Evans or Wikileaks: an easy choice

[Published in the Phnom Penh Post on 16 September 2011. A response to an article by Gareth Evans, Australian foreign minister from 1988 to 1996 and now chancellor of the Australian National University.]

Gareth Evans, having progressed from washed-up politician to university chancellor, evidently feels that his attack on Wikileaks (Post, September 14) needs to enlighten us with philosophical profundities such as “But life will go on, because it has to”. Thanks for that wisdom, Gareth: let’s all have it carved on our tombstones.

This and similarly patronizing drivel, which takes up a large part of Evans’ half page, is a necessary evasion. Evans has to be evasive because he is trying to convince the reader of something that is untrue. To the limited extent that it contains a logical argument, the article’s claim is: too much exposure of what they are doing can compromise our well-meaning governments’ attempts to make everything better for all of us.

 But the real impact of the Wikileaks documents comes not from the disclosure that diplomats sometimes use rude words to refer to foreign officials. It comes from the clear evidence that the US government is not at all well meaning, but is out to advance US business interests at all times, no matter how much lying, cheating, torture and killing this may require. The documents make it clear that the same is true of US-allied governments like Australia’s, although the evidence is not so extensive, since the leaks involved only US government cables.

Evans’ own political career was irreparably damaged by the pre-Wikileaks disclosure of his champagne toast with Indonesian generals over the Australian-Indonesian agreement jointly to steal East Timor’s oil resources. If Evans is correct that the fear of Wikileaks-type disclosure would have hampered the Australian government’s “policy-making and implementation” in that instance, then what a shame it is that the internet and Wikileaks haven’t been around for much longer.

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