The news has been alive with alarms about the catastrophe that could result from the latest Wikileaks revelations—over 250,000 cables from the U.S. State Department that could compromise U.S. diplomacy and diplomatic relations for years. Hilary Clinton expressed grave concern about the damage not only to the United States but to the world. The Justice Department announced it would be doing all in its power to prosecute those responsible—chiefly, it seems, Private Bradley Manning, now in custody as the lead, and only suspect in the investigation.
But the real hysteria has centered on those two remaining members of the ‘Axis of Evil,’ Iran and North Korea. Of course, it’s understandable that pooh bahs would be alarmed about North Korea, what with its two recent attacks on the South ratcheting up fears of a renewed all-out war (hard to believe that there has never really been an end to the 1950s Korea “conflict,” isn’t it). Still, the major alarums and trial balloons have concerned Iran. In England’s Guardian, the Nov. 28 headline read: “Saudi Arabia urges US attack on Iran to Stop Nuclear Programme.” The very first sentence adds that “other Arab allies have agitated for military action against Tehran.” These “other allies” include such democratic stalwarts as Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. All see Iran as a “threat”, as “evil,” or as a “snake.” “Cut off the head of the snake,” Saudi King Abdullah is quoted as urging.
All this was, of course, real music to the Israelis. As prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu was quoted by the Washington Post on Monday Nov. 29, "More and more states, governments and leaders in the Middle East and the wider region and the world believe this is the fundamental threat." Netanyahu went on to expose what he called the “gap” between what Arab leaders say privately and publicly, their public “script” alleging that the “greatest threat is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” while “in reality, leaders understand that this narrative is bankrupt. There is a new understanding,” i.e. the malignancy of a nuclear Iran.
And of course, the American media ran with this as the major story of the Wikileaks revelations. Both the PBS News Hour, with its pundits seriously discussing how bad the Iranian situation is, how unstable its leader, how worried the Arab states are about threats to their own regimes from a rising Iran; and Charlie Rose, where other pundits reviewed the “real” threat of a nuclear Iran (still, by the way, without even a hint of a nuclear weapon, though that no longer matters to the alarmists), and the “consensus” in the Arab states about this (the consensus of the Arab monarchies, at least, most of whom quietly sided with Israel against the Palestinians in the original war in 1948; though Hosni Mubarak of Egypt only jumped on the “throw Palestine to the wolves” bandwagon much later, to maintain U.S. aid and save his dictatorial ass increasingly threatened by popular revolt); in both arenas the ‘experts’ shook their heads gravely as they observed that the time is getting short for someone—Israel or the Obama administration—to do something. And the something was clear to all: someone has to bomb Iran’s still peaceful nuclear facilities.
It was amazing really. Out of 250,000 cables released or soon to be released, the big story was Iran: bomb bomb bomb Iran. No wonder Ahmedinejad, Iran’s president, scornfully dismissed the leaks as U.S. propaganda. But even that was taken as a sign that the man is as totally divorced from reality as his unstable nation.
Until, that is, on November 30, we heard from Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the chief of staff to George W. Bush’s first Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Speaking on KPFA’s “Letters to Washington” show, Wilkerson had some fascinating things to say about Wikileak’s latest revelations. First, he said that all the worry about the leaks threatening U.S. diplomatic relations was a “tempest in a teapot.” Diplomats, according to Wilkerson, know that harsh words often get said in private, that governments all try to spy on each other, and that everyone understands the game. What he was really concerned about, he said, was the lack of capability, not to mention supervision of the alleged leaker, Pvt. Bradley Manning. “I have serious difficulty,” the Colonel said, “accepting the fact that this private downloaded what appears to be over a million documents and then gave them to others…Where was his chain of command when he was doing this? when he was downloading thousands of documents?” And then the Colonel came to the real nub of it:
This looks increasingly like (and I’m not a conspiracy theorist) someone is either jumping on top of this, opportunistically, to take advantage of it, or perhaps they were involved in it all along. And why is the information contained in these latest leaks in particular so proof positive of so many things that the United States, or certain parts of the United States, are trying to get across to the public—not least of which is Israel’s threatened position, that an existential threat exists to Israel and Iran is that threat. ‘Look how perilous, look how dangerous this situation is.’ That comes out of these leaks. (emphasis added)
Remember: this is not some ‘expert’ who may or may not have a private agenda with regard to the leaks or the substance of the leaks; nor, as he says, a conspiracy theorist. This is an army colonel, former chief of staff to the previous Secretary of State. This is a man who knows how Washington works, how diplomacy works, how the world of statecraft works. And his chief concern is not the alleged “damage” to the nation’s diplomacy posed by the leaks; it is the twin questions: 1) how did the United States allow this to happen? and 2) was someone taking the opportunity (either by leaping on what was leaked, or actually facilitating the leaks in the first place) to plant disinformation to affirm things they want affirmed?
And what do they want to affirm? It appears that the main objective is to provide further ammunition undergirding the administration’s—driven mainly by Israel and its U.S. lobbies—position that Iran constitutes the greatest threat to world peace since the Soviets, and the increasing justification for a military mission to take that threat out. As Zeid Rifai, the president of the Jordanian senate is quoted as telling a US official: “Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won’t matter.” Or, as Major General Amos Yadlin, Israel’s military intelligence chief, warned last year: “Israel is not in a position to underestimate Iran and be surprised like the US was on 11 September 2001.”
I have to admit, it never crossed my mind that the Wikileaks cables could be part of a disinformation campaign. Perhaps it takes someone with inside knowledge of how such things work, like Colonel Wilkerson, to get it. But there it is. And my guess is that increasingly, especially as Obama is further harried by Republican zealots howling for his head, the refrain is going to get louder: Bomb Iran now, or suffer another 9/11.
Will the American public go for it? Normally I’d say no. But given what they’ve swallowed recently, and given the fear in this nation, can anyone be sure?