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Winkie, wacky and wiki leaks

2 December 2010

Wikileaks CEO Julian Assange may be an imperfect human being, but — with governments simultaneously denying that his publications of U.S. State Department cables are important beyond a glimpse of the petty gossip in which diplomats indulge and simultaneously trying to claim the guy committed “treason” or “espionage” (based on a U.S. law that hasn’t been used since about 1920) — there’s a lot of interest in finding the guy, and in painting him in the worst possible light. Whether he’s a good journalist, a gossip monger or just a cyber-punk, the only really bad thing you can say is that he’s a serial leaker. There is an arrest warrant out for him, stemming from an an unrelated unauthorized leak that I suppose presumably could be considered a criminal offense. NYTimes:

According to accounts the women gave to the police and friends, they each had consensual sexual encounters with Mr. Assange that became nonconsensual. One woman said that Mr. Assange had ignored her appeals to stop after a condom broke. The other woman said that she and Mr. Assange had begun a sexual encounter using a condom, but that Mr. Assange did not comply with her appeals to stop when it was no longer in use. Mr. Assange has questioned the veracity of those accounts.

Despite reports to the contrary (and they say Assange is a bad journalist?) there is no such thing as an “Interpol Most Wanted List”.  There is, however,  an Interpol “Red Notice” … something more along the lines of a request from one state’s police to other police agencies to find a “person of interest”. And Assange is certainly an interesting person. So interesting in fact, that Tracy Eaton (“Along the Malecon”), not satisfied with mundane reality like the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister’s off-the-cuff remarks to a reporter that Assange would be welcome in his country (nothing official, according to President Correa), comes up with some cock-and-bull scenario in which Assange is likely to flee to Cuba — not that anyone has said anything about his looking for political asylum, or having to consider it.  And there’s no reason to suppose the guy has any interest in Cuba.  Seriously,  Cuba?  Don’t think so:  not for the reasons Eaton comes up with ( the leaked documents don’t put the present Cuban government in a very good light, and besides, Cuba might want good relations with the U.S. some day), but for the simple reason that Assange is a cyber geek, and Cuba is about the worst place on the planet a cyber-geek could  work.

With the possible exception of Paraguay.  As someone mentioned in a comment the other day, even Paraguay’s largest city, Asuncíon, has maybe advanced socially  into the 1970s.  Oh, I know they have computers and telephones in Asuncíon now, but it’s not exactly the on the cutting edge of science and technology.  Which makes the U.S. Embassy’s search for “biometric data, to include fingerprints, facial images, iris scans, and DNA, on [candidates for the Paraguayan presidency in 2008].”  Uh, yeah… Paraguayan politicans are likely to leave their iris scans just sitting around the campaign office.  This kind of James Bondish insanity seemed to affect the U.S. diplomats in Asuncíon quite a bit.  When they weren’t running around looking for Hezbollah in the Chaco (something U.S. diplomats in Brazilia and Buenos Aires were also trying to find to no avail), they seem to have spent their time looking… for some excuse to keep spying just to justify a spy budget, or to justify a preconceived policy, or — most likely — because they can.

I have to give credit where credit is due.  Adrianne Pines’ “” has managed to keep the snark factor down to a minimum not just on this particularly wacky leak, but also on several unfortunate publications from U.S. “strategic” thinkers.  Pines has been publishing, without comment, some of the strange straight reports on not just this wacky leak, but wacky leaks from  another embarrassment for the United States, the FIU-SOUTHCOM Academic Partnership.

Florida International University is a state of Florida public university, ot some “international” body.  SOUTHCOM is the United States Southern Command, the “unified combattant command” of the Department of Defense, responsible for repressing Latin America since 1903.  Together they produce papers on “strategic culture”, defined as:

“the combination of internal and external influences and experiences – geographic, historical, cultural, economic, political and military – that shape and influence the way a country understands its relationship to the rest of the world, and how a state will behave in the international community.” However, as Adrienne notes about their documents it is clear that a more accurate definition would be “strategic propaganda for the creation of hegemonic political ideology favorable to U.S. economic and military interests”.

One recent paper, calling out for snark, unapologetically speaks in terms that haven’t been seriously used … since about 1903.

…one of the most publicized elements contributing to the formation of the Chilean character” is the crossbreeding between wild and aboriginal warriors, who fought a long struggle, and a type of Spanish conquistador, who knowingly came to Chile to face a formidable enemy. Hence, it is the origin of the assertion that Chile is comprised of a people with an aptitude or predisposition for war.

The FIU-SOUTHCOM Chilean study goes beyond the old-fashioned “national characteristics” nonsense into apples and oranges territory in its attempts to justify economic control.

It is instructive to compare the growth of Chile’s economy with that of Mexico after the 1981 recession since both countries suffered from financial crisis and major recessions. Chile enacted the policy of letting the inefficient and unproductive firms, including banks and other financial institutions perish, leading to a more efficient transfer of capital to the more productive elements of the economy. Mexico, on the other hand, did not make the adjustments and only after the crisis of 1995 did it begin to privatize the banking system.

Leaving aside the minor factoid that Chile was a rather nasty military dictatorship at the time, the dictatorship having been fostered by the U.S. State Department specifically to undo the economic system in place before the 11 September 1973 coup, the statement only makes sense as an attempt to whitewash military intervention (in Mexico, too?) and justify imposing a particular economic policy on other countries… including Mexico.

Or, as Otto (Inca Kola News) suggest in a post on a rather hilarious leaked cable inquiring about the condition of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ nasal passages (I’m not making this up), there’s a simple explanation for the discomfort felt in Washington over the spillage of diplomatic ejaculations from around the world:

The USA really doesn’t have the first clue about Bolivia, even at a diplomatic level. Here’s a dude writing his letters home from the La Paz Embassy talking about Bolivia’s “quickly crumbling economy”. Jeeez! For one thing Bolivia’s “crumbling economy “just happened to be the number one best performing economy in the whole of The Americas in 2009 and for another, the economic policies have continued to this day, giving Bolivia a decent growth forecast for 2010. Currency reserves are at an all-time record, its trade surplus is excellent and the acid test of any country, its currency, shows strength all round, with the crawling peg recently ratcheted up a notch and Bolivians, for the first time ever, holding more savings in local currency than in the US Dollar. No wonder US policymakers get the country so wrong: they’re informed by utter dumbasses.

Dumbasses about covers it. Miguel Octavio, the anti-Chavista (and anti-Wikileakista) author of the always readable Venezuelan blog, “The Devil’s Excrement” finds himself “outed” in one cable and gives the impression that — being quoted saying something his said several times on his blog — that the wikileaked cables show more ineptitude and complete incomprehension of foreign countries and cultures than anything substantial. As to being the “victim” of the leak, Octavio writes, “About the main revelation from the wikileaked cable is that I have a Ph.D. in Physics, something that many readers may not know.”

Of course, we have only seen (as of my writing) only about 600 of the 2500+ cables, and none from Mexico (one is listed as coming from the U.S. Ambassador in Mexico City, but dealing with a Pakistani issue, it may be mislabeled. Of course, the U.S. Ambassador at the time was former Texas political hack Tony Garza, who sounded off on a lot of things not in his area of expertise, so who knows how it got here). Jorge Casteñeda, who is considered more a Mexico expert outside Mexico than within, thinks the leaks are a trove of “gossip” for historians and academics, but doesn’t expect much will be revealed by mining those 2500 promised Mexican cables.

Carmen Aristegui quotes El Financiero’s investigative reporter, Dolia Estévez — a Mexican makes it her business to talk to experts who Mexicans see as experts, and let them talk about what they actually know — reports that sources who have been contacted by the U.S. State Department in anticipation of the damage that will result from disclosure.  They cannot say for certain, but aside from some cables of probably only historic interest (going back to 1966 during the height of the Cold War, when Mexico City was vying with West Berlin for spy-v-spy capital of the world) that sources “hope” the Administration has prepared a good response to what should be “explosive” material.

… in 1994, the consulate in Hermosillo alleged that Manlio Fabio Beltrones, then governor of Sonora and currently a Senator, was allied with narco-gangs and, according to a consular source, was a cocaine user. Estévez adds that the story is unconfirmed, but is of the type of information to be expected [from the Mexican-based cables].

She said the material likely also includes information from U.S. intelligence reports on the UN representatives from Mexico in 2003 and 2004, t also could get information on U.S. intelligence made during 2003 and 2004, and the Fox administration but could include more recent information. (my translation)

Dumbasses in the consulates are nothing new in Mexico (or anywhere in Latin America, or on Planet Earth), but — with a presidential election in the offing, and growing discontent with the U.S. proxy war against narcotics traffickers, coupled with the always barely beneath the surface sense that the gringos are crazy, the results are unpredictable.  Given historical trends, leaks from U.S. embassies have had negative impacts on U.S. policy, and U.S.  Embassy initiatives, based on “dumbass” calculations and thinking in terms of “national characteristics” have led to tragedy before and may again.

Maybe I’m just perversely interested in the “historical gossip”, but given my sense that Mexico has failed to thrive as it should compared to other Latin American countries because of too close ties to the United States, the leaks are going to be, as Aristegui said, “explosive”.  Perhaps orgasmic.

Mexico may have entered into consensual relations with the United States, but something broke a long time ago.  With that leak,  there’s every chance of infecting the body politics, or in impregnating the citizenry with an even more cynical view of their government than they already have.   Perhaps it’s too late to pull out, but Mexico will be within its rights to feel used, and to see that relationship as abusive.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 December 2010 8:38 am

    Thanks for reading Along the Malecon.
    You make a good point about Cuba not being an ideal place for a cyber-leaker. I agree.
    For the record, I never suggested that it is “likely” that Assange will wind up in Cuba.
    I suggested the opposite of that. I wrote, “…I doubt Cuban officials would offer refuge to Assange…”
    Tracey Eaton

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