Wednesday, September 02, 2015

what wikileaks teaches us about the secret structure of u.s. empire...,


newsweek |  The US diplomatic service dates back to the Revolution, but it was in the post–World War II environment that the modern State Department came to be.

Its origins coincided with the appointment of Henry Kissinger as secretary of state, in 1973. Kissinger’s appointment was unusual in several respects. Kissinger did not just head up the State Department; he was also concurrently appointed national security advisor, facilitating a tighter integration between the foreign relations and military and intelligence arms of the US government.
While the State Department had long had a cable system, the appointment of Kissinger led to logistical changes in how cables were written, indexed and stored. For the first time, the bulk of cables were transmitted electronically. This period of major innovation is still present in the way the department operates today.

The US Department of State is unique among the formal bureaucracies of the United States. Other agencies aspire to administrate one function or another, but the State Department represents, and even houses, all major elements of US national power. It provides cover for the CIA, buildings for the NSA mass-interception equipment, office space and communications facilities for the FBI, the military and other government agencies and staff to act as sales agents and political advisors for the largest US corporations.

One cannot properly understand an institution like the State Department from the outside, any more than Renaissance artists could discover how animals worked without opening them up and poking about inside. As the diplomatic apparatus of the United States, the State Department is directly involved in putting a friendly face on empire, concealing its underlying mechanics.

Every year, more than $1 billion is budgeted for “public diplomacy,” a circumlocutory term for outward-facing propaganda. Public diplomacy explicitly aims to influence journalists and civil society, so that they serve as conduits for State Department messaging.

While national archives have produced impressive collections of internal state communications, their material is intentionally withheld or made difficult to access for decades, until it is stripped of potency. This is inevitable, as national archives are not structured to resist the blowback (in the form of withdrawn funding or termination of officials) that timely, accessible archives of international significance would produce.

What makes the revelation of secret communications potent is that we were not supposed to read them. The internal communications of the US Department of State are the logistical by-product of its activities: their publication is the vivisection of a living empire, showing what substance flowed from which state organ and when.

Diplomatic cables are not produced in order to manipulate the public, but are aimed at elements of the rest of the US state apparatus and are therefore relatively free from the distorting influence of public relations. Reading them is a much more effective way of understanding an institution like the State Department than reading reports by journalists on the public pronouncements of Hillary Clinton, or [White House Communications Director] Jen Psaki.

While in their internal communications State Department officials must match their pens to the latest DC orthodoxies should they wish to stand out in Washington for the “right” reasons and not the “wrong” ones, these elements of political correctness are themselves noteworthy and visible to outsiders who are not sufficiently indoctrinated.
                         
Many cables are deliberative or logistical, and their causal relationships across time and space with other cables and with externally documented events create a web of interpretive constraints that reliably show how the US Department of State and the agencies that inter-operate with its cable system understand their place in the world.

Only by approaching this corpus holistically—over and above the documentation of each individual abuse, each localized atrocity—does the true human cost of empire heave into view.