Wikileaks releases US diplomatic cables from 1978
WikiLeaks releases more than half a million US diplomatic cables from 1978
By Julian Assange
Today WikiLeaks has released more than half a million US State Department cables from 1978. The cables cover US interactions with, and observations of, every country.
1978 was an unusually important year in geopolitics. The year saw the start of a great many political conflicts and alliances which continue to define the present world order, as well as the rise of still-important personalities and political dynasties.
The cables document the start of the Iranian Revolution, leading to the stand-off between Iran and the West (1979 – present); the Second Oil Crisis; the Afghan conflict (1978 – present); the Lebanon–Israel conflict (1978 – present); the Camp David Accords; the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua and the subsequent conflict with US proxies (1978 – 1990); the 1978 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia; the Ethopian invasion of Eritrea; Carter's critical decision on the neutron bomb; the break-up of the USSR's nuclear-powered satellite over Canada, which changed space policy; the US "playing the China card" against Russia; Brzezinski's visit to China, which led to the subsequent normalisation of relations and a proxy war in Cambodia; with the US, UK, China and Cambodia on one side and Vietnam and the USSR on the other.
Through 1978, Zbigniew "Zbig" Brzezinski was US National Security Advisor. He would become the architect of the destabilisation of Soviet backed Afghanistan through the use of Islamic militants, elements of which would later become known as al-Qaeda. Brzezinski continues to affect US policy as an advisor to Obama. He has been especially visible in the recent conflict between Russia and the Ukraine.
WikiLeaks' Carter Cables II comprise 500,577 US diplomatic cables and other diplomatic communications from and to US embassies and missions in nearly every country. It follows on from the Carter Cables (368,174 documents from 1977), which WikiLeaks published in April 2014.
The Carter Cables II bring WikiLeaks total published US diplomatic cable collection to 2.7 million documents.
What follows are some example areas.
There are 5,569 new documents on Lebanon. For example, the 1978 – present Israel–Lebanon conflict is widely regarded to have started on 14 March 1978, when Israel invaded Southern Lebanon in Operation Litani. There are 386 cables containing the keyword "Litani" (see here)
There are 11,689 new documents on Israel (see here). A portion of these refer to the September 17 Camp David Accords, signed by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, with US President Jimmy Carter as witness. The Accords called for a formal peace treaty and establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt, Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula in stages, and a transitional period of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. Egypt and Israel later signed a formal peace treaty in 1979, ending 31 years of war between the two countries. PlusD has 855 new documents with the keywords "Camp David Accords" (see here), including numerous cables on reactions around the world.
There are 5,692 new documents on Iran (see here). 1978 saw the beginning of the Iranian Revolution, which would colminate in the 1979 overthrow of the US- and UK-installed Shah of Iran. On 8 September, a day after the Iranian government declared martial law, thousands of protesters gathered in Jaleh Square in Tehran to demonstrate. The military eventually opened fire, and later estimates claimed that thousands died. Called "Black Friday" by the media, that day is said to be a key moment in the Iranian Revolution. Large protests against the Shah were ongoing throughout 1978. PlusD has 175 new documents with TAG Iran and containing the keyword "demonstration" (see here). The British embassy in Tehran was also burned during this period.
There are 1,369 new documents on Tunisia (see here). One significant event, which has shaped Tunisian political life, occurred when a labour strike on 26 January called by the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) became a general uprising. It became known as "Black Thursday" when Tunisian security forces fired on citizens, killing an estimated 200 people. PlusD has 200 new documents containing the keywords "UGTT" (see here).
There are 944 new documents on Yemen (see here). One example of events during the year occurred when Yemeni President Ahmad al-Ghashmi was assassinated on 24 June, which led to a political configuration in the Arabian peninsula which is still felt today. PlusD has 81 documents with keyword "al-Ghashmi" (see here), including some with speculation about who set off the explosion that killed him, which is not conclusively known.
There are 3,343 new documents on Pakistan (see here). For instance, on 18 March former Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (father of the 1990s PM Benazir Bhutto, who was subsequently assassinated) was sentenced to death by hanging for authorising the assassination of a political opponent. PlusD has 430 new documents with keyword "Bhutto" and TAG "Pakistan" (see here).
There are 4,990 new documents on India (see here) covering many signficant events and still influential personalities. For example:
• On 1 January, an Air India Flight 855, a Boeing 747, crashed shortly after take-off near Mumbai, killing all 213 passengers and crew on board. PlusD contains 179 new cables referring to "Air India", most of which are about the crash (see here).
• Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi (daughter of PM Nehru) was re-elected to Parliament on 7 November, but then arrested on 19 December, accused of plotting against her opponents during the state of emergency she had declared from 1975 to 1977. She later became Prime Minister again in 1980 and the dynastic domination of the Congress Party continued, first through her sons Sanjay and Rajiv and later through the latter's wife, Sonia, who is current president of the party. Rajiv's son Rahul was the Congress candidate in India's 2014 election, losing to the BJP's Narenda Modi. PlusD contains 53 new documents with the keyword "Indira Gandhi" (see here) and 154 new documents with the keyword "Mrs Gandhi" (see here) as well other cables related to the Gandhi dynasty.
• On 13 April, violence broke out between orthodox Sikhs and the Nirankari sect during a Nirankari convention in Amritsar, Punjab; 16 were killed and 100 injured. This event is noted as one of the starting points leading up to the Punjab insurgency during the 1980s and Indian military occupation of the region in Operation Blue Star (1984). PlusD has 3 new documents containing the keywords "Sikh" and "Nirankari" (see here).
• The Indian cricket
team did a two-month tour of Pakistan, ending in a finale on
18 November. Indian Information Minister Adavni attended the
finale in Karachi, and the match was a political event in
both countries. PlusD contains 6 new documents with the
keywords "Pakistan" and "cricket" (see here).
There are 5,422 new documents on China (see here).
For example, a number of cables discuss US National Security Advisor Zbigniew "ZBig" Brzezinski's trip to China. US strategy was to orient China against the Soviet Union and the trip led to formal US recognition of China shortly thereafter. PlusD has 175 new documents with keyword "Brzezinski" and TAG "China" (see here).
There are 9,974 new documents referring to "Europe" and 18,531 referring to "European". For example, after considerable controversy, in April President Carter decided to defer production of the neutron bomb, or Enhanced Radiation Weapon (ERW), a nuclear weapon designed to kill enemy (that is, Soviet) soldiers with radiation. Carter’s decision frustrated pro-US European leaders, who had spent political capital to support the slated US deployment of the weapons system. PlusD contains 704 new documents with the keywords "neutron bomb" (see here) and 428 new documents with the keyword "ERW" (see here).
There are 11,476 new documents on East Germany (see here) and 7,638 on West Germany (see here), some of which may overlap. For instance, in January the German magazine Der Spiegel published an SED manifesto that was strongly anti-Soviet, calling for reunification and liberal reforms. The German Democratic Republic (GDR) reacted by accusing Der Spiegel of slander and closing the East German Der Spiegel office. PlusD contains 296 new documents with the keyword "Spiegel" (see here). Some of the cables include details of and reactions to the manifesto publication, including, for example, accusations of Der Spiegel working for West Germany in subversive activity against the GDR.
There are 10,253 new documents on the UK (see here). The cables contain a number of reports on Lord Carver's efforts to settle independence disputes in Rhodesia and discussions on trade, among other things. For instance, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, a paramilitary organisation wanting to separate Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, bombed the La Mon restaurant/hotel in County Down, killing 12 people in February. Another notable event for Northern Ireland occurred in January when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the UK was guilty of inhuman and degrading treatment of its Northern Ireland prisoners; the ruling, however, did not consider the UK's interrogation techniques to be torture. PlusD has 253 new documents with the keyword "IRA" (see here) and 787 with the keyword "Northern Ireland" (see here).
There are 8,892 new documents on France (see here). The following are just some examples of significant events related to France that occurred througout the year.
• On 16 March, a US-owned oil tanker, Amoco Cadiz, crashed off the coast of Brittany, France and sank. It left 230,000 tons of oil along 72 km of the French shoreline, which expanded to approximately 160 km during the following month. It was then the largest recorded oil spill in history and was estimated to have caused US $250 million in damage. US scientists studying the spill said that it was the largest biological kill of marine life ever recorded. PlusD has 108 new documents with the keywords "Amoco Cadiz" (see here).
• The French auto company Peugeot's purchase of Chrysler's European subsidiaries was closely followed by the US government. The Federal Trade Commission also investigated the sale that year. PlusD has 18 new cables containing the keywords "Peugeot" and "Chrysler" (see here).
• France maintained a
close interest in Algeria following the Algerian War and
Algeria's full independence in 1962. PlusD contains 16 new
cables with the keywords "Boumediene" and "Giscard" (see here).
• Rebels in the Shaba separatist movement FNLC invaded Zaire's Shaba province on 11 May, capturing the city of Kolwezi on 12 May. The government of Zaire asked for French and Belgian assistance with the uprising, and French and Belgian forces later undertook an airborne operation to rescue European and Zairian hostages held by the FNLC rebels. The US provided some assistance to the operation. PlusD has 173 new documents with keywords "Zaire" and "rebels" (see here), some of which give details of the US government's reaction to the invasion, its initial concern for American citizens in Kolwezi, and its careful monitoring of press reports on the issue.
• France conducted a series of 29 nuclear tests from 1975 to 1978. PlusD contains 18 new documents with keywords "nuclear" and "tests", with TAG "France" (see here).
• The Hollywood film
director and producer Roman Polanski fled to France in 1978
after pleading guilty to sex charges. PlusD contains 4 new
documents with the keyword "Polanski" (see here).
There are 16,584 new documents on the Soviet Union (see here), reporting a number of international negotiations, agreements and events. For example, on 24 January the Soviet satellite Cosmos 954 re-entered Earth's atmosphere and scattered radioactive debris over Canada's Northwest Territories. The incident was an anti-Soviet propaganda coup for the US, which was also interested in obtaining samples of Soviet space technology. PlusD contains 182 documents with the keywords "Cosmos 954" (see here).
There are 5,740 new documents on South Africa (see here). For example, by 1978 South Africa's nuclear weapons programme was in full swing, with assistance from Israel. PlusD contains 144 new classified cables documenting US diplomatic intelligence on the programme (see here).
Other cables document, for instance, the reaction to the killing of noted anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who was been beaten to death in police custody in late 1977. Biko's friend, South African journalist and anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods, fled to London after severe harassment by the South African government. Woods continued his anti-apartheid work from London, and later spoke to the UN Security Council about his experiences. PlusD contains 115 new documents referring to Steve Biko, 42 of which refer to Woods (see here).
There are 2,946 new documents on Ethiopia (see here). Cables document, for example, how Ethiopia's Provisional Military Government of Socialist Ethiopia (PMGSE) began a major offensive in Eritrea (which it had been prepping for some time). PlusD has 71 new documents with keywords "Ethiopia", "offensive" and "Eritrea" (see here).
There are 1,593 new documents on Tanzania. One particularly significant event during the year occurred when strained relations between Tanzania and Uganda broke out into war, eventually leading to the overthrow of Ugandan President Idi Amin in 1979. PlusD contains 76 new documents with the keywords "Tanzania", "Uganda" and "war" (see here). The cables contain, among other things, reports from the US ambassador to Tanzania James Spain on media coverage and public mood.
There are 85,893 new documents on the US (see here). One significant event occurred on 18 November when Jim Jones, founder and leader of the Peoples Temple, led hundreds of his followers to commit mass murder-suicide in his settlement of Jonestown, Guyana. In total, 909 members died, including Jones himself – 304 of these were children. They had all died of cyanide poisoning, some via injection and others via cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. PlusD has 333 new documents with the keyword "Jonestown" (see here) and 702 new documents with the keywords "Peoples Temple". For instance, one cable contains text of a note found on Jones' body (see here).
There are 3,422 new documents on Nicaragua (see here). A number of cables give insight to an ongoing conflict between the Sandinistas and the ruling Somoza regime. The conflict erupted when the editor of an opposition newspaper, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, was assassinated on 10 January. After his murder an estimated 30,000 people rioted in Managua, and the government responded with violence and martial law. In the following two years the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) took over the country until President Somoza resigned in July 1979, leaving the revolutionaries in power. PlusD contains 230 new documents with the keyword "Sandinista" and TAG "Nicaragua" (see here).
There are 3,740 new documents on Brazil (see here). For example, those documenting the election of ARENA party candidate João Figueiredo, who won over MDB's Euler Bentes Monteiro with 355 electoral votes to 226. PlusD contains 242 new documents with the keyword "Figueiredo" (see here).
There are 3,354 new documents on Argentina (see here). One event mentioned extensively in these cables is a border dispute between Argentina and Chile over the possession of several islands in the Beagle Channel. The dispute nearly started a war when Argentina began Operation Soberanía, intended to occupy the islands by military force. The new cables document long negotiations throughout 1978. Afterwards, a solution for both sides was achieved through papal mediation. PlusD has 444 new documents with keywords "Argentina", "Chile" and "Beagle" (see here). Argentina also hosted the 1978 Football World Cup, which included attendance by Henry Kissinger. PlusD contains 57 new documents with the keywords "Argentina" and "World Cup" (see here).
There are 2,230 new documents on Ecuador (some may overlap with documents on the European Community) (see here). A number of these cables concern the constitutional referendum on 15 January. Voters chose the new constitution over a revised version of the old one. The issue held great public interest, and voter turnout was approximately 87 per cent. PlusD has 79 new documents containing the keywords "Ecuador" and "constitution" (see here).
There are 3,289 new documents on Indonesia (see here). By 1978 there were increasing student demonstrations protesting against various aspects of Suharto's rule, including the lack of presidential term limits. A number of student activists were imprisoned, and Suharto established the "Normalization of Campus Life" in April. PlusD contains 21 new cables with the keywords "Indonesia", "student" and "activists" (see here). There are 2 new cables containing the phrase "Normalization of Campus Life" (see here).
There are 3,168 new documents on Australia (see here). The cables document, for example, Australia's difficult relationship with Indonesia and the fall-out over Indonesia's 1975 occupation of East Timor.