The Nation's Jeremy Scahill and The Daily Beast's Peter Beinart joined Joy Behar to discuss the latest document dump from WikiLeaks and the implications it might have on our diplomatic relations and the debate over our foreign policy. I agree
November 30, 2010

The Nation's Jeremy Scahill and The Daily Beast's Peter Beinart joined Joy Behar to discuss the latest document dump from WikiLeaks and the implications it might have on our diplomatic relations and the debate over our foreign policy.

I agree with Scahill that there's been a lot of attack the messenger here with the rhetoric about Julian Assange's decision to make this information public which has taken away from the larger debate we should be having in America. I for one would like to hear a discussion on why we think that dropping bombs on poor people's heads rather than addressing poverty is a good idea as a means to end terrorism.

The Obama administration has done nothing to hold the Bush administration accountable for their crimes and are continuing way too many of their policies with this ridiculous "war on terror". Peter Beinart's assertion that we'd be having this conversation in our so called "mainstream media" if we just left this to the journalists in America is ridiculous. We've had plenty of journalists like Jeremy Scahill reporting on the these subjects and they've gotten little attention and garnered little discussion on the cable news shows.

I spend a great deal of time monitoring those shows and if you're not watching Amy Goodman's Democracy Now, you're not hearing these sorts of discussions very often, if at all. They're drowned out by debates from "the left" and "the right" and who's ahead in some poll for the week and what Sarah Palin is posting on her Facebook or Twitter page. Joy Behar looked like she couldn't wait for the segment to end so she could move on to the rest of the really important things she was covering on her show, like celebrity gossip. She'd have better served her audience by allowing these two the full hour to continue the conversation here.

WikiLeaks next document dump is apparently going to give our masters of the universe on Wall Street some headaches, which I look forward to since they haven't been held accountable for their actions either.

Full transcript below the fold.

BEHAR: So do the leaks compromise our national security or are these secrets all citizens deserve to know? Here now to discuss the leaks and the fallout are Jeremy Scahill, national security editor of "The Nation" magazine and author of "Blackwater"; and Peter Beinart, senior political reporter for "The Daily Beast" and associate professor at the City University of New York.

Ok. Peter, what do you think? Is the national security compromised or is this just an embarrassment? What do you think?

PETER BEINART: Well, I think it is an embarrassment and I think it does make the functioning of national security harder. I wouldn’t have problems with some of these documents coming out but I think what a responsible journalist should have done was weeded out those that really tell us something new that we need to know for the public debate and the large number of them that are basically just embarrassing and make foreign policy harder to conduct. And that’s what I think WikiLeaks didn’t do.

BEHAR: Well, "The New York Times" basically did say we didn’t release everything, didn’t they?

JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean look "The New York Times" says, you know, we got it from an undisclosed source. And then it turns out that that source is "The Guardian" newspaper. Now, I’m waiting for "The Guardian" newspaper in London to be classified as a terrorist organization for leaking the WikiLeaks cables to "The New York Times".

BEHAR: Well, "The Guardian" got it from WikiLeaks right?

SCAHILL: Right. I mean that’s the original source. But just to respond to something that Peter said here, I mean the fact of the matter is that there’s a real "shoot the messenger" thing going on here where everyone is making the issue Julian Assange.

The real issue here is what was revealed in these documents. The fact that the United States is regularly militarily attacking Yemen, a country that we’re not at war with, and then allowing the Yemenis to be blamed for it. That our diplomats are spying on other diplomats at the U.N. and elsewhere around the world.

You know, there is a lot in there about getting credit card information from diplomats. It’s very serious. It needs to be discussed.

And the Assange part of the story really is a distraction from the real issues that are brought out by these leaks.

BEINART: But we knew most of that stuff already. And anyone who was really paying any attention already knew for better or for worse that the U.S. was taking shots at people who we claimed were al Qaeda people in Yemen and that we spy on people at the U.N. Oh, my goodness. The point is we could already have had that public debate without some of the details that I think now actually make it harder to prosecute foreign policy.

I’m not against all -- I think there were some of these documents that really do advance some of the discussion, but I think the purpose of a journalist is to go through and say, look, these really help the public debate and these are basically just the equivalent of kind of foreign policy porn. We don’t need them out there.

BEHAR: Yes. It is kind of pornish, I do agree.

BEINART: That’s not the most exciting kind of porn.


BEHAR: I mean but some of that -- what’s the most serious allegation -- revelation, do you think?

SCAHILL: I think that what’s going to have the sort of biggest blowback for the U.s. is this issue of diplomats that are spying on other diplomats.

BEHAR: On other diplomats.

SCAHILL: But everyone knows that. I’m sure Peter knows it too. Anyone who deals with anyone at the U.N. knows that that’s happening. So on the one hand, I understand and sympathize with some of what Peter is saying. On the other hand, the fact is that General David Petraeus who’s now the U.S. commander in Afghanistan sits down with the president of Yemen and they concoct a plan to essentially lie about who is doing the bombings? That’s some pretty serious stuff.

From the neo con perspective, they’re having a field day with this. They think it reinforces their position on Iran.

BEHAR: But just for a minute on Yemen. The Yemenis were bombing al Qaeda, right?

SCAHILL: Well, no, no. What was happening is that the U.S. is launching cruise missiles into Yemen. I’ve reported about this before. And we have teams of special operations forces on the ground there.

The scandal here is that the Yemeni president actually said to General David Petraeus, we’ll lie to public and say it’s our bombs when we know it is your bombs that are doing the killing.

BEHAR: And what would be the purpose of that?

SCAHILL: Well, the purpose is because the U.S. isn’t at war with Yemen and it’s essentially a covert war that’s ongoing on there. I think it’s very important that we have David Petraeus --

BEHAR: But doesn’t Yemen then become an object of terrorist attacks in retaliation?

SCAHILL: First of all, Yemen already has a terrorist operation going on inside their borders, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the sort of most famous, the new al Qaeda kids on the block.

BEHAR: All right. What about the less serious things like Putin and Berlusconi having a romance? Why do we need to know that? I thought he liked hookers and teen aged girls anyway.

BEINART: That’s a crowd I really would not want to hang with. There’s stuff about Qadhafi’s buxom Ukrainian prostitute. I think this is, it seems to me, the kind of stuff that we really didn’t and I don’t actually want the people making American foreign policy to be spending most the next days and weeks trying to deal with the fallout of that. It seems to me, that’s actually a waste of time. There are better things to do.

BEHAR: Ok. Now, Peter King, congressman from New York, he says that WikiLeaks is a terrorist organization. What do you think?

SCAHILL: First of all, Representative Peter King knows a thing or two about terrorism because he was a major supporter of the Irish Republican Army during the 1980s and has his own questions to answer. The other thing is that some of the WikiLeaks documents reinforce that the Saudis continue to fund terrorism, that’s a top U.S. ally.


SCAHILL: The U.S. deals with a lot of terrorist organization, maybe this is not a terrorist organization.


BEINART: I mean look, it’s not a terrorist organization. I think that’s silly. But I think the question is to what degree do you want the U.S. to be able to continue to prosecute foreign policy? In Yemen, for instance, to go back --

BEHAR: Don’t go to Yemen.


BEHAR: I want to ask you before I go, I don’t have too much time left. You were in favor of the Iraq war, correct?


BEHAR: Now, if you knew what we know now would you still be in it? Because if WikiLeaks would have been around in those days, we might not have invaded Iraq.

BEINART: No, in fact, I said repeatedly for many, many years now that I think I was dead wrong to support the war in Iraq, whether I knew what I knew now or knew then.

BEHAR: Do you think it would have helped?

BEINART: Obviously, in those cases, those documents would have been incredibly valuable. But knowing about Gadhafi’s prostitute is not. And that’s why I think journalists need to make those decisions about what are in the public interests and what aren’t?

BEHAR: Well, I don’t know about that. Why can’t we make those decisions?

SCAHILL: They did have that responsibility and they printed lie after lie of the Bush/Cheney administration. I want Hillary Clinton to go after the torturers with as much passion as she goes after Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

BEINART: But the reality is you can’t conduct foreign policy in complete transparency. As much as you might like to, you can’t.

SCAHILL: And we never do.

BEHAR: All right. I have to go. That was very interesting. Thank you very much. We’ll be back in just a minute.

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