Friday, December 03, 2010

Diplomacy and Secrecy

I watched a CBC interview, linked from Greenwald's salon blog.

About half way through that video, a former Canadian diplomat comes on for a interview in which he derides the latest Wikileak as bad for diplomacy. His argument, boiled down, is this:

1. The Indonesian gov't was carrying out horrible human rights abuses against the East Timorese
2. The East Timorese told the Canadian diplomat
3. The Canadian diplomat told the Canadian gov't
4. The Canadian gov't could use this information in negotiations with the torturing, human rights abusing Indonesian gov't.

His argument is basically that, should this path of the information (tortured -> diplomat -> gov't) be broken by a lack of secrecy, it would fall apart. Victims would no longer feel safe to complain. Diplomats like himself would be too scared to report.

Seems reasonable, doesn't it?

Except it's bullshit.

His argument boils down to the idea that I should trust Stephen Harper, Jean Chretien or Paul Martin - under cloak of secrecy - to solve human rights problems the world over.

Really? That's your best argument? That political leaders will do the right thing if we just cover our eyes and ignore them?

I have very little patience for that level of willful stupidity, especially as it comes from someone who ought to know better.

The best thing, Mr. Diplomat, is transparency. You know what stops wars? Seeing little girls burnt by napalm. Seeing helicopters pilots shooting up vans full of Iraqi children. Seeing East Timorese slaughtered and executed by the tens of thousands (which, you'll note was not prevented by our diplomatic cables).

Would I prefer to trust the Internet or the government?

I think you know the answer.

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Anonymous said...

This diplomat's argument is totally wrong. He ignores the fact that Canada was COMPLETELY complicit in the occupation and genocide in East Timor -- by sending weapons to the Indonesian military, by voting against UN resolutions against the occupation, and by increasing economic integration with Indonesia. Canada profited off the Suharto regime, and didn't care about East Timor.

Greg said...

Yeah, the whole thing falls apart at that point.

The case of East Timor is actually an argument against secrecy.

I guess irony is just the way of things when you're a gov't official.