I admit to being uneasy about the Wikileaks “no secrets” documents dump.
On the one hand, it provides a much-needed lesson that needs regular repeating: Everybody lies, all the time, to one degree or another. Perhaps “lies” isn’t the right word. Everyone spins, creates appearances, accentuates the positive (or the negative), postures, flatters, and so on, all in their own interest. International diplomacy is, in this way, similar to everyday interactions.
“Good morning, how are you?”
We don’t expect a real answer, and if one is offered it’s bound to make us uncomfortable.
We expect people to politely lie, to put it bluntly.
Lying is essential to civil interactions, is it not?
And Wikileaks reminds us that when the president or anyone else in authority speaks, it is guaranteed to be less than the whole truth. Thank goodness.
I don’t buy into Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric that puts Wikileaks, and the sources of the leaked documents, at the top of the international criminal list. And the “blood on their hands” argument doesn’t wash when it comes from a government prosecuting discretionary wars across the world.
But I don’t believe in total, 24/7 transparency either.
Here’s Bill Quigley, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, in a Huffington Post column:
Outraged politicians are claiming that the release of government information is the criminal equivalent of terrorism and puts innocent people’s lives at risk. Many of those same politicians authorized the modern equivalent of carpet bombing of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, the sacrifice of thousands of lives of soldiers and civilians, and drone assaults on civilian areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Their anger at a document dump, no matter how extensive, is more than a little suspect.
Everyone, including WikiLeaks and the other media reporting the documents, hopes that no lives will be lost because of this. So far, that appears to be the case as McClatchy Newspapers reported November 28, 2010, that “U.S. officials conceded that they have no evidence to date that the [prior] release of documents led to anyone’s death.”
From journalist Norman Solomon, also in the Huffington Post:
Compared to the kind of secret cables that WikiLeaks has just shared with the world, everyday public statements from government officials are exercises in make-believe.
In a democracy, people have a right to know what their government is actually doing. In a pseudo-democracy, a bunch of fairy tales from high places will do the trick.
Diplomatic facades routinely masquerade as realities. But sometimes the mask slips — for all the world to see — and that’s what just happened with the humongous leak of State Department cables.
“Every government is run by liars,” independent journalist I.F. Stone observed, “and nothing they say should be believed.” The extent and gravity of the lying varies from one government to another — but no pronouncements from world capitals should be taken on faith.
And another by John Brown of Georgetown University:
For all the State Department’s understandable security concern about the recent disclosure of classified telegrams from its embassies by WikiLeaks, there are elements in this exposé that can actually improve how Americans and the rest of the world view US diplomacy and, most important, the United States itself.
Aggressive application of sunshine laws to political processes leads to essentially a real-time Wikileaks–if nothing is confidential, how does politics proceed? I haven’t been able to answer that question.
Hence my ambivalence over this document spill.