22 December 2010

Leaky nonsense

The recent US embassy leaks are not so much of interest due to revelation of 'the truth' about what goes on in the world, but more because they reveal two things: first, the Machiavellean attitudes of many of the world's leaders and diplomats, and secondly because of the versions of untruth that they are willing to peddle. Hence, I am prepared to accept Helen Clark's rejection of the insinuation that NZ sent army engineers to Iraq for the sake of Fonterra's trade deal in the food-for-oil programme (the latter programme became notorious for corruption, however).

Just to illustrate the misleading rubbish that 'intelligence' officers dream up for their leaders, take the following passage (despatched from Wellington in 2005):

"There is little doubt today that Lange decided to implement a ban on nuclear arms as a way to initiate New Zealand's break from ANZUS. By creating friction with the United States which virtually forced the U.S. to expel New Zealand from the alliance, Lange succeeded also in forging an anti-American sentiment here that remains powerful 20 years on."

First sentence is quite wrong. The aim was not to bust up ANZUS; it was to ban nuclear ships and weapons. That was what we wanted, and that was what we got.

The writer appears to think (narcissistically) that it was all about making trouble with the US and drumming up anti-US sentiment. Yes, there was anti-US sentiment, but the US's own foreign policy (think Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, etc) in the 1960s and 70s (when NZ governments were mostly quite happy to be allied with the US) did the job of creating that negative sentiment quite of its own accord. Lange didn't have to 'forge' such a sentiment. It already existed.

By 2005, moreover, any anti-US sentiments that persisted here were being mightily encouraged by Bush and his drastic Iraq escapade.

So, let's treat the leaks with a grain of salt. They are of interest not because they uncover the truth, but because they reveal the untruths - and the sheer gossip - that guide world affairs.

09 December 2010

Wickedly dying for a leak!

So, what are we to make of the new global phenomenon of leaked cables? There are 2 extremes: on one hand, they look like a total game-changer; on the other, like a bit of a fizzer...

Naturally, I can't keep up with the sheer volume of material. But, some of the gems one reads: The Saudi royals are hypocrites who party up and engage sex-workers. The Nigerian government is laced with Shell's spies. A senior US official in Africa says that China is "a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals" (pot calls kettle black...)

Whitehall officials express surprise and denial to their US cronies about Gordon Brown's claim to be scaling down the UK's Trident-submarine programme.

(Let's not forget that a single Trident missile, which can be launched remotely by the UK's PM, is capable of inflicting many Hiroshima-sized warheads at once! And, Oh but, by the way, Gordon Brown is no longer PM...!)

What are we to make of all this?

If anyone thought dismissively about the idea of a 'knowledge economy', well this proves it's time to think again. Look at all this 'knowledge' out there on line now; knowledge that 'we' (the likes of you and me) didn't know about just a few days ago. And look at the cyber-war inflicted against J.A., his reputation, his website, and his bank accounts; and now the counter-cyber-attack by his supporters. Is the man a hero, a journalist, a cyber-warrior, a rapist, or a 'virtual' criminal?

Is he the 21st Century's Robin Hood?

Does this not change the game of politics on the global stage, once and for all, forever?

Or is it just a big yawn, because it reveals what everyone had already guessed anyway (but were happy not to think about)? ... while, more importantly to those who rule, it reveals nothing at all?

Look at it this way...: Of course the Nigerians know that Shell knows about everything their government is doing. Of course the Saudi royals are sinners (and how do I get invited to their parties?) Of course some US diplomats have negative things to say about the Chinese (and vice versa), and of course they all know that this is how people think. Of course Gordon Brown's pontifications about disarmament were irrelevant - given that he must have known as well as anyone else that he was about to be turfed out of Downing St...!

Personally, I don't know whether to yawn and go back to bed, or get up and have another leak!