September 9, 2011
WikiLeaks: Exploding the myth

Fri, Sept 09. 2011

Many Caribbean citizens, Vincentians prominent among them, harbour a blind belief in the United States of America which leads to conclusions that everything which emanates from the State Department is second only to the Gospel. US policy largely influences our world view and ultimately our sense of what is right and wrong in international politics.{{more}}

It is against that background that the first set of leaked Wikileaks cables in relation to SVG were released, with some unflattering comments about Prime Minister Gonsalves and the state of democracy in our country. Few questioned the veracity of what was reported by the US Embassy officials or their motives. However much more was to come, and the latest set of revelations might just set us thinking again about the supposed ‘infallibility’ of these US officials.

Among the latest set of leaked cables are statements which cast aspersions on the character of some of our prominent citizens. The comments of the Barbados-based Embassy officials in reports sent to the State Department give the distinct impression that (a) some of these Vincentian citizens are/were “informers” for the US, calling them “useful contacts” (b) worse, some are unpatriotic, bordering on treachery, in that they have openly requested US intervention in our internal affairs.

These are serious insinuations and we warn against letting our own partisan political outlook colour our judgement to the extent that we accept such statements uncritically. We must be more discerning than that. But how do we distinguish between those who are misrepresented in the cables and those who are not?

Based on the local reaction to the cables so far, Prime Minister Gonsalves seems to be one of the few persons prepared to publicly own up to his reported remarks, though he disagrees with the interpretation of the Embassy Political Officers. Everyone else seems to be denying either the remarks attributed to them or having had any conversation with the US officials at all; some state they cannot remember. Significantly, more than one person quoted by the cables, while admitting having met with the Americans in informal circumstances, said that no one took notes, and wondered how those officials could come to the conclusions that they did.

One is therefore left to wonder, was the US Embassy at Bridgetown creating works of fiction when writing cables to Headquarters? Also, so far, the State Department has made no statement to the effect that the cables were fabricated by Wikileaks. Interestingly, the US Government has been warning persons, ahead of time, in other parts of the world, who may be compromised by the Wikileaks exposure, in an effort at damage control and to get them out of harm’s way.

The entire episode has definitely done irreparable harm to diplomacy in general, and to the image of the United States and its foreign policy in particular. The tone of many of the cables is very condescending, and in some cases, even insulting to some of our Caribbean leaders. No doubt we may have contributed to this by our tendency to rush to Uncle Sam whenever challenges confront us and to do his every bidding, real or imagined.

For us as a people, the Wikileaks episode can prove a valuable lesson in exploding that myth of infallibility of the United States. The publication of the cables has also given us some insight into the thinking (exaggerated?) of some of our prominent citizens. However, we should not allow ourselves to be distracted for too long from our tasks of nation-building by such red herrings.