Air and radio waves, undersea cables, printer’s ink have all been in a frenzy since 28 November 2010 when the website Wikileaks and five major newspapers published leaked United States diplomatic cables. The documents detailing correspondence between the US State Department and its diplomatic missions worldwide have laid bare the hitherto well-sheathed world of diplomacy to reveal one of intrigue, deception, games, and gossip.
The cables from the Riyadh desk alone would be sufficient to stage a psychedelic multi-star soap opera that crisscrosses the world at a thrillerish pace. Act I opens with a wealthy sheikh imploring his American patron to “cut off the head of the snake” which is their common enemy and is “unbalanced, crazy even” as he races to develop a nuclear weapon. Thereafter, the sheikh’s oleaginous neighbours join in chorus – the enemy “is Hitler” who “wants to restore the Persian empire”– and advise the Americans that “Iraq was unnecessary, Iran is necessary”.
In Act II, the enemy President finds the US “a country that is overstretched and in difficulty as a result of too many commitments” and commands that “Iran’s centrifuges are working day and night”.
The final act sees the Americans wanting to “engage” the enemy, a stance that makes its European and Arab allies skittish. They fear, in turn, that “the US is preparing to take commercial advantage of a new relationship with Iran” and might “strike a grand bargain without prior consultations”
Religious differences, deep distrust and disparate motives crackle through the narrative as the players dressed variously in jellabiya, thobe, suits, and head scarves shoot off their mouth, exchange surreptitious glances, spy covertly and woo overtly – a multiculti oil opera delivered for easy consumption in the globe’s first language, English.
The Finale closes the saga of greed and ambition on an ominous note as an oleaginous party intones: “Any culture that is patient and focused enough to spend years working on a single carpet is capable of waiting years and even decades to achieve its goals. The worry is not how much we know about Iran, but how much we don’t”.
Curtain Call. Thunderous applause. Ain’t it some?
FYI: Instalment 2 of the Multiculti Oil Opera is work-in-progress until Julian Assange decides to pull the plug, again, of the leaky US cauldron.
What! You can’t wait; the suspense is killing you?
Julian’s got Interpol, the Swedish Sergeants, the British Police, Mastercard, Paypal, even Amazon on his case as the US persists with arm-twisting its cronies worldwide to muzzle a man who has dared to speak. Haven’t you learnt anything from the Iranians – patience, focus, carpet-weaving, take your pick.
That the US is persecuting Julian Assange is in no doubt. As he said in his article, they are focusing on Wikileaks since it is young and small while the 5 established newspapers – The New York Times in US, Le Monde in France, The Guardian in Britain, Der Spiegel in Germany, El Pais in Spain – which published the cables as well are old and large.
Assange is not popular with the Americans. Look at the vitriol he has attracted. Sarah Palin has called him a “terrorist”. “The CIA should have already killed Julian Assange,” says John Hawkins on the Right Wing News site. William Kristol, former chief of staff to vice president Dan Quayle, asks, “Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are?”
Recently the US has also exhibited its particular brand of righteous rage with China over its treatment of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, who is a dissident under house arrest. China has barred Liu from attending the prize ceremony in Norway. In response US lawmakers have gone ballistic: "China should be ashamed and China should be embarrassed to be in the company of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Burma." At the ceremony Speaker Nancy Pelosi will represent the US and her presence “would send a powerful message” to China’s democracy advocates.
However, the US’s shimmering avatar of Defender of Democracy & Human Rights has lost its sheen. A decade after 9/11 the world knows better and the world has moved on. If the cables reveal one thing, it is that the US practises a cloak and dagger diplomacy commanding its diplomats to spy on host nations and steal personal human material and information; arm twists allies like Sweden which hides from its Parliament that it shares intelligence with US; and ensures Britain fixes its Iraq enquiry to protect “US interests”.
And Wikileaks is just one source.
Naomi Klein in her brilliant book, Shock Doctrine, has already detailed how the US has historically used an overt model of capitalism and democracy to upend governments in pursuit of its own covert interests. Its playgrounds have included Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973, the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Asian Financial crisis in 1997 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998. You can add Iraq and Afghanistan to the list.
On an Oprah Winfrey show post 9/11 a grieving American woman asked: Why did they hate us so much? It is a question the Americans and the US government and lawmakers need to ask of themselves as they quiver with outrage at China, calling it names, while simultaneously hounding a journalist who has used the same freedom of expression that they are espousing worldwide.
The world can see this disconnect, this schizophrenia, and its time the patient sat himself down for some soul searching. Introspection would help connect the dots. It could begin with A for Afghanistan.
The world does not hate the US. What should concern the US more is if its economic downslide and the simultaneous growth of BRIC will render the world indifferent to it. As the prescient Ghalib said: bekhudi besabab nahin Ghalib, kuch to hai jis ki pardadari hai.
The indifference is not without cause, Ghalib
There is a reason why the disconnect exists.