Uncorking the Outrage
“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” ~~ John F. Kennedy
America has lost its fucking mind. The “land of the free, and the home of the brave” has been reduced to a quivering nation of paranoid loons too easily manipulated by a government so far under the thumbs of a military industrial complex its a wonder they don’t just call it a day and don the uniforms. Convinced that fear is the new currency, our government has convinced us to shut the lights in the “City on the Hill” and cower behind the curtains like frightened mice. Setting aside the probability that we’re far more likely to be struck by a meteorite than killed by a terrorist, we bow our heads and shuffle silently forward like the voiceless workers in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – trudging tirelessly to the machines without so much as hot babe lead us to revolution. Told by our leaders that truth is subservient to “national security,” we bow down to take an eraser to the U.S. Constitution because, God forbid, we be forced to face up to the embarrassment of our abject failure and remove our heads from our collective asses and deal with the REAL WORLD instead of this bipartisan fairy tale we currently call a democracy. A wise man once said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself,” and boy, oh, boy was he ever correct.
It’s just a few short weeks before Christmas and America has got its knickers in another admirable twist. Thanks to a failed underwear bomber, the TSA unveiled a shiny new radiation spewing piece of equipment flogged by none other than our former Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, (who I am shocked, shocked, to see may have a financial motive behind his dire warnings and convenient recommendations). Lo and behold, we learn that, to ensure that these machines get used as much as possible, a new set of personally invasive procedures were designed and deployed to drive gamma-shy citizens into the belly of the beast. Within days we were treated to a litany of pat-down horror stories including a screaming toddler, a burst urostomy bag, and a cancer survivor forced to remove her prosthetic breast, and a hilarious, if fake, story about a TSA screener caught masturbating in the review booth at a Colorado airport.
“Mommy?” we said, “They touched me in my special place. I can show you on the doll…”
“Now, now,” the government responds, “You don’t want to be killed by a terrorist, do you?”
“Well, no,” we reply, timidly, “But do you have to juggle his nuts and giggle like that? It’s kinda creeping me out…”
“Terror!” says government.
And then came Wikileaks, with another massive dump of American “diplomatic intelligence” that has Washington up in arms declaring Julian Assange the very model of a modern major enemy, placing his actions on an equal footing with Osama Bin Laden and the dearly departed Saddam Hussein. Wikileaks, we are now being told, is THE threat to democracy, endangering the very fabric of our existence with its revelations of how our government actually does its business behind the ironclad doors of power. “This foreigner,” they say, “is making us look bad, and by God, that’s just not cricket!”
Sigh. You get the point.
What is the REAL story here?
The leaks themselves are little more than a voluminous collection of diplomatic observations that read more like the gossip column of a high school newspaper than a sober and thoughtful analysis of America’s allies and foes. For example:
- Muammar al-Gaddafi likes busty blondes? Wow. What an incredibly useful tidbit of information. Perhaps if we’d sent him some supermodels in the 80’s that whole Lockerbie thing could’ve been avoided? Didn’t think so.
- Diplomats were asked to collect DNA? First off: eww! There’s one job I won’t be applying for anytime soon. And second: answer me this: what was the purpose of said DNA collection? Does our diplomatic strategy consist of cloning the people we like, then secretly replacing the ones we don’t in the dead of night? (Aside: If so, I would like to take this opportunity to formally request another Carla Bruni for myself, thank you very much)
- Pakistan is difficult to deal with? Who’d’a thunk? I can’t imagine why they’d be prickly. You don’t think that might have anything to do with that cable channel full of pundits by any chance? Why would that bother anyone? It’s just opinion, right?
- Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government? I’m stunned. And after we sent them all those pallets of loose cash…
- Saudi Arabia wants us to attack Iran? What a coincidence! Iran just happens to have a massively huge tank of oil buried beneath its desert sands, and we’re running out. We already know Israel doesn’t like Iran, so this seems like a perfectly logical way in which to kill a few hundred millionbirds with one bombstone.
The real story here is not that Julian Assange has embarrassed the U.S. government (though, regrettably, he will most likely be severely punished for doing so), but that he has managed to do so in such a seemingly effortless manner – using methods a grade-schooler could understand. What these leaks reveal is not so much the arrogance of America’s foreign policy approach, but the sheer ignorance of those placed in charge of protecting its secrets. “Cable-gate,” as it’s coming to be called, consist of over 250,000 documents that were more or less copied and pasted from a secret, and supposedly secured military computer network and smuggled out disguised as music CD’s. That’s right, boys and girls, with all the federal money being spent on information security, all the government contractors charging millions of dollars to secure our nation’s electronic infrastructure, some schmoe walked in, logged on, downloaded, and walked off with close to 44 years of diplomatic “secrets.”
As appalling as this grotesque security breach is, it only highlights a deeper, more troubling issue: America has seemingly lost the ability to relate to the majority of the rest of the world. What the documents truly show, is that our diplomatic mindset has been gripped, much like the military, by the perverse notion that only by collecting mountains of trivia and feeding it into a computer can we come to know the world. Rather than wandering out into “the big blue room,” our leaders have regressed to teenage basement dwellers, and now sit staring a the phosphorescent screens of the Matrix, looking for patterns in bits and bytes. Does this mean the practice of actual, physical diplomacy is over? Who knows?
Thanks to the revelations of these cable’s contents, we now know, more than ever, just how infantile our approach to intelligence and diplomacy has become. The revelation of our arrogance has rightfully alienated just about every single country on the face of the earth, both friends and enemies. Like it or not, America, you are a citizen of the world, and it’s high-time you started acting like it. Diplomacy is an art: the skillful cultivation of relationships between nations. Like any skill it must be practiced and mastered so that one party does not arouse hostility in the other. The fact that Wikileaks has demonstrated just how poorly you are managing your effort should not result in the vengeful persecution of Julian Assange – should not result in the beheading of the messenger, in other words – but should, instead, result in a little time for self reflection. It’s never too late to own up to a mistake and repair the damage of a failed strategy. Enough is enough.