On Friday, reporter Steven Erlanger reveled in the supposed superiority of sophisticated, cynical Europe, which is again rolling its eyes (just like during the Clinton impeachment) at those silly Americans worked up about the publication of secret diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks. It's a convenient argument, defending by extension the Times for publishing the WikiLeaks revelations.
"Many Europeans Find U.S. Attacks on WikiLeaks Puzzling" is the headline over a text box reading: "Seeing an obsession with secrecy that contradicts American ideals."
As if the New York Times or Europe in general is in the habit of celebrating American ideals.
For many Europeans, Washington's fierce reaction to the flood of secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks displays imperial arrogance and hypocrisy, indicating a post-9/11 obsession with secrecy that contradicts American principles.
While the Obama administration has done nothing in the courts to block the publication of any of the leaked documents, or even, as of yet, tried to indict the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, for any crime, American officials and politicians have been widely condemned in the European news media for calling the leaks everything from "terrorism" (Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York) to "an attack against the international community" (Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton). Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates called the arrest of Mr. Assange on separate rape charges "good news." Sarah Palin called for him to be hunted as an "anti-American operative with blood on his hands," and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate, said that whoever leaked the cables should be executed.
Erlanger quoted two writers in the unlabeled left-wing London newspaper The Guardian:
For Seumas Milne of The Guardian in London, which like The New York Times has published the latest WikiLeaks trove, the official American reaction "is tipping over toward derangement." Most of the leaks are of low-level diplomatic cables, he noted, while concluding: "Not much truck with freedom of information, then, in the land of the free."
John Naughton, writing in the same British paper, deplored the attack on the openness of the Internet and the pressure on companies like Amazon and eBay to evict the WikiLeaks site. "The response has been vicious, coordinated and potentially comprehensive," he said, and presents a "delicious irony" that "it is now the so-called liberal democracies that are clamoring to shut WikiLeaks down."
German newspapers were similarly harsh. Even The Financial Times Deutschland (independent of the English-language Financial Times), said that "the already damaged reputation of the United States will only be further tattered with Assange's new martyr status." It added that "the openly embraced hope of the U.S. government that along with Assange, WikiLeaks will disappear from the scene, is questionable."
By contrast, Erlanger pushed criticism of Wikileaks toward the bottom of the story.
The strongest attack on WikiLeaks came from Figaro's editor, Étienne Mougeotte, who called the publication of cables like the one listing sites considered strategic by Washington "a precious gift" to terrorists. The leaks, he said, serve "those who decided to harm American power, to destabilize the world's large industrial nations, to put in place a maximum of disorder in international relations."