Alex Massie

The Wikileaks Cables

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So, the latest Wikileaks docu-dump is out. Full details here. Among the highlights from the initial reports:

Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”

And:

Clashes with Europe over human rights: American officials sharply warned Germany in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in a bungled operation in which an innocent German citizen with the same name as a suspected militant was mistakenly kidnapped and held for months in Afghanistan. A senior American diplomat told a German official “that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S.”

Those two paragraphs are a useful distillation of some of the counter-productive consequences of a War on Terror that, for any number of understandable and even well-intentioned reasons, has not worked out quite as anyone would have hoped. The successes are important (and perhaps under-celebrated) but it's the failures that combine pity with farce.

Meanwhile, however, it's useful to be reminded that the arab world is just as scared by a nuclear-armed Iran as Israel and the United States. The costs of military action - to say nothing of the uncertainties of the mission itself - still, I think, trump the benefits, but it's not a foregone conclusion.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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