Lit­tle will change

The Pak Banker - - 4editorial - Rafia Zakaria

ON the sleepy Sun­day fol­low­ing the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day in the United States, Wik­iLeaks re­leased nearly quar­ter of a mil­lion diplo­matic dis­patches is­sued be­tween US di­plo­mats and Washington. As with the prior re­leases of doc­u­ments this year, Wik­iLeaks pro­vided the ma­te­rial to me­dia out­lets around the world; from the and to and. The US State Depart­ment had been squea­mish for days in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the re­lease, with Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton per­son­ally con­tact­ing for­eign gov­ern­ments to pro­vide some pre-emp­tive cod­dling. State Depart­ment le­gal ad­vi­sor Harold Koh is­sued a state­ment declar­ing the re­lease a dan­ger­ous act that was likely to en­dan­ger many lives. A terse mis­sive from the White House con­demned "in the strong­est terms the unau­tho­rised dis­clo­sure of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments and sen­si­tive na­tional se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion".

Yet for all the breath­less agony that fol­lowed the re­lease and the sen­sa­tional head­lines that glibly touted the doc­u­ments as per­pet­u­at­ing a "global diplo­matic cri­sis" the ca­bles them­selves pro­vided lit­tle to sub­stan­ti­ate the claims of a catas­tro­phe that had ac­com­pa­nied their re­lease. In­deed, brows­ing the data­base of ca­bles is much like pe­rus­ing the pri­vate diary of a su­per­power, a largely voyeuris­tic plea­sure that af­firms ex­ist­ing be­liefs with the juicy de­tails that add colour and char­ac­ter to oth­er­wise bor­ing diplo­matic machi­na­tions. Of note to Pak­ista­nis is the pro­vi­sion of doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence of Amer­i­can con­ster­na­tion over Pak­istan's nu­clear pro­gramme and the pos­si­bil­ity of highly en­riched ura­nium in Pak­istan's re­search fa­cil­i­ties fall­ing into the hands of ter­ror­ist groups. Adding a hint of spice to this bland snip­pet is a cable de­tail­ing a US diplo­mat's frus­trated mus­ings over whether a rick­shaw driver loi­ter­ing out­side the US em­bassy was surveilling the fa­cil­ity for an at­tack or merely wait­ing for a cus­tomer.

The de­tails are en­gag­ing and even em­bar­rass­ing, ex­pos­ing as they do the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of a su­per­power that the world loves to hate. How­ever, be­yond an ex­er­cise in glee­ful gos­sip, this lat­est re­lease pro­vides lit­tle to pro­mote the ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency that Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange has touted as the rea­son for their re­lease. Guardian New York Times

Ex­cerpts pub­lished by the and re­veal bar­gain­ing with coun­tries like Bul­garia to take on Guan­tanamo de­tainees. Oth­ers re­veal sus­pi­cions of cor­rup­tion af­ter a meet­ing in Kan­da­har with Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai's brother who is widely be­lieved to be in­volved in the drug trade. Yet an­other re­veals ex­ten­sive com­puter hack­ing ef­forts by the Chi­nese and Amer­i­can ef­forts against them. All are en­ter­tain­ing, per­haps marginally damn­ing; none, how­ever, pro­vide any of the sort of in­for­ma­tion that is likely to change the sta­tus quo in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

When Wik­iLeaks first emerged un­der the in­ter­na­tional me­dia spot­light in Au­gust with the in­for­ma­tion the leaks pro­vided about Afghanistan and Iraq it was touted as a game changer. In re­al­ity, lit­tle changed in the af­ter­math of the ini­tial leaks. The Amer­i­can pub­lic, al­ready fed up with the war in Afghanistan, merely shrugged, sighed and con­tin­ued to worry about the Amer­i­can econ­omy.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, res­o­lute in main­tain­ing its sched­ule for with­drawal from Afghanistan, stepped up the use of drones and be­gan to pur­sue ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Tal­iban. Un­like rev­e­la­tions of old, such as news of the mas­sacre of civil­ians at Mei Lei dur­ing the Viet­nam War, the in­for­ma­tion pro­pounded in the doc­u­ments did not bring Amer­i­cans to the streets in protest. The plug on the Afghan war, Amer­i­cans seemed to con­clude, had al­ready been pulled. other

If there is a punch in the cur­rent cache of doc­u­ments pro­vided by the en­ter­pris­ing hack­ers of Wik­iLeaks, it lies in the kind of con­fi­dences that world lead­ers are will­ing to be­stow on US di­plo­mats around the world. Most no­table among these are the di­a­logues of Arab lead­ers, from Saudi King Ab­dul­lah to Emi­rati princes to Egyp­tian of­fi­cials all col­lec­tively egging the US to pur­sue an at­tack against Iran, a fel­low Mus­lim state.

Dec­la­ra­tions about the sol­i­dar­ity of the Mus­lim world seem to have evap­o­rated in these vit­riol-filled de­nun­ci­a­tions which char­ac­terise Iran as a snake that must be de­cap­i­tated by the US. Cap­tured in de­tail, these state­ments pro­vide a lurid glimpse of the self-serv­ing pan­der­ing of lead­ers who are quick to don the garb of piety for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses but care lit­tle for the rav­ages of war that would be vis­ited on Ira­nian Mus­lims if their re­quests were hon­oured.

What makes the Wik­iLeaks rev­e­la­tions im­po­tent is not their con­tent but the con­text in which they are re­vealed. Just as de­tails of the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan failed to elicit any sig­nif­i­cant anti-war sen­ti­ment in the US, rev­e­la­tions of the hypocrisy and du­plic­ity of coun­tries like Saudi Ara­bia are un­likely to stir Mus­lim masses around the world from re­con­sid­er­ing their blind adu­la­tion of all things Saudi.

Mus­lims masses, eas­ily pro­voked into protests against the US, are un­likely to re­con­sider their po­si­tion in the light of choices made by coun­tries like Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Ara­bia all of whom ap­pear to have opted for the covert sup­port of Is­rael and the United States against Iran. In a world where the clash of civil­i­sa­tions de­fines ev­ery­thing and peo­ple pick and choose their truths, even doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence to the con­trary is un­likely to dis­lodge these cher­ished ha­treds.

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