The information leaked in Cablegate -- or Wikileaks -- in spite of Assange's
self importance, is much more ground affirming than ground shaking. That is not
to say the nature of the act of leaking these documents for the entire world to
view (as opposed to select news outlets) is not unprecedented but the
substance itself is not all that revealing. There are embarrassing remarks here
and there like the "Batman and Robin" comment about Putin and Medvedev and the
caricatures of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Covers were blown. Foreign
officials were betrayed. Some contacts, like the German Foreign Minister's Chief of
Staff, have been sacked over the leak. Secretary Clinton has every right to be
upset. Still, unlike the Pentagon Papers to which "cablegate" has been compared, what you won't find among the quarter-million documents is much of anything
that we did not already know or suspect.
For those of us who care to chase down and look at the leaks themselves, we are given a rare opportunity to view how the intelligence apparatus works. Essentially, the cables are reports from embassies or chat between operatives addressing various situations. What might be striking for those of us living in the deluge of biased and distorted news is the honesty and balance of these reports. The cables are frank, honest, straightforward and present a balanced assessment emphasizing the need to get to the truth of the matter.
This is just good reporting. Of course, it really should not surprise anyone that people charged with providing "facts on the ground" are actually delivering those facts. They are just doing their job. While it might find offer some comfort in knowing that our intelligence apparatus is professional and competent, it is no reason to feel too comfortable about our foreign policy as a whole. While the critical thinking and reporting of our intelligence operatives could inform good decisions by our leaders, it relies on the intelligence of our policy makers to do so. That is where the system breaks down.
We have witnessed, especially during the last administration, how little facts weigh in the minds of ideologues. There was evidence that Al Qaeda was going to attack us before 9/11. It was ignored. Joe Wilson called out the false yellow-cake assertion that helped make the case for invading Iraq. He was ignored. His wife was outed as a CIA operative.
The distorted and myopic foreign policy vision of those within the Bush Administration was not entirely their fault. It was the fault of the American people who elected them. It was also the fault of the news media. They failed to do what the intelligence operatives in those cables did. They failed to investigate the facts critically. This may be the essence of one of the biggest lessons we can learn from looking at the Wikileak cables ourselves. How facts are valuable and how crucial critical thinking is. How much more we can learn about a subject when an argument is presented along with its dissent.
As the soaring ratings for Fox News continue to prove that Americans prefer their "news" packaged in their beliefs, the future bodes ill for America. We have become lazy and are allowing our opinions to be spoon-fed to us. We are better than that. We need our facts. We need critical thinking. Like it or not, we need to hear the other side of the argument.
Serious problems require serious solutions. We live in a time when bad decisions will cost us dearly. Unfortunately, as things get worse we are likely to be propelled into a downward spiral. As people become angrier, they give rein to their emotions and facts become even more irrelevant. Things get worse.
Perhaps we need Wikileaks. We certainly need more raw data and less spin. We desperately need a voice that presents the facts and the arguments without judgment. We need to raise that voice on our shoulders so its voice can rise above the cacophony of spin and hype so people can think for themselves. Unfortunately, I don't think we can expect the corporate media to do that for us. Dry and accurate reporting gets bad ratings. We need to do it ourselves.