Monday, 20 December 2010

Wikileaks cables - what they reveal about US foreign policy and women

There's currently a fair amount of bile-spewing online, directed either at Julian Assange over the allegations about him (did I miss the memo saying people are no longer innocent until proven guilty?) or at those on the Left - notably John Pilger and Michael Moore - who have defended Assange personally, and Wikileaks as an organisation, against attempts by US, UK and Swedish authorities to undermine Wikileaks.

While we don't know what did or didn't happen in Sweden in August, when Assange is alleged to have committed sexual offences, we do know what the US state, with its allies including the UK, has done in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade. Thanks to Wikileaks, we know in exhaustive detail.

Various groups and agencies in different parts of the world have been sifting through Wilileaks cables to help build a fuller picture of what they document. While some feminists and liberals, in the US and elsewhere, have regrettably been joining in the chorus of condemnation at Assange - and allying with the Right in red-baiting Pilger, Moore et al - the staff at Women's eNews have spent their time more constructively.

They assigned one of their reporters to examine the cables specifically to establish where women fitted in. Considering the rhetoric about war in Afghanistan being, amongst other things, a war for 'women's rights' - and the US rhetoric of promoting liberal values around the world - some concern with the welfare of women might be expected.

The Women's eNews service report about this was posted on 14 December. It begins:

'So far, a small sampling of those 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks suggests the irrelevance of women's rights to the real business of U.S. state craft.

At our behest, a Women's eNews reporter last week researched dispatches from more than 40 countries. She looked at cables from developed countries such Italy; struggling countries like Yemen. She paid special attention to the Middle East because of military conflicts there and social tensions over traditional family practices. She read cables about China and India, our economic competitors.

All in all, she read 200 cables.

She sent us a memo saying she found nothing about political participation of women, their role in civil society or efforts to empower women and facilitate access to justice.'

The report also notes:

'She worked with a list of stories that Women's eNews had produced about women's rights in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other hot spots to determine whether U.S. diplomats were addressing these issues in any way.

"I found nothing about poverty and women, reproductive rights, etc.," she e-mailed us.'

This will come as no surprise to most of us, but it nevertheless confirms the utter indifference of US authorities to women's rights and wellbeing in countries where supposedly it is a champion of precisely those things. It shatters once and for all the myth of a 'progressive', 'liberal' or 'humanitarian' war.

The priorities of the US and its allied governing elites in the Middle East are brutally exposed in the report's final paragraph:

'Our researcher's memo mentioned dozens of cables from embassies in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the Emirates and Egypt reporting that leaders in these countries wanted the U.S. to strike Iran to stop the country's nuclear programs. But she found no mention of the lack of food, medical care or education in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries.'


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