Monday, December 20, 2010

Tranparency Matters

America is supposed to be a democracy. In a democracy, the people are supposed to have a say in how their government goes about its business. Democracy doesn’t work if the people don’t understand what their government is doing. Democracy doesn’t work if the people don’t understand what is going on in the world.

The American people do not understand what their government is doing. This is because the media is basically subservient to the government. Note how many prominent American journalists were employed by the government before they entered journalism. Diane Sawyer worked for the Nixon administration. Pat Buchanan worked for the Nixon and Reagan administrations. Chris Matthews worked for the Carter administration. George Stephanopoulos worked for the Clinton administration.

An organization like WikiLeaks could present the public with information that they don’t get from the mainstream media. Unfortunately, it really isn’t doing that. In fact, before WikiLeaks made headlines in 2010, its main claim to fame was releasing some records from the Julius Baer Group, a bank in Switzerland. If memory serves, the fact that WikiLeaks released that information led some to believe that the CIA was behind WikiLeaks. After all, for quite some time America has been trying to get Switzerland to cut down on bank secrecy at Swiss banks. I imagine releasing the Julius Baer documents hurt that company and its reputation for keeping its customer information private. It seems reasonable to guess that the person who released those documents wanted to take a stab at Swiss banking privacy.

The other incident that leads me to believe that the CIA, or at least a Western intelligence agency, is behind WikiLeaks is the fact that WikiLeaks didn’t actually release the 92,000 documents on Afghanistan. It only released 77,000 of the documents. It didn’t release the other 15,000 documents. The funny thing was that the U.S. government practically dared WikiLeaks to release those documents. If you look at article 1, you will see that the Obama administration hinted that the remaining 15,000 documents were more explosive than the documents released. WikiLeaks wanted the U.S. government to help it review those documents. Interestingly, the American government hinted that other nations – probably European nations – were mentioned in these documents.

“We have found many instances in which our allies or their forces are mentioned in these documents,” said Geoff Morrell.

It seems reasonable to guess that if European nations are mentioned in these documents and if the content of these documents is more explosive, that these documents contain information about European misconduct in Afghanistan. This implies that a European intelligence agency is actually behind WikiLeaks. Sure, WikiLeaks will release documents damaging to American interests, but it won’t release documents damaging to European interests.

In arguing against the release of these documents, some people have said that the releases damage the trust between America and other countries. Other people have said that WikiLeaks might cause diplomats to refrain from speaking frankly to each other. Both these claims are completely ridiculous.

“The fact is governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they think we can keep secrets,” said Robert Gates.

In fact, leaking information has a very, very long history in diplomacy. If you read the New York Times at all, you will see that our government leaks information quite frequently. In fact, the New York Times has even admitted that our government leaks information on purpose to put pressure on foreign governments (see article 3).

“Saudi Arabia has an immensely complicated relationship with the United States in which both sides quietly do favors for each other, and occasionally put pressure on each other to do more,” said the New York Times. “Sometimes that pressure is exerted privately, sometimes through press disclosures.”

By the way, as that quote suggests, America ain’t the only country that leaks information to put pressure on foreign governments. As far as I can tell, all governments do this.

WikiLeaks will not cause diplomats to stop speaking frankly to each other because they never spoke frankly to each other to begin with. Think about what the word “diplomatic” means. It doesn’t mean frank. In fact, it means just the opposite. To tell the truth, I like to think of diplomats as a bunch of people paid to lie to each other.

WikiLeaks will not damage trust between America and other countries because there was no trust between America and other countries to begin with. Listen to what Tony Blair had to say about the Obama administration (see article 4).

“America won't be loved in this presidency any more than in previous ones,” said Tony Blair.

Given that the previous administration was the Bush administration and given that the Europeans absolutely hated Bush, it doesn’t seem like there’s too much love between America and anyone else. If there’s no love, I assume there isn’t a whole lot of trust.

Having a real discussion about our history would have many benefits. It would show that spending a lot of money on our military is not a good idea. It would show that the worst mistake you can make is to get trapped into a war. It would completely discredit the neocons. It would clarify the relationships between America other nations. That would show that, in fact, America has no true allies and that its so-called allies might better be labeled as enemies. Now, I should hasten to add that America done many, many things which should reasonably make its “allies” consider America as its enemy. It’s definitely a two way street. Most importantly, a real discussion of history would show all the awful things the various nations of the world have done and that would lead the people of the world to demand that their government change their behavior.