Believe it or not, I was first alerted to the whole WikiLeak U.S.-embassy debacle by a gentle commenter from the last post, and how fitting that it should be the subject that comes on the heels of “American Die.” Usually I’m not this cognizant of global doings; most of my news comes from my twice-weekly Economist emails, which means that I tend to be 2-3 days behind in the world of current events, which feels just about right for my sleepy little town.
Man oh man, we really stepped in it this time. This reminds me of that time in middle school when I thought my frenemy Caitlin was talking behind my back, so I enlisted the help of fellow friend Jessica, and w/ her blessing created a fake AIM (remember when people still used that) ID, and IM’ed Caitlin, pretending to be Jessica. And then Caitlin said mean things about me! When I confronted her later, she actually had the gall to get mad about my deception. Frenemy Sarah did the same thing (ironically, it was Caitlin who told me about her base treachery), but I forgave her b/c she was more popular than Caitlin, and b/c I liked her better. I never spoke to Caitlin again. To this day, I’m not even Facebook friends w/ the bitch. Then there was the time when Jessica almost cottoned on to the fact that I was making fun of her, and that this vapid nastiness was being recorded in a notebook that I shared w/ two other friends, Paige and Elizabeth. On top of all that, we were regular visitors to Sissyfight 2000, a now-defunct web game that was solely devoted to cornering a girl on a playground and forcing her avatar to burst into tears through combined attacks, which one could orchestrate through private messages.
God, I hated middle school. Almost as much as I loved Sissyfight.
My point here is, replace the names of my “friends” w/ those of countries, and you’ve pretty much got an idea of what’s going on in the international arena right now (hint: I am not America). According to UK paper The Guardian–which now has an entire web page devoted to the scandal–the secret cables were probably leaked by a young whippersnapper called Bradley Manning, but we still aren’t sure.
The entire dataset has not been made available to the public, and certain names have been omitted to avoid endangering operatives. What one can do is view all of the cables in a table showing the date, originating embassy (address included, in case you want to bomb it later), and tags–ALL acronyms (natch)–for which there is a glossary here. If you’re feeling really motivated, you can even peruse the 200,000+ pgs. I did not.
Gentlefriends, while I understand the indignation that is even now effulging the caudate nuclei of our esteemed political leaders, both at home and abroad, I don’t think this will prove to be the “epic blow” to American diplomacy that everyone says it is. Sometimes I have to disturb my hens to collect eggs for my omelette; they get up, squawking in displeasure, and may even try and peck me if they’re feeling particularly peevish. Yet by the next mealtime, the entire incident has been forgotten.
These cables don’t contain anything earth-shattering. To my immense relief The Guardian writes that, “Although their contents are often startling and troubling, the cables are unlikely to gratify conspiracy theorists. They do not contain evidence of assassination plots, CIA bribery or such criminal enterprises as the Iran-Contra scandal in the Reagan years….”
That’s what really matters. It shows that we’ve seen the error of our ways; that for all our faults, we’re trying to hold to our ideals of sovereignty and self-determination (or at least aren’t so blatantly subverting them to satisfy our greed).
Other blinding insights include: “Angela Merkel doesn’t take risks,” and “The Russian Mafia–it is quite powerful!” and “Afghanistan is a corrupt clusterfuck,” and “We really could be doing a better job at combating anti-Western sentiment in Pakistan, considering the Taliban has managed to outshine us in the PR department, and their idea of fun is banning joy and killing people.” NO SHIT. Did we really need top secret documents to tell us this? We were still getting bombs from Yemen even before their Parliament knew that it was our bombs hitting alleged al-Qaeda targets.
Why should it come as such a shock that diplomats are collecting information, or that intelligence agents are making snarky comments? That’s human nature, in all its incorrigible glory (seriously guys, have you learned nothing from Facebook?). It’s all pretty harmless too. I could probably come up w/ a few choice words about Robert Mugabe, and none of them would be as flattering as “crazy old man.” I can’t imagine that anyone one actually cares all that much (not in a deeper sense that goes beyond the sting of hurt pride at the realization that YES, Kim Jong Il, we do notice your turkey wattle), but they have to pretend they do, which if you think about it is really hypocritical, since if their documents were the ones up for scrutiny, I’m sure you’d see a few n-bombs being dropped about Obama, and some suggestive comments about Michelle. If Angela Merkel is Teflon, what does that make Hillary Clinton? Lonsdaleite?
After some ritual protesting and fussing and hand-wringing, I’m sure that the status quo will reemerge. Countries like Pakistan and Iran will continue to hate us as they always have; the Europeans and Ban Ki-moon will forgive us as they always do, and we will resume floating merrily on a large plastic raft through the oil-scummed sea towards our eventual, assured destruction.