The recent publication of over 250,000 US State Department cables has resulted in a flood of articles being published by press and media outlets around the world, particularly in Africa, where revelations from the cables threaten the status quo, and have resulted in threats of censorship and legal action by politicians in Zimbabwe. Stories last week also illuminated US fears of growing indigenous peoples’ rights movements in Latin America, US support for the coup regime in Honduras, a decades-old interest in population control in the Philippines, subversion of environmental legislation, disregard for civilian casualties in a 2005 raid on a Haitian slum, censorship and a disregard for press freedom of publications which do not support US interests, and much more.

Subject Index

U.S. involvement in and monitoring of foreign domestic affairs^

U.S. insistence on MINUSTAH presence in Haiti: A cable from 2008 reveals that Haiti President Preval asked for Haiti’s “Chapter 7″ status to be changed to “Chapter 6,” whereby the presence of MINUSTAH troops would be dependent on Haitian consent alone, rather than required because of “a threat or breach of peace.” U.S. ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson seemed alarmed by the request, and sought aid in discouraging him from it.

U.S. supported Australian campaign to ouster Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare: Sogavare was elected as Prime Minister by Parliament in 2006 after rioters protested Snyder Rini being instated in the position. Australia denounced Sogavare’s proposals to end the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) control over government spending and calls for RAMSI’s removal from the Islands. Cables show that the U.S. supported Australia’s campaign to kick Sogavare out of office through a Parliamentary vote of no-confidence, which ultimately failed in 2006. Sogavare was ousted a year later in 2007, but cables from the Solomon Islands in that period have not been published.

U.S. lobbied against breastfeeding in the Philippines: Working alongside the Philippine pharmaceutical industry, the U.S. embassy in the Philippines fought against proposed regulation of breast milk replacements in the country, which according to one Filipino official were a major cause of death among infants. In 2007 the Supreme Court removed sections 4 and 11 of the Milk Code’s Implementing Rules and Regulations, which banned the advertising, promotion or sponsorship of infant formula, breast milk, substitutes and other related products.

US forces directly involved in Mindanao terror hunt: A number of cables show the U.S. has provided extensive military support, including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to the Philippines in its hunt for terror suspects on Mindanao island.

U.S. and Bin Laden, pre-9/11: Before 9/11, extensive diplomatic communication was conducted with the Taliban, as the U.S. sought to detain Osama Bin Laden, already suspected of having played a role in a number of attacks on U.S. entities in Africa. Taking a soft approach towards the Taliban, the U.S. sought by means of diplomacy to undermine any political support for Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Several cables describe the motivation behind the previous attacks to which Bin Laden had been tied, stressing the presence of the U.S. in Saudi Arabia, and the aftermath of the Gulf war. Secretary of State Colin Powell in one cable writes that Arab states were planning a trial against Bin Laden in Qatar, a plan he opposed.

Other Headlines:

International violence, drug trafficking, and abuse^

U.S. connections with known drug trafficker in Honduras:  In a radio interview with Dana Frank, professor and writer for The Nation, the current turmoil in Honduras is outlined with the recent resignation of Honduras Security Minister Oscar Alvarez and the ongoing U.S. involvement in the Honduras coup regime. The Honduras Weekly also reported on cables which revealed that the U.S. has known since 2004 that Honduran business owner Miguel Facussé has been involved in importing drugs to the country. Facussé is the founder of Grupo Dinant, and his investment in palm oil for biofuel has led to disputes over land in the Lower Aguán Valley of Honduras which has led to the death of 51 campesinos.

Photo by Darren Ell
A resident of Cité Soleil describes the UN raid of July 6, 2005 which left dozens dead and wounded in his neighborhood. Photo by Darren Ell.

U.S. embassy urged UN mission in Haiti to attack Haitian slum in spite of inevitable civilian casualties: A Haitian businessman and U.S. embassy official argued that MINUSTAH – the UN mission in Haiti – should forcibly take control of the crowded slum area of Cité Soleil, a stronghold of opposition to the coup against former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The U.S. official Timothy Carney acknowledged that there would be “inevitable” civilian deaths in launching the operation, but said that in preparation, the private sector should be willing to invest in the aftermath to support victims.

Cables detail evidence of violent and sexual abuse of juveniles in Iraq detention facility: The inspection of “Site 4″ on May 30, 2006 found that juveniles alleged that rape threats were used to induce confessions, there was severe overcrowding, and attempts to cover up abuse and torture had been made at the facility. In a follow-up article, it is reported from cables that immediately after the inspection, Site 4 was ordered to close. But cables show that although some of the 1,400 detainees were transferred to reduce overcrowding, 700 still remained in July 2006. The investigation also identified ten individuals to be arrested on torture offenses, but Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani stepped in to block the arrests and replace the list with eleven others, 7 of whom supposedly fled.

Ethiopian human rights violations and Swedish politics: Much of the human rights violation in the country, which cables show are still ongoing, are part of the government’s effort to protect oil companies. Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt ,who has a history as a board member of an oil company active in Ethiopia, has done remarkably little to address these violations.

Other Headlines:

Political revelations^

Zimbabwe and Nigeria^

Press coverage of Zimbabwe and Nigeria in particular have produced political rifts within the respective countries, as allegations of corruption against top politicians and officials are now open to public scrutiny. Some politicians have claimed that the cables are being taken advantage of for political attacks which don’t necessarily use the cable content in context or with perspective.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe has been in power since 1987. Photo by Al Jazeera English.

Cables from Zimbabwe have created an impact in the political atmosphere, as details of corruption within the parties Zanu PF and MDC have been exposed through independent media reports in Zimbabwe. The reports have covered ZANU PF politician Emmerson Mnangagwa and his history with the party, President Mugabe’s fear of being hanged if he leaves office, and allegations of political assassinations. Not only have politicians been affected by the information found in the cables, but other Zimbabwean netizens have expressed sentiments on what impact this release could have on their future.

Welshman Ncube, president of the Zimbabwe party MDC, has taken full advantage of the criticisms of the leading party Zanu PF found in the cables, reiterating critiques this week in a public address.

Independent media in Zimbabwe have published reports based on the cables, and in response, the government has issued a warning. Media and Information Minister Webster Shamu accused the media of using the cables as a means to influence upcoming elections and warned that denigrating the country’s leadership would not be tolerated. Jonathan Moyo has also filed a lawsuit against Daily News over two articles it published based on the cables.

Two Zimbabwe army generals could face court martial for discussing details of their commander and the conflict in Zimbabwe with U.S. ambassador Charles Ray.

Nigeria
Corruption in Nigeria: Former Nigerian president Yar’Adua was considering prosecuting his predecessor, Obasanjo, as part of his efforts to end the latter’s lingering influence. Yar’Adua was hesitant do so, however, due to fears that a legal investigation might also implicate his wife and others around him. According to cables, the same Obasanjo tried to influence the supreme court in several ways before the 2007 Nigerian elections. Wanting the supreme court to grant the president means of changing the election result, such as the right to disqualify votes, Obasanjo offered Justice Idris Kutigi a USD 1.6 million bribe.

The cables indicate that the Kutigi may have accepted bribes: “Kutigi appears to be reacting strongly to several credibly reported attempts to  sideline him or to co-opt him for political purposes.” He has deniced the allegations.
While former president Yar’Adua in some cables is reported to be combatting corruption, there are others that allege that he, too, sought to secure power through bribes. One high-level source to the U.S. ambassador that Yar’Adua had directed USD 57 million to supreme court officials in order that it not overturn his election, which, according to a judge, was “massively rigged.”

Another source of bribes has been multinational oil companies, who have offered high-ranking Nigerian officials significant pay-offs. This osmotic relationship between oil companies and corrupt politicians is likely the reason behind inefficiencies in the oil sector, and the failure to establish function refineries.

Other cables report that officials from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said there were documents proving the corruption of former Governor Ibori, former president Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.

Political impact around the world^

Corruption in India: While chief minister Mayawati of the northern Indian province Uttar Pradesh recently having sacked four ministers for allegations of corruption, cables have directed the distrust to the leader herself. This in the midst of the run-up to the regional elections.

Turkmenistan: Every contact with the authories accompanied by a bribe: Having investigated the possibilities for U.S. businesses to enter Turkmenistan, the embassy concludes that rampant couuption, lack of healthcare, and bureaucracy. Cables also not that families can be forced to pay USD 15,000 in bribes to get a child accepted into a good school.

Other Headlines:

U.S. perspectives on foreign domestic affairs^

Australia’s “middle power diplomacy” on environmental issues: Cables show that then-Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tried to assure U.S. officials that he would not pressure the U.S. over reducing carbon emissions, and Australian officials criticized China’s plans after Copenhagen climate change talks in 2010. A cable from 2009 also mentions complaints from Chevron and BHP that the Australian government forced them into using the Kimberley coastline for their plant; environmental groups claim the plant will pollute the area and endanger wildlife.

Has Wikileaks exposed the real reason for the west’s war on Libya? In the midst of the west’s dropping of cluster bombs combined with self-adulation over its humanitarianism, cables show that the west before the war was panicking over its difficulties to get its hands on Libyan oil.

France Armed Cameroon to Fight Over Bakassi: Conspiring against Nigeria in relation to a dispute over the Bakassi peninsula, France provided arms to Cameroon. France’s military aid triggered Nigeria’s re-armament. The peninsula came under Cameroonian possession years later, in 2007.

China gave Uganda uncertified malaria drugs: The Chinese Ambassador to Uganda on one occasion provided 250,000 anti-malaria doses to the country. It turned out that one of the components, contained in 150,000 doses, had not been tested by the World Health Organization.

Uganda’s first lady was behind “Kill The Gays” bill: Senior Ugandan Presidential Adviser John Nagenda has confirmed the accuracy of cables quoting him as saying that while president Museveni is hostile to homosexuals, the person behind the country’s infamous “kill the gay” bill was his wife, Janet Museveni. The first lady, who is also a member of parliament, has lobbied internationally on the issue of homosexuality, and has links to right-wing U.S. groups.

Criticized as the bill has been, one official said “the legislation is a diversionary ploy intended to steer attention away from real issues like corruption and the 2011 elections”, and that “the bill is already a political tool, as some have accused presidential aspirant Olara Otunnu of being gay.” Cables also report that the same Janet Museveni was the person was behind the embezzlement of USD 1.5M from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

Cables indicate National Intelligence Agency played a role in murder of activist Munir Said Thalib: Then Indonesian National Police chief Sutanto said in 2006 that the country’s National Intelligence Agency was involved in the murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib. NGOs are now arguing that this new revelation provides sufficient grounds for the country’s supreme court to launch an investigation into the acquittal of National Intelligence Agency chairman Muchdi Purwoprandjono.

Philippines/Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace talks: Cables reveal that former mediator in the conflict, Malaysian Othman Abdul Razak, was highly skeptical of the position of the Philippine government, arguing that it should make more concessions. The Philippines, on its part, saw Othman as failing to fulfill his task. That Malaysia would be willing to give up its mediator role, is, however, unlikely: “If a country like Indonesia stepped in to replace Malaysia as a monitor or peacemaker, this would constitute a major blow to Malaysia’s regional position”.

China-Taiwan integration: China sees Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement as a means of strengthening political integration with Taiwan. While Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou might not have been willing to promote political ties with China, “deepening economic discussions will inevitably lead to political exchanges”, an official of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits says.

Dalai Lama visit seen as threat to trade agreement: Fearing that the visit could undermine efforts to establish a Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement with China, the Taiwanese government stopped news briefing by the Dalai Lama.

Tamil tigers may have funded Indian politicians: Writing shortly after the the political part MDMK won power in Indian region of Tamil Nadu, a diplomat reports that the part may have received funding from the militarist Sri Lankan organization the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

‘CPC sought Jamaat support’: Not feeling that it could rely on the Pakistani government, the Chinese government sought to enlist the support of the Muslim organization Jamaat-e-Islaami regarding border issues.

Other Headlines:

Indigenous Peoples’ Rights^

Trinidad government official hedged on UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Although the U.S. worked to pressure international governments to vote against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the government of Trinidad and Tobago approved it.  However, a 2007 cable quotes a Trinidad government official as saying that states can pick which items in the declaration to endorse, and moreover, that “a non-binding action plan also had merit” in place of the declaration.

U.S. disapproval of indigenous movement in the Andes: A cable from January 2008 reveals US fears behind their opposition to proposals for a UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, reporting that “some leaders are citing the Declaration in support of concrete aims like self-governance and control over land and resources. Post will watch for further developments, particularly with regards to property rights and potential sovereignty or self-rule issues.”  Another cable from 2009 warned of “the anti-system movement” developing in Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and elsewhere, stating that this trend threatened “the pro-growth model.”

U.S. monitored indigenous community in Peru: A 2009 cable reveals the U.S. embassy’s concern over Peruvian support of the indigenous Bolivian president Evo Morales and Andean leader Miguel Palacin. Peru’s new indigenous law was signed last week, and the new legislation will require that indigenous groups be notified before mining, logging, or oil and gas projects on their land.

Influence on commerce and media^

Al Jazeera Censorship: Dagens Nyheter, The Next Web, and Al Akbar have reported on a 2005 cable revealing that U.S. officials reported on and discussed content of the news agency Al Jazeera with the organization’s Managing Director Wadah Khanfar. The U.S. report pointed out what the U.S. considered problems with Al Jazeera reporting, including extremist views and use of terrorist tapes. Khanfar defended his agency’s reporting, saying a balanced view was presented over the course of Al Jazeera’s 24-hour live coverage. But when concern about a website piece showcasing gruesome pictures from Iraq was raised, Khanfar agreed to take it down within a few days and to more closely monitor future website coverage. It is apparent from the cable that Khanfar had ongoing contact with U.S. officials monitoring Al Jazeera.

How U.S. shot down Czech-Venezuelan plane deal: Throughout 2007, the U.S. embassy in Prague was working hard to prevent a deal between Czech company Aero and Venezuela for nine aging fighter planes. Many Czech officials, including then prime minister Topolánek, were sympathetic to the efforts of the U.S., trying to block the deal from proceeding. Fearing that the help of Czech officials might not suffice to prevent the deal from going forward, the ambassador instead argued that using the dependence on U.S. components as a lever to block the deal, thus making it too costly for Aero to proceed.

Cables on pharmaceutical drugs and trade pressures: U.S. diplomats have worked hard to promote policies in line with its own interests – even in cases when doing so will lead to reduced access to medication. One country of many where the U.S. has intervened to regulate access to medication is Thailand. U.S. pharmaceutical company Abbott Labs withdrew treatments for hypertension, kidney disease, auto-immune disease and congestive heart failure in order to teach Thai authorities a lesson regarding patent infringement. The move could benefit the company in the long term, the ambassador commented.

U.S. Diplomats keep in close contact with American automakers around the world: In a review of over 100 cables mentioning automakers, Detroit News outlines how U.S. diplomats monitor relations with large automotive companies such as General Motors (GM) and Ford.  Cables describe issues with GM in Germany, where GM’s Opel unit was losing money, but was not sold even after long negotiations.  In Thailand, the U.S. embassy intervened to help settle a strike against Ford.

Myanmar Times sought help from embassies: After the ousting of the Myanmar prime minister in 2004, Ross Dunkley, editor and co-owner of The Myanmar Times sent out a letter to a number of embassies calling for support, should the paper be closed down under the new government. The U.S. made the observation that the paper was so subservient to power that it was not worth saving.