The announcement last week that 250,000 secret documents of the US State Department are to be released to the public on the internet, knocked off most of the news stories making the headlines, including the engagement of the second-in-line to the British throne Prince William, to his attractive partner Kate Middleton.
A few weeks earlier too there was a release of secret WikiLeaks cables but that did not cause much outrage against the United States as anticipated.
Only a part of the 250,000 cables that are reported to have been accessed by a low ranking Army Intelligence Officer, Bradley Manning and passed on to WikiLeaks Blog Founder, Julian Assange, have been published and they do not seem to have the potential to cause much damage to America’s international relations although there will be embarrassments.
Sri Lanka — old hat
The cable relating to Sri Lanka is much of the same class as cables relating to other countries because much of what has been said by the American Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Patricia Butenis on Sri Lanka is old hat, not news and have already been discussed openly by the Sri Lankan media. Butenis’s cable of January 15 holds President Mahinda Rajapaksa responsible for last year’s massacre of Tamil civilians.
Britain’s Guardian quoted Ambassador Butenis saying that one of the reasons there was little progress towards a genuine Sri Lankan inquiry on war crimes was that President Rajapaksa and former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka were largely responsible. The Ambassador seems to be even providing an excuse for Sri Lanka not holding an investigation. She says, “There are no examples we know of a regime undertaking a detailed investigation of its own troops or senior officials for war crimes while that regime or government remains in power.”
Commenting on the UN initiated inquiry into alleged war crimes, the Ambassador says any overt foreign push for prosecutions would be counter productive. Such an approach however would seem to play into the hands of super-heated campaign rhetoric of President Rajapaksa and his allies that there is an international conspiracy against Sri Lanka and its war heroes.
That is a point that this columnist has repeatedly made before saying that criticism by Western nations of the alleged violation of human rights by the Rajapaksa government would only send his popularity in the country, particularly in the South, spiraling sky high.
Diplomacy and espionage
Allegations that US diplomats were asked to spy on foreign diplomats and gather information seems somewhat naïve. Diplomats are generally considered as those ‘gathering information’. There is a very thin dividing line — at least in this region between diplomacy and espionage.
Another ‘revelation’ in the cables seems to be that former British Foreign Minister David Miliband was backing the Tamil diaspora, numbering about 300,000 in Britain for the purposes of gathering votes at the last British general elections. No secret cables are required because the Sri Lankan media have been screaming at British Labour Party leaders, including David Miliband, that they were judging the Sri Lankan issue solely for garnering the Tamil vote at the elections.
US diplomatic cables cited by the New York Times revealed American concerns about the security of the Pakistani nuclear stockpile for the manufacturing of nuclear weapons and the possibility of Islamic militants having access to them. The possibility of blue prints for nuclear weapons leaking out from the Pakistan establishment has been raised.
This is once again old hat because the Americans have been often repeating the same security concerns in their media for the past few years.
Some of the leaked cables would undoubtedly cause much embarrassment to President Obama. It was only last month that he received an ovation in the Indian parliament when he assured India of his country’s support for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. But his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is quoted in a secret cable referring to India as “A self-appointed front runner for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.”
India however, has too much at stake for continuing good relations with America. Its reaction to WikiLeaks has been: “We prefer not to comment on WikiLeaks which are purportedly of privileged internal US government assessments and correspondences.”
The cables have also gross insulting references to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his inner circle, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel for her Teflon style, King of Saudi Arabia requesting that Iran be bombed and his comments on Iranian President’s head being rotten and affecting the rest of the body, while French President Sarkozy has been called ‘An emperor without clothes’.
However the cables raise the serious issue of secret intelligence operations being made against principal figures in the UN including the secretary general and permanent representatives of the Security Council. Some commentators have said that this is a serious diplomatic outrage and a breach of international law.
However, commentators have said that the released cables viewed, reveal that there is little difference between what the United States says and what it does. While all countries speak of their highfalutin morality and impeccable standards, diplomacy quite often descends to skullduggery in the extreme. America is still the unchallenged superpower of the world — at least militarily and although the WikiLeaks may have resulted in some of its shine being lost, it is unlikely to suffer any serious damage in its international relations.