Wikileaks.org: Secret US Embassy Cables

Wikileaks made history on October 22, 2010, for making public the “391,832 reports (‘The Iraq War Logs‘), documenting the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army.”

They are making headlines again, bigger headlines I think, for starting to release secret U.S. embassy cables from around the world. The embassy cables give a rare insight into the minds of world diplomats – albeit reported through the eyes and ears of the U.S.. The Germany based Spiegel Online had this to say about the new leak (“WikiLeaks Diplomatic Cables“):

251,000 State Department documents, many of them secret embassy reports from around the world, show how the US seeks to safeguard its influence around the world. It is nothing short of a political meltdown for US foreign policy.


I certainly don’t think it will be a “meltdown.” It is probably more of a blow to the U.S.’s credibility within the U.S.’s borders in my opinion. That will not amount to mean much. Actually, the documents are probably damning for many of the parties the U.S. work with.

Media around the world are hovering over the thus leaked set of documents now (more to come gradually according to Wikileaks). Rather get their interpretations, you can read the materials yourself. You can follow the above link or search via Google. Example below:

site:cablegate.wikileaks.org Saudi Arabia

Or replace “Saudi Arabia” with “Korea” or with any other keyword or combination as you would a normal Google search.

MSNBC has many reactions (mainly from the U.S.) here of the leak here: “Watching the WikiLeaks release of diplomatic messages.”

On “the Iraq War Logs,” Spiegel assembled a team of 50 reporters and researchers to analyze. I have no doubt they will assemble a similar undertaking over the embassy reports. And, likewise for other media organizations around the globe.

Few more passages from the Spiegel article below:

Never before in history has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information — data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which US foreign policy is built. Never before has the trust America’s partners have in the country been as badly shaken. Now, their own personal views and policy recommendations have been made public — as have America’s true views of them.

For example, one can learn that German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the Germany’s most beloved politician according to public opinion polls, openly criticizes fellow cabinet member Guido Westerwelle in conversations with US diplomats, and even snitches on him. Or that Secretary of State Clinton wants her ambassadors in Moscow and Rome to inform her whether there is anything to the rumors that Italian President Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin have private business ties in addition to their close friendship — whispers that both have vehemently denied.

America’s ambassadors can be merciless in their assessments of the countries in which they are stationed. That’s their job. Kenya? A swamp of flourishing corruption extending across the country. Fifteen high-ranking Kenyan officials are already banned from traveling to the United States, and almost every single sentence in the embassy reports speaks with disdain of the government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Even after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it still remained a challenge for the victorious power to assert its will on Iraq. In Baghdad, which has seen a series of powerful US ambassadors — men the international press often like to refer to as American viceroys — it is now up to Vice President Joe Biden to make repeated visits to allied Iraqi politicians in an effort to get them to finally establish a respectable democracy. But the embassy cables make it very clear that Obama’s deputy has made little headway.
Instead, the Americans are forced to endure the endless tirades of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, who claims to have always known that the Iraq war was the “biggest mistake ever committed” and who advised the Americans to “forget about democracy in Iraq.” Once the US forces depart, Mubarak said, the best way to ensure a peaceful transition is for there to be a military coup. They are statements that add insult to injury.

On the whole, the cables from the Middle East expose the superpower’s weaknesses. Washington has always viewed it as vital to its survival to secure its share of energy reserves, but the world power is often quickly reduced to becoming a plaything of diverse interests. And it is drawn into the animosities between Arabs and Israelis, Shiites and Sunnis, between Islamists and secularists, between despots and kings. Often enough, the lesson of the documents that have now been obtained, is that the Arab leaders use their friends in Washington to expand their own positions of power.

If you are interested in the U.S. relationship with China and Asia, I encourage you to search for “Korea”, “China”, “Japan”, or whatever suits you.

  • How is the view of our world through the mass media different from the view through these diplomats?
  • Are there ‘facts’ in the documents you find interesting?
  • What are your thoughts in general?

The U.S. government has officially condemned the release of these documents. It is still entirely possible Wikileaks.org gets shut down in the near future.

Here is Wikileaks introduction to the leaked materials:

Wikileaks began on Sunday November 28th publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables, the largest set of confidential documents ever to be released into the public domain. The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into US Government foreign activities.

The cables, which date from 1966 up until the end of February this year, contain confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington DC. 15,652 of the cables are classified Secret.

The embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice.

The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments — even the most corrupt — around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.

The full set consists of 251,287 documents, comprising 261,276,536 words (seven times the size of “The Iraq War Logs”, the world’s previously largest classified information release).

The cables cover from 28th December 1966 to 28th February 2010 and originate from 274 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions.

17 thoughts on “Wikileaks.org: Secret US Embassy Cables

  1. These wikileaks are mostly noise that is going on between the US ambassadors.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/29/wikileaks-cables-china-reunified-korea?intcmp=239

    This one article about China wants an unified Korea under Seoul Control is totally baseless. Same thing about the google hacking incident where they got information from ONE informant said that Chinese government is responsible. Maybe US official got some Chinese official made an off the cuff remark and relay this ‘favorable’ news back to Washington.

  2. I don’t think all the docs are released yet. From what I hear, they are releasing them carefully – only after US media has reported the details.

    I for one couldn’t find the doc on the alleged google hacking by China.

  3. That Guardian article pug_ster provided link to was discussing this passage in the U.S. embassy cable, dated, February 22, 2010, from Soul, South Korea:

    6. (S) Chun argued that, in the event of a North Korean collapse, China would clearly “not welcome” any U.S. military presence north of the DMZ. XXXXXXXXXXXX Chun XXXXXXXXXXXX said the PRC would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the United States in a “benign alliance” — as long as Korea was not hostile towards China. Tremendous trade and labor-export opportunities for Chinese companies, Chun said, would also help salve PRC concerns about living with a reunified Korea. Chun dismissed the prospect of a possible PRC military intervention in the event of a DPRK collapse, noting that China’s strategic economic interests now lie with the United States, Japan, and South Korea — not North Korea. Moreover, Chun argued, bare-knuckle PRC military intervention in a DPRK internal crisis could “strengthen the centrifugal forces in China’s minority areas.”

    Remember, CHUN YOUNG-WOO was the Vice Foreign Minister from South Korea at the time when the report was written.

    To me, this is more Chun conjecturing what the Chinese position is. I can see how he believes China is “comfortable” with a “benign alliance” should North Korea collapse and the whole of Korea comes under the control of the South. U.S. diplomats other cables reveal that the Chinese do not believe North Korea is going to collapse. Neither does the ROK believe it.

    Remember, this is Chun conjecturing.

    Now, we turn to the Guardian article:

    China has signalled its readiness to accept Korean reunification and is privately distancing itself from the North Korean regime, according to leaked US embassy cables that reveal senior Beijing figures regard their official ally as a “spoiled child”.

    Can someone help connect how the Guardian arrive at this conclusion?

    @Allen

    You are right it’s being partially released. Wikileaks indicated it is releasing all the materials over the “next few months.”

    Some media outlets have received the full set of documents from Wikileaks.

  4. I wonder why the media should get the docs before the public.

    Is it because the media is more trustworthy or somehow less gullible? Is the media in the West some kind of citizen-based censorship / propaganda institution?

    I am thoroughly confused…

  5. It’s also important to note that the leaked cables do not represent “truth” of any sorts, but do provide some insights into the diplomatic games played as well as the players that play them. It reveals – for example – how U.S. diplomats see the world. Like the mandarins that only want to bring good news to the emperor, U.S. diplomats may also be prone to fudging data (or at least selectively listening for news) that please the powers to be in the U.S.

    Here is an interesing article from Asia Times.

  6. I promise I heard the comment of “NK acts like a spoiled child” from China in the western news a good ways back before this Wikileak incident.

    On the other hand, I got 2 Europeans stations stating slightly different things.
    One said Senior Chinese officials stated that they would “support a unification under SK” (with conditions I believe).
    The other said Young(er) Chinese officials stated…
    Younger Senior officials then?

  7. Great Asia Times article by Pepe Escobar.

    I’ll just quote one passage:

    There’s no evidence to prove that Beijing’s collective leadership was the real power behind the cyber-attacks against Google. And when former South Korean vice foreign minister Chun Yung-woo told the US ambassador in Seoul that new generation of Chinese party leaders no longer regarded North Korea as a useful ally, how much of it is purely self-serving wishful thinking? After all, Chun is now the national security adviser to South Korea’s president.

    Context is key in all these disclosures – around 220 so far. The diplomats or low-level functionaries speaking through these cables are essentially telling the State Department what it wants to hear, or bluffing their way into what has been already set in policy stone in Washington; the amount of independent, critical analysis is virtually zero.

    The Wiki reality show will go on for weeks as new gossip is dumped online. At least the show once again proves that the real information is on the Internet – not on global corporate media…

    So, regarding the hacks – Telegraph is indeed merely “dumping gossips” online. Where are the facts?

    To the Telegraph and Guardian reporters, and I’ll quote Allen from here, “And I hope you too – like Aaron – find bliss, passion and purpose in life…”

    Tabloiding ain’t a good way to earn a living.

  8. yinyang: Thanks for bringing up the details about Chun’s comments. The claims about China’s viewpoints on North Korea were a bit too incredible to be true.

    Still, I’m not surprised or confused about Wikileaks selectively giving away stuff to newspapers. They are activists, after all, and they learn how to work the media to get as much attention as possible. Nothing wrong with that as far as I see it.

  9. @Wukailong #9,

    Good point about wikileaks being an activist organization! I was operating under the assumption of wikileaks being a wikipedia-type platform – when wikileaks is more (at least started out as) an anti war platform than a “neutral” platform for consolidating information …

  10. I agree. These wires are just “dumping gossips” between the foreign embassies and Washington. The comment about “NK acts like a spoiled child” is coming from some US ambassador in Korea who hear something from someone. The Chinese official could’ve said “China has some frustration when trying NK with some issues,” and the US ambassador misinterpret (purposely or not) what he said to make the wire favorable.

    So I would not take whatever these US Ambassadors said word by word, but rather just read between the lines of what they said. Also, these wires are not facts, so we will probably never know what the Chinese counterpart really said about North Korea unless someone leaked what they said.

  11. The problem with the latest leaks, as I see them, is that they fill no good purpose. The leaks from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan show a lot of info on how the wars are/were waged and could turn US opinion much more in favor of peace (I was going to say world opinion but that doesn’t have the same effect, given that it’s the US leadership that needs to be influenced, and it was mostly against the wars anyway).

  12. @Wukailong

    I was thinking the same, and didn’t elaborate in my post. The true ‘check’ on American power is the American public. But given the U.S. media’s stance on foreign policy (in my view, actually, more hawkish in general), their spin on the leaked documents are going to dampen much of the “negative” views American citizen would otherwise get by reading the documents directly.

    Most Americans are not going to read them. Those who actually do are already much less predispose to media spin.

    Most Americans, as we are discussing here, are actually going to hear about the various gossips, half truths, and outright lies from the mainstream media.

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