Saturday, October 30, 2010

What WikiLeaks' American Media Partner Has Done With the Documents

During the past week, I've been in some fairly contentious argument over at Glenn's Place regarding the nature of Julian Assange's relationship with the New York Times, his American business partner in the publication and interpretation of the leaked American military field reports concerning both Iraq and Afghanistan.

I've been uneasy about WikiLeaks, Julian, and the intense amount of hype surrounding the leaks that have been published by the Times (and a number of other outlets in other countries.)

My unease has to do, in part, with the fact that Julian has partnered with the New York Times, the leading American media cheerleader for war and empire. The Times, indeed, has been running interference for Julian and WikiLeaks. A very odd situation to say the least.

The excuse for this business partnership that I hear all the time is that the Times' circulation guarantees the widest distribution of the field reports in this country, and it was a perfectly acceptable decision by Julian to partner with them. It's self evident.

Except it isn't. The Times' circulation guarantees that their interpretation of the documents will be widely disseminated and will become (has already become) the Standard Narrative in this country regarding what's in the documents. That, to me, is the most obvious upshot of this strange partnership. Yet it is apparently a completely new thought to many who encounter it, and it is very difficult for them to accept.

The public for the most part won't read the documents themselves. I've given it a shot with what WikiLeaks has posted, and it's a hard slog. For their part, the Times hasn't actually published the documents themselves; they've selected some of them to highlight and interpret, but you have to go to WikiLeaks or one of the overseas sites to get the full doc dump. And enormous volume of these reports, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, guarantees that no one (sane) is going to read them all. Not gonna happen.

What has happened, though, is that the New York Times, being the sole US media partner for WikiLeaks, has determined what is and is not important to know from these reports and has focused its coverage there. And their coverage has formed the basis of the coverage by all other American media. For most of them, the New York Times interpretation of the documents is the Standard Narrative.

These are the headlines of the stories the Times has printed on the Iraq War Logs:

  • WikiLeaks Founder on the Run, Chased by Turmoil

  • Growing Use of Contractors Added to War's Chaos

  • Mix of Trust and Despair Helped Turn the Tide in Iraq

  • Tensions Remain High Along Kurdish-Arab Line

  • Deadly Day in Iraq

  • Archive Offers Grim Portrait of Civilian Deaths

  • Detainees Suffered Most in Iraqi Custody, U.S. Logs Say

  • Iran's Role in Aiding Iraqi Militias Is Detailed in Reports

    Of course the story on Julian himself has garnered the most attention -- at least from the Blogosphere -- and it has caused a firestorm led by Glenn Greenwald, whose polemical attacks on the Times and writer John Burns for "smearing" Julian (by reporting some of the well-known accusations against him) border on the hysterical and ludicrous.

    The stories about what's in the documents have so far been largely ignored by the US Blogosphere. Other US media has been mostly concerned with Julian, his antics, or following the Pentagon line that there's "nothing new" in the documents, and condemning WikiLeaks for releasing them.

    The Times' selection of stories to published based on the leaked reports (as opposed to their profile of Julian) is interesting, and I argue that they are essentially making two points: Iran must be destroyed, and Our Glorious Empire must endure forever because the gibbering Natives are incapable of governing themselves according to civilized norms.

    And in this context, the Times story of Contractor Chaos in Iraq perfectly complements the broader notion that "Natives" -- that is, apparently, anyone who is not a member of the elites, in this case, mercenaries employed by Our Glorious Empire because there aren't enough Glorious Troops to Do The Job -- are incapable of governing themselves and behaving according to civilized norms. They are, at best, all of them, children. Give us some of that old White Man's Burden, eh?

    The story of the Tide Turning is a story of gibbering Natives, perfidious Persians, and Glorious Americans, particularly His Imperial Divinity Gen. David Petraeus, who single handedly rescued the pitiful survivors of "sectarian strife" from their own worst impulses.

    In the story of High Tension between Arabs and Kurds in northern Iraq, we find even more gibbering Natives and the Glorious Imperial Troops finding themselves between many rocks and hard places trying to keep the peace. Mediation, yay!

    "A Deadly Day in Iraq" is an interactive map that shows us all the killings and violence in Baghdad during the height of what's called the "cleansing" -- when bodies were turning up everywhere, bombs were going off, and neighborhoods were systematically patrolled by roving death squads and expulsion teams. At no point is it even hinted that Americans shared any responsibility for what was going on. They were merely observers documenting the atrocities. No, according to the Times, the killing and cleansing stopped when the Glorious Surge Arrived, yay!

    More gibbering Natives incapable of governing themselves are described in the Grim Portrait of Civilian Deaths article. For the most part, of course, the Deaths resulted from Native-on-Native action in the passion of the moment, but some were due to unfortunate accidents like when Glorious American Troops accidentally fired (repeatedly) on approaching civilian vehicles at checkpoints. As they so often did. Accidentally.

    Of course the story of detainee torture in Native hands is well-known by now. Clearly, the Iraqis were and no doubt are far worse with their torture than Americans could ever hope to be. This is proved by the documents.

    The story of the Perfidious Persians has probably gotten the widest play of any of the Times' stories derived from the leaked reports. Time after time, Glorious Americans find themselves threatened or accosted by Persians or gibbering Iraqi Natives who have been trained and equipped by the Persians. The Greeks at Marathon did not face a more brutal and organized Persian threat than Americans faced in Iraq. Persia delenda est!!!!

    So this is what is being disseminated by Julian Assange's American Media Partner, this is the story that is being told in America. There is no consciousness, at all, that The United States (and needless to say, the New York Times) precipitated the tragedy that is Iraq, and that this Imperial Project is in any way misbegotten.

    I have said, and I will say again, Julian had to know this would happen when he partnered with the Times. My question is, If he didn't want this to happen, why did he partner with them?

    There are other, more trustworthy choices in this country. Well, at least for the time being.

    Something just isn't right...
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