Wikileaks diplomatic files not as shocking as we’re being told

We may have been shocked by the revelations of the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs and the brutality of war that was laid before us in a way we’ve never seen before.

But the initial revelations of Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables are not as shocking as many in the media are having us believe. Embarrassing for sure but not shocking.

Channeled through those doyens of investigative journalism The Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times the leaks reveal a lot of honest and forthright views of mainly US diplomats about their foreign counterparts.

But looking at the BBC’s useful breakdown of the main “revelations” there’s nothing truly groundbreaking. Instead much of the releases so far confirm what any of us who have an interest in international affairs probably already expected was going on.

The US has many concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear activity and the level to which they may be exposed to nuclear terrorism. Whilst on the other side Pakistan is reluctant to allow the US to establish any more interest in their domestic affairs than it already holds for fear of a backlash from their own people. This has been widely reported for many years.

The Chinese government engages in computer hacking…as if we haven’t heard that before.

The US looks to tap the sensitive biometric details of those within the UN. Not specifically something reported before but allies spying on allies and involving the Americans is nothing new.

There are also a selection of strong and honest views about various world leaders.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described as “Hitler” by one diplomat. Given Ahmadinejad’s views on Judaism it is hardly an extraordinary leap to associate the two.

Italian president Silvio Berlusconi described as a “feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader”. As if we didn’t know that already given the string of embarrassing revelations in recent years.

Russian president Dmirty Medvedev a “Robin” to Vladimir Putin’s “Batman”. Many analysts said as much when Medvedev was “elected” in 2008.

And Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe,  a “crazy old man”. It would be funny if it wasn’t for the plight of the Zimbabwean people.

So there is little that shocks as much as Wikileaks most explosive leak to date – Collateral Murder

But needless to say it’s embarrassing for the US and all the other countries implicated. And the news coverage over the next few days will remind us of that as well as discussing the wrongs and rights of Wikileaks releasing such material. Simon Jenkins in The Guardian puts that argument to bed in my view.

Perhaps the real story here is not the sheer quantity and seriousness of some of the information released but the extraordinary story of a 22-year-old US army private from Oklahoma, Bradley Manning, who has changed forever the way in which wars and diplomatic relations are conducted.

A stolen election, but where’s the proof?

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I’ve watched with great curiosity the coverage of the Iranian elections and their aftermath in recent days waiting for a report that actually outlines just how, where and why the election result might have been stolen.

And yet the lack of this has left me with major doubts about the legitimacy of the protests in Tehran and cities across the Islamic Republic.

Clearly the crackdown on protesting is not legitimate when people are dying as a result. From the Tweet-ing, Facebook-ing and YouTube-ing the extent of the government’s lockdown on communications and intimidation of their people is clear and it is not right.

The US and Britain are right to condemn the conduct of the Iranian government in this regard but they are also right to refrain from passing judgement on the actual election result because the truth is, there appears to be no hard evidence to contradict the official results which gave victory to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Now I am not naive enough to believe that Ahmadinejad won two-thirds of the vote as the official results state. A journalist friend of mine who visited Iran earlier in the year was struck by the amount of young people who had a real desire for change and Ahmadinejad was not as popular in his own country as he had us believe.

However his anti-American, anti-Israel rhetoric did have unquestionable support in many circles so his approval ratings cannot have been at George W Bush levels.

The truth is the election result was probably much tighter but whether it gave victory to Ahmadinejad or his main rival, the ‘defeated’ Mir Hossein Mousavi is just not clear.

There has been a great acclaim for the power of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in getting across the material major news outlets are finding it increasingly harder to gather themselves thanks to the meddling of the Iranian Interior Ministry.

But if angry voters are so keen to show the world what’s going in their country right now why aren’t they showing us the proof of voter intimidation, vote rigging, stolen ballot boxes or all three? In an election where 85% of the 70 million population turned out to vote surely there are some if not many who can testify to dodgy practices?

The hugely influential Guardian Council say they are investigating 646 complaints from the three defeated candidates, Mousavi among them, and they will hear their arguments at the weekend.

I’m intrigued to hear what these arguments are and what proof will be presented to back them up because at he moment the lack of hard evidence regarding these elections is as stunning as pictures like this one:

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