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Wikileaks Cablegate reveals unflattering U.S. view of African 'client states,' leaders

By Ashahed M. Muhammad -Asst. Editor- | Last updated: Dec 9, 2010 - 9:37:49 PM

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Focus on Wikileaks - FinalCall.com/Wikileaks

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'This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’ 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'
–Wikileaks Cablegate website
(FinalCall.com) - The fallout continues after Wikileaks began posting thousands of leaked classified U.S. embassy cables on Nov. 28.

So far, only 667 of the 251,287 secret documents have been posted online and already there is international uproar consisting of praise and criticism. Wikileaks has closely protected its sources and will not discuss how the information was obtained.

“It’s clear that the American intelligence community has not guarded the documents well,” said Robert T. Starks, political science professor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, who predicted a crackdown on information coming from the federal government after this now legendary leak of confidential documents.

While American officials attempted unsuccessfully to downplay the information revealed in the leaked files, a picture is emerging of unflattering portrayals of many African governments, critical remarks related to African political leaders including former South African president Nelson Mandela and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. There is also evidence of significant intelligence gathering pointing to intense interest by the U.S. areas of intense resource conflicts in countries like Burundi, the Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

“Most of us suspected that that was the case, and that has been pretty much confirmed by the manner in which African nations are treated in diplomatic circles, especially in terms of money they receive and all the other kinds of courtesies that are not afforded African countries or its leaders,” said Prof. Starks.

For example, a July 12, 2008, a diplomatic cable by Christopher W. Dell with the subject: “The End is Nigh” reveals the U.S. ambassador’s unflattering opinion of President Mugabe calling him, “a brilliant tactician and has long thrived on his ability to abruptly change the rules of the game, radicalize the political dynamic and force everyone else to react to his agenda. However, he is fundamentally hampered by several factors: his ego and belief in his own infallibility; his obsessive focus on the past as a justification for everything in the present and future; his deep ignorance on economic issues (coupled with the belief that his 18 doctorates give him the authority to suspend the laws of economics, including supply and demand); and his essentially short-term, tactical style.”

Considering opposition leadership choices in Zimbabwe as “far from ideal,” the U.S. considered Morgan Tsvangarai a possible choice for support. He later became Zimbabwe’s prime minister in 2009. Mr. Tsvangarai was considered “(a) brave, committed man” but also “a flawed figure, not readily open to advice, indecisive and with questionable judgment in selecting those around him. He is the indispensable element for opposition success, but possibly an albatross around their necks once in power.”

Current Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara was considered “a light-weight who has spent too much time reading U.S. campaign messaging manuals and too little thinking about the real issues.”

Amb. Dell went on to write, “The great saving grace of the opposition is likely to be found in the diaspora. Most of Zimbabwe’s best professionals, entrepreneurs, businessmen and women, etc., have fled the country. They are the opposition’s natural allies and it is encouraging to see signs, particularly in South Africa and the UK, that these people are talking, sharing ideas, developing plans and thinking together about future recovery.”

Former AU President and Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi was derided in a 2009 cable for his “eccentricities.”

“Muammar al-Gadhafi has been described as both mercurial and eccentric, and our recent first- hand experiences with him and his office, primarily in preparation for his UNGA trip, demonstrated the truth of both characterizations,” wrote Amb. Gene Cretz.

Another 2008 cable described a conversation in which Sen. John Kerry and the ambassador questioned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak regarding the African Summit he attended in Sharm El-Sheik, as well as his views on Sudan. In response to those queries, President Mubarak reportedly said that while not discussed publicly at the AU summit, the problem in Sudan could be solved because “two tribes always work things out.”

Another cable dated 2009 discussed the controversial security firm Blackwater (now known as Xe Services) receiving permission from the government of Djibouti to conduct counter-piracy operations “to protect commercial shipping from pirates off the coast of Somalia,” including the use of lethal force if necessary.

Other cables from the U.S. State Department show an interest in the agricultural policies of some African countries, such as Burundi, the Republic of Congo, and Rwanda, perhaps in preparation for exporting genetically modified foods.

Though described in cables as “a swamp of corruption” according to Der Spiegel, Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua considered the reported comments “malicious and a total misrepresentation of Kenya and its leaders.” Kenya has suffered as a result of being aligned with U.S. foreign policy interests and has received pressure from neighboring governments to clamp down on terrorism. A bombing in Kampala, Uganda on July 11 killed 76 people resulted in the arrests of many, including activist Al- Amin Kimathi, who was detained along with Mbugua Mureithi, a Kenyan attorney. The men have been involved in delivering legal assistance and advice to Kenyans accused of terrorism by the Ugandan authorities. Additionally, though occurring over 12 years ago, the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya linked to Osama bin Laden were aimed at U.S. foreign interests in the region.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who came to power following a 1989 coup has towed the U.S. line related to the “War on Terror,” and it is no secret that Mr. Museveni has been a reliable proxy for U.S. interests in the region. The U.S. backed Ugandan and Rwandan invasions of the Congo reportedly killed over six million people from 1997-2003.

“The cables show the extent of U.S. 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 U.S. corporations; and the measures U.S. diplomats take to advance those who have access to them. This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’ 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,” the Wikileaks Cablegate website declared.

“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 U.S. Government has been warning governments--even the most corrupt--around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures."

U.S. Secretary Hilary Clinton has been very vocal regarding the American government's displeasure regarding the leaked documents which have caused considerable embarrassment for the Obama administrations saying, "It puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems," said Sec. Clinton. "This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign-policy interests, it is an attack on the international community--the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity,"

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa Nov. 30 backtracked on a reported offer of residency with no questions asked to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, insisting no such invitation has been extended.

"There has been no formal offer to the director of WikiLeaks," President Correa told a news conference in the coastal city of Guayaquil according to AFP. "That was a personal remark by the deputy foreign minister; he did not have my authorization."

It was widely reported on Nov. 29 that Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas told the Internet site Ecuadorinmediato, "We are ready to give him residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions."

Mr. Kintto said, according to AFP, "We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just over the Internet but in a variety of public forums."

His reported comments raised the ire of American officials who are angered by Mr. Assanges' massive release of classified U.S. documents.

In an Op-ed appearing on the Truth-out.org website, Bill Quigley, legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans said those who direct Wikilieaks and were responsible for making information available to the public should not be condemned, but praised.

"The U.S. has been going in the wrong direction for years by classifying millions of documents as secrets. Wikileaks and other media that report these so-called secrets will embarrass people, yes. Wikileaks and other media will make leaders uncomfortable, yes. But embarrassment and discomfort are small prices to pay for a healthier democracy. Wikileaks has the potential to make transparency and accountability more robust in the U.S. That is good for democracy," Mr. Quigley wrote.

On Tuesday, December 7, Mr. Assange turned himself over to British authorities in connection to an INTERPOL/Swedish arrest warrant for rape allegations.  He was promptly jailed without bail after apearing before a judge.

Prior to his arrest, Mr. Assange wrote an editorial, "Shooting The Messenger" which was published in the The Australian, defending Wikileaks and highlighted what he considered some of the key facts in his organization's recent "Cablegate" disclosure of documents.

The Wikileaks Cablegate site has been under constant cyber attack since Nov. 30. After the original internet host took the site down, numerous mirror sites have appeared worldwide.

Related news and links:

FinalCall.com News Focust on Wikileaks (FinalCall.com/Wikileaks/)

Wikileaks attacked, Internet activists strike back (FCN, 12-04-2010)

Cablegate: 250,000 US Embassy Diplomatic Cables (Wikileaks)

Wikileaks founder answer reader questions via Internet (UK Guardian, 12-03-2010)

Collateral Murder Website (CollateralMurder.com)

Wikileaks exposes more torture, abuse in Iraq (FCN, 11-13-2010)

Ignoring bad news won't win Afghan War (FCN, 08-09-2010)

"Collateral Murder" - Report on shocking footage of US military in Iraq (FCN, 04-16-2010)

Africom: President Obama's Bush inheritance, challenge (FCN, 10-26-2009)

Web Video - Africa: America's New Frontline (Al Jazeera, 09-25-2009)

Obama then Hillary: U.S. scrambles for Africa (FCN, 08-31-2009)

Re-packaged AFRICOM still not good for Motherland (FCN, 07-01-2009)

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