Some of the most important historical information for understanding current events comes, not surprisingly, from sources that were intended to be shielded from the public. From November 2010 to September 2011, more than 250,000 communications between U.S. diplomats that were never meant to see the light of day were made public. They are available at WikiLeaks, the nonprofit media organization that accepts confidential information from anonymous sources and releases it to news sources and the public.
A number of researchers have put together a treasure trove of information and analysis that can be immensely clarifying. (The recently released book from this research, published by Verso, is "The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to U.S. Empire.")
Consider Syria, which is dominating the international news because of increased Russian military intervention as well as a surge of some 500,000 refugees from the region arriving in Europe. Why has it taken so long for Washington to even begin -- yes, it is unfortunately just beginning -- to reconsider the policy of requiring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to agree to resign before any meaningful negotiations can take place? After all, any diplomat could have told the White House that demanding the political suicide of one party to a civil war as a condition for negotiations is not how civil wars end. Practically speaking, this policy has been a commitment to indefinite warfare.
The answer can be found in diplomatic communications released by WikiLeaks, which show that regime change has been the policy of the U.S. government as far back as 2006. Even more horrifying -- after hundreds of thousands of deaths, untold lives ruined and four million people displaced -- is the evidence that Washington has had a policy of promoting sectarian warfare in Syria for the purpose of destabilizing the Assad government. A cable from the top U.S. embassy official (the chargé d'affaires) in Damascus in December 2006 offers suggestions for how Washington could exacerbate and take advantage of certain "vulnerabilities" of the government of Syria. Vulnerabilities to be exploited include "the presence of transiting Islamist extremists" and "Sunni fears of Iranian influence."