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Israel Shamir recently published his opinion on the Wikileaks exposé and in the process took issue with those who had dismissed the leaks as a distraction. While I wasn't named by Shamir as one of the dissenters, I had waxed skeptical in a recent editorial on the topic.

I sent the following letter to Shamir:

Dear Shamir,

You title your last missive Wikileaks - The Real Stuff, yet you fail to point to anything "real" or valuable in the Wikileaks documents. Can you point to any detail, either within the documents or within those documents that have been published by the mainstream media that was not already publicly available?

Alternatively, can you point to some evidence that the release of the documents has in some way effected a sea-change in the general public opinion of the US misadventure in Afghanistan? I ask this because, such is the hype surrounding the release of the documents, I think we are all justified in expecting 'big things' as a result.

I don't doubt that the coverage of the Wikileaks documents by the mainstream media has lent extra weight to the long-established truth (as purveyed most notably by the alternative news sites) that civilians are being murdered in Afghanistan, but the precise number of dead is all important, as is where to lay the blame.

Do you really think the Wikileaks documents and the mainstream media reporting on them serve up a dish of raw Truth to the public? Or is it possible that it has been cooked to some extent?

The UK Guardian newspaper has taken the lead in the dissemination of the Wikileaks documents. Take a look at this article, if you have not already done so. It is the main story that appeared in the Guardian announcing the documents, and consider the bullet-pointed summation at the beginning:
  • Hundreds of civilians killed by coalition troops
  • Covert unit hunts leaders for 'kill or capture'
  • Steep rise in Taliban bomb attacks on NATO
Were you shocked, Shamir? "Hundreds" killed by coalition troops! The true figure is over 30,000 Afghan civilians killed as a result of the US invasion.

How many average US or European citizens do you think will be shocked by the claim that a "covert unit hunts" those evil 'Tailban' leaders? Is this meant to be a shocking exposé?

And what are we to make of the "steep rise in Taliban attacks on NATO"? Is this meant to elicit a "poor NATO" response from readers?

But I admit, some people are strong-willed, and read further than the bullet points of an article, and at least get to the end of the first paragraph where, in the case of the Guardian exposé, the public is treated to a further data point:
"NATO commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency."
Do you find that interesting Shamir? Suspicious even? Is it possible that a reasonable person could make a tenuous link between the hint that Iran is involved in the increased attacks on US troops in Afghanistan and the incessant sabre-rattling from both the US and Israel over a threatened attack on Iran?

But we could read on a little further and learn that: "the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date." So we understand that the 'Taliban' are to blame for the vast majority of civilian deaths, while "coalition forces" are responsible for "at least 195 civilians killed [...] and 174 wounded, in total"

Thanks to the documents and the Guardian then, we now know that the 'Taliban' are the real aggressors in Afghanistan. It was much the same with Iraq after all. While not everyone knows that well over 1 million Iraqis have been killed in the last 7 years, most people know that 'civil war' is to blame. As a result, everyone also understands that, when the white devils invade a Middle Eastern or S.E. Asian country, local military strategy stipulates that the best way for the host nation's population to defeat the invader is to wage war on each other. Those Arabs and Asians must be a bit crazy, eh? But hey, it makes sense to the Western mind!

On the Guardian's interactive war-logs page, we are treated to a cornucopia of videos and flash pages, all very pleasing to eye but none providing any more substance than that written in black and white print. The emphasis on Iran and Pakistan as the real problem is hard to miss. In an editorial entitled: Afghanistan war logs: the unvarnished picture, we are informed that:
"In these documents, Iran's and Pakistan's intelligence agencies run riot. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is linked to some of the war's most notorious commanders. The ISI is alleged to have sent 1,000 motorbikes to the warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani for suicide attacks in Khost and Logar provinces"
Are you getting the picture yet?

Under "latest news" in the 'War logs' section, the Guardian reports what you mention in your defence of Wikileaks, that Reporters Without Borders has accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of "incredible irresponsibility" over the leaked documents.

The accusation is inane and baseless, as you note, but I am more interested in how this attack on Assange (and indirectly on The Guardian for publishing the documents), serves to convince an increasingly disgruntled public that these documents, and the Guardian's analysis of them, are the 'real deal'. Are we really at last seeing a little honest-to-god mainstream journalism?

I have sifted through the 92,000 documents, and based on the details therein, I agree with the Guardian's analysis of their overall message - Iran and Pakistan and the 'Taliban' are evil and responsible for most of the deaths in Afghanistan. For sure, US troops are trigger happy at times, but who can blame them? War is hell after all! And to be honest, who can blame them for going after the bad guys..."dead or alive!"

Do you agree with this assessment of the root causes of the problems facing Afghanistan and the Afghan people today? More importantly, is the general public now more convinced that this perspective is an accurate one because it comes from the 'secret documents' of Whistle blowers?

Yesterday, for a while, Assange was accused of 'rape and molestation' by the Swedish public prosecutor. Assange was in Sweden last week. Within a few hours the charges were dropped however. Interestingly, Wikileaks is in the process of moving its operations to Sweden. Would you believe me if I suggested that the rape allegation was possibly a case of 'reverse psychology'? That someone, somewhere, with considerable influence, flirted with the idea of accusing Assange in order to lend credence to the idea that 'they' are out to get him and thereby set in stone his and Wikileaks' image as true champions of the people? Or do you demand that our world be more prosaic, and that the wayward son a Saudi royal really was the mastermind behind the incredibly complex 9/11 attacks?

I am not, however, totally convinced that we are dealing with some grand conspiracy involving Reporters Without Borders, the CIA, the White House, the Pentagon and the Guardian, etc. mainly because a conspiracy is not necessary. If we simply take the US National Security State apparatus, the US military command structure, the illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign S.E. Asian state, throw in some for-profit newspapers and a well-meaning, somewhat naive and impressionable 39-year old hacker, and a public starving for something real but who must be kept on a diet of half-truths and hollow hopes, we have all the ingredients we need for a controversial issue. The result can look like a conspiracy, when in fact it is just another day's news in the mixtus orbis that is 2010 planet earth - that is to say, the unfiltered Truth is seldom seen, and increasingly, in these increasingly desperate times, when it does chance to poke its head above the parapet, it very often treads on the toes of those emotionally invested in the idea that there can be any real positive change in our world without the conscious, active participation of all, or at least a majority.


Joe Quinn

Shamir responded to my letter:
Dear Joe, probably we'll have to work hard to achieve 'sea-change' you and I wish to have. Wikileaks is just one of the tools, not a magic wand. Did they deliver some impressive news? Yes. The US pays in cash to Iraqi and Afghani media for positive coverage. For journalists this is important news. They released hundreds of names of the US agents. The hit squad is not to be pooh-poohed, either. It was never published in the US, only in the UK and Germany. Wikileaks Afghan stuff is raw data, it has to be processed to become acceptable. The bias, as I've said, is that of newspapers that process, but you can also process the stuff if you are willing. Julian Assange is definitely not 29-year old somewhat naïve hacker - he is 39 and quite astute. And your question about Osama, I presume is facile - my view was expressed on September 12, 2001 in the piece called Orient Express
I respect Israel Shamir and his significant efforts in service to the truth, but his myopia over the Wikileaks documents and his response to my comments is a little depressing. The release of names of US agents (informers) in Afghanistan is not news because it tells us something we already knew: that the US military uses informers in Afghanistan. Of what value to the anti-war movement is the additional detail of their names? The 'Taliban', on the other hand, have apparently shown great interest. So who is that a score for? You and me, Wikileaks, The Taliban, or the US military?

Shamir's suggestion to "process" the raw data is equally unhelpful. We have processed it. It tells us that Iran and Pakistan are the bad guys and the US is killing civilians in Afghanistan, but not as many as the Taliban. I can read that on CNN.

The news of 'hit squads' is old news. 7 years ago the Guardian informed us that not only were US 'hit squads' operating in Iraq, but that they were being trained by the Israelis! And in any case, is the idea that 'hit squads' are being used to track down the evil 'Taliban' in Afghanistan more appalling than the fact, splashed across American broadsheets earlier this year, that Obama signed a bill authorizing the assassination of an American citizen by the CIA??

That the US pays the Iraqi and Afghan media for positive coverage is not only old news, it's only half the story. Has Shamir forgotten the Lincoln Group and the precocious Christian Bailey? In 2005 the Lincoln group won (read: was awarded) a $100 Million contract to essentially control the entire Iraqi media via its own 'Iraqi' publications and the monopolization of the Iraqi advertising industry on an ongoing basis. All of these details have been carried in the mainstream press, yet they have done nothing to stop the bogus endless 'war on terrorism'. Why then are we being encouraged to expect that the Wikileaks documents, which convey the same information, will fare any better?

I can only conclude that Shamir hasn't been keeping up with the news, because all, and I mean ALL of the important information in the Wikileaks documents has been available from outlets like the Washington Post, etc. for many years. So I'm faced with a dilemma; either I go to the Washington Post from now on for all the Pentagon's dirty secrets, or I don't believe the hype around the Wikileaks documents.

Is there really a problem though with Wikileaks repeating information that is already in the public domain? Surely it can only serve to back up the already existing evidence? Well, the problem is the way in which Wikileaks is being promoted as the place to go to find the real, super-secret, inside deal on the machinations of the cabal of war-mongers and their foot-soldiers. To date, I have seen nothing to justify this image of Wikileaks, and as a result, I think any person with a decent awareness of the extent of the control and manipulation that is being directed at the global population should handle Wikileaks with caution and refrain from embracing it as some kind of people's champion. I can only speak for, but our readers have come to expect that, when we publish on any given topic, we have done our duty to uncover as much of the truth as possible, that we are not short-changing them or allowing idealistic emotion-based beliefs of how we would like things to be to get in the way.

As I wrote in my first analysis of the Wikileaks documents, the core issue is this:
"Every now and then, the people who make it their priority to keep their fingers on the pulse of public sentiment vis a vis the increasingly flagrant crimes of public officials, deem it necessary to introduce a faux people's hero. Someone who, apparently, has the balls and the gall to 'stick it to the man' and be the voice of the silent majority. The goal, and the effect, is to provide a vessel to suck up all that latent and growing public anger and outrage that is presumed to exist and disperse it in much the same way that Corexit was used to disperse the oil industry's mess in the Gulf of Mexico."