And All Recent U.S. Governments Break the LawEveryone knows that I.F. Stone's saying, "All governments lie," is true.1 So on that superficial level, there is indeed "nothing new" in the WikiLeaks release of U.S. State Department cables. [Updated URL due to U.S. domain name censor] It is not surprising then, that many members of the lamestream media have downplayed the significance of the leaked cables. More telling, and contradicting these claims that the leaks are insignificant, are the attacks on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. There definitely is something to see here.
The most personally significant thing I've read about so far is the U.S. Embassy in Honduras declaring in a cable subject line: "Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup." The cable was written on July 24, 2009 and describes the ousting of the Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, on June 28 of that year. The full summary reads:
Post has attempted to clarify some of the legal and constitutional issues surrounding the June 28 forced removal of President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya. The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch, while accepting that there may be a prima facie case that Zelaya may have committed illegalities and may have even violated the constitution. There is equally no doubt from our perspective that Roberto Micheletti's assumption of power was illegitimate. Nevertheless, it is also evident that the constitution itself may be deficient in terms of providing clear procedures for dealing with alleged illegal acts by the President and resolving conflicts between the branches of government.[The meta story seems to be the writing skill and un-varnished truth the cables communicate to policy makers. You know we spend more on military bands than the foreign service, right? Go to UK's The Guardian to get information about the cables, including a daily update of important items. The NYT blows.]
So, another Latin American coup, what's new about that? Nothing. But when a coup occurs, the U.S. is required by law to end all foreign aid, except for "democracy assistance." Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, writes:
[A] month after this cable was sent, the State Department, in its public pronouncements, pretended that the events of June 28 -- in particular, "who did what to whom" and the constitutionality of these actions -- were murky and needed further study by State Department lawyers, despite the fact that the State Department's top lawyer, Harold Koh, knew exactly "who did what to whom" and that these actions were unconstitutional at least one month earlier. The State Department, to justify its delay in carrying out U.S. law, invented a legal distinction between a "coup" and a "military coup," claiming that the State Department's lawyers had to determine whether a "military coup" took place, because only that determination would meet the legal threshold for the aid cutoff.My estimation of President Obama has dropped very low over the last year. And it is still going down. But I still didn't think his administration would break the law, especially by white-washing a foreign coup. I know, I'm a sucker.
But the July 24 cable shows that this was nonsense. The phrase "military coup" occurs nowhere in the document, a remarkable omission in a cable from the Embassy presenting the Embassy's analysis of the June 28 events, their constitutionality and legality one month after the fact, if that were a crucial distinction in assessing U.S. policy. And indeed, initial press reports on the statements of top U.S. officials in response to the coup made no such distinction, using the descriptions "coup" and "military coup" interchangeably.
At the time, I read lightly on the subject and I bought the lamestream narrative, without digging any deeper. As Naiman says, "U.S. media reporting on the coup continued to describe these facts as subject to reasonable dispute, long after the Embassy had firmly declared that they were not." It seemed too complicated to figure out. Now:
[T]he constitutional and political crisis in Honduras is ongoing, and the failure of the U.S. to take immediate, decisive action in response to the coup was a significant cause of the ongoing crisis. After nominally opposing the coup, and slowly and fitfully implementing partial sanctions against the coup regime in a way that did not convince the coup regime that the U.S. was serious, the U.S. moved to support elections under the coup regime which were not recognized by the rest of the hemisphere, and today the U.S. is lobbying for the government created by that disputed election to be readmitted to the Organization of American States, in opposition to most of the rest of the hemisphere, despite ongoing, major violations of human rights in Honduras, about which the U.S. is doing essentially nothing.Ugh.
1 If a government itself said this, you'd have a variant of the riddle: If I say "Everything I tell you is a lie," am I telling you the truth or a lie? Answer after the jump.
A lie. It can't be the truth without contradicting itself (and therefore it is a lie), but some of my statements can be lies, and this is one of those statements.