President Bush: Frank, please consider filling a post I'm
creating. It may mean long hours and dangerous nights, surrounded by some of
the scummiest elements in our society.
Frank: You want me to be in your cabinet?
- The Naked Gun 2 ฝ, starring Leslie Nielsen
Whatever the spin, the fact is that 1.6 gigabytes of text files on a memory
stick spanning 251,287 leaked United States State Department cables from more
than 250 embassies and consulates are not exactly bound to provoke "a political
meltdown" - as German magazine Der Spiegel has put it - concerning the foreign
policy of the world's declining hyperpower.
Behind the multiple, hypocritical layers of spin served to the
frantic 24/7 news cycle, politics is mostly a tacky reality show. And that's
what the latest WikiLeaks show graphically lays bare. A Muammar Gaddafi that
applies botox and just can't get enough of his sexy Ukrainian nurse belongs to
the realm of Big Brother.
Although it would all make for great TV, it's hardly a scoop that for US
diplomats Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is "Hitler", Afghan President
Hamid Karzai is "paranoid", French President Nicolas Sarkozy is an "emperor
with no clothes", "vain and feckless" Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
is fond of "wild parties", German Chancellor Angela Merkel is "rarely
creative", Russian President Dmitry Medvedev "plays Robin to [Prime Minister
Vladimir] Putin's Batman" or North Korea's Dear Leader Kim Jong-il is a "flabby
old chap" suffering from "physical and psychological trauma".
But to believe, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does, that these
disclosures constitute "an attack not only on American foreign policy interests
but on the international community"; or that WikiLeaks, as President Barack
Obama has put it, committed a serious crime, is to display nothing but tacky
imperial arrogance. As if the world didn't have the right to gorge itself on
the kind of political junk food served to a few consumers inside the Washington
palaces of power.
Clinton must have sensed that the overall sentiment after reading these cables
is of a Washington suffering a nervous breakdown worthy of an Almodovar flick.
For instance, a key US ally such as Berlusconi, defined as "vainglorious",
"indifferent to the fate of Europe" and dangerously close to Putin, of which he
seems to be "the spokesperson", can be regarded as a threat equal to
Ahmadinejad. How paranoid can you get? The US Embassy in Moscow, by the way,
describes Putin as an "alpha-dog" ruling over a Russia that is virtually "a
Mafia state"; cynics would say this also applied to former vice president Dick
Cheney during the George "Dubya" Bush era.
Anyone with an IQ superior to 75 might have suspected by now that US diplomats
spy on their United Nations colleagues (under Clinton's orders); that
Washington conducted a bazaar to force small countries to accept Guantanamo
inmates; that the Pakistani military/intelligence establishment is intertwined
with the Taliban; or that paragon of democracy and human rights Saudi King
Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz urged the US to attack Iran.
Fear of Shi'ite Iran after all is the rule among that gaggle of unpopular Sunni
Arab autocrats/dictators constantly harping and begging for the US to sell them
the weapons that keep them in power.
But things do get more serious when we have the US ambassador to Turkey saying
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is "a fundamentalist. He hates us
religiously" and his hatred is spreading; that is a blatant lie.
Or when Pentagon supremo Robert Gates tells Italian Foreign Minister Franco
Frattini that Iran was not supplying weapons for the Taliban - in fact
nullifying a massive Pentagon-orchestrated suspension-of-disbelief campaign
that lasted for months.
There's no evidence to prove that Beijing's collective leadership was the real
power behind the cyber-attacks against Google. And when former South Korean
vice foreign minister Chun Yung-woo told the US ambassador in Seoul that new
generation of Chinese party leaders no longer regarded North Korea as a useful
ally, how much of it is purely self-serving wishful thinking? After all, Chun
is now the national security adviser to South Korea's president.
Context is key in all these disclosures - around 220 so far. The diplomats or
low-level functionaries speaking through these cables are essentially telling
the State Department what it wants to hear, or bluffing their way into what has
been already set in policy stone in Washington; the amount of independent,
critical analysis is virtually zero.
On with the show
A much juicier perspective is to consider that from now on, most concerned
global citizens will believe virtually nothing hurled at them during those
cosmically boring diplomatic/government/military press conferences and photo
The leaked cables prove that Europe - never impervious to self-ridicule - was
already being marginalized during the Bush era, and more so now with Obama
concentrating on Asia-Pacific. As for the bulk of what has been leaked so far,
especially on Iran and the movers and shakers in the Persian Gulf, it is barely
disguised US/Israeli propaganda.
Not accidentally, many a global headline is beating the same drum along the
lines of "Israel greets WikiLeaks cables as vindication of its Iran policy". An
overall assessment of the leaked cables reveals that as much as Israel and the
powerful US Israel lobby worked overtime to bring about the invasion and
destruction of Iraq, it is doubling the bet to do exactly the same regarding
Iran. Attention should be paid to a cable warning that "elegant and seductive"
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "never keeps his promises". As in: no
halt to settlements in the West Bank, and let's bomb, bomb Iran.
The Wiki reality show will go on for weeks as new gossip is dumped online. At
least the show once again proves that the real information is on the Internet -
not on global corporate media; and global citizens should make the best use of
it to unmask, and ridicule, power.
It's salutary to learn that the emperor, in secret, bad-mouths his friends and
sycophants as much as his enemies. And also to learn that the emperor is no
friend of democratized information. But now that the emperor is indeed naked,
we should all celebrate these cable-writers, friends, enemies and sycophants
for bringing us this priceless reality show - a sort of extended The Naked Gun.
Pity the late, great Leslie Nielsen won't be able to join us.