November 30, 2010

Wikileaks and the Diplomatic Cables



It is almost impossible to get to the Wikileaks website through the Denial of Service attacks now being staged on it by it's enemies. You can, however, check out the diplomatic cables at the mirror site right here.

And I want to write about why I support Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

To begin with Assange is currently - and rather suddenly - being sought after by Interpol on rape charges. Why "rape" suddenly falls under the jurisdiction of Interpol seems as questionable as the charges themselves, but that's another story. It's the way it works. If you want to discredit someone, use sex and have the confidence that - in this world - an accusation is as good as being guilty.

What he's being sought after, in reality, is to shut him down. Let's not be naive.

Assange is a lot of things. He's difficult. He's sneaky. And relative to the First Amendment he could be considered a complete literalist. In the sphere of one's overall personal political philosophy he's most assuredly an anarchist - albeit a 21st century version. He was the man who published The "Church" of Scientology's secret documents - the ones that explained how the evil Xenu's DC9 jets brought us from all over the galaxy to Earth here so the volcanoes could pulverize us into slaves (which would normally cost you around $400,000 to read about). And he is now the guy behind the publishing of all the diplomatic cables that are embarrassing world leaders all over the place these days.

The cables that are causing most of the stir (right now) are the reports made by US diplomats and diplomatic operatives that detail the traits, proclivities, habits, foibles and general personality evaluations of the people we deal with on the international stage. Putin as Batman. The President of France as "the emperor with no clothes." The complete shock that the Catholic Church elected a guy to Pope who was once a member of the Hitler Youth. They talk about how a lot of Iran's neighbors (like the King of Saudi Arabia) want the US or even Israel to "knock out" the Iranian nuclear program by any means necessary. Oh a whole lot of stuff.

The question and concern governments have expressed (and they have always trotted this out even though their worries have never come to any actual happenings) is the safety and security of people "in the field" now that things are known. And the viability of alliances we have with national leaders we've cattily cut down privately for being silly, pedophilic or just outright nuts.

Well in the first place, though I'll relent that international diplomacy does require a degree of person-to-person interaction, nations looking out for their own interests that are tied to the interventionist USA will not forgo deals, arrangements, and co-operation with the USA because somebody said "OMG, Margaret Thatcher isn't even hot!"

And in the second place a leader is not the country. Leaders come and go. Even Kings. If they are so intrinsically identified strictly AS the country then something else is wrong. And in this case transparency may very well be a tonic.

We are told that "the need for secrecy" is a matter of national security. To some degree that may be true. Certainly Wikileaks does not agree with that assessment and there are legitimate arguments that can be made on both sides of this.

What is of more import, however, is the idea that the whole edifice or foreign affairs is some kind of sacrosanct endeavor that has been working so very well for all these centuries.

A specious claim, as any cursory glance at world history will show.

We're run by national powers that are manned by PEOPLE. And these people have taken the attitude upon themselves that they know best. Even in the mounting evidence that accreditation is an over-rated activity for many people who remain the idiots they were born as no matter what is hanging on their wall, there are folks who "know" and are doing things "for our own good" that have actually been costing us our lives and treasure for a very, very long time now.

Assange is charged with hubris. The hubris of believing he can publish anything and everything because transparency will always lead to better governments.

But the real hubris here is that which exists in the idea that we "shouldn't be able" to know about the deals and the agreements and the arrangements made in our behalf internationally. The hubris here is actually the long held idea that it's alright to get into deals that get us killed because the "people" can just be whipped up into a patriotic frenzy quite easily. The hubris that says people are and can be manipulated and that this is for their own welfare.

I present the debacle that led to the First World War as people's Evidence #1. And I'll add the phony attack in the Gulf of Tonkin as #2.

But more than all this I'll present the idea - in the spirit of "less government is always better" - that it is a good thing to tweak the noses of the powers that be from time to time.

It's what Thomas Jefferson thought too.


B.E. Earl said...

Yeah, but Jefferson is the Founding Father who matters the least. At least according to some...people I know. Ugh.

Faiqa said...

I just published this to Facebook and Twitter. You're welcome. :-) Don't worry, I'm not friends with people who I... WE... don't agree with.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

I'm right there with you. I mean, please, of COURSE diplomatic "agents" have been profiling world leaders. How the hell else are we supposed to know with whom we're dealing? I don't know, seems like a lot of faffing about something very piddling.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the announcement Assange made about a bank document leak after the first of the year. That's the one I'm interested in reading. If Wikileaks can survive the online attacks.

sybil law said...

I'm with you, RW. Totally.

Dave2 said...

As somebody who has lost hope that our fractured, partisan government will ever be able to come together and dig us out of the mess we're in, I am close to embracing anarchy as the only way we can ever escape from this bloated, non-functional system that's arisen out of some pretty remarkable ideals. With that in mind, I couldn't care less if documents sent and negotiated on my behalf as an American citizen are "leaked." If a citizen is being made party to something, they have a right to know what that is. Sure there are some things which must be kept secret for our security and safety, but personal observations on non-security matters don't fall into that arena.

That being said, I hold Julian Assange to no higher level of heroism than I do a tabloid gossip columnist. He releases sensitive documents under the guise of truth, transparency, and "serving the greater good"... but he doesn't let the information speak for itself. He has to go around giving interviews and putting himself in the spotlight as some kind of crusader when, in truth, he's just an arrogant, self-serving asshole airing other people's dirty laundry for sport and a claim to fame. Some anarchist.

International diplomacy is a complex and often difficult game which requires a certain amount of latitude to be handled effectively. If the people responsible for this nigh-impossible task have to worry that every single word they say is going to come back to haunt them, how can they be effective in their job? The same can be said of many endeavors, both in politics and business, and it's this which leads me to question the wholesale dumping of what were assumed to be confidential communications. With this latest round of relatively useless (albeit still embarrassing) WikiLeaks, I question whether anybody other than Assange is better off because of it.

Does knowing that somebody once labeled Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as "Batman" truly do anything to elevate truth and transparency? Or is just a way of embarrassing somebody as a stepping-stone to infamy?

Exposing wrong-doing as an effort to effect change can be a noble calling. I see none of this in Julian Assange. He just wants to bring everybody down as a means of elevating himself and his personal agenda (which seems largely aimed at humiliating the USA). If that's 21st century anarchy, then count me out.

And next he's going after banks. Well good luck with that. I think he'll find the repercussions of spilling secrets of a government in service of the people is a lot different that spilling secrets of a bank in service of greed. This will inevitably lead to TRUE anarchy being unleashed on Julian Assange's ass.

Unfortunately for him, any fame he gets from that will have to be enjoyed from six feet under.

Dave2 said...

Hmmm... something is seriously messed up with your comments today. Posting gives me an error and multiple posts?

RW said...

I can fix the posting problems, dave. I can even present a case to explain to people things I'm seeimg from my point of view.

I can try to make my arguments as to why someone should understand. But I can't sit behind your chair and understand it for you.

You start off by saying you have lost all faith in the established order and that a nod at anarchy could be a very satisfying thing, but (it seems) because you have some kind of personal dislike for the guy you revert to being an apologist for lying bastard regimes that tell their people one thing and conduct their affairs in secret with the potentiality of the consequences not being felt by anyone but riff raff like you and me.

It occurs to me that if you think the basis of the leaks rests on personality gropes it's just too obvious you never got through the DoS regimen to see what the docs actually looked like.

The corruption of the Karzai regime at the center of our real concerns the degree of which is not revealed and in fact swept under the rug while we told "we can work with these people." Not tpo mentionthe outright collusion by the Pakistani military "running withthe hare and hunting with the fox", playing both ends against the middle so they can keep the pipeline of our money going into their corruption.

And since when does corruption deserve diplomatic immunity? And since when is it okay to lie to people about what's happening

If you're going to take any little satisfaction from a good old swipe across the bow of the established order's specious policies and practices, then don't become an apologist for them in the same breath. "Complex dealings of international politics" my ass. It's about time the machinations of the elitists in this world get exposed for the mendacious crap they are - and have been. And quite frankly I don't care if it's an "arrogant, self-serving asshole airing other people's dirty laundry for sport and a claim to fame" who tipped the dish over.

Good for him. But don't tell me a little anarchy is a good thing and then spout the party line about the poor beleaguered diplomats that have to work in trying circumstances. Usually after the caviar.

Maybe you can live with a duplicitous government and the results of their corruption and lies to the point where you can stand there bare-faced and self-righteous about the poor difficulties facing our noble diplomatic corps. I can't. They're obviously all OMG about this guy's girlfriend or something.

It's a breath of fresh air to me.

How are we supposed to construct informed opinions about what our country is getting itself involved in if one thing is happening here but it isn't what's actually happening there?

Anything else is democracy in name only. But if that's what you like, have at it. But don't talk to me about the internet privacy agreement they're all about to slam on us with the backing of the Obama administration after this. I'm going to have to not take you very seriously next time you bring it up.

Brian said...

It is going to be very difficult to maintain the facade that the ruling classes of the world are any better or any more well-suited to run things than the rest of us in a world where radical transparency is the norm. That scares the hell out of people...and it should.

In my more optimistic visions of the future, Assange will be mentioned in the same breath as Guttenberg.

RW said...

I was thinking Copernicus. But then I'm Polish, so I'm a little biased...

Gino said...

in some ways, this makes the case for those who want sarah palin to be president.

remember? she's too stupid, too uneducated, hasnt read enuf books, etc... to be a head of state?

looks so much like the folks who run shit now, in every nation, are no better than sarah, but with better PR...

...and good enuf reason to not put so much faith in govt at all.

but i would believe in assange's
bravery a lot more if he leaked out some russian or chinese secrets next time.

until then, he's just in for himself, no different than the folks he's dishing on.

RW said...

I think the docs pretty much show exactly what other countries are run by. So the condition you lay down about "in it for himself" is kind of puny. Is he getting rich from this? Is he living in a nice house and drinking wine and entertaining guests?

Until I hear about how the guy's life is just soooo wonderful because he's getting so rich on this stuff I think I'll have to take your comment as a kind of willful snit. "Wah, he's just in it for himself" type thing. Show me his material gain on his shit and your argument would hold some water. Or are you saying "he just wants to be famous"? If that's the case, I'd need to have it explained just how you know that, for a fact.

And you already know I'm voting for Sarah palin in 2012. I'm going to depend on absolute assholes to be in power when I go for my riches.

RW said...

Oh wait, Assenge is in hiding because Interpol is after him all of a sudden. Yeah. I'm sure he didn't think THAT would happen...

Dave2 said...

I find it absurd that you would think I am an apologist for any wrong-doing or corruption based on anything in my comment, but as you are sitting in my chair, who am I to argue?

Except to say that relationships are built from personal exchanges that often have nothing to do with the business at hand, and the "OMG that guy's girlfriend" bullshit is simply part of the process. Just try building meaningful contacts and relationships without it. See how far a discussion of the weather will get you. TO THAT EXTENT ONLY, I disagree with personal correspondence being drug through the press like Lindsay Lohan's underwear (or lack thereof). That's nothing more than tabloid journalism at its worst. You may not care about Julian Assange's motives, but I do. Claims of noble aspirations that reveal as so much bullshit lead me to discount his presentation and analysis of the material... not the material itself.

To say that I'm "content with corruption and lies" because I think "personality gropes" are best left off the table is a scary leap which is completely unjustified. At no point in my comment did I ever defend any diplomat from any wrong-doing. At no time did I ever say corruption deserves diplomatic immunity. And I never said that duplicity shouldn't be exposed. On the contrary, I specifically said that wrong-doing being done in my name should be exposed and we have a right to know.

Perhaps I give people too much credit by remaining hopeful that there are at least SOME honest people out there trying to do right by this country. Perhaps I am being too optimistic that they deserve the expectation of the smallest amount of privacy and latitude while doing so. But I refuse to unilaterally demonize every single person with ties to diplomatic relations and brand them a criminal deserving of public humiliation. And that extends not just to them, but the other people mentioned (though, personally, if I were Putin I'd think that being called Batman was awesome as hell). I may be losing faith in the system, but I'm not going to vilify those who still have hope that working within the system will effect positive change. Just as I wouldn't vilify somebody for liking broccoli (much as they deserve it).

Anarchy is the absence of authority. Not the absence of respect. Or decency. Or dignity. Or understanding.

If that line of thinking leads you to not take me seriously in a discussion, it's probably for the best.

Brian said...

@ Gino: when I say something along the lines of "the facade that the ruling classes of the world are any better or any more well-suited to run things," what I don't mean is that I'm cool with any dimwit running the global empire as it currently exists.

I mean that the state itself should be relegated to its proper, peripheral role in the lives of free men and women. And I think that is more likely to happen in a world where regular people are confronted with how petty, tyrannical, ineffective, and self-interested our rulers tend to be.

In other words, it's an anarchist's sentiment, not a populist's.

Regarding Russia, China, etc. Based on everything I've read about (and by) Assange, he would/will gleefully publish internal documents from those countries if and when someone gives them to him. Wikileaks is a conduit, not an espionage operation.

RW said...

dave Ideas mean something. When they're expressed they come to a nexus. We don't always get the results we seek. People need to really look at what their high-minded ideals end up supporting.

It has happened in the past. People with high principles are praised to high heaven, but they are also used by the cynical powers that be to justify their unscrupulous behavior.

It's like people who sacrifice children to the great god Mucous, and for them to be defended by the naive on the grounds that we shouldn't trample on other people's "freedom of religion."

And you've still never seen the docs have you?

Gino said...

@brian: i wasnt responding to you.
but as for nit wits, we're getting them anyway.
and we will continue to do so.

@RW: i made no mention of how his life is going, comfort wise. i dont care, either.
(although, the increase in fame is problay getting him laid a little easier, which i'm sure he likes)

all i'm saying is that he is in it for himself i.e. his own selfish reasons, whatever they are, or how altruistice he wants us to see him.

i have no opinion on whether wikileaks is a good or bad thing. some folks are justifiably upset, and others justifiably gleeful.
i'm basically enjoying the theater, and leaving it mostly at that.

@ Brian (again):as for russia,etal: saying it and doing it are not the same. and i also DID say that he would gain additional cred with me if/when.
i'll keep waiting...

enjoy voting for sarah

RW said...

well for me, gino, I guess I'm in glee.

If only because it really puts government in its place. You know there's a real point at which libertarianism becomes anarchism, and they are very much linked historically. So I don't always know if folks recognize that - when they say they're a libertarian - they're really saying government is basically something WE need to control and not the other way around.

It's probably too idealistic on my part, but one can hope that these diplomatic services deal with each other more honestly instead of talking nice and then going back to their side of the room and going "did you smell his BREATH?? OMG."

And, as we are in a free society, we deserve to know what the people who technically work for us are getting us into. If nothing else than to be able to make intelligent decisions about whose policies we support and whose we don't in election times. It would help not to have soundbites and what merely seems intuitive as a basis for that decision.

Especially if the truth is counter0intuitive, which the documents are proving; from North Korea's actual situation to Saudi Arabia being in line with Israel on a number of things.

As for Julian... I doubt he's getting any extra action from this... I mean look at him...

Gino said...

i really, honestly dont know where i'm at.

maybe cause i'm too busy laughing at everybody else who does know where they are at.

and julian???
yeah, you said it:look at him.
he really needs this, and may be all that motivates him for what i know.

Avitable said...

The only concern I have is whether or not people will be in actual physical danger as a result of this information being released.

I also think that part of diplomatic relations is finding enough dirt on the other parties so that you can use that to negotiate. Hell, that's what most negotiation is. And that information should stay private or else our negotiations have no weight.