Putting a dishonest spin on WikiLeaks

2010-12-04 13:45

Those who might want to ­imagine that the end of the Bush-Cheney era ushered in more frank and responsible spokespeople will surely be ­disabused of that foolish notion by the response of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to the ­latest WikiLeaks release.

This week, Gibbs achieved that rare combination of utter shamelessness and utter shamefulness when he claimed that by releasing classified diplomatic communications, “WikiLeaks has put at risk?… the cause of human rights”.

Reasonable people may debate the way in which the website ­obtains and releases classified documents, but for Gibbs to try and claim that transparency and openness pose broad threats to the cause of human rights is intellectually and practically dishonest.

The point here is not to suggest that the US is always on the wrong side of human rights debates.

That’s not the case.

But the Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama administrations have all promoted, ­implemented and maintained trade policies that are designed to permit multinational corporations to disregard traditional human rights complaints; as well as demands for environmental justice, protection for indigenous peoples and the removal of barriers to the organisation of free trade unions.

Gibbs knows this. For him to suggest that the US is engaged in any sort of international human rights crusade is disingenuous.

Yet, Gibbs claims the WikiLeaks disclosures “put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals and people around the world who come to the US for assistance in promoting democracy and open governments”.

Gibbs declared: “These documents also may include named ­individuals who, in many cases, live and work under oppressive ­regimes and who are trying to ­create more open and free ­societies. WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals.”

This is the spin Gibbs has chosen to employ in an effort to attack the ideal of transparency in ­international affairs.

There can and should be debates about these WikiLeaks and the ­approach of those who leak and ­circulate classified information.

But Gibbs is not engaging in such a debate. Instead, he is feigning upset over human rights to ­deflect attention from revelations regarding the backdoor dealings of US administrations that have consciously and consistently diminished the ability of that country to advance the cause of human rights.

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