Monday, November 29, 2010

More on Wikileaks

Read a lot of point of views today on how one should interpret the WL dump. Richard Haas at the CFR suggests the dump "confirms more than it informs." While I haven't gone through the documents in any great depth, the cable regarding Egyptian President Mubarak's pointed comments on Iran made for an interesting read, and as one article I saw earlier in the morning pointed out, he can't be too happy about seeing his words all over the internet given his concern for retaliation. The Saudi's concern over Pakistan's leadership and it's efforts to close off terrorism ("when the head is rotten, it affects the whole body") only shines more light on the difficulties the U.S. is facing re: AfPak, and Israel's take on Iran, while not new, is an intriguing read, especially to those of us who support Israel.

Posted early this evening is an article at calling for Secretary Clinton to quit given her role in directing the diplomats spying on diplomats finding. Another article there suggests that the leak will damage transparency going forward. A similar take on government transparency and the fall-out from the leaks was also discussed at HuffPost. The author makes a great point (paraphrasing): whistle-blowing is all about spreading the truth, not to simply hear the sound. In saying this, he argues that WL, in this case, is not engaging in truth-telling the way it did with the last dump re: the two wars, but rather compromising the trust and confidence required between nations to carry out the business of international relations. A pros/cons take can also be found on HuffPost, where the author comments on how well diplomats write, their intelligence, and their humor. But he also stresses the downsides, which are similar to the earlier posts here. And finally, a strong article from argues that Assange is simply anti-american and wants to destroy U.S. foreign policy. But more powerfully, he argues that the dump has not shown the U.S. to be a belligerent party in total as Assange continuously lets on and seemingly wants to expose, but rather places diplomats, friends, and partners in precarious positions and will result in the erosion of the quality of diplomatic reporting and discussion.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weighing in on the newest Wikileaks release

Journalists around the world are clamoring to get their hands on today's Wikileaks release, that of a multitude of cables and documents sent from within the U.S. diplomacy infrastructure, et al. A lot is going to be written in the coming days, as much as has already been written by those newspapers that had advanced copies of the released documents. Personally, I am split between feeling that the U.S. government, our government, deserves this, and the feeling of incredible embarrassment - embarrassment over being an American, born to a country whose institutions are so vast and wide that the government cannot protect its own documents, both from within and from without. I am also embarrassed for what these documents say about the country's allies. While much of it can be pegged as high-level gossip, it is a shame that such 'gossip' would ever see the light of day. How do foreign governments view the U.S. now? We should all be embarrassed.

On the other side of the coin, as one journalist from the Guardian puts it, it's not the media's job to protect the powerful from embarrassment. In fact, it's the other way around, it's the media's job to draw attention to government to avoid government overstepping its bounds. Had this occurred in the run-up to the Iraq war, perhaps there wouldn't be an Iraq war. Which brings me to the next point which is perhaps the most important: Much of this, if not all, is the cascading affect from the Bush administration, in my view.

Had the Bush administration taken great care in its response to the Sept 11th attacks rather than using the attacks as justification for war in Iraq, there wouldn't be a need for a Wikileaks. The controversies over Iraq and Afghanistan continue to haunt the U.S. despite Obama's best efforts to reset the discourse. Even he is now on the wrong side of history given his dedication to the mission in Afghanistan at the great expense of badly needed nation-building at home. Perhaps it is entirely appropriate that a government that lied its country - and several of its allies - into war would suffer this kind of humiliation. Let it be a lesson - the same way the September 11th attacks were a lesson - that no matter how mighty your military is, no matter how sound your economy is, no matter how much power you believe you have, hubris, and the misadventures it fosters, rarely wins in the end.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Occupied Krakow - amateur film

Chilling amateur film from occupied Krakow - unrelated to the 16mm Postcards exhibit. You can clearly see the armbands on the sleeves - especially in the below frame.

Center for Jewish History - 16mm Postcards Exhibit

Through Ruth Ellen Gruber's excellent and informative blog, I discovered this amazing exhibit taking place right under my nose in NYC at the Center for Jewish History. 16MM Postcards brings to life 1930's Poland, in not just the still pictures we are so used to seeing, but in home movies shot by those who were there. Sadly, there is no sound. Imagine how much more we could have learned about these people and their circumstances at the time had the ability to record a home movie in sound existed back then.

The exhibit shows Polish Jews who came to the U.S. returning to visit their relatives still living in Poland. The website text points out a significant development: those who left Poland and have lived in America for some time have a very different look about them. They look 'American' when placed next to their poorer still-living-in-Poland relatives. How they dress, how they carry themselves is familiar to us here in 2010. The move to America and the assimilation to follow has had its impact on them and how they present themselves to the world. It's a fascinating look at how life in America can change a person.

What's also so powerful about these movies is that those still living in Poland would have no idea what's approaching on the horizon. These people would all be gone in another 10 years or so from when these movies were filmed.