Friday, June 22, 2012

Hillary Hearts WikiLeaks

When the WikiLeaks cables first burst upon the scene in November 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned and deplored their publication until she was blue in the face. But now that she's had a chance to think things over, she actually credits the cable dump for being the real catalyst for the Arab Spring. Without the Tunisians learning that American diplomats were just as disgusted with the excesses of their despot as they were,  they never would have had the courage to take on the regime. It was only a few weeks after the publication of "Tunileaks" that a desperate vegetable vendor self-immolated, lighting the spark of revolution.

Who knew that Hillary may actually, albeit grudgingly, admire the imprisoned Bradley Manning and asylum-seeker Julian Assange? This new nugget of information is buried deep within the pages of New York Times reporter David Sanger's "Confront and Conceal", a book which garnered attention mainly because of its scoop that the United States is conducting a secret cyberwar against Iran's nuclear program.

According to Sanger, a Tunisian blogger and activist named Sabi Ben Gharbia was gleeful that the cables sent from the American embassy contained scathing criticism of President Zine El Abedine:

"President Ben Ali was an American ally, sporadically cooperative in counterterrorism initiatives. But cooperation came at a high cost: Americans had to look the other way when it cameto Ben Ali’s habit of throwing challengers in jail and giving his family the first crack at his favorite sport, looting the national economy. Since Ben Ali had been in power for twenty-three years, Ben Gharbia figured the cables would be rich with anecdotes of excess. He was not disappointed. WikiLeaks yielded a gold mine—mostly about stolen gold.

"Ben Gharbia and his colleagues translated and posted seventeen of the cables describing Ben Ali’s most outrageous behavior. More would follow. TuniLeaks made it clear that behind the high walls of the American embassy, diplomats had long been disgusted by Ben Ali’s corrupt regime. In a June 2008 cable wonderfully entitled 'What’s Yours Is Mine' (Who said diplomats have no sense of humor?), the American ambassador at the time, Robert Godec, wrote, 'Whether it’s cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali’s family is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants.' He wasn’t kidding about the yacht: Ben Ali’s nephews had, in fact, expropriated the beautiful pleasure craft of a French businessman. The cables showed that, years before the Arab uprisings, signs of discontent with Ben Ali were well known. 'It is the excesses of President Ben Ali’s family that inspire outrage among Tunisians,' Godec wrote. “With Tunisians facing rising inflation and high unemployment, the conspicuous displays of wealth and persistent rumors of corruption have added fuel to the fire.…"
Thanks to the sudden transparency previously lacking in American diplomacy, the Tunisians finally realized that the regime was vulnerable. Within a month, Ben Ali had fled the country. Like wildfire, revolutions erupted in Egypt and throughout the Middle Eastern region. Sanger writes:

“I’m not sure the vegetable vendor killing himself all by itself would have been enough,” Clinton told me later. “I think the openness of the social media, I think WikiLeaks, in great detail, describing the lavishness of the Ben Ali family and cronies was a big douse of gasoline on the smoldering fire.” Given how furious Clinton had been at the publication of the State Department cables—an understandable reaction, given the huge breach of secrecy, the embarrassing phone calls she had to make explaining the leak to world leaders, and the expulsion of a handful of her ambassadors—it was a surprising statement. When American diplomats had raised the issue of WikiLeaks to me, it was usually to chew out the Times for risking American national security. (Clinton expressed her displeasure to me too, as we prepared the publication in November 2010 of “State’s Secrets,” the Times’ series drawn from the WikiLeaks revelations.) But with the passage of time, she had finally found a leak she liked—an obscure set of her own department’s cables that, by revealing the excesses of a brutal and corrupt dictator, may have helped ignite the most massive democracy movement in the Middle East in anyone's memory.  
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains holed up in the Equadorian embassy in London, seeking political asylum to avoid probable prosecution in the United States under the Espionage Act.  Private Bradley Manning, the original source of the cables, remains holed up in a military jail cell while his court martial proceeds at a snail's pace. You think maybe attorneys should subpoena Hillary as a witness for the defense? You think Assange and Manning should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, or at least a Pulitzer, instead of being reviled and ridiculed and imprisoned?

I think Hillary's admission is the biggest scoop in Sanger's book, but I have yet to find anyone writing about it as such. Here is one review outlining the top five "reveals."

Most of the book, incidentally, is a fawning synopsis of President Obama's foreign policy: a light footprint instead of nation-building invasions and occupations. Sanger is obviously a government insider, constantly referencing intimate conversations with Administration higher-ups, cozy dinners with generals and national security honchos, global press junkets, being summoned to the West Wing for emergency briefings. If Congress or Attorney General Holder are serious about investigating the "leaks" in his book, they won't have to try very hard. Sanger's main source appears to be Obama national security adviser (and former banking lobbyist) Thomas Donilon, and the rest of the book's material comes from a veritable Who's Who of government VIPs -- some named, some anonymous. Sanger also has obvious cachet with the president himself. I would rate the book as part pretty good investigative journalism, but mostly run-of-the-mill stenography. And that's being generous. The working title might have been "Conspire and Canoodle."

To give credit where it's due, though, Sanger does, in fact, characterize Obama's drone strikes as "assassinations" and likely war crimes, because they are in violation of an order signed by President Gerald Ford. If Obama rescinded the order, he did it behind closed doors. Maybe we'll find out in the next tell-all. Sanger described his tome as a narrative of Obama's first term, the implication being that he fully expects a second.


Pearl said...

I have never admired Hillary Clinton and as Secretary of State in the Obama administration have never read any objection of hers to any of President Obama's policies. I believe had she been elected, she would have followed the same agenda as her president, especially regarding war decisions and I remember her leading the "attack Iran" propaganda with full force. She may have modified things a bit since then in order to not be accused of inflaming the situation but she is basically a hawk unless she has learned something in the past few years. However, the one area in which I believe she has shone, is her concern for the plight of women in many ravaged countries, hopefully ours as well. I think her speeches along these lines were genuine and may be the reason that she saw the wisdom of the exposure by Wikileaks of the situation in Egypt which had many brave women marching and protesting in Tahrir Square. Unfortunately, the outcome at present is not hopeful with a religious leader in place who will not move the need for change forward. Incidentally, after the uprisings calmed down, the women who were involved in the protests were verbally attacked by some of the men they marched with and I wonder if this was instigated by the religious factions whose unequal treatment of women will now continue according to Sharia law. At any rate, the only area where I think Hillary is on target, is her concern about women's rights and if she retires after this election as she said she would, I hope to see her continue her efforts in this area. I feel she is genuine in her concerns and it is an opportunity to remove herself from the political game with the old boy network. So we can thank Wikileaks for many things, including educating Hillary.

James F Traynor said...

I think Pearl is right in saying that Hillary would have pursued the same foreign policy as Obama but, as I see it, being a feminist is simply not enough to justify her overall policies (the Dragon Lady of Terry and the Pirates, or Rupert Murdoch's wife, would have been no different). She is an un-reconstructed blue dog Democrat, as is her husband, the saxophonist. I have no use for them or the current inhabitant of the White House. Blue dogs all. We must rid the Democratic Party of this pestilential breed.

Having said that, and in danger of inciting Karen's justifiable ire, I think I'll vote for that big eared, homicidal bunny in the White House. The alternative is, truly, terrible. Also I live in Florida, a swing state and am, therefore, very conscious of the impact of my vote. It pains me greatly to vote for that shit, but I see no practical alternative

Denis Neville said...

Hillary may actually, albeit grudgingly, admire the imprisoned Bradley Manning and asylum-seeker Julian Assange? LOL!!!

Noam Chomsky, writing about the WikiLeaks cables, “Their most dramatic revelation is the bitter hatred of democracy that is revealed both by the U.S. Government – Hillary Clinton, others – and also by the diplomatic service…What the Arab population believes is irrelevant. All that matters is the opinions of the dictators that we support.”

Clinton’s flim-flammery fawning over Tunisia and Egypt and her habitual hypocrisy of the longstanding US policy of supporting dictators in the Middle East: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.” Hillary’s family friend is a thug, who has administered a police state for three decades, hired an army of goons to attack Arab Spring peaceful demonstrators, encouraged his security forces to attack foreign journalists, etc.

Our political ruling class, Obama and Hillary Clinton, preaches “democracy” to the governments of Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Iran, et al. while practicing inverted totalitarianism here. The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed. We are a nation of contented sheep, lulled to pastures by the plutocracy, where we are being fleeced and will, if not already, eventually end up as lamb chops for the one percent.

Karen Garcia said...

While we wait in vain for Hillary to be called as a hostile witness for the defense of Bradley Manning, rest assured that nobody will evoke my ire for announcing his or her choice for president, whoever it may be.If you live in a swing state, you have my deepest sympathy, because your vote will actually count almost as much as money. Well, no... maybe a tenth as much as a hefty wad of cash.

Anne Lavoie said...

Yeah, like our votes mean anything anyway, hahahahaha. No need to feel guilt or remorse over voting for someone you know to be an Emperor of Evil - he'll get in with or without your vote, under one name or another -Rombama or O'Romney, compliments of the Folk$ that really run the country.

Me, I'm learning towards Roseanne, the Neo-Socialist Greenie who would bring us Roseannearchy. We could always use more humor, and honestly, would she make things any worse? Hell, no!

Many of her positions are pretty good actually. A bit more far out than the staid Dr. Stein, whom she is running against for the Green Party nomination. To read some unique but serious policy positions you won't see elsewhere, check out

Anyway, we could use a Domestic Goddess instead of an Emperor. Speaking of getting a female/Empress/Goddess in office for a change, I cast my vote in the primary for, drumroll please, .... Hillary!

Even though I am a registered Independent, it was an open primary and there were only two choices of ballots in Montana - Democratic and Republican. It was my protest vote against Obama.

So I heart Hillary, but only slightly more than I heart Obama, which isn't saying much except that I just wish we'd get a chance to see what a sharp woman Dictator would do. She'd at least look after the needs of (American) women and children while she was war-mongering for the MIC.

What a sad state of affairs in this country when that is the best we can hope for. I think if she can't pull off a coup at the Democratic Convention, she will show that she doesn't have the Right Stuff. I didn't vote for her in 2008 because I thought she was too conniving, but I am coming to appreciate that quality in her now, especially if she uses it right.

Denis Neville said...

@ Pearl - re: Hillary Clinton’s genuine concern for the plight of women

Recently, I heard this great story about a visit made by Mrs. Clinton to a Bangladeshi village to find out if the microcredits of the Grameen Bank were actually improving the situations of rural women. She personally interviewed the women. “Yes,” replied the women, “We have an income of our own.” “We also have other assets - cows, chickens, ducks.” “Our children are able to go to school.” Mrs. Clinton was satisfied that the women were indeed empowered.

Then the village women asked the same questions of Hillary Clinton.

“Apa (elder sister), do you have cows?” “No, I have no cows.”

“Apa, do you have an income?” “I used to, but since my husband became president, I no longer earn an income.”

“Apa, how many children do you have?” “Only one daughter.”

“Would you like to have more children?” “Yes, but we our quite happy with our daughter.”

The Bangladeshi women felt sorry for Hillary Clinton. In their eyes she was not empowered. She had no income, no cow, and only one daughter. Poor Mrs. Clinton!

Michael Fish said...

Mister Sanger may expect a second term for President Obama. But the president is waltzing through the campaign with a very low key set of messages that is failing to excite the people that turned out to work for and vote for him four years ago. In front of the high powered Republican truck that is using every trick in the book and some that haven't even been invented yet, he is a sitting pigeon. Expect a wipe-out. Even his party doesn't support him all that much. He is just not all that into the whole thing. Pity.
Michael Fish, Canada

Pearl said...

I will mention the common question asking what would Jesus do?, but since he is not voting in the coming election I will then ask: What will Noam Chomsky do regarding his voting this time around? Does anyone have any inside information about his plans? I somehow predict that he will not vote for Obama or perhaps any democrats but may put in others who represent his views more closely. This means he might vote for the decent progressives running,as I will, and others he would like to see on the ballot and will write their names in. I am waiting to hear what Progressives United, the organization that Russ Feingold has organized will have to say about the coming election. When I receive requests for a donation to his organization I write in that until he or someone of his ilk decides to run for the presidential office I will not contribute. They plan to support progressives running or attempting to run but I think if there was enough support they might consider becoming a challenge to Obama, either personally or as a possible 3rd party. They are coy about their plans but it will be interesting to see if anything develops from this latest organization. I get frequent e-mails from them but never any comments along these lines. about whom to vote for which is interesting. I doubt they dare challenge the presidential nomination, or reorganize the democratic party at this time, but the main reason for Obama to be weakened or lose is so that people like Feingold and others would have the opportunity in the next 4 years to challenge and reorganize them into a 3rd party which cannot be done with Obama in the White House fighting any opposition to his policies. Think about what may enfold before you vote.It will be very close and your vote for Obama could be more destructive than not voting for him. I, too, have my absentee vote in Florida where havoc is being created among he rights of voters as per Bush vs. Gore all those years ago but it may have to be for the best, in the long run. Whomever will get into office will have the wrath of the voters in a few short years since the wheels are in motion for a drive over the cliff regardless of who is in the oval office.

Denis Neville said...

George Carlin’s solution to the dilemma of whether or not to vote:

"I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don't vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, 'If you don't vote, you have no right to complain,' but where's the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote - who did not even leave the house on Election Day - am in no way responsible for that these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created."