We’ve all read the assorted U.S. diplomatic cables from Wikileaks which we’re told are embarrassing governments and politicians the world over and, like me, you might have been mightily amused. This morning the paper’s are revealing the former EU bigwig Chris Patten was horrified by Vladimir Putin’s ‘killer eyes’. There’s the claim that Italy’s Gary Berlusconi took kickbacks from the Russians, that the Saudis begged the U.S. to bomb the living shit out of Iran, that the Yanks decided after one year that Gordon Brown was a hopeless Prime Minister, that Karzai - the role model to end all role models - thought the British were useless. And on it goes.
I have to report that I am neither shocked by these candid comments and cheering Wikileaks to the rafters, nor shocked that what were intended as private communications between diplomats should be publicised, thereby undermining trust, confidence, relationships, the integrity of cat food, bus tickets the world over, blah-di-blah-di-blah . . . What does shock me, although ‘shock’ is rather over-egging the pudding, is the amateurish carelessness of the U.S. which means these secret cables were available to, reportedly, at least two million government personnel the world over and just crying out to be leaked.
Despite all the Yankee fascination with the biggest, the fastest, the most expensive etc and coming on to the rest of the world that they have got it sussed (where ‘it’ is more or less anything you can think of), they are still apt to get that crucial, vital detail wrong. In this case it was ensuring that confidential views and opinions whose value lay in their being candid remained confidential. By allowing two million people and their dog access to them seems rather to miss the point.
(Similarly with the invasion of Iraq: you feel it was never properly thought through, and now, several years and thousands of deaths later - both American and Iraqi - the situation there is still pretty bad. The crucial, vital detail: why bloody do it in the first place? I’m sure Bush and his staff would be able to trot out this and that by way of spurious justification, but the fact is there was absolutely no need or reason to invade. My suspicion - and it is so far-fetched that it is both highly unlikely and eminently probably - is that George Bush Jnr agreed to some neo-con voice whispering in his ear that ‘showing Saddam whose boss’ was the thing to do because it might impress daddy, one George Bush Snr and a former president. As I say, the suggestion is quite ludicrously silly but also not half as daft as it sounds.)
I have heard on the radio and read in the papers the reasons why this stunt by Wikileaks is both very necessary and highly irresponsible, and you know, dear reader, I find I can’t get too excited either way. On the one hand, I find all talk that what Wikileaks has done empowers the voter, advances democracy, is a necessary counter to increasingly high-handed government action and all that kind of thing nothing but overblown, hi’ falutin waffle verging on bullshir. On the other hand, and although it does to a certain extent undermine relations between governments by making them look very silly indeed, it does not harm at all that they should be made to look very silly indeed. There is never the wrong time or place to taking our politicians down a peg or two.
I would also be very surprised indeed if the Americans, the French, the Saudis, the British, the Germans, the Iranians and everyone else were in the slightest bit surprised by what has been revealed. Individuals might be embarrassed, most certainly, but are we really supposed to believe that the foreign ministries of the various different countries were somehow taken by surprise that they weren’t quite has highly esteemed by their counterparts as they thought they were? If diplomats around the world aren’t cynical and highly suspicious, not only of their supposed enemies but also of their supposed allies, they shouldn’t be doing the job. I can’t remember (as though I ever knew) who first claimed that it was a diplomat's job to travel abroad and lie for his country, but it seems to me to be a fair enough job description.
So the suggestion that intelligent men and women in Washington, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, London, Madrid and Rome are in despair because others are saying unkind things about them is more than rather silly. Does Valdimir Putin really give a flying fuck that Chris Patten thought he had ‘killer’s eyes’?
One positive outcome of this whole Wikileaks affair is that the Yanks will undertake a mass cull of staff involved in keeping these communications confidential (‘assistant heads will roll’) and do their very best to ensure that, in future, they do remain confidential. And once the world’s diplomats are satisfied that the opinions and views and whatever tittle-tattle has come their way and which they would very much like to pass on will not be broadcast from the rooftops but will remain entre nous, normal service will quickly and quietly be resumed.
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But what of this Julian Assange chappie? Who he? What’s his game? Is he really some idealist intent on making the world a better place? Are the rape charges against him politically motivated or does he have something to answer for? Answers, please, on the usual postcard (and I shall this time not repeat the usual joke). As for Wikileaks itself, what is its motive? Revealing information which might be ‘in the public interest’? It doesn’t quite ring true, does it? And the revelations it has made and is still making, end up rather flatter than I’m sure their revelation was intended after just a few moments consideration. There are, admittedly, several which are important: the claim that the UK was ‘overruled’ when it objected to the U.S. using British airbases on Cyprus when flying ‘suspects’ off to Hell. It must be very uncomfortable for the world to know that it was ‘overruled’ by the Yanks. I mean, how sovereign is that? Then there is the obvious question as to why we simply didn’t close the airbases to American military traffic. And just how strongly did the UK react when it was ‘overruled’? I get the impression that when it discovered the purpose of these rendition flights, it raised a mild objection (‘It’s not really on, is it, sir? I mean these chaps might be innocent.’), but when the U.S. ‘overruled’, the UK meekly acquiesced. (‘It was just a suggestion, sir.’)
But what of the other revelations? So the Saudis urged Washington to bomb the living shit out of Iran. But it didn’t, so just how important is that revelation? Berlusconi is said to be taking backhanders from Comrade Putin (who has ‘killer eyes’)? Is anyone actually surprised (if it’s true)? Has that claim actually damaged a man who hereunto was regarded as having a character as pure as a baby’s bottom? There’s the claim that Sarkozy is a bit of a prima donna. Are staff at the Elysee Palace shocked that the truth has been revealed. Then there’s the scurrilous rumour that Germany’s Angela Merkel is steady, unimaginative, reliable and risk-averse. My strong suspicion is that - if true - the vast majority of the German voters will be greatly relieved. Who wants a national leader who stays up all night boozing, gambling, whoring and likes to play Russian roulette in his or her spare time? Well, apart from the Italians and the Russians?
Sorry, but do the maths and I’m rather more inclined to give Wikileaks and E for effort than the Nobel Peace Prize. Sorry, chaps.
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I was rather amused by England’s dismay that it wasn’t chosen by Fifa to host the 2018 World Cup. Not weeks earlier our newspapers and television united in an unprecedented attack on the 22 members of the governing body and accused them of being thieves, killers, rapists and — not to make too fine a point — that all too often they behaved in ways which did not behove a gentleman (many have been extraordinarily rude to their tailor). That wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever, said England. Maybe our press and TV did go over the top a tad, but, you know these things happen, don’t they, and anyway it’s all water under the bridge and Fifa has assured us it won’t be held against our bid.
Well, that strikes me as being naive far, far, far beyond the call of duty. For blow me down! Fifa decides not to award the 2018 to England! Up until then, of course, we had been full of it: we won’t get it in the first round of voting, they kept saying, but then that’s not important: in the first round all the utter no-hopers are eliminated and the real business doesn’t start until round two and possibly three. And then, well, then we’ll pick up all the votes we didn’t get in the first round and Bob’s your uncle.
He wasn’t off course. In the event, England won only two of the first round votes - one of which was the vote of its own representative on the board - and off we were sent to join the utter no-hopers. Not even bonny Prince William and the two most important Davids alive today - Beckham and Cameron - could swing it.
In hindsight we should have done what Russia has obviously done and distributed the used fivers where they were wanted. Russia got the nod even though Vladimir Putin, her current prime minister, couldn’t be arsed to fly out from his palace in Moscow to Geneva to shake a few hands. Well, it is now pretty obvious why he didn’t: he knew he didn’t have to. The sports and bribes department of the SVR knows what to do with a few million roubles when needs must, so Vlad stayed home knowing that it was all in the bag even before the vote was taken. And England?
Spain and Portugal also lost out, though they did progress far beyond no-hopers league. I should imagine that - Russian bribes apart - Fifa wasn’t too optimistic that by 2018 Spain and Portugal weren’t provinces of the Greater German Empire, what with the euro doing so remarkably well, and all. I have heard a rumour that our Iberian cousins did try a bribe, but when Blatter and his gang realised it was to be paid in euros not roubles, they lost all interest. Well, that’s understandable, isn’t, it?
England will now have to content itself with knocking six bells out of Australia’s cricket team and bring home the Ashes. Never mind that, by general consent, Australia were ill-advised to make up their squad from the most promising fourth-former of Woolla-Woolla Academy instead of chose players from the ranks of seasoned professionals down under, England has what it takes. And when they do bring home the Ashes, won’t we bloody know about it.
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I have been ever so gently rapped over the knuckles for not splitting my blog entries into a sufficient number of paragraphs. I’m informed that it makes reading the blog just that much harder. So, today’s innovation: more paragraphs. The change will, of course, go through a pilot stage and will be introduced strictly on a trial basis, and if feedback is such that the majority of readers prefer fewer paragraphs, so be it. They will be done away with. But I’m sure you’ll all agree that we should all be forwarding-thinking and embrace change - not for itself, of course, but for the progress it can achieve. And what is life about if it isn’t about progress?