Wikileaks, a group dedicated to leaking confidential government files, has done it again, releasing thousands of classified documents containing conversations between American diplomats and other diplomats from around the globe. Julian Assange, the face of the organization, is once again sporting a new look. His once long hair has now been cut short and mussed up, making him look like an Australian Ryan Seacrest, which is fitting considering that the newest diplomatic cables leaked from his organization are more gossip than useful information.
In the past year, Wikileaks has released secret documents and videos related to the wars currently being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. As I pointed in my column on the “Collateral Murder” leak back in April of this year, the public could benefit from this information. The American people have a vested interest in how these wars are fought, and we have a right to know how our tax dollars are being used. We also deserve to know when our Army unnecessarily kills civilians, or when our government supports countries, like Pakistan, who have some interesting relationships with our enemies.
In contrast, these new leaks are either not surprising or not something we need to know. The not surprising information merely serves as petty entertainment normally reserved for gossip columns and Entertainment Tonight. The information that we do not need to know is incredibly damaging to our countries foreign relations.
For example, one of the leaked cables shows Robert Gates, the current Secretary of Defense, saying, “Russian democracy has disappeared.” Anyone who follows world events already knows that this is true to a certain degree, with the “mysterious” deaths of journalists in that country adding up. All this leak does is strain Russian-American relations, which is the last thing President Obama needs as he tries to pass an arms treaty through Congress.
Other parts of the leak illustrate the large level of corruption in the Afghan government. At this point, saying that Afghanistan is corrupt is like saying that the boy’s locker room at Staples is dirty. Just a few weeks ago, the New York Times reported that President Karzai received “bags of cash” from Iran. This report was done without the help of Wikileaks. The only thing these leaks change is that the Afghan government now knows that we do not trust them. This is not going to make the nation-building process any easier.
Some of the information borders on the absurd, like the “revelation” that Muammar el-Qaddafi, the leader of Libya, has an Ukranian nurse described as “a voluptuous blonde.” Why the hell does that matter? So what if he has a thing for blondes? Is that really going to affect our dealings with Libya?
A lot of the language used in the cables by American diplomats makes them sound like commentators on TMZ. They refer to Canada as the “Robin to the U.S. Batman.” They also describe Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, as “thin-skinned and authoritarian,” and they portray Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel as “risk averse and seldom creative.” I wouldn’t be surprised if one the leaks said, “and did you see what Bamir Topi, president of Albania, was wearing today? Red ties are so last year!” These comments do not uncover anything about our government. It’s all just chatty gossip.
To be fair, not all of the cables have been released yet. Wikileaks is publishing the documents slowly, which is interesting considering their stance on secrets being withheld. However, one can guess that the nature of the leaks will not suddenly get serious.
Although I am in favor of government transparency, I must condemn Wikileaks for this recent “dump” of cables. While many of the past leaks have released significant information, this leak does not uncover anything that the American people need to know. It only serves to embarrass the government and make relations between the United States and other countries awkward.
It’s like Wikileaks has told us what the actual ingredients of a hot dog are. Nobody wanted to know that. We just wanted to enjoy our meal.