Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wikileaks revelations, torture and war crimes

One set of documents from the latest Wikileaks dump concern pressure that the US government brought on Spain to head off what the Cheney-Bush Administration clearly understood was a real danger: that Americans involved in torture or war crimes were vulnerable to prosecution under international law. Spain is well known for prosecutor Baltasar Garzón's willingness to apply universal jurisdiction to bring charges against accused perpetrators of war crimes committed in other countries.

As one example, this cable from the US Embassy in Madrid of 03/23/2007 noted (Cable en el que la Embajada de EE UU ... El País 30/11/2010; the PSOE has been the ruling party in Spain since March 2004):

As reported in reftel, magistrate Baltasar Garzon wrote an op-ed on March 20 that proposed an investigation into "criminal responsibility" for the war. Socialist Party (PSOE) secretary Jose Blanco hopped on the bandwagon in a TV ... interview that evening. The Ambassador immediately contacted National Security Adviser Casajuana to express concern. Casajuana promised to take the message to President Zapatero. [my emphasis]
The article to which the cable refers is this article by Garzón, Aniversario El País 20/03/2007. El País has a special report webpage on this round of Wikileaks.

This US Embassy cable (Cable en el que ... "pierde la paciencia" ... El País 03/21/2007) addresses the same concern:

Summary. In a volatile political climate leading up to regional/municipal elections in late May, the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) and far left political allies have ramped up criticism of the war in Iraq, in part to counteract opposition Popular Party (PP) attacks on the Zapatero Government's controversial policies on the ETA issue. The Madrid Regional PSOE joined the far left "United Left" (IU), unions, and pacifist groups staged mass demonstrations against the war on March 17 - though the turnout was lower than for the anti-ETA march. On March 20, high profile magistrate Baltasar Garzon published an editorial in the left leaning "El Pais" saying that the time had arrived to investigate "criminal responsibility" for the war in Iraq, to include possible charges against former President Aznar, PM Blair, and President Bush (Spaniards frequently refer to the "Picture of the Azores" in 2003 of the three leaders as the moment in which the decision to go to war was made, thus linking Aznar not just with the Spanish troop deployment, but with full responsibility for the war). PSOE Secretary Jose Blanco said in a March 20 television interview that "someone must pay" for the war in Iraq, and that if someone could demonstrate criminal culpability on the part of political leaders, Blanco said he was "all for it." The Ambassador contacted National Security Adviser Carles Casajuana on March 21 to convey his deep concern regarding the direction and tenor of PSOE statements on Iraq, which could only harm bilateral relations. Casajuana discussed the heated political context of the statements and said he expected them to abate soon, but assured the Ambassador that he would convey the Ambassador's concerns to President Zapatero immediately. The DCM is following up with PSOE Secretary Blanco to insist that the PSOE avoid dragging the ... USG [US Government] into its domestic conflict with the PP. End summary.
Things like this are not a surprise. But it is good to see it laid out like this, because Dick Cheney and George Bush were claiming their actions were legal, leaning on the dishonest internal legal opinions they flunkies like John Yoo generated.

This is also an interesting little tidbit to see (Cable en el que se critican las acusaciones a mandos de EE UU El País 30/11/2010):

[President Zapatero] may even take credit, as in the case of adjustments in U.S.-Cuba policy, for shaping USG views. He is not innately ill-disposed to the USG. For him, foreign policy is subordinate to domestic political interests, and the U.S. relationship is just one more element to be viewed XXXXXXXXXXXX.

MADRID 00000614 003.2 OF 004

currently a wave of goodwill for President Obama in Spain, which is the answer to Zapatero's prayers in that it enables him to engage the USG without being dinged by the traditional anti-U.S. sentiment among his socialist base. XXXXXXXXXXXX. Zapatero does not speak English, though we think he may understand it.
I'm surprised that the Embassy wouldn't know something like that about a head of state. I also can't believe that Zapatero doesn't speak some English.

Carlos Yárnoz covers this aspect of the story in EE UU maniobró en la Audiencia Nacional para frenar casos El País 30.11.2010.

On the Wikileaks revelations in general, the Guardian has comments from several figures in US embassy cables: Verdict on the leaks about the Middle East 11/29/2010. One of the them is former British diplomat Craig Murray:

It is seriously argued that ambassadors will not in future give candid advice if there is a chance that that advice might become public. In the past 12 hours I have heard this remarkable proposition put forward on five different television networks, without anybody challenging it. ...

Put it another way and the cracks start to appear. The best advice is advice you would not be prepared to defend in public. Really? Why? In today's globalised world, embassies are not a unique source of expertise. Often, expatriate, academic and commercial organisations are a lot better informed. The best policy advice is not advice that is shielded from peer review.
What the establishment mean is that ambassadors should be free to recommend things that the general public would view with deep opprobrium, without any danger of being found out. But should they really be allowed to do that, in a democracy? [my emphasis]
This 11/29/2010 PBS interview with (How Will New WikiLeaks Revelations Affect Diplomatic Candor?) includes Zbigniew Brzezinski of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and former George W. Bush advisor Stephen Hadley discussing Wikileaks. Brzezinski, and hardcore devotee of the Realist foreign policy school has some worthwhile comments. (Hadley, as I said, was a Bush II Administration advisor.)

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