Amnesty says pro-Gaddafi detainees tortured

AFP
January 26, 2012

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International said Thursday fighters loyal to ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have been tortured in militia-run detention centres. Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders suspended operations for similar reasons.

Several loyalists of slain Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi have been tortured and some have even died in detention centres run by armed militias, human rights groups said on Thursday.

Amnesty International said that despite promises, Libya’s new rulers have made “no progress to stop the use of torture”, as Doctors Without Borders suspended its work in the third-largest city of Misrata over similar claims.

Their accusations come after a top UN official raised concerns that armed militias comprising former rebels who helped topple Kadhafi were posing increasing security risk as they regularly clashed with each other.

“Several detainees have died after being subjected to torture in Libya in recent weeks and months amid widespread torture and ill-treatment of suspected pro-Kadhafi fighters and loyalists,” Amnesty said in a statement.

It said its delegates met detainees held in Tripoli, in Misrata and in smaller towns such as Ghariyan who showed visible signs of torture inflicted in recent days and weeks.

“The torture is being carried out by officially recognised military and security entities, as well by a multitude of armed militias operating outside any legal framework,” it said.

Donatella Rouvera, senior adviser at London-based Amnesty, said in the statement that it was “horrifying to find that there has been no progress to stop the use of torture”.

“We are not aware of any proper investigations into cases of torture,” she said.

Detainees told Amnesty they had been beaten for hours with whips, cables, plastic hoses, metal chains, bars, wooden sticks and given electric shocks with live wires.

The rights watchdog said the detainees, both Libyans and foreigners from sub-Saharan Africa, were tortured soon after they were seized by armed militias in officially recognised detention centres in places like Misrata.

Misrata withstood a devastating siege by Kadhafi’s forces during last year’s uprising. Its fighters later unleashed a fierce attack on the dictator’s hometown of Sirte, where he was killed on October 20.

“Several detainees have died in the custody of armed militias in and around Tripoli and Misrata in circumstances that suggest torture,” Amnesty added.

Rouvera said the issue was aggravated as the police and judiciary remained “dysfunctional” cross Libya.

Doctors Without Borders, meanwhile, said it has suspended its work in Misrata.

“Detainees in the Libyan city of Misrata are being tortured and denied urgent medical care, leading the international medical humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to suspend its operations in detention centres in Misrata,” the group said, referring to itself by its French name.

It said its doctors were increasingly confronted with patients who suffered injuries caused by “torture” during questioning.

“The interrogations were held outside the detention centres,” it said.

MSF general director Christopher Stokes said some officials have sought to exploit and obstruct its work in Misrata.

“Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable,” he said.

“Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions.”

On Wednesday, the UN special representative in Libya, Ian Martin, expressed concern about the militias which he said were not under the control of the interim government.

Speaking to the UN Security Council, Martin said fighting in the Libyan town of Bani Walid this week — at one stage blamed on Kadhafi loyalists — had been caused by a clash between local people and a revolutionary brigade unit.

“Although authorities have successfully contained these and other more minor incidents that continue to take place across the country on a regular basis, there is the ever present possibility that similar outbreaks of violence could escalate,” he said.

Libya’s new authorities are struggling to reintegrate tens of thousands of these militia fighters into the army and police.

America’s Death Pornography Culture

Celebrating brutal deaths of Muammar Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein.

by Wayne Madsen
Strategic Culture Foundation
November 2, 2011

The United States government and military revel in death and pornographic intimidation. The videos and photographs of howling Iraqis celebrating the hanging of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein after his U.S.-administered kangaroo court trial in Iraq and the physical abuse, alleged sodomizing, and execution of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi by NATO-armed and directed rebels after his convoy in Sirte was reportedly struck by a U.S. drone-launched missile, exemplify America’s fixation with pornographic death scenes…

The George Walker Bush and Barack Hussein Obama administrations share a fascination for displaying the dead bodies of their vanquished enemies. For Bush, it was the gruesome stone-slabbed corpses of Qusay and Uday Hussein, Saddam’s sons, after they were killed in a firefight with U.S. troops in. That was followed by the body of Saddam after his hanging in.

Of course, it did not suit President Obama to broadcast a photograph of Osama Bin Laden, allegedly killed while resisting arrest in Abbotabad, Pakistan. In the case of Bin Laden, there is a strong reason to believe that Osama’s body could not be shown because there was no body of Osama. Whether an Osama Bin Laden look-a-like was killed or not may never be known, but what is certain is that the Obama administration’s explanation for ”Osama’s” burial at sea from a U.S. aircraft carrier appears dubious.

There was also the curious designation of the operation to kill Bin Laden as “Geronimo.” President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were in the White House Situation Room when they heard the news from the strike team: “We’ve ID’d Geronimo,” followed by “Geronimo EKIA” or “Geronimo enemy killed in action.”

There was outrage among Native Americans over the designation of Bin Laden as Geronimo. But the code name has its own ghastly history. In 1918, in another macabre display of ghoulishness by America’s political elite, Prescott Bush, the future U.S. senator and father and grandfather of two future presidents, allegedly dug up the grave of the famed Apache leader Geronimo and stole his skull and some bones. The remains are said to be among the prized possession of Yale’s elite and secretive Skull and Bones society, along with the skull of former President Martin van Buren, the only president of the United States who was not in the blood line, close or distant, of the British royal family.

As Qaddafi’s body, along with those of his son, Mo’tassim, and the former Libyan army commander, Abu Bakr Yunis, rotted in a meat freezer in Misrata – for the whole world to see — more details emerged about Qaddafi’s last hours in Sirte. On October 19, at around 8:00 am in Sirte, a convoy of 70 vehicles departed the heavily-bombed out city, heading west. There were also Twitter messages coming out of Sirte reporting that several white flags of surrender were seen in the city at day break. However, a CIA Predator drone tracking the convoy passed its coordinates on to NATO. French and other NATO jets pounded the convoy, incinerating many of the drivers and passengers. Many of those killed were black Libyans. There are now reports of mass graves in Sirte containing the bodies of scores of Qaddafi supporters and fellow tribal members.

There have been some reports that a truce and a surrender by Qaddafi and his forces was worked out between some rebel leaders and Qaddafi’s entourage through the auspices of the Qaddadfa (the tribe to which Qaddafi belonged) tribal leaders in Sirte. After the convoy was on the highway heading west, with reported white flags from some of the vehicles, the motorcade, which was not engaging in fire with rebel or NATO forces, was set upon by NATO forces. Witnesses to the surrender and/or safe passage negotiations will be hard to come by, since one of those murdered in his home in Sirte by Libyan rebels was reportedly the chief of the Qaddadfa tribe who was part of the negotiations for surrender and safe passage.

Reports that Qaddafi and his group were trying to make a dash through the offensive lines around Sirte make no sense since the convoy left after sun up and in broad daylight, when white flags could clearly be seen by the belligerents, and the Twitter messages out of Sirte indicated that rebels, pro-Qaddafi forces, and neutral observers could all see the white flags. If Qaddafi wanted to make a break for it, he would have done so at night with headlights out.

One of the last things Qaddafi is heard asking his captors is “Do you know right from wrong?” If the rebels or NATO reneged on a promise of safe passage and ignored the universally-recognized white flag signifying truce and surrender, it would constitute a gross violation of the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, and would, therefore, be a war crime. Under the conventions, the white flag is protected as a sign that an approaching party intends to surrender or negotiate the terms of surrender. Those displaying a white flag may not fire or be fired upon.

If NATO and the rebels violated the white flag in Sirte, it would represent one of the first major violations of a practice that began with the Eastern Han dynasty in China in the year 25, and was recognized by the Roman Empire, armies during the Middle Ages, and every major and minor nation since. A violation by NATO of the flag of truce would represent a flagrant return to barbarism by the “collective defensive” organization.

Hillary Clinton reacted to news of Qaddafi’s death by chortling like a school girl. Preparing for an interview with CBS News, Clinton, who had just paid a visit to Libya, joked, “We came, we saw, he died.” Other NATO leaders, including Obama, David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as well as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who all self-identify themselves as Christians, expressed relief and joy at the news of Qaddafi’s death, a very “un-Christian” trait.

The brutal treatment of Qaddafi and his forces matches the treatment meted out by American forces to detainees in Iraq, including the pornographic abuse of prisoners, including minors, at Abu Ghraib and other prisons. In the report by U.S. Army General Antonio Taguba, there are instances of U.S. guards forcing male and female prisoners into naked and explicit positions, including human piles, and taking photographs and video shots, forcing male prisoners to wear women’s underwear, forcing male prisoners to masturbate while being photographed and videotaped, and sodomizing detainees with broom sticks and chemical lights. One prisoner murdered by U.S. forces, Manadel al-Jamadi, was kept on ice to prevent decomposition and spirited away from investigators to cover up his suffocation by U.S. prison guards.

The abuse at Abu Ghraib continues to have ramifications and has resulted in a lawsuit in California, Ford v. CAARNG (California Army Reserve National Guard). The suit charges that “retired Sergeant Frank G. Ford who, in 2003, was assigned to Iraq with the 223 Military Intelligence Unit under the 205 Military Intelligence Brigade as a Counter Intelligence Agent and Medic, was strapped to a gurney against his will and kidnapped. He was then sent from a war zone [Iraq] to Germany . . . because he reported the torture going on at Abu Ghraib prison as well as the death by torture of a prisoner while in custody.” The suit also alleges that “Ford cared for and treated, as an onsite medic, numerous victims of torture.”

A video currently circulating of a Libyan rebel sodomizing Qaddafi with what appears to be a rifle barrel brings back the scenes of the U.S. house of horrors at Abu Ghraib. Obama’s decision to become judge, jury, and executioner in the death sentences (“targeted killings”) carried out by a CIA drone flying over Yemen on September 30, on U.S. citizens Anwar al Awalaki (a former Islamic confidante of the Pentagon), and Samir Khan, and an additional October 14 drone strike in Yemen that killed Awlaki’s teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, also a U.S. citizen, reinforces a growing belief that Obama lords over a voodoo-like death cult that has taken over U.S. military and foreign policy.

By word and action, the U.S. military and its NATO underlings have discarded thousands of years of chivalric military tradition, common practices, and law against a backdrop of ghoulish and pornographic behavior.

Western Democracy: A Farce And A Sham

Paul Craig Roberts
Infowars.com
November 3, 2011

Every day that passes adds to the fraudulent image of what is called Western democracy.

Consider that the entire Western world is outraged that the Greek prime minister announced that he is going to permit the Greek people to decide their own fate instead of having it decided for them by a handful of banksters, politicians, and bureaucrats living it up at taxpayer expense at “talks” in the French resort of Cannes on the Mediterranean.

The Greek economy is facing its fourth year of decline and lacks the revenues to service its national debt held by private European banks. The banks don’t want to lose any money, so a handful of power brokers reached an agreement with representatives of the Greek government to write off some of the debt in exchange for EU capital subsidies to be financed by inflicting severe austerity on the Greek population. Wages, salaries, pensions and medical care are being cut while the rate of unemployment rises to depression levels. Government employees are laid off. Valuable public properties are to be sold to private parties for pennies on the dollar. In short, Greece is to be looted.

Large numbers of Greeks have been in the streets protesting the austerity policy and have reached the point of anger of throwing Molotov cocktails at the police. Greece is disintegrating politically. The Greek people sense that the EU “bailout” is not bailing out Greece. It is bailing out the French, Dutch, and German banks at the expense of the Greek people.

The Greek prime minister, watching his party’s support and power crumble, announced that he would let the people decide in a referendum. After all, allegedly that’s what democracies do. But it turns out that “we have freedom and democracy” is not supposed to be taken literally. It is merely a propagandistic slogan behind which people are ruled through back-room deals decided by powerful private interests.

The Greek prime minister’s announcement that he would put the back-room bailout deal to a referendum shocked the EU hierarchy, Washington, and investors. Who does this Greek guy think he is permitting the people, who bear the cost of the deal, to have a say in it? Who let this Greek guy out of his cage? This is not the way democracies are ruled.

The EU power brokers are outraged over the Greek prime minister’s departure from normal procedure. But the Greek PM is relying on the Greek people to approve the deal, and not without reason.

The Greek people have been brainwashed for decades as to the importance of “being part of Europe.” That means being a member of the European Union. When the Greeks realize that voting down the bailout of the banksters means being thrown out of the European Union, which is what they will learn between now and the referendum, they will vote for the back room deal.

Polls already indicate this. A poll for a Greek newspaper indicates that whereas 46% oppose the bailout, 70% favor staying in the EU, which the Greeks see as a life or death issue.

If this poll is a reliable indicator, the Greek PM has made a brilliant political decision. The Greek people will vote in favor of what they have been protesting violently in the streets. As the Greek people will do themselves in, the politicians are off the hook. This is the bet that the Greek PM has placed.

Whatever the outcome, keep in mind that the entire Western political and investor world was shocked that a politician, instead of simply imposing a back room deal, said he would let the people decide. Letting the people decide is a no-no in Western democracies.

If you need more evidence of this mythical creature called “Western democracy,” consider that Western governments are no longer accountable to law. Contrast, for example, the sexual harassment charges that are plaguing US presidential candidate Herman Cain’s campaign with the pass given to high government officials who clearly violated statutory law.

What follows is not a defense of Cain. I take no position on the charges. The real point is different. In America the only thing that can ruin a politician is his interest in sex. A politician, for example, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, B. Omama, cannot be ruined by violating United States and international law or by treating the US Constitution as a “mere scrap of paper.” Bush and Cheney can take America to wars based entirely on lies and orchestrated deceptions. They can commit war crimes, murdering large numbers of civilians in the cause of “the war on terror,” itself a hoax. They can violate US and international laws against torture simply “because the president said so.” They can throw away habeas corpus, the constitutional requirement that a person cannot be imprisoned without evidence presented to a court. They can deny the right to an attorney. They can violate the law and spy on Americans without obtaining warrants. They can send due process to hell. In fact, they can do whatever they want just like Hitler’s Gestapo and Stalin’s secret police. But if they show undue interest in a woman or proposition a woman, they are dead meat.

Very few commentators have said a word about this. The House of Representatives did not impeach President Bill Clinton for his war crimes against Serbia. They impeached him for lying about a sexual affair with a White House intern. The US Senate, which had too many sexual affairs of its own to defend, didn’t bother to try to convict.

This is Amerika today. A president without any authority whatsoever, not in law and certainly not in the Constitution, can assassinate US citizens based on nothing except an assertion that they are a “threat.” No evidence is required. No conviction. No presentation of evidence in any court. Just a murder. That is now permissible to the Amerikan president. But let him try to get a woman who is not his wife into bed, and he is a cooked goose.

In Amerika there is no such thing any longer as torture; there is only “enhanced interrogation.” A mere word change has eliminated the crime. So torture is permissible.

In Amerika today, or in the UK and the EU, anyone who tells the truth is a “threat.” Julian Assange of Wikileaks, who made public information leaked to him by US government sources horrified by the criminal actions of the United States government, is now, as a result of Amerikan pressure on UK courts, being turned over to Sweden, which, for favors from the “world’s only superpower,” will turn him over to the US regardless of law to be prosecuted on trumped-up charges.

Western “civilization” is totally corrupted by American money. There is no integrity anywhere. For a decade Washington has been murdering women, children, village elders, and journalists in the name of the hoax “war on terror.”

What terror does the world actually see? The world sees the terror that Israel, protected by Washington, inflicts on the Palestinians. The world sees the terror that the US inflicts on Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Latin America and now Africa, with Syria, Lebanon, and Iran waiting in the wings. The “war on terror” is nothing but an orchestrated invented excuse for Amerika-Israel to achieve hegemony while enriching their armaments industries.

In Greece, at least the PM committed to giving the people a say in their fate. In America the people have no voice whatsoever. The sheeple are content to be protected by “security,” porno-scanners, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention, and sexual groping. To carry on the hoax “war on terror,” the US government has elevated itself above the law.

The American effort to achieve accountability to law, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, if not shut down by cold weather, ice, and snow, is likely to be shut down by police violence. One riot begun by provocateurs is all it takes to transform protesters into “domestic extremists,” the number one concern of Homeland Security. The presstitute media will make the case against the rioters, and the sheeple will buy it.

The police have been militarized by Washington. Community police forces no longer represent the local public that pays their salaries. Local police represent Washington’s war against America.

American citizens are all suspects. Anyone who goes through airport security knows this. The only law that the US government obeys is not even a law. It is a bureaucratic regulation that prevents, even in dire wartime, any profiling of suspects by ethnicity or country of origin.

Consequently, all native born, flag-waving, American super-patriots are suspects when they board commercial airliners. Americans who have a life time of security clearances are subject to being porno-scanned or sexually groped. Airport Security cannot tell a “terrorist” from a CIA analyst, a Marine general or a US Senator.

Well-connected members of the ruling elite, such as Michael Chertoff, can become rich from selling the porto-scanners to taxpayers in order “to protect the public from terrorists.”

The only terrorists Americans will ever experience are those funded by their own tax dollars within their “own” government. A people incapable of perceiving its real peril has no chance of surviving. America might be a military superpower, but it no longer exists as a free country with accountable government and a rule of law.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is the father of Reaganomics and the former head of policy at the Department of Treasury. He is a columnist and was previously an editor for the Wall Street Journal. His latest book, “How the Economy Was Lost: The War of the Worlds,” details why America is disintegrating.

No Longer Free, No Longer Brave

Except for a tiny minority, the United States population is composed of government dependent, ideologically insane, reality ignorant people who are no longer free nor brave.

by Katerina Azarova
Russia Today
September 9, 2011

As terrorists struck New York on September 11th, the United States vowed to fight back and protect their country, their people and their freedom. But 10 years on, it seems that freedom is just an illusion, and the US is becoming an Orwellian state.

When George W Bush spoke about the necessity of “protecting the homeland of our country”, he probably thought that the homeland was literally just that – a land that one calls home. And while most people focused on the fact that the then US president had once again made a grammatical blunder, many saw a hidden danger in his statement – not only because of the Big Brother-type security changes ahead, but also because of the very nature of the word “homeland”.

Merriam-Webster defines “homeland” as “a state or area set aside to be a state for a people of a particular national, cultural, or racial origin.” Now, that really doesn’t apply to one of the youngest countries in the world, which has no shared cultural or racial origin. Dig a little deeper and many linguists will tell you of the word’s decidedly Teutonic origin. A blend of two proto-Germanic words “kham” (home) and “landan” (land), a homeland does not unite people by ideas or beliefs. It ties them firmly to the land. It is a concept that has little to do with patriotism – despite the fact the words do share common Greek roots – and, ironically, it was used ad nauseam by the US government in the post-9/11 world. Ironic because it’s patriotism that is more applicable to the concept of the United States as a nation – one where people of all cultures and backgrounds come together for shared ideas, opportunities and beliefs. And one of the key ideas that most people chose to make the US their home was one much propagated by President Ronald Reagan. The idea of freedom.

Reagan once said that “above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is as formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have.” But 20 years after Reagan was sworn in, the terrorist attacks of September 11th happened – and George W Bush decided that there are weapons more appropriate than freedom.

Because freedom – that greatly advertised American concept – was effectively taken away from the people, with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Under the new Patriot Act, The Federal Bureau of Investigation began probing almost every second of every life in the country and when people wanted to leave the country, the Transport Security Administration probed them. The Big German-sounding Brother was fully established, the people living in the ‘land of the free’ under surveillance at all times.

The Patriot Act is probably one of the most controversial pieces of legislature in American history. An acronym that, for all the old and new security bureaus, Provides Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism. But the tools included in the bill weren’t – and still aren’t –considered appropriate by many. Wiretaps and electronic surveillance were legalized. Arrests were made on a daily basis. When the number of those detained reached 1200, officials stopped counting. Personal records no longer remained personal – and that was only the domestic beginning.

What followed – and still continues today – may be labeled by politicians as a ‘war on terror’ or ‘defense of their people’, but really it is just shy of a full-scale military offensive on multiple countries.

While the Department of Homeland Security watched over the land of the no-longer-free, the Central Intelligence Agency, together with the Department of Defense, took the war on terror overseas. The result? Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and multiple ‘black sites’ across Europe, where prisoners and suspected terrorists were tortured, abused and killed. Since 9/11, more than 600 men have been brought to Guantanamo Bay prison alone – and only one has so far been charged.

Many will argue that this is in fact proof of the Patriot Act’s success. But there is a logical issue. The act’s objective is to prevent attacks on America by bringing terrorists under state control – not to investigate or prosecute past cases. Therefore, any evaluation of the Patriot Act requires the disproving of a negative. If there have been no further Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, it may mean that the act has done its job. But if there are no attacks, how does one prove they were “prevented” by the Patriot Act?

Numerous statements by US politicians have strived to provide some believable data. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, an avid supporter of the act, dismissed doubts and claims of freedom violations as “hysteria” and claimed no less that “3000 foot soldiers of terror have been incapacitated” since the act’s implementation. No matter that no group or person had independent access to basic information about these alleged terrorists and their alleged plots.

Officially, 1200 special interest detainees were held and investigated under the Patriot Act. The Justice Department examined more than 700 of them, and none was ever linked to any terrorist group or plot. Nevertheless, upon his resignation in 2004, Ashcroft’s letter stated that “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.” This should have meant the end of the Patriot Act, for it included a “sunset” provision, to expire in December 2005. Seven years later, it’s still in place and regularly being enforced…not necessarily for a war against terror.

Statistics show that the so-called sneak-and-peak, a search warrant that can be executed without prior warning, is mostly used for drug-related crimes. Between 2006 and 2009, 1618 delayed-search warrants were issued for drugs, 122 for fraud – and only 15 (!) for terrorism.

All this is being done in the name of protection of American soil and citizens. Of protecting their most valued asset, freedom. George W Bush claimed that the war on terror was necessary “for the freedom of the homeland”. But instead of inspiring faith, he only intensified the fear residing within every American citizen since 9/11, for his words sounded a lot like those of another historic leader.’

“What we have to fight for…is the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may be able to fulfil the mission assigned to it by the Creator.” – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf.

Disclosure and Deceit: Secrecy as the Manipulation of History, not its Concealment

by Dr. T. P. Wilkinson
Global Research
May 21, 2011

The declassification of official secrets is often seen as either a challenge or a prerequisite for obtaining accurate data on the history of political and economic events. Yet at the same time high government intelligence officials have said that their policy is one of ‘plausible deniability’. Official US government policy for example is never to acknowledge or deny the presence of nuclear weapons anywhere its forces are deployed, especially its naval forces. The British have their ‘Official Secrets’ Act. When the Wikileaks site was launched in 2007 and attained notoriety for publication of infamous actions by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, this platform was heralded and condemned for its disclosures and exposures.

Julian Assange is quoted as saying that when he receives documents classified under the UK Official Secrets Act he responds in accordance with the letter of the law – since it is forbidden to withhold or destroy, his only option is to publish. The question remains for historians, investigators, and educated citizens: what is the real value of disclosures or declassification? Given the practice of plausible deniability, does disclosure or declassification constitute proof, and if so by what criteria? Both facts and non-facts can be concealed or disclosed.

Information is not self-defining Ultimately there remain two questions: does the secret document (now public) really constitute the ‘secret’? What is the ‘secret’ for which we use the document to actually refer? Is secrecy the difference between the known and unknown, or the known and untold?

Some benefit can be found by borrowing theological concepts. We can distinguish between a mystery revealed and a supernatural truth which, by its very nature, lies above the finite intelligence. But a secret is something unknowable either by accident or on account of accessibility. I believe that the popularised form of disclosure embodied in Wikileaks should force us to distinguish between those beliefs we have about the nature of official action and the conduct of people working within those institutions and the data produced. Wikileaks is clearly a platform for publishing data but much of the response to these documents is more based on mystery than on secrecy. That is to say that the disclosures are treated as revelation in the religious sense – and not as discovery in the sense of scientia – knowledge. Why is this so? Wikileaks is described as a continuation of the ethical and social responsibility of journalism as an instrument to educate and inform the public – based on the principle that an informed public is essential to a democracy and self-governance. By collecting, collating and disclosing documents ‘leaked’ to it, Wikileaks also attacks what Assange calls the invisible government, the people and institutions who rule by concealing their activities from the people – and brings to light their wrongdoing.

There are two traditions involved here that partially overlap. In the US the prime examples are the ‘muckraking journalism’ originating in the so-called Progressive Era, spanning from 1890s to 1920s, and more recently the publication of the Pentagon Papers through Daniel Ellsberg. While liberals treat both of these examples favourably, their histories, however, are far more ambivalent than sentimentally presented. To understand this ambivalence, itself a sort of plausible deniability, it is necessary to sketch the history of journalism in the US – the emergence of an unnamed but essential political actor – and some of the goals of US foreign policy since the end of the 19th century. This very brief sketch offers what I call the preponderance of facticity – as opposed to an unimpeachable explanation for the overt and covert actions of the US.

First of all it is necessary to acknowledge that in 1886 the US Supreme Court endowed the modern business corporation with all the properties of citizenship in the US – a ruling reiterated with more vehemence this year by another Supreme Court decision. As of 1886, business corporations in the US had more civil rights than freed slaves or women. By the end of the First World War, the business corporation had eclipsed the natural person as a political actor in the US. By 1924 US immigration law and the actions of the FBI had succeeded in damming the flow of European radicalism and suppressing domestic challenges to corporate supremacy. Thus by the time Franklin Roosevelt was elected, the US had been fully constituted as a corporatist state. US government policy was thereafter made mainly by and for business corporations and their representatives. Second, professional journalism emerged from the conflict between partisan media tied to social movements and those tied to business. The first journalism school was founded in 1908 at the University of Missouri with money from newspaper baron Joseph Pulitzer. As in all other emerging professions at that time, it was claimed that uniform training within an academic curriculum would produce writers who were neutral, objective, and dispassionate – that is to say somehow scientific in their writing.

A professional journalist would not allow his or her writing to be corrupted by bribery or political allegiances. These professional journalists would work for commercial enterprises but be trained to produce value-free texts for publication.. The US has always refused to call itself an empire or to acknowledge that its expansion from the very beginning was imperial. The dogma of manifest destiny sought to resolve this contradiction by stipulating that domestic conquest was not imperial. Control of the Western hemisphere has always been defined as national security, not of asserting US domination. Likewise, it is impossible to understand the actions of the US government in Asia since 1910 without acknowledging that the US is an empire and recognising its imperial interests in the Asia–Pacific region. It is also impossible to understand the period called the Cold War without knowing that the US invaded the Soviet Union in 1918 with 13,000 troops along with some 40,000 British troops and thousands of troops recruited by the ‘West’ to support the Tsarist armies and fascist Siberian Republic. It is essential to bear these over-arching contextual points in mind when considering the value of classified US documents and their disclosure, whether by Wikileaks or Bob Woodward. It is essential to bear these points in mind because the value or the ambivalence of ‘leaks’ or declassification depends entirely on whether the data is viewed as ‘revelation’ or as mere scientific data to be interpreted.

Revelation and heresy For the most part the disclosures by Wikileaks have been and continue to be treated as ‘revelation’ and the disclosure itself as heresy. This is particularly the case in the batches of State Department cables containing diplomatic jargon and liturgy. The ‘revelation’ comprises the emotional response to scripture generated by members of the US foreign service and the confirmation this scripture appears to give to opinions held about the US – whether justified or not. Just as reading books and even the bible was a capital offence for those without ecclesiastical license in the high Middle Ages, the response of the US government is comprehensible. It is bound to assert that Wikileaks is criminal activity and to compel punishment. Yet there is another reason why the US government reaction is so intense. As argued above, the primary political actor in the US polity is the business corporation. In Europe and North America at least it is understood: (1) that the ultimate values for state action are those which serve the interests of private property; and (2) that the business corporation is the representative form of private property.

This in turn means that information rights are in fact property rights manifest as patents, copyrights, and trade or industrial secrets. Since the state is the guardian of the corporation, it argues that the disclosure of government documents should only be allowed where the government itself has surrendered some of its privacy rights. This is quite different from the arguments for feudal diplomatic privilege, even though business corporations have superseded princely states. The argument for state secrecy now is that the democratic state constituted by business corporations is obliged to protect the rights and privileges of those citizens as embodied in their private property rights – rights deemed to be even more absolute than those historically attributed to natural persons, if for no other reason than that corporations enjoy limited liability and immortality, unlike natural persons. When the US government says it is necessary for other states to treat Assange as an outlaw and Wikileaks as a criminal activity, it is appealing on one hand to the global corporate citizenry and on the other, asserting its role – not unlike the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages – as the sole arbiter of those rights and privileges subsumed by Democracy in the world. Many of those who lack a religious commitment to the American way of life have still recognised the appeal to privacy and ultimately to private property which are now deemed the highest values in the world – so that trade, the commerce in private property, takes precedence over every other human activity and supersedes even human rights, not to mention civil rights.

Ellsberg In 1971 Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, which began their publication. This leak was treated as a landmark, although it would take several years before the US withdrew its forces from Vietnam and many more before hostilities were formally ended. What then was the significance of the ‘leak’? The documents generally point to the failures of the military, omitting the role of the CIA almost entirely. Today it is still largely unknown that Ellsberg was working with the CIA in counter-insurgency programs in Vietnam. Did the Pentagon Papers thus serve the interests of plausible deniability – a disclosure of secrets designed not to reveal truth, but to conceal a larger truth by revealing smaller ones? On the other hand, the collection of essays, Dirty Work, edited by Philip Agee and Lou Wolf, showed how the identity of CIA officers could be deciphered from their official biographies, especially as published in the Foreign Service List and other government registers. This type of disclosure allows the competent researcher to recognise ‘real’ Foreign Service officers as opposed to CIA officers operating under diplomatic cover. Agee and his colleague Lou Wolf maintained that disclosure of CIA activities was not a matter of lifting secrets but of recognising the context in which disparate information has to be viewed to allow its interpretation.

To put it trivially: in order to find something you have to know the thing for which you are searching. In order to be meaningful, disclosures of intelligence information must explain that intelligence information seeks to deceive the US public. For example, the CIA and those in the multi-agency task forces under its control produced an enormous amount of reports and documentation to show what was being done to fulfil the official US policy objectives in Vietnam. One of these programs was called Rural Development. This CIA program was run ostensibly by the USAID and the State Department to support the economic and social development of the countryside. This policy was articulated in Washington to fit with the dominant ‘development’ paradigm – to package the US policy as aid and not military occupation. And yet, as Douglas Valentine shows in his book The Phoenix Program, Rural Development was a cover for counterinsurgency from the beginning. The Phoenix Program only became known in the US after 1971, and then only superficially. The information released to the US Congress and reported in the major media outlets lacked sufficient context to allow interpretation. There was so little context that the same people who worked in the Phoenix program in Vietnam as 20-year-olds have been able to continue careers operating the same kinds of programmes in other countries with almost no scrutiny.

Two people come to mind: John Negroponte, who is alleged to have provided support to death squads in Honduras during the US war against Nicaragua and later served as ambassador to occupied Iraq, began his foreign service career in Vietnam with one of the agencies instrumental in Phoenix. The other person died recently: Richard Holbrooke began his career with USAID in Vietnam, went on to advise the Indonesian dictatorship, went to manage the ‘diplomatic’ part of the US war in Yugoslavia and finally served as a kind of pro-consul for Central Asia with responsibility for the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. As the secret weapon in US imperial policy, the counterinsurgency or rural development or ‘surge’ policies of the US government never include an examination of the professionals who managed them. It used to be said among some critics that one could follow General Vernon Walters’ travel itinerary and predict military coups. But that was not something ‘leaked’ and it did not appear in the mainstream media analysis.

The illusion of objective neutrality So if much of what we see ‘leaked’ is gossip in the service of plausible deniability, what separates the important gossip from the trivial? I suggest it is a return to consciously interested, humanistic values in historical research. We have to abandon the idea that the perfect form of knowledge is embodied in the privilege of corporate ownership of ideas, and domination of the state. We also have to abandon the illusion of objective neutrality inherited from Positivism and Progressivism, with its exclusionary professionalism. Until such time as human beings can be restored to the centre of social, political and economic history we have to recognise the full consequences of the enfranchisement of the business corporation and the subordination of the individual to role of a mere consumer. If we take the business corporation, an irresponsible and immortal entity, endowed with absolute property rights and absolved of any liability for its actions or those of its officers and agents, as the subject of history it has become, then we have to disclose more than diplomatic cables. We have to analyse its actions just as historians have tried to understand the behaviour of princes and dynasties in the past. This is too rarely done and when often only in a superficial way. I would like to provide an example, a sketch if you will, of one such historical analysis, taking the business corporation and not the natural person as the focus of action.

In 1945, George Orwell referred to the threat of nuclear war between the West and the Soviet Union as a ‘cold war’. He made no reference to the 1918 invasion of the Soviet Union by British troops. In 1947, US Secretary of State Bernard Baruch gave a speech in South Carolina saying ‘Let us not be deceived: we are today in the midst of a cold war’. The speech had been written by a rich newspaperman named Herbert Swope. In 1947, George Kennan published his containment essay, ‘The Sources of Soviet Conduct’, in Foreign Affairs under the name ‘X’. In it he describes a supposed innate expansionist tendency of the Soviet Union – also no mention of the US invasion or the devastation of WWII, which virtually destroyed the Soviet Union’s manpower and industrial base. In April 1950, NSC 68 is published – classified top secret until 1975 – outlining the necessity for the US to massively rearm to assert and maintain its role as the world’s superpower. At the end of summer 1950, war breaks out in Korea. President Truman declared an emergency and gets UN Security Council approval for a war that lasts three years, killing at least 3 million Koreans – most of whom die as a result of US Air Force saturation bombing of Korea north of the 38th parallel. Truman proclaims that US intervention will be used to prevent the expansion of the Soviet Union or as Ronald Reagan put it then – Russian aggression. After being utterly routed by the army of North Korea, the US bombs its way to the Yalu only to be thrown back to the 38th parallel by China. In 1954, the US organises the overthrow of the Arbenz regime in Guatemala and begins its aid and covert intervention in Vietnam beginning a war that only ends in 1976. Meanwhile Britain suppresses the Malaysian independence movement. Between 1960 and 1968, nationalist governments have been overthrown in Indonesia, Congo, Ghana, Brazil. Cuba is the great surprise amidst the literally hundreds of nationalist, anti-colonial movements and governments suppressed by the US.

William Blum has catalogued the enormous number of overt and covert interventions by the US in his book Killing Hope. The amazing thing about much of what Blum compiled is that it was not ‘secret’. It was simply not reported or misreported. Blum makes clear – what should be obvious – that the Soviet Union was not a party to a single war or coup from 1945 to 1989 and that the US government knew this. Much of this early action took place when John Foster Dulles was US Secretary of State and his brother was head of the CIA. The Dulles brothers were intimately connected to corporations they represented in their capacity as ‘white shoe’ lawyers in New York. In fact the founder of the OSS, the CIA’s predecessor, William Donovan, was also a corporate lawyer both before and after his service in the OSS. In other words the people who have commanded these foreign policy instruments have almost without exception been the direct representatives of major US business corporations. In each case the public pretext has been the threat of communism or Soviet expansion. Yet the only consistent quality all of these actions had was the suppression of governments that restricted the activities of US or UK corporations. Of course, communism has long been merely a term for any opposition to the unrestricted rights of business corporations.

One could say people like Donovan or Dulles were seconded to government office. However, the direct financial benefit that someone like Dulles obtained when he succeeded in deposing Arbenz in Guatemala came from his shareholding in United Fruit, the instigator and financial backer of the CIA co-ordinated coup. Perhaps the more accurate interpretation of this secret activity is that the business corporation, which previously employed law firms and Pinkertons, had shifted the burden of implementing corporate foreign policy to the taxpayer and the state. Now the interest of the US in Latin America has been well researched and documented. But the persistence of the Vietnam War and the silence about the Korean War have only been matched by the virtual absence of debate about the overthrow of Sukarno and the Philippine insurgency. The Philippines became a footnote in the controversy about US torture methods in Iraq and elsewhere as it was shown that the ‘water cure’ was applied rigorously by American troops when suppressing the Philippine independence movement at the beginning of the 20th century.

Lack of context not knowledge The study of each of these Asian countries – and one can add the so-called Golden Triangle; and I would argue Afghanistan now – has been clouded not by lack of evidence or documentation but by lack of context. If the supposed threat posed by communism, especially Soviet communism is taken at face value – as also reiterated in innumerable official documents both originally public and originally confidential – then the US actions in Asia seem like mere religious fanaticism. The government officials and military and those who work with them are so indoctrinated that they will do anything to oppose communism in whatever form. Thus even respected scholars of these wars will focus on the delusions or information deficits or ideological blinders of the actors. This leads to a confused and incoherent perception of US relations in Asia and the Pacific. The virtual absence of any coherent criticism of the Afghanistan War, let alone the so-called War on Terror, is symptomatic not of inadequate information, leaked or otherwise. It is a result of failure to establish the context necessary for evaluating the data available. It should not surprise anyone that ‘counter-terror’ practices by US Forces are ‘discovered’ in Afghanistan or Iraq, if the professional careers of the theatre and field commanders (in and out of uniform) are seriously examined.

Virtually all those responsible for fighting the war in Central Asia come from Special Operations/CIA backgrounds. That is what they have been trained to do. If we shift our attention for a moment to the economic basis of this region, it has been said that the war against drugs is also being fought there. However, this is counterfactual. Since the 1840s the region from Afghanistan to Indochina has been part of what was originally the British opium industry. China tried to suppress the opium trade twice leading to war with Britain – wars China lost. The bulk of the Hong Kong banking sector developed out of the British opium trade protected by the British army and Royal Navy. Throughout World War II and especially the Vietnam War the opium trade expanded to become an important economic sector in Southern Asia – under the protection of the secret services of the US, primarily the CIA. Respected scholars have documented this history to the present day. However it does not appear to play any role in interpreting the policies of the US government whether publicly or confidentially documented. Is it because, as a senior UN official reported last year, major parts of the global financial sector – headquartered in New York and London – were saved by billions in drug money in 2008? Does the fact that Japan exploited both Korea and Vietnam to provide cheap food for its industrial labour force have any bearing on the US decision to invade those countries when its official Asia policy was to rebuild Japan as an Asian platform for US corporations – before China became re-accessible (deemed lost to the Communists in 1948)? Did the importance of Korean tungsten for the US steel industry contribute to the willingness of people like Preston Goodfellow, a CIA officer in Korea, to introduce a right-wing Korean to rule as a dictator of the US occupied zone? Is there continuity between Admiral Dewey’s refusal to recognise the Philippine Republic after Spain’s defeat – because the 1898 treaty with Spain ceded the archipelago to the US – and the refusal of General Hodge to recognise the Korean People’s Republic in Seoul when he led the occupation of Korea in 1945? As John Pilger suggests, were the million people massacred by Suharto with US and UK support a small price to pay for controlling the richest archipelago in the Pacific? Was the Pol Pot regime not itself a creation of the US war against Vietnam – by other means?

Is it an accident that while the US was firmly anchored in Subic Bay, armed and funded Jakarta, occupied Japan and half of Korea, that the US was prepared to bomb the Vietnamese nationalists ‘into the Stone Age’? It only makes sense if the US is understood as an empire and its corporate interests are taken seriously when researching the history of the US attempts to create and hold an Asian empire. The resistance to this perception can be explained and it is not because of an impenetrable veil of secrecy. It is not because of the accidentally or inaccessibly unknown. Rather it is because US policy and practice in the world remains a ‘mystery’, a supernatural truth, one that of its very nature lies above the finite intelligence. The quasi-divine status of the universal democracy for which the USA is supposed to stand is an obstacle of faith.

Engineering consent In the twentieth century two conflicting tendencies can be identified. The first was the emergence of mass democratic movements. The second was the emergence of the international business corporation. When the Great War ended in 1918, the struggle between these two forces crystallised in the mass audience or consumer on one hand and the mass production and communication on the other. As Edward Bernays put it: ‘This is an age of mass production. In the mass production of materials a broad technique has been developed and applied to their distribution. In this age too there must be a technique for the mass distribution of ideas.’ In his book, Propaganda, he wrote ‘The conscious and intelligent manipulation of organised habits and opinions of the masses…’ was necessary in a democracy, calling that ‘invisible government’.

Like his contemporary Walter Lippmann, a journalist, he believed that democracy was a technique for ‘engineering the consent’ of the masses to those policies and practices adopted by the country’s elite – the rulers of its great business corporations. By the 1980s the state throughout the West – and after 1989 in the former Soviet bloc – was being defined only by ‘business criteria’, e.g. efficiency, profitability, cost minimization, shareholder value, consumer satisfaction, etc. Political and social criteria such as participatory rights or income equity or equality, provision of basic needs such as education, work, housing, nutrition, healthcare on a universal basis had been transformed from citizenship to consumerism. The individual lost status in return for means tested access to the ‘market’. In order for the state to function like a business it had to adopt both the organisational and ethical forms of the business corporation – a non-democratic system, usually dictatorial, at best operating as an expert system. As an extension of the property-holding entities upon which it was to be remodelled, the state converted its power into secretive, jealous, and rigid hierarchies driven by the highest ethical value of the corporation – profit.

Journalists and ‘corporate stenographers’ While historical research should not be merely deductive, it is dependent on documents. The veracity of those documents depends among other things on authenticity, judgements as to the status, knowledge or competence of the author, the preponderance of reported data corresponding to data reported elsewhere or in other media. A public document is tested against a private or confidential document – hence the great interest in memoirs, diaries and private correspondence. There is an assumption that the private document is more sincere or even reliable than public documents. This is merely axiomatic since there is no way to determine from a document itself whether its author lied, distorted or concealed in his private correspondence, too. Discrepancies can be explained in part by accepting that every author is a limited informant or interpreter. The assumptions about the integrity of the author shape the historical evaluation. In contemporary history – especially since the emergence of industrial-scale communications – the journalist has become the model and nexus of data collection, author, analyst, and investigator. Here the journalist is most like a scholar. The journalist is also a vicarious observer.

The journalist is supposed to share precisely those attributes of the people to whom or about whom he reports. This has given us the plethora of reality TV, talk shows, embedded reporters, and the revolving door between media journalists and corporate/state press officers. In the latter the journalist straddles the chasm between salesman and consumer. This is the role that the Creel Committee and the public relations industry learned to exploit. The journalist George Creel called his memoir of the Committee on Public Information he chaired – formed by Woodrow Wilson to sell US entry into World War I – How We Advertised America. The campaign was successful in gaining mass support for a policy designed to assure that Britain and France would be able to repay the billions borrowed from J. P. Morgan & Co. to finance their war against Germany and seize the Mesopotamian oilfields from the Ottoman Empire. Industrial communications techniques were applied to sell the political product of the dominant financial and industrial corporations of the day. The professional journalist, freed from any social movement or popular ideology, had already become a mercenary for corporate mass media.

The profession eased access to secure employment and to the rich and powerful. The journalists’ job was to produce ideas for mass distribution – either for the state or for the business corporation. Supporting private enterprise was at the very least a recognition that one’s job depended on the media owner. Editorial independence meant writers and editors could write whatever they pleased as long as it sold and did not challenge the economic or political foundation of the media enterprise itself. In sum the notion of the independent, truth-finding, investigative journalist is naïve at best. We must be careful to distinguish between journalists and what John Pilger has called ‘corporate stenographers’. This does not mean that no journalists supply us with useful information or provide us access to meaningful data. It means that journalism, as institution, as praxis, is flawed – because it too is subordinated to the business corporation and its immoral imperatives. Wikileaks takes as its frame of reference the journalism as it emerged in the Positivist – Progressive Era – a profession ripe with contradictions, as I have attempted to illustrate.

Were Wikileaks to fulfil that Positivist–Progressive model, it would still risk overwhelming us with the apparently objective and unbiased data – facts deemed to stand for themselves. Without a historical framework – and I believe such a framework must also be humanist – the mass of data produced or collated by such a platform as Wikileaks may sate but not nourish us. We have to be responsible for our interpretation. We can only be responsible however when we are aware of the foundations and framework for the data we analyse. The deliberate choice of framework forces us to be conscious of our own values and commitments. This stands in contrast to a hypothetically neutral, objective, or non-partisan foundation that risks decaying into opportunism – and a flood of deceit from which no mountain of disclosure can save us.