Monday, November 29, 2010

a sense of perspective and an opportunity missed

There has been a flurry of press coverage of the latest “scoop” by the infamous organization WikiLeaks, and understandably so. Some 250,000 documents, mostly memos and briefs and a large number classified as “confidential”, have appeared online. They relate, for the most part, to the US Government’s views and observation on key individuals around the world.

The “revelations” are left open to some juicy, borderline sordid headlines. They are certainly embarrassing in terms of being given as a sort of “official” view, but they contain little that is earth shattering, unknown or likely to cause much of a fuss beyond the journalists recanting them. Let’s have a look at a few of them and give a sense of perspective :

Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai is "driven by paranoia" : oh, really? America has entered his country to fight a war against a faction that they assisted in arming some 20 years ago. Perhaps not so much paranoia as a healthy scepticism on display?

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is accompanied at all times by a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse : which reads as “World leader enjoys the company and companionship of busty blondes”. JFK, anyone? World leaders and politicians attracting ladies because of their status and power is about as much a revelation as the daily sunrise.

Prince Andrew engaged in “inappropriate behaviour” : what, the man known affectionately as “Randy Andy” for over 30 years? Apparently this inappropriate behaviour relates to him being “rude” and making comments about an unspecified country. It must have been something exceptional to upset the usually brash, free voiced Americans, but all the same nothing exactly out of character or would not expect.

Angela Merkel is but dismissed as "risk-averse and rarely creative" : since 1945, Germany has sought stability and a degree of neutrality both internally and on the World stage. Rather understandable, you would have thought. And how “creative” do you wish a World leader to be?

Hillary Clinton encouraged diplomats to spy on other nations at the UN : something that has gone on unofficially ever since the UN was formed; quasi-official confirmation of this is in fairness likely to cause problems.

Saudi Arabia “encouraged” USA to invade / strike against Iran : The Middle East is, to put it mildly, an unstable region. A fair comment would be that Iran highlights much of the instability, whereas Saudi Arabia illustrates the nations seeking to reach a level of stability. Considering America’s enthusiasm for frequent military action in Iraq, well, I appreciate this being “news” but hardly a surprising revelation.

British PM David Cameron is a “lightweight” : considering, in the context of political careers, Mr Cameron is a relatively new voice (he has been Prime Minister for less than a year) so this is not unreasonable comment. Dig around and I suspect you would find Thatcher, Major and Blair were described in not too different terms around the same stage in their political careers.

There are countless other “highlights”, but there’s a cross-section of the ones that seem to be causing the most fuss.

Leaving aside for the moment the reaction the owners of WikiLeaks can expect, the more immediate reaction will be expected from incumbent US President Barack Obama. His efforts to stop these leaks was limited to requesting that the website does not do it, as it “could cost many lives”.

In slight defence of President Obama, I would agree that certain information should not be leaked or disclosed if there’s a clear, actual threat to lives by doing so. However, this argument just does not cut it with what we have seen thus far : any life that would be lost because of what is contained in these documents would be lost anyway. These are all reflective reports and are purely commentary; nothing in them relates to future potential actions or danger zones.





Thus far, Obama the “great reformer” has been limited to a certain level of success in his often appeared to be only grand plan, American Healthcare Reform. Is only other achievement appears to have been the daily lashing of BP for an oil leak that turned out not to be entirely the fault of BP after all. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to all of this.

The story that all and sundry seem to be missing is how exactly it has taken so long for all this information to be leaked into an open forum. That would be just how sorely lacking US Security is. For all their fuss about “full body scans” and x-raying shoes of average tourists, these documents were on something called ‘SPIR-Net’, a supposedly secure network that over 2,000,000 people had access to. Three people can certainly keep a secret if two of them happen to be dead, said Oscar Wilde. With so many people having access, it’s a wonder that only now did someone walk out with copies of the documents, on a CD marked “Lady GaGa”, apparently. This must surely be the bigger concern and bigger story than these, in the grand scheme of things, trivial, reactionary comments.

One Italian politician has taken it upon himself to declare these leaks as being “the September 11th of diplomatic relations”. This is a quote that the down-market, more sensationalist of tabloid newspapers have taken to heart. If these documents, which essentially suggest for the most part tend not to like anyone in particular, cause the kind of global ramifications the events of 2001 did, well then the world is a good deal more fragile and unstable than even the most negative of pessimists would have ever dared to suggest.





The WikiLeaks site suggests that many, many more documents shall soon be leaked, some of them relating to European nations commenting on each other. We shall just have to wait and see if they are of a similar ilk to that which has been revealed. As for the rights and wrongs of WikiLeaks doing all of this, well, for the most part I shall leave it to you to drawn your own conclusions. As there seems to be no intent of malice or profit in regards of what they publish I would be happy to accept their sincerity in regards of their claim that they do this purely because they believe nothing should be kept secret unnecessarily, but I do sometimes wonder if the actual content is worth the time and effort they clearly go through.

If you decide to read more or all of their revelations, happy reading!!!!
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