A Tale of Three WikiLeak Stories

The NYT has gotten a lot of press for this story, detailing that Qaddafi’s son, Mutassim al-Qadhafi, paid $1 million to have Mariah Carey to sing four songs at his New Year’s Day party in St. Barts, and, the following year, another $1 million to have Beyonce and Usher sing. While it affords the NYT an opportunity to read like the Enquirer, the NYT manages to avoid mentioning other details–detailing how oil revenues have been funneled to Libyan elite in places like Scotland–that appear in the cables they reviewed and which might be more relevant to explain the uprising in Libya.

WikiLeaks Central takes a different approach to reporting on some of the more recent WikiLeaks disclosures on Libya. It describes the supposed turning point in US-Libyan relations after US oil companies, on threat of losing contracts with Libya, pushed through an exception to the Lautenberg Amendment of the 2008 Defense Authorization, which would have made it easier for plaintiffs in terrorism-related suits to seize government assets. The cable describing the reaction to the negotiation of an exception makes it clear Libyans hoped that the deal would encourage the US to pressure Qaddafi to cede power.

Libyan reaction to news of the U.S.-Libya claims settlement agreement is a mixture of relief and high expectation. Libyans are genuinely pleased that a key political irritant in the bilateral relationship has been resolved, seemingly reducing the likelihood that U.S.-Libya relations could lapse back into something akin to the sanctions period. There is also the belief that expanded political and economic engagement with the U.S. and the West, which is expected to accelerate with the lifting of the Lautenberg Amendment and potential asset seizure, will help solidify internal Libyan reforms undertaken in recent years. Many Libyans hope that expanded engagement with the U.S. will include U.S. advocacy for political reform and greater respect for human rights. A key challenge for al-Qadhafi will be to temper expectations that fully normalized relations with the U.S. will prompt an immediate shift in the nature of the regime and its reluctance to move quickly on political reform.

That was over two years ago. And yet Qaddafi is still attacking his citizens from fighter jets.

Surprise. Having paid what amount to bribes to his family and friends to obtain drilling rights, our oil companies have not been in a rush to force Qaddafi to push through political reforms.

But the NYT’s reporting is not all tabloid fare.

This article (can anyone tell whether it appeared in the Dead Tree version?), details the influence the American Chambers of Commerce have in our foreign policy. The article largely focuses on the Chamber’s attempts to defeat Daniel Ortega, with the Embassy cautiously welcoming the efforts. It also details Chamber involvement in Taiwan.

But just as important is the mention of the pressure Honduras’ Chamber brought on Obama to support the coup against José Manuel Zelaya (which an earlier cable had definitively labeled illegal).

In Honduras, for example, executives at the American-affiliated chamber expressed support for the June 2009 coup d’état that forced out President José Manuel Zelaya, the State Department cables say. After leaders in the group applied pressure on the Obama administration, American officials retreated from their initial demands that Mr. Zelaya be allowed to return to power.

As the cables have pretty consistently shown, our foreign policy is increasingly indistinguishable from our business interests. And no matter how often our diplomats describe tepid US support for fostering democracy, it always seem to work out that corporations prefer pliant dictators over real human rights.

  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    We didn’t help dismantle the post-Second World War English empire, on which the sun never set, in order to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and its subjects, we replaced English hegemony with our own.

    We got a head start on that by acquiring the dregs of the Spanish empire at the turn of the century. We also practiced empire management during nearly two centuries of our peculiar application of the Monroe Doctrine, which claimed that Latin America was ours to do with as we saw fit.

    • emptywheel says:

      When Treasure Islands comes out in the US, I really recommend you pick it up.

      It shows how they set up secrecy domains to pretty much extend the Anglo American empire.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Yes, I’ve closely followed that story in the English press and have, um, some direct experience with the subject matter.

    • Knut says:

      , we replaced English hegemony with our own.

      Dulles (both of them) couldn’t say it any better. And we let the Russians and the Germans do the heavy lifting for us.

  2. fatster says:

    O/T Interesting discussion of UK extradition law (how it applies and doesn’t) in this article:

    Julian Assange is very likely to be extradited, says Matrix barrister
    Julian Knowles, an expert in extradition law, dismisses the arguments made by the WikiLeaks founder’s lawyers


    • BillyP says:

      Sounds like the Guardian has become the mouthpiece for certain interests on this side of the Atlantic, setting the table for the next course.

  3. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    As the cables have pretty consistently shown, our foreign policy is increasingly indistinguishable from our business interests. And no matter how often our diplomats describe tepid US support for fostering democracy, it always seem to work out that corporations prefer pliant dictators over real human rights.

    Corporations also favor pliant county commissioners, mayors, state legislators, governors, utility commissioners, and agency execs.

    We have to get the money out of elections as a first step.

    And I don’t recall when foreign policy wasn’t ‘business by other means’. But its really out of hand these days.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Well, it’s certainly been that way for quite some time, barring exceptions such as attempts by the Carter administration to inject human rights as a credible goal of the US foreign policy establishment.

      The laundry list of little English wars throughout the 18th and 19th centuries were about advancing empire, which meant English mercantile interests, the East India Company or someone else. A short sample: There were those little spats in North America with the French and then the Yanks. There were continuing wars in India, then made up of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. There was the conquest of the Sudan, the replacement of the Ottoman’s as de facto rulers of Egypt and its Suez Canal. There was the mercantile conquest of half of Africa and the brutal suppression of tribal and nationalist campaigns to expel the British, not to mention the brutal suppression of colonial Europeans in South Africa during the Boer War, in which access to gold fields figured prominently, as did a desire to make a Thatcherite-like point that English rule was not to be trifled with. There were the Opium Wars in China, the development of Shanghai as an imperial city (where city parks displayed signs such as “No Chinese or dogs allowed”), and the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion, ad nauseum.

      The king of the Belgians had his personal enclave of the Congo, enormously rich in minerals, a story in which the CIA played a vital part during the Congo’s reluctant transition to independence.

      The use of US Marines throughout Latin America in furtherance of US fruit, tobacco, mineral and gaming industries is well known. Retired Marine general Smedley Butler, twice a recipient of the Medal of Honor, wrote a scathing account of it. We occupied the Philippines for decades in an effort to reap more rewards than drinking San Miguel beer. Our interest in Iran’s shah was not about promoting democracy, but about exclusive access to its oil. US foreign aid is often tied, in that recipients can only use it to purchase goods and services from US corporations (regardless of whether they have goods and services fitting the recipients’ needs). Then there are our deals in the emerging Central Asian economies, something Scott Horton often writes about.

      Assessing US foreign policy aims would be impossible if one excluded assessing US commercial interests.

      • Synoia says:

        not to mention the brutal suppression of colonial Europeans in South Africa during the Boer War, in which access to gold fields figured prominently, as did a desire to make a Thatcherite-like point that English rule was not to be trifled with

        You have your Prime Ministers mixed up. Thatcher was only following the precedents of Prime Minister pasts, among them Disraeli, Gladstone and Palmerston. The Boer War (called the South African War by the Boers), was before Thatcher’s birth.

        I believe the Imperial UK Policy is best summed up “Wogs begin at Calais, if they are lucky.”

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          A simple misunderstanding. I used the phrase, “Thatcherite-like”, that is to say, a statement or act such as Margaret Thatcher might make or do, indicating it was not one she made or did.

          You’re right, of course, that Margaret Thatcher was PM from 1979-1990; she warred in the Falklands in 1982, another mutually senseless war. Lord Salisbury was PM during the [Second] Boer War (1899-1902). It was bloody and sensationally brutal, a precursor to the modern, European on European, technical peer against technical peer (not repeating rifles against muskets and spears) war that started in 1914.

          The Boer War went on long enough that Churchill could cover it as a reporter, be captured, escape, run for and be elected to Parliament during it, and then make a maiden speech in which he famously made the then startlingly empathetic claim that if he were a Boer, he hoped he would be fighting the British in a war that was still ongoing. Its domestic impact on England was rather like Vietnam’s on the US, another colonial war, as well as a proxy war against the perceived influence of China and Russia in SE Asia. There was nothing proxy or vicarious about it for the Vietnamese.

          We agree: wars are almost always related to competing commercial interests. They break the ice or close the deal, cementing commercial interests that wouldn’t cure, fix or close around the conference table, club, brothel or back alley.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The racism implied in the reference to wogs, “wily (or inscrutable) oriental gentlemen”, meaning not just East or South Asians, but anyone not Anglo-Saxon, is certainly a part of British attitudes, though much less so now than when Victoria’s progeny comprised half the crowned heads of Europe.

          Racism remains a constant background issue, like the temperature, as it does in the US. But commercial interests and male egos, I believe, played greater parts. Racism played a major role in the disdain with which opponents such as colonials who aspired to independence (in say, India, Kenya or the Sudan, or Japan and Vietnam) were treated. Arguably, racism and religious arrogance are strong emotional influences on the anti-Arab/Muslim feelings evidenced by some US military and political leaders. General Boykin comes to mind, though there are many others.

  4. librechik says:

    to answer your question: No, Marcy, the referenced NYT story did not appear in today’s (2/23) print version of the Times. As it should have.

  5. jdmckay0 says:

    our foreign policy is increasingly indistinguishable from our business interests.

    … and our domestic policy as well.

    The blitzkrieg of narrow MSM coverage of Wisconsin (and now Indiana, Ohio…) eliminating strong evidence to this fact… the multifaceted and saturating manner in which this is being delivered to the public reminds me of exactly the same deceit delivered for Enron, Iraq…

    Just when I think I can’t be surprised, this one really overwhelms me. Kudos to various CAP outlets for informing well on this one.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This is typical of the conflation between US governmental and corporate interests, from a story in today’s NYT:

    The chamber’s activities over the past two years — detailed in interviews with Nicaraguan officials and business executives and in State Department cables obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks — illuminate the remarkable role the foreign affiliates of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sometimes play in the politics of their host nations. Occasionally they are at odds with United States policy. But often, the chamber groups are so aligned with it that they appear to act as unofficial instruments to advance the American government’s goals.

    Eric Lipton’s editors gave his work this remarkably restrained title:

    Business Group Tied to US Wades into Nicaraguan Politics

    Just a warm walk along the seashore. I don’t know if the George H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Ollie North from 1987 would appreciate the coverage; they would certainly appreciate its restraint.

  7. Jane Hamsher says:

    I can’t remember where I read it now, I’ve looked for it, but at the time it was reported that when the KORUS deal crumbled on Obama, it was the Chamber who made the Koreans to agree to it.

  8. Synoia says:

    The US and its corporation interest are indistinguishable, and that would be good except for “free trade”, globalization and outsourcing.

    What does pique is that the corporations want the common interest, but don’t want to pay for it.

    That’s another spoke in the wheel of “internalized to profits and externalize the costs.”

    You want our government’s help? Then
    1. Pay up
    2. Employ us

    or you’ll find the funding for your foreign entanglements running short.

  9. eCAHNomics says:


    When was U.S. foreign policy ever distinguishable from corp welfare?

    I’m fairly familiar with post-WWII history. John Foster Dulles’s State Dept was ALL about U.S. biz interests, from CIA overthrow of democractically elected Arbenz in Guatemala to Mossedeq in Iran. Dulles you will recall was Wall St lawyer before Ike’s Sec State, working for U.S. biz interests abroad, virtually identical to Holder’s work for Chiquita banana.

    • Cujo359 says:

      Quite a few of the early “anti-communist” operations had more to do with the interests of important American corporations than they did with fighting communism. Putting the Shah in power in Iran was more about oil than it was about socialism, and look how well that’s worked out ever since.

  10. john in sacramento says:

    This article (can anyone tell whether it appeared in the Dead Tree version?), details the influence the American Chambers of Commerce have in our foreign policy. …

    I’m too lazy to look it up right now, but in at least one of the cables to, or from Sweden, was about the US embassy personnel constantly lobbying the Swedish Gov to buy US fighter jets

    • john in sacramento says:

      I was wrong. It was Norway they wanted to sell the Lockheed F-35 fighters to.

      They were competing with the Swedes for the sale

      The embassy wanted Raytheon to postpone selling AESA radar to Sweden, which just happened to be critical to the Swedish Grippen 39 fighters that they wanted to sell to Norway (and also Denmark)


  11. hackworth1 says:

    The old definition of Fascism, which has been edited (evolved away from its key meaning), includes the collusion of government and big business.

    Now the focal point of the definition of fascism is rampant nationalism and militarism.

    The real crux of the meaning is the collusion.

    the US is a Fascist empire.

    • PeasantParty says:

      Yep. However, what I like to refer the corporatist take over of our government is a different term…


      Usurper (lat. usurpare = to seize for use, to use) is a derogatory term used to describe either an illegitimate or controversial claimant to the power; often, but not always in a monarchy, or a person who succeeds in establishing himself as a monarch without inheriting the throne, or any other person exercising authority unconstitutionally. It may also be applied to an official acting ultra vires, outside his authority or jurisdiction.

  12. Cujo359 says:

    One thing that I’ve been wondering about recently seems to have been answered by the Wikileaks Central link. What I’d been wondering was how Libya, of all places, could be described as an ally in the “war on terror”. Well, it turns out that the corporations making big profits there didn’t want to be forced to give up those profits. If Libya had been designated a state sponsor of terrorism, then that’s what they would have had to do.

    Go figure.

  13. TarheelDem says:

    Foreign policy is always driven by domestic politics. When domestic politics is held hostage to business interests, it should be no surprise that so is foreign policy. The only interesting part are the details about who, what, when, where, how, and the immediate why.

    This is true regardless of the country you look at.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Good point; except among the specialists, foreign policy is domestic policy. Jesse Helms’ obstructionism, for example, was a way to compete domestically for contributions, re-election and power; he wasn’t trying to conduct foreign policy.

  14. donbacon says:

    It seems like only yesterday.

    Time Magazine
    Why Gaddafi’s Now a Good Guy
    By SCOTT MACLEOD/CAIRO, Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    . . .Gaddafi and Bush do apparently see eye to eye. On Monday, Gaddafi accomplished one of history’s great diplomatic turnarounds when Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice announced that the U.S. was restoring full diplomatic relations with Libya and held up the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya as “a model” for others to follow.


    This was in spite of the 2006 US State Department Human Rights Report on Libya, March 6, 2007, which stated in part:

    The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is an authoritarian regime with a population of approximately six million, ruled by Colonel Mu’ammar Al Qadhafi since 1969. . .The government’s human rights record remained poor. Citizens did not have the right to change their government. Reported torture, arbitrary arrest, and incommunicado detention remained problems. The government restricted civil liberties and freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. The government did not fully protect the rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. .


  15. canadianbeaver says:

    Isn’t that one of an elected gov’ts jobs? To look out for and help businesses from their own country? Now, I know they are to look out for the population, and they don’t, but how do you get angry at a government for trying to help their nations’ businesses whether you agree with them or not? Fear mongering, for fear mongering sake, is still fear mongering. In one post, people scream to “Buy American” and renegotiate trade deals and put tariffs on foreign businesses, and in another gov’t isn’t supposed to favor businesses that could/might/do create jobs? Holy shit, reading online blogs has given me a f*cking migraine. Left/right, all batshit crazy.

    • Knut says:

      Please tell me where in the United States Constitution it says that the function of government is explicitly to aid private business. I looked but I didn’t find it. I know things are different in Canada, especially under Harper, but you ought to look it up.

  16. disputo says:

    “our foreign policy is increasingly indistinguishable from our business interests.”

    What do you mean “our”, white boy?

    • captjjyossarian says:

      That was my reaction too, despite being in said category.

      Before the trade deals of the 1990’s, one could have loosely claimed that they were our companies and our business interests. What was good for GM was at least on some level good for America.

      And even if “our” companies had usurped “our” foreign policy, it was in some ways loosely connected to our interests. And that goes at least as far back as the gilded age.

      But the trade deals of the 1990’s were effectively a divorce of public and corporate interests. And the corporations took our government with them in the final settlement.

      So it’s not really “our” government anymore, nor is it “our” foreign policy.