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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 51, December 11, 2010

WikiLeaks, US, Pakistan, Afghanistan

Sunday 12 December 2010, by Bashir Mohammad

As the arrested founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange in a signed article in The Australian, titled “Don’t shoot the messenger for revealing uncomfortable truths”, on December 8 called for the “need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth”, there appears to be a fierce competition between two major figures in the “Free World”—US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican Sarah Palin (who contested the last 2008 US poll for the post of Vice-President)—in attacking Assange with Sarah going to the extent of demanding that he be “hunted down like Osama bin Laden” (strongly reminiscent of the utterances of Barack Obama’s predecessor in the White House). At the same time Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has come out in strong defence of Assange blaming Washington, and not the WikiLeaks founder, for the “unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network” while confirming that Australia will provide Assange, a citizen of the country, consular help.

No doubt the WikiLeaks revelations have caused consternation in American ruling circles. Commenting on the US leaders’ reactions, one of the leading members of the country’s vibrant civil society, Noam Chomsky, has explained:
We should understand… that one of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population. What that reveals is the profound hatred for demo-cracy on the part of our political leadership and the Israeli political leadership.

The disclosures have embarrassed the US Administration beyond measure. No wonder Washington has charged the whistleblower website with indulging in a criminal act by stealing and releasing the secret US cables; but it has neither confirmed nor denied the documents’ authenticity.

One of the extraordinary revelations is that Anne Patterson, the former US ambassador to Pakistan, even after taking serious note of human rights violations by the Pakistan Army “during domestic operations against terrorists in Malakand and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas”, advised Washington to avoid focusing on such incidents and directed it to concentrate on dialogue with and the assistance strategy to Pakistan, its close ally in the fight against terror.

ALSO striking is the picture emerging from hundreds of cables from the US embassy in Kabul: as The New York Times points out, from these documents Afghanistan comes up as a “looking-glass land where bribery, corruption and embezzlement are the norm and the honest man is a distinct outlier”.
The newspaper then adds:

It is hardly news that predatory corruption fuelled by a booming illicit narcotics industry, is rampant at every level of Afghan society…

…But the collection of confidential diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of publications, offers a fresh sense of its pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials who have made shoring up support for the Afghan Government…

…The American dilemma is perhaps best summed up in an October 2009 cable sent by ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, written after he met Ahmed Wali Karzai, the President’s half-brother, the most powerful man in Kandahar and someone many US officials believe prospers from the drug trade.

Meanwhile latest reports from the Afghan capital highlight the charge by the Opposition parties against the Hamid Karzai Government: of trying to manipulate the results of the September 18 parliamentary elections. The AFP report on the subject says election officials threw out a quarter of votes cast in the polls disqualifying in the process “24 early winners… after processing more than 5000 allegations of corruption”. According to the news agency,
Pashtuns, Karzai’s traditional allies, are thought to have around 88 seats. His main opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, claims to control more than 90 seats. Significantly, the President has stopped short of endorsing the results.

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