Hawks Cherry-picking WikiLeaks

There’s a clear emerging pattern here — one that should not surprise us after the run-up to the Iraq war — of Washington-based hawks seeing exactly what they want (and nothing more) in everything that comes across their desks.

Matt Duss, at Think Progress, has one such example with regard to David Frum‘s reading of the WikiLeaks cables: That Arab leaders care only about attacking Iran and not about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Duss replies that “this is simply false. As I wrote last week, the cables contain abundant evidence that governments in the region do in fact care about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.”

One could say the same thing about almost any hawk (including Frum), trumpeting the hawkish comments of a few Arab leaders about Iran revealed by WikiLeaks. The actual information in the cables was damning enough, but exaggeration nonetheless runs rampant throughout the neoconservative commentary on the subject.

You’d be hard pressed to find a neoconservative commenter who writes that there are some Arab capitals that do not support an attack on Iran, let alone acknowledge those who do advocate for military action may be speaking more from emotion rather than with candor. Marc Lynch has written about how hawks have completely ignored that some of the Arab leaders they fawn over have made contradictory statements about an attack on Iran.

Take the example of Foundation for Defense of Democracies “scholar” Michael Ledeen. In a video for Pajamas Media, Leeden lists countries with Arab leaders that have made hawkish statements on Iran: “Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai — the Arab countries.” He claims they are imploring the United States to answer: “Why haven’t you bombed them?”

Ledeen bats 500 with his list. I’d challenge Ledeen to find a cable with hawkish comments from a Qatari or Omani official. The latter has even expressed concern about the hawkishness of its neighbors. Likewise, the official from Abu Dhabi who called Ahmadinejad “Hitler,” also complained that his “neighboring capitals” were too close to Iran. He’s probably referencing to Dubai, which along with Abu Dhabi, is one of the sheikdoms of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But unlike its fellow sheikdoms, Dubai has especially strong trade ties to Iran. That Leeden can’t get this right is simple sloppiness — yet another indication that hawks select and contextualize bits of information to fit their ideological objectives.

This should come as no surprise. In the campaign for war with Iraq, many of these same ideologues were cherry-picking pieces of intelligence to fit their purposes, omitting dissent and critical context.

By the way, note the careful attention Leeden pays to facts in this piece. He calls the founder of WikiLeaks — Julian Assange — “Julius.”

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. That first sentence says it all. It shapes their interpretation of data, their very use of language and the prism with which they use to see and interpret events around them. Further, we can’t even know if these are the views of the diplomats or if they are recounting what they think others want to hear.

  2. Yeah, well, that’s pretty much human nature, isn’t it? We cherry-pick what supports our beliefs and disregard the rest. ‘Course, you and I and some of the people on our side do rather better at looking all round the matter than do the neocons and their supporters.

    Anyway, I have to go wash after reading about Michael Ledeen. As with Elliot Abrams, I feel unclean after being exposed to his ideas.

  3. RE: “Yeah, well, that’s pretty much human nature, isn’t it?”(We cherry-pick what supports our beliefs and disregard the rest.) – Jon Harrison
    ANSWER: No, I don’t believe it is. But my degrees are in Applied Biology and Law, so I’m hardly an expert.

  4. RE: “Yeah, well, that’s pretty much human nature, isn’t it?”(We cherry-pick what supports our beliefs and disregard the rest.) – Jon Harrison
    ARTICLE: Humans: not just selfish |
    Evolutionary logic of collective action pt.I
    , By Jonathan Smucker, 12/13/10
    …Evolution means we should expect selfishness, right?
    Many evolutionary scientists have contributed to the idea that all individuals are inherently selfish (if not always consciously, at least genetically). In fact, the assumption of inherent individual selfishness nearly knocked other evolutionary theories clean out of the ring in US universities around 1960…
    …Altruism simply cannot exist, because any mutant altruistic genes that emerge would be disadvantageous to the individual carrying them. The occasional freak mutant altruist would be less fit than its “peers” and, in the competitive setting of organic life on planet earth, those altruistic genes would breed themselves out quickly.
    Makes sense, right?

    Hmmm… but, what about bees?
    When a bee stings you, it dies. And that teaches you not to mess with other bees.
    Well, that sounds an awful lot like sacrificial behavior to me…
    …Bees aren’t just willing to die for the hive — they live their whole lives serving the hive, making it possible for the hive to reproduce — most individuals’ genes be damned!
    Evolutionist David Sloan Wilson has played a central role in developing multilevel selection theory, which he says “explains how beehives and other adaptive animal societies evolve.” [Wilson 2004: The New Fable of Bees]. He claims that the theory, “has much to say about human societies, but it fundamentally challenges the concept of individual self-interest as we know it.”
    The basic idea is that natural selection can happen on multiple levels — not just on the individual level. Selection can happen, for example, between groups. Here’s how Wilson introduces the idea of group selection to his students (from Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives)…
    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://beyondthechoir.org/uncategorized/humans-not-just-selfish-evolutionary-logic-of-collective-action-1/

Comments are closed.