That popping noise you heard this morning was the sound of Wikileaks’ “bombshell” release of several hundred “secret” U.S. diplomatic cables, which informed us that:
- the Pakistanis are not to be trusted,
- Karzai is a crook,
- Saudi Arabian money bankrolls Al Qaeda,
- Arab leaders think Ahmadinejad is nuts,
- we spy on people, and
- Muslims drink.
Okay, it was more like a string of firecrackers, really, but not for lack of self-promoting hype from the the publishers of the leaked cables, which included the New York Times and the UK Guardian. The Guardian’s headline reads:
US Embassy Cables Leak Sparks Global Diplomatic Crisis
which is a terrible thing, to be sure — but why? How? Do you mean diplomats didn’t already know all this? Their wives did. So did their chauffeurs. Frankly, we would be amazed if they weren’t laughing themselves silly right now.
Then Reuters chimes in with:
The expected release of classified U.S. documents by Wikileaks will be the “9/11 of world diplomacy,” Italy’s foreign minister said Sunday….
Really? That’s pretty strong stuff, 9/11’s being what they are. This doesn’t seem to have quite the same — impact? Yes, the Saudi king calling for airstrikes on Iran could create some tension, but he will of course deny it, and they will of course pretend to believe him. Lying is not only not a sin in the diplomatic world, it is a tradition of long standing, and necessarily so.
The Times resorted to its traditional self-righteous public exegesis of its reasons for printing this tempest in a teapot, noting that it had submitted those cables it planned to print to the White House for approval. Shades of the Ministry of Truth. Did the Times, way back when it was actually a newspaper, submit Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon papers prior to publication? Um, no….
The Times did note in passing that it pondered mightily on the propriety of publishing this international gossip column, but concluded that “to ignore this material would be to deny its own readers the the careful reporting and thoughtful analysis they expect.” If this sounds a bit smug and self-laudatory, well, that’s because it is — it’s just kind of surprising that the Times would actually let itself get caught out in such an embarrassing display of adolescent conceit.
Still, one thing intrigues us, which was the assertion that one Ahmed Zia Massoud, the Vice President of Afghanistan, traveled to the United Arab Emirates carrying $52 million. In cash.
Knowing that someone would have already researched what kind of package $52 million smackers would look like, we simply entered “$52 million in cash” on Google, and were immediately rewarded by one “kpete” on the “Democratic Underground” log with:
“…one would need a suitcase measuring about 1.2 yards in each dimension to carry $52,000,000 in $100 bills. A footlocker type of trunk might measure 1 yd x 0.5 yd x 0.5 yd, so you would need about seven such trunks.”
Seven footlockers of hundreds? What for? Were his credit cards maxed out? Was he going shopping for submarines? Who in what unhallowed hell needs that kind of cash?
We can see it now: Karzai walks into Massoud’s office through a side door and says, “Um, Ahmed, our friends from the poppyfields want to make a little deposit at UBS in Abu Dhabi. Would you mind….?”
Now, this is the kind of thing that could stir up trouble. Of course, Mr. Massoud denies it. And everyone will pretend to believe him, except Mrs. Massoud, who will be keeping a very close eye in the future on the luggage.