You shouldn’t be reading this but…
We seem to have an innate fascination with secrets. I can never get my four-year-old daughter enthusiastic about anything, whether it’s moving to a new country, or giving her news that her birthday is “only” a few months away.
But dress it up differently, and tell her the “secret” that her little sister doesn’t know just how amazing the new country will be, or the “secret” that her little sister is too small to have a birthday party as spectacular as her own (and not even their mum knows the amazing plans), and the magic sets in.
She’s enthusiastic, she’s excited – an indispensable partner in our private universe of shared knowledge.
There’s something about the latest WikiLeaks that reminds me of my deviant psychological techniques on my hapless kid.
For every diplomatic innuendo and cryptic cable that have been sizzling hot off the press and causing cyber-supernovas as WikiLeaks drip-feeds us the spicy files, there are thousands of statements that have been said on the record, indisputably, over the years, of equal or even more relevance.
For example, 20,000 pages of transcripts of telephone conversations between senior US officials were made available in 2004 after successful lobbying by the National Security Archive, which tries to unmask government secrecy.
No leaks, just political pressure in broad political daylight.
Among the conversations, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger relays President Nixon’s order to the Pentagon to bomb Cambodia in 1970 by saying Nixon wants: “A massive bombing campaign … Anything that flies on anything that moves.”
Harsh. Given the horror of the rise of the Khmer Rouge that followed the aforementioned bombing campaign, one would think it was necessary for people to know of what preceded them, and the arguably genocidal intentions of the two gentlemen, Kissinger and Nixon.
But not only is little known of Kissinger’s statements, it seems fairly irrelevant in the corridors of analytical expertise.
Why is that?
In 2008, another US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, then a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination against the man whose foreign policy agenda she now diligently moulds and guides, said about Iran: “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”
Obliterate. Amazing word, if somewhat frightening. My Merriem-Webster dictionary tells me it is a transitive verb which means:
a: to remove utterly from recognition or memory
b: to remove from existence: destroy utterly all trace, indication, or significance of
c: to cause to disappear or collapse
No matter how potent this hypothetical first strike from Iran against Israel may or may not be, to pledge to obliterate Iran sounds a little harsh.
Not very diplomatic. No leaks, but said in fresh morning TV light – on ABC’s “Good Morning America”.
Even worse than, perhaps, WikiLeaks memos that indicate Clinton wanted her embassy staff to spy on UN diplomats (for which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wants her to resign).
Her state department spokesman PJ Crowley said Assange is “not a journalist but an anarchist”. Now everybody thinks of Assange as Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. At least I do. And I liked the Joker.
But back to “obliterate”. Harsh. A bit like “wiping off the map” – or maybe she meant she hoped the regime, like the Soviet Union, would “vanish from the page of time”, as Iran’s president said about Israel – depending on your local Farsi translator.
But again, on the record as well, no leaks needed.
Talking about Ahmadinejad – or leader of the “serpent’s head” according to Saudi King Abdullah’s flattering description of his country in the WikiLeaks cables – he tends to think the murder of six million Jews in the holocaust was a “myth”.
No leaks needed for that one too – all on the record.
Which is maybe why some Israelis consider Ahmadinejad’s Islamic republic an “existential” threat – another great word.
Not as harsh as “obliterate” though. Maybe some day someone will say they want to “existentially obliterate” a country.
I hope they don’t. But if anyone might say that, a possible candidate could be Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
He who called for Palestinian prisoners to be “drowned in the Dead Sea” at the time he was transport minister in Israel and offered to bus them there himself.
He also spoke of wanting Palestinian-Israeli members of the Knesset “hanged as collaborators” – at other times he called for them to be shot.
Maybe if these statements weren’t on the record, but rather exposed as leaks, we’d take them more seriously.
Then there’s the most entertaining of all WikiLeaks victims, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
I’m not so sure we needed WikiLeaks quoting US diplomats to tell us he uses “botox,” but it was kind of them to point it out.
And then we’re pointlessly told about his “voluptuous Ukrainian nurse” who always accompanies him (although I must admit to have tried to google her several times ).
But apart from buxom blondes and his discovery of the fountain of youth via a syringe – it would probably be wiser for people to talk about how he can say things like “there is no place with a democracy except Libya on the whole planet,” as he did to US students in 2006 – when he has held power in his country with an unrelenting grip for an amazing 41 years.
Public relations machines of all governments, from the superpower to the potential powers, from west and east, have survived the harsh, scary, ominous and ridiculous things they’ve said on the record – that may indicate they’ll survive what was said behind closed doors.
Or maybe, like my four year old, when a “secret” is involved, it changes everything. If you disagree with me – why did you carry on reading my blog post after you saw the title?
A suggestion perhaps – a trip not to WikiLeaks, but to Wikiquotes website can be equally disturbing, fascinating or entertaining reading.
Plus nobody hacks into it and takes it down.