Say what you will about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks—and plenty has been said about them. Because of them a window has been opened on foreign relations in an age of international intrigue, conflict, terrorism and open warfare.
We may not like how that window got opened; we may or may not like what we see through that open window and we may be offended by the fetor entering our home through that open window, it is an undeniable fact that the window has been slammed wide open.
As the world watches Libyan despot Col Muhammar el-Qadaffi desperately cling to power through sheer terror and carnage and as the other dictator next door, Hosin Mubarak, has been unceremoniously dethroned by the Egyptian people, diplomatic cables obtained and released by WikiLeaks—and addressed in the New York Times— reveal intimate and sordid details—both official and personal—about these men, their families and their regimes.
We all remember the praise we heaped on Qaddafi when, in 2003, he abandoned his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. A cable describes Senator Lieberman, during a visit to Libya in 2009, telling Qaddafi and his “party loving national security adviser” that Libya was “an important ally in the war on terrorism, noting that common enemies sometimes make better friends.”
The “party loving national security adviser” is none other than Muatassim, son of Qadaffi, called by his brother, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, a “big spender,” after Seif al-Islam himself was accused of paying Mariah Carey $1 million to sing “just four songs at a at a bash on the Caribbean island of St. Barts.”
According to the same cable reporting those juicy details, Muatassim had “demanded $1.2 billion in 2008 from the chairman of Libya’s national oil corporation, reportedly to establish his own militia. That would let him keep up with yet another brother, Khamis, commander of a special-forces group that ‘effectively serves as a regime protection unit.’”
The cables provide a good insight into the despotism, nepotism, corruption and dysfunction of the Qadaffi clan, antics that in recent years “have reached Libyans despite Col. Qaddafi’s tight control of the media[,] have added to the public anger now boiling over,” and into tensions between siblings that “could emerge as a factor in the chaos in the oil-rich African country.”
Similar diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks have provided a window into the mindset of another so-called close ally, Hosni Mubarak.
According to several sources that have seen and published such cables, while the U.S. may have been disappointed by the recent turn of events in Egypt, it should not have been surprised.
One source says:
The memos also make clear that the Egyptian leader resisted repeated, behind-the-scenes US appeals for increased democracy, seeing them as a threat to his leadership and a boost to internal rivals, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mr. Mubarak also viewed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq as “an unmitigated disaster”, which bolstered the regional influence of Iran, a country that he sees “as the greatest strategic threat to the Middle East”.
Another source provides a series of cables “concerning U.S.-Egyptian relations, which may help further understand and add context to the current uprising gripping Egypt…”
Love them or hate them, condemn them or praise them, it is undeniable that the WikiLeaks have indeed opened a window to the public into the most confidential aspects of our foreign relations. Perhaps more important, the leaks may lead us to question why, knowing what it did, our government seems so often to be taken by surprise by world events—does so little with that knowledge.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.