wikileaks serves as a distraction.

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