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Wikileaks and Nicaragua

by toni solo, December 9th 2010

What has so far been written about the Wikileaks has tended to fudge the ideological aspect of the activities of Julian Assange and his collaborators. Wikileaks is a libertarian project and libertarian politics are not necessarily progressive. That reality explains Assange's willingness to associate with Swedish organizations - like the Pirate Party and the Christian Social Democrats - progressive on libertarian issues but anti-socialist on others.

It also gives useful context to Assange's relationships with the women accusing him of sex offences, with whom he became involved as a result of his political public relations work for Wikileaks. One of them is a Christian Social Democrat activist some of whose articles have appeared in anti-Cuban government web sites. The Pirate Party, with which Assange also coordinated his work in Sweden, is a libertarian organization readily compatible with right wing "free market" neoliberals.

The legal and political entanglements of Wikileaks, Assange's ideological affinities and personal problems distract far too readily from the fundamental political reality of the manipulation of the information released. Defenders of Wikileaks argue, despite Assange's secretive dealings with major corporate media, that Assange and his colleagues promote transparency.

Freedom of expression has been another slogan brandished by people and organizations who support Wikileaks. But it is worth asking : freedom of expression for whom? The main group whose freedom of expression has been facilitated very effectively by Assange and his colleagues is the US diplomatic corps.

Without Wikileaks, their calumnies and slander would have remained buried in official secrecy, seeping without attribution into the global media. Now those slanders are treated as authoritative information and headline news in mainstream corporate media around the world. Wikileaks could have coordinated release of the cables with Telesur or Al-Jazeerah, for example. But Assange and his colleagues chose to cabal secretively with five mainstream corporate media outlets.

Those corporate media outlets regularly dispense NATO propaganda against targets like Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in the Middle East, against Russia, China and North Korea, and against the ALBA countries in Latin America. Now those corporate media are using Wikileaks' alleged challenge to authority to ram home relentlessly the wholesale propaganda messages of that self-same, supposedly-challenged authority, the US government.

This is truly a weird version of freedom of expression, effectively prioritizing cynical apologists for State terror - mass murder, torture, assassination, destabilization via covert warfare and psy-warfare - and their corporate media collaborators. Julian Assange and his colleagues may argue they are promoting transparency by getting the raw information out there so everyone can make up their own mind. Such argument is self-evidently disingenuous given the brutal reality of how global mass media and alternative media work.

The case of Nicaragua is a perfect example of how vulnerable to fakery the whole Wikileaks phenomenon is. To date, the cables released by Wikileaks on Nicaragua consist of long, hopelessly inaccurate, slanderous, loony-tunes diatribes by former ambassador Paul Trivelli and slightly more sophisticated but still thoroughly disingenuous supercilious codswallop from current ambassador Robert J. Callahan. For Trivelli and Callahan, Nicaragua's economic, political and social reality is less important than the propaganda their higher-ups in Washington want to hear.

Trivelli paints a picture of a Nicaragua at the mercy of a corrupt, incompetent, drugs-trafficking would-be dictator Daniel Ortega. Callahan, his face hard up against the facts, has had to modify the portrait to eliminate the drugs-trafficking, and tone down the lies about corruption and incompetence. But Callahan continues to push the phoney would-be-dictator angle.

News on Nicaragua is mediated via very occasional coverage in the mainstream corporate media and their alternative counterparts. All those media have published accounts of events in Nicaragua very similar to the content of the recently published Wikileaks cables from Trivelli and Callahan. The similarity stems from the self-evident fact that all that anti-Nicaraguan government propaganda comes from the regime-change-hungry Nicaraguan opposition. That is as true of coverage by, for example, the New York Times as it is of McClatchy News or of Counterpunch.

Hypocrisy on the part of North American libertarian champions of Wikileaks should come as no surprise. As writers  like Heinz Dieterich and Pascual Serrano have already pointed out, the leaked cables are a treasure trove for unscrupulous media similar to the mythical computers of murdered FARC leader Raul Reyes. In the case of Nicaragua, the cables reinforce with yet more deceit and distortion material already published by corporate and alternative media attacking the Sandinista government led by Daniel Ortega.

People familiar with Central America may note that the cables from Hugo Llorens, the US ambassador to Tegucigalpa, confirm that the coup in Honduras on June 29th 2009 was in fact a coup d'état. So what? Deputy Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela has already publicly stated that in retrospect the US government accepts the coup was a coup. What's missing from the leaks is information that the State Department and its embassy in Tegucigalpa knew of the coup in advance - that really would be damning news.

So far there has been no such truly newsworthy revelation - on Honduras or anywhere else - in the cables made available by Wikileaks. Before the cables were released writers like Eva Golinger and others had already uncovered plenty of circumstantial evidence indicating US government knowledge of preparations for the coup. The case for trusting the motives and integrity of Wikileaks would be much stronger if the cables provided documentary confirmation of that collusion.

One comes back constantly to a logical absurdity. We are told that the very publication of the cables promotes a truer view of world events and in particular the role of the US government in those events. But we already know a very great deal  about the role of the US government in world events. Publication of the source material on which the US government bases its foreign policy mostly serves merely to reinforce US government propaganda.

Perhaps the fundamental issue at stake in the arguments over the cables released by Wikileaks is whether the politics of their publication - who has made them available and how - are likely to promote a more true and fair media account of world events. Currently, the reverse seems more likely. In Latin America, the Wikileaks cables will definitely feed the false propaganda war of the US and its allies against progressive governments in the region.