Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Here's a great post, covering (in more depth) some of the themes I touched on here.

The diplomat in question gave an interview some months ago :

But anyway, here’s the part where the story he told a year ago starts to diverge from his story of last week:

I would go out every couple of months to silently bear witness, to talk to the nuns very furtively, to find out what the latest atrocity was, (or human rights abuse), to record what was actually happening on the ground and report that back up to Ottawa and our permanent mission in New York. It was very depressing and very upsetting, and a very futile exercise as a junior diplomat.

Catch all that? Reporting atrocities to Ottawa was a “futile exercise”; instead of giving his government “the ammunition it needed,” Gilmore’s point is that recording what was actually happening on the ground was “to bear silent witness,” an experience of the uselessness of diplomacy which upset and depressed him. He’s telling a story of his disillusionment with the foreign service.


Nice conclusion too.

I don’t know how to highly to value that proof; I’m not sure whether Wikileaks just adds to a store of knowledge that we already have or if it represents something new. But the idea that it’s a bad thing to know more about the how the governments that act in our names actually behave is laughable, and the idea that impeding their ability to act secretly prevents them from advancing the cause of justice and human rights, it seems to me, is utterly without merit. There may be a human rights argument against what Wikileaks does; it may be that they’ve been sloppy in the data they’ve released. But given how many times I’ve seen that charge laid at their feet, and how completely unsupported by any credible evidence it has been, without exception, I’m not willing to give people like Gilmore the benefit of the doubt. If anyone has actual examples of a time when government secrecy was used for something other than exerting force in support of self-interest, I’d like to hear it. But until then, I’m going to continue to assume, as usual, that the only check on the amorality of the state is a moral citizenry. And the only way that citizens can act as a check on the state’s amorality is when they know what their government is doing. Hiding cables from the public does the opposite of accomplishing that.

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