Diplomatic ramblings

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For there is nothing covered up which is not going to be exposed, nor anything private which is not going to be made public. Whatever you may say in the dark will be heard in daylight, and whatever you whisper within four walls will be shouted from the house-tops. Luke 12:2-3

I’m not sure about you but I find this one of the most terrifying of all statements attributed to Jesus Christ.  As someone not afraid of expressing an opinion, it’s haunting to think that some of the things said behind closed doors and in dark corners may one day see the light of day.  There’s not much I can do about the past, but whenever I’m on a verbal roll and this verse comes to mind,  it quickly makes me take stock.

Which brings me to the kerfuffle about WikiLeaks releasing sensitive and confidential US State Department documents today.

In the early 1990s I had the dubious privilege of being part of the annual intake of university graduates put on a fast-track to middle management in the Australian Public Service via their Graduate Administrative Assistant (GAA) program.  I was lobbed into the then Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET), but into one of their fringe units, the International Division, smallest of nine Departmental Divisions.

We were something of a novelty act for mainstream DEET.  The penny had just dropped that the provision of education services could be a major export and revenue earner for Australia and we were charged to grow ties between nations in our region, promote Australia as a destination for overseas students and find nations wishing to purchase Australia’s intellectual capital.  Most of my time was spent on the last of those pursuits, primarily under the banner of the infant Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

A novelty we may have been to DEET, but we were well-known to, and worked very closely with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).  And by virtue of this we were included in the DFAT Cable Service which meant wads of diplomatic cables would lob into our office on a daily basis.  At the time it seemed ridiculous as we had a fairly low-level security clearance and our office wasn’t wonderfully secure, but we’d receive (albeit photocopied) cables up to a “Confidential” and “Sensitive” level.

Julian Assange - Dishing the dirt

Dull days weren’t hard to come by which allowed for extensive perusal of these cables, and at times it seemed they were little more than an opportunity for puerile slander.  Given its more than 15 years ago specifics elude me, but it was not uncommon to have one’s breath taken away by the content we’d see.  One thing that stands out though was the special derision reserved for Hilary Clinton‘s efforts to roll out a new health system in husband Bill’s first Presidential term.

The tone of the cables was very much that Bill Clinton was guilty of peeking out from behind his wife’s skirts while she muddled her way through a flawed program in an attempt to create a legacy for herself.  It’s kinda funny in light of the shock and horror of the WikiLeaks cables including Hillary Clinton’s thoughts on other world leaders.  If only I’d kept a copy of what the Australian Foreign Service had to say about Hilary!

I’ll confess there’s a part to me secretly (well not so secretly now) amused by the extreme form of accountability being provided by Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks team.  My experience of it left me with an impression that the diplomatic scene is not much more than a duplicitous and catty game.  WikiLeaks is about to pull their pants down around their ankles in a very public way.

Amusing until I remember – “Whatever you may say in the dark will be heard in daylight, and whatever you whisper within four walls will be shouted from the house-tops”.

A loss of the trousers is not far away from any one of us. 

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2 Responses to Diplomatic ramblings

  1. Jenni says:

    was thinking the same! There is another side to the debate: – good ol Noam Chomsky points it out- something those of us who worked with DFAT are familiar with!
    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/11/30/noam_chomsky_wikileaks_cables_reveal_profound

    • mzilikazi says:

      Heya Jenni. I thought you’d stumble accross this eventually. Our reading of the cables used to be great fun! Most of them benign and banal (which I’d imagine applies to 95% of the ones in WikiLeaks possession) but amongst the dross were some real pearlers. Thankfully I escaped the clutches of DFAT (and the opportunity to work in Crean’s Parliamentary office!!!)

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