WikiLeaks Swamp the World of American Diplomacy
WikiLeaks revelations have hit the world like a Tsunami. Never before had anything like this happened to so many countries and involved so many leaders of the world at one and the same time. It’s veritably like a tidal wave sweeping the whole globe and creating an unprecedented deluge in the halls of power.
Basically what has been revealed is a plethora of supposedly ‘secret’ and highly confidential reports from American diplomats and CIA sleuths and under-cover agents ensconced in American embassies and consulates all over the world. There’s nothing so outrageous or extraordinary in the nature of cables and telegrams sent from diplomats posted in countries of high or medium interest to US. This is what diplomats are expected to do; it’s the very basic of their official duties and obligations: to keep their government informed of the leaders, policy makers, opinion-formers and policies, in general, of their host country. Such reports received from their diplomatic missions and intelligence operatives in various corners of the world routinely help governments in shaping their policies with regard to country x, y or z.
But for a keen observer of the scenario thrown up by these supposedly sensational-and in some cases undoubtedly outrageous revelations-what’s really important and noteworthy is not what they say but what they don’t say. There’s a lot these leaks have said and yet there’s an equally lot that remains unsaid.
What’s unsaid but hits the bull’s eye as far as a political pundit is concerned is the very nature of secrecy in US business ethics and practices. A secret communication is supposed to be a restricted document or dispatch which, in most countries of the world, also carries an important caveat: it’s for the eyes of a select number of policy makers, advisers and leaders. What’s known as a ‘cypher’ or coded message in diplomatic parlance has a restricted, in some cases highly restricted, list of receivers and readers.
However, that’s not the case in US, where one learns on the basis of these earth-shaking revelations, as many as 250,000 functionaries of the government-from president, his cabinet ministers and top advisers, down to a lowly corporal of the armed forces-enjoy the facility of access to such communications from American diplomatic and spy missions around the world. One feels like laughing at this risible breach of secrecy. How can anything even remotely be expected to remain ‘secret’ when a quarter of a million people have access to it. Any Tom, Dick or Harry, down the chain of command, in the army or the civil services, could pass on information to any website of his choice, in return for reward or just fame, if nothing else.
But much important than this obvious lack of care and concern for confidentiality of communications, it tells a lot about the conduct and style of American diplomacy and the calibre of the people manning US diplomatic and intelligence outfits around the world.
What these leaks reveal is a superpower whose diplomats and intelligence agents are overly power-drunk, arrogant, haughty, insouciant and uncaring of the sensitivities and sensibilities of the people who may, allegedly, be the source of their information and reporting.
It’s an ugly face of American diplomacy and diplomats these ‘leaks’ and juicy tidbits of information paint on the mind of even ordinary readers, let alone those with an insight into the methods and ethics of American diplomacy.
The ‘leaks’ attribute a lot of quotations to famous people-monarchs, elected leaders, top bureaucrats, generals, intellectuals et al. But there’s no way to make sure these are authentic quotes, or that the leaders and opinion-makers concerned did actually say what has been said in reference to them or in their behalf. Diplomats-and more than the diplomats, intelligence operatives-are in a habit of putting words in others’ mouth in order to lend weight and credence to their reports and dispatches.
But irrespective of whether what has been attributed to famous people and presented as word-of-their-mouth is true or not, it’s almost certain that from now onward interlocutors of American diplomats and ambassadors will be cautious, if not tongue-tied, in talking to them, lest their words were reported out of context or clad in meanings that they never intended to portray. Prince Turki bin Faisal-a son of the deceased King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and a veteran diplomat in his own right, having served as his country’s ambassador in Washington and London-has a point in saying that henceforth one will have to be very circumspect in talking to the Americans.
Prince Turki and others like him-influential and generally regarded in chancelleries of the world as pro-western in their outlook-have a genuine reason to be alarmed at the indiscretion of reporting by American diplomats. Let us face the truth, which is that American diplomats, like their leaders, are not known for honesty and integrity. George W. Bush had the temerity to invade Iraq-a country with no hint of culpability for the 9/11 attacks-on spurious and trumped-up charges; the flimsiest of evidence was given to the world before American bombs appeared over the skyline of Baghdad. His father, George Bush, Sr. had set a template for his son by invading Panama on concocted evidence to silence Manuel Noriega, who had earlier worked for years for CIA.
So one shouldn’t attribute it quickly to the gut instinct of ‘conspiracy’ theorists or buffs if they smell something very fishy or untenable in the quotes attributed to Saudi King Abdullah, or the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, or Zaid Rifai, a top adviser to King Abdullah of Jordan, about Iran being an ‘existentialist’ threat to these leaders and their countries.
One should be perfectly entitled to take with a hefty grain of salt King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia’s alleged request to his American friends to “cut off the head of the snake” while referring to Iran’s alleged ambition to build a nuclear bomb. The question mark looms even bigger in reference to the UAE Crown Prince saying, glibly that “Ahmedinejad is Hitler.” Zaid Rifai, likewise, has been reported to have advised his American friends to “either bomb Iran” or “live with an Iranian bomb.”
Knowing America’s mental fixation with Iran of the past 3 decades since its Islamic Revolution that made a hash of US applecart for the region, it doesn’t take a grisly old diplomat or a seasoned political pundit to be wary of any American pronouncement or prediction about that country. Transpose this US fixation with Iran on Israel’s nauseating wolf-cry about Iran posing an ‘existentialist’ threat to the Zionist state, and one gets a composite picture of how desperate diplomats and policy makers, alike, are in both Washington and Tel Aviv to conjure up the portrait of a lawless Iran-just the way they had done to Iraq before the landscape was primed for the invasion of its land-becoming a pariah in its region.
President Ahmedinejad, the target of these snide diplomatic volleys, has acted with great circumspection and statesmanship in the wake of sinister words put in the mouths of Arab leaders about him and Iran. He dismissed them as worthless antics of those desperate and out of sync with their senses, and obsessed with a one-item agenda to sow discord between Iran and Arab leaders. Ahmedinejad’s cool and calculated reaction to their provocations must have dealt a heavy blow to the expectations of ‘comrades’ in Washington and Tel Aviv itching to have a go at Iran on the slightest provocation.
The collective hangover of US and Israel on Iran looks deeply risible given the ground reality that the Arab world’s masses don’t share the enthusiasm of their leaders to ‘chop off’ the head of Iran even if the remarks placed at the door-steps of Arab leaders were true. A recent poll by the prestigious Brookings Institution, in Washington, speaks of 80 per cent of Arabs holding Israel as the main threat to the Arab world, followed, almost in lock-step, by US at 77 per cent.
The same BI survey reveals that only a minuscule 10 per cent of the Arab peoples regard Iran as a threat, while 57 per cent of them want Iran to have nuclear weapons as a counter-weight and antidote to the Israeli monopoly of nuclear weapons in their region.
But in the case of client states like Afghanistan and Pakistan, these ‘leaks’ paint a dismal picture of puppets dancing hopelessly to the tunes from Washington.
The people of Afghanistan haven’t known genuine government for decades. Hamid Karzai is a western puppet hopelessly dangling on American strings. Therefore, revelations about his corruption, or of his factotums travelling with millions of dollars in cash stashed in their suitcases, doesn’t make sensational reading for anybody, least of all for the Afghans living at the mercy of their corrupt rulers like lambs thrown to the wolves.
However, the people of Pakistan come out as fully deserving of world sympathy for them in regard to the cabal of their current-and supposedly democratic-leaders is concerned.
The people of Pakistan groaned for nearly a decade under the heels of a power-drunk and arrogant military dictator, Pervez Musharraf. They had to wage a costly and concerted civil campaign, led by an honest and integral chief justice of their supreme court, to see the back of that snooty autocrat. But what they got, according to the WikiLeaks, in return for their sacrifices in toil and blood, is a bunch of corrupt-to-their-bone-marrow opportunists masquerading as democratic leaders.
The Zardari-Gilani cabal ruling the roost in Islamabad comes out in these revelations-which deserve the epithet of ‘sensational’ in the context of the Pakistanis-as slaves to Washington’s directives and diktat.
The Pakistanis never had any fancy notions about Zardari, who ascended the top slot in Pakistan’s ruling hierarchy with his damning reputation of ‘Mr. Ten per cent’ preceding him. But it was still hard for them to believe that he could be so totally sold-out to his mentors in Washington as to confess to a Congressional delegation paying him a visit that he ‘owed’ his position to Washington’s patronage and would do exactly as was asked of him.
The Zardari-Gilani duo doing the US bidding, to the last dot, on total freedom of operation for the much-dreaded American drones-unmanned aircraft raining death from the skies more often on the innocent civilians than the targeted Taliban-has been an ‘open secret’ in Pakistan. However, the minute details of both Zardari’s and Gilani’s unconditional concurrence in these drones hitting their targets inside Pakistan with impunity must be galling to the Pakistanis. The duplicity of these American quislings of Pakistan-dismissing the deaths of their innocent civilians as unavoidable ‘collateral damage’ of the war against terror, but making articulate statements in the parliament about these attacks being inadmissible-must make the Pakistanis writhe in pain and cringe in anger. Never before had a Pakistani leader sold his country and people so cheaply as this cabal of opportunists has done so brazenly.
But perhaps the lowest point touched by American diplomacy, according to these ‘leaks’, is in regard to American diplomats being asked by CIA to spy on UN Secretary-General, Ban ki Moon, and other top officials of the world body. The leaks speak of specific directives to American operatives and diplomats to go after the personal details and co-ordinates-cell phones, travel details, bank accounts, even passwords of e-mail accounts et al.
It gives all the reason and justification to the intelligentsia, as well as ordinary people, of the world to question American motives in regard to the body that represents the collective will of the peoples of this globe. George W. Bush heaped scorn and insults on UN without much regard for diplomatic niceties or norms. Barack Obama is being accused of having authorized these immoral incursions into the sanctum of UN. The top whistle-blower of the WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has publicly demanded Obama’s resignation if he’s found responsible for granting a license to his diplomats to poach on the sanctity of UN.