How Wikileaks amplifies the Pentagon echo chamber

At Columbia Journalism Review, Ali Gharib writes:

A source provides details to the American government about the nefarious activities of a Middle Eastern country. That information ends up in scores of secret U.S. government documents. Subsequently, the information winds up on the front pages of major newspapers, and is heralded by war hawks in Washington as a casus belli.

Sound familiar? It should, but perhaps not in the way you’re thinking. Here’s a hint: It’s not 2003, but 2010. This is the story of what happened recently to Iran in the wake of the latest WikiLeaks document release, where U.S military field reports from Iraq made their way into major national newspapers and painted the Islamic Republic as a force out to murder U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

While the WikiLeaks document dump provided a useful way to glean historic details of the seven-year-old occupation, much of the prominent media coverage focused closely on the extent of Iranian support for anti-U.S. forces in Iraq and Iran’s alleged role.

“Leaked Reports Detail Iran’s Aid for Iraqi Militias,” blared the headline on a front page story in The New York Times, which went on to report on several incidents recounted in WikiLeaks documents that journalist Michael Gordon called “the shadow war between the United States and Iraqi militias backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.”

“The field reports also provide a detailed account of what American military officials on the ground in Iraq saw as Iran’s shadowy role training and equipping Iraqi Shiite militias to fight the U.S.,” wrote Julian Barnes in The Wall Street Journal. “American intelligence believed the training was provided not only by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran, but also by Hezbollah, their Lebanese ally.”

And the hawks went wild.

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2 thoughts on “How Wikileaks amplifies the Pentagon echo chamber

  1. pabelmont

    Has anyone suggested that the info (speculations?) about Iranian involvement was planted as disinformation in the hope of WikiLeaks publication? Or merely that publication of THIS info played into the hands of hawks? As in, “Why did WikiLeaks publish THESE items?”

  2. Theo

    What is described in this article is true. Yet, is the trumpeting of the Pentagon’s message about Iran being a threat a product of the Wikileaks release or just the inevitable spin put on it by the servers of power in the media? Looking at media outlets outside the US that covered the Wikileaks story, it was clear the Iran link was not the main issue of emphasis. Rather it was the documented cases of torture that coalition troops knew of but did nothing to prevent, the civilian body count kept by the Pentagon that has been denied for so long, etc. These media sources also examined the Iran information that was released, yet failed to give the prominence that it received in the US.

    What else is to be expected of the media in the US, from the NYT to FoxNews? OF COURSE they will spin the story and amplify the interests of the power centers in the country, that is what they do. I don’t see how that is Wikileaks fault. One can’t blame the supplier of the information for the spin that is put on it by the media.

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