by John Grooms
WikiLeaks release of a quarter-million State Dept. cables is a welcome, up-close look inside the foreign policy bubble. You want "transparency in government"? You got it. The leaks will probably be the center of media reporting for the rest of the week accompanied by the usual Chicken Little-style panic and anger from the right wing. Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the chair (come January) of the House Homeland Security Committee, is especially freaked out. King says WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States," and wants the group to be classified, and prosecuted, as terrorists and spies. Never mind that re-classifying whoever you don't like as a "terrorist" has been the standard method of despots for over 100 years. And never mind that the cables were released after the involved newspapers let the White House know about the various topics of interest in the cables, and even made some changes and deletions requested by the government. Hopefully, Rep. King will soon switch to decaf.
To see the most complete coverage of the leaks, including links to worldwide reactions, and an interactive map that directs readers to leaks regarding specific countries, go to the Guardian UK website. The Guardian is a British newspaper that is one of the publications to which WikiLeaks released the cables. Meanwhile, here are a few of our own reactions:
At the Fox Nation site, nearly every comment on the story by their readers was "This guy (Wikileaks honcho Julian Assange) needs to be eliminated, he's a traitor, Pres. Palin will put an end to these leaks [this is not a joke], blah blah blah." Then I noticed the Fox Nation "mission statement," sitting right there on the sites front page, which says it is "for those opposed to excessive government control of our lives, and attempts to monopolize opinion or suppress freedom of thought." Hmm, I guess their idea of freedom of thought only applies to those with whom they agree. Reminds me of late-'70s gay Brit singer Tom Robinson, who sang that the right's version of "freedom" actually means "freedom from the likes of you.
Media outlets have already pounced on the leaked information that the U.S. uses its diplomats as spies; that some elements of the Pakistani government are in cahoots with some elements in the Taliban; and the Afghan government is utterly corrupt. People, those items aren't news, they're things that were already either well-known, or simply assumed by most foreign policy observers. The fact that most of the American media are reacting to these revelations with wide-eyed wonder is itself a revelation of how lame and incurious most mainstream U.S. media really are about foreign relations. The fact is that, no matter what else you may think of the group or its leader, WikiLeaks is basically doing what our formerly competent news outlets used to do.
Some of the leaks should actually please the hatriots who are bitching about WikiLeaks, since those leaks make a better case for some controversial U.S. policies than do the politicians who created them. For instance, as TalkingPointsMemo reports, the leaks reveal that the leaders of nearly every country in the Middle East want the U.S. to attack Iran; North Korea supplied Iran with long-range missiles, not just, as was reported, missile parts; and Iran used the Red Crescent the Middle Eastern version of the Red Cross, to oversimplify a bit to smuggle spies and weapons into war zones. You'd think that the war hawks in Washington would be pleased to know that leaked diplomatic information confirms their Axis of Evil view of Iran. That, of course, cant happen until the hawks are cured of Anti-liberal Kneejerk Syndrome.
One more reaction: U.S. diplomats must really like gossiping about foreign leaders. Examples can be found at the TalkingPointsMemo article linked above, but here are a couple of samples: Qadhafi gets Botox and travels with a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse; Russias Vladimir Putin and Italys Silvio Berlusconi might be in business together; and the First Lady of Azerbaijan has had so many facelifts, she resembles her own daughter, except that she cant move her face.