In the Arena


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Greetings from Afghanistan. It’s always interesting to be in a place like this when a story like Wikileaks breaks. The media have played the big embarrassments–Khaddafi and his Ukrainian “nurse”–and, in all, American diplomats have emerged with their credibility and creativity affirmed. (As the father of a Foreign Service Officer, I’m not surprised.) But there is much more to this story than that.

I am tremendously concernced about the puerile eruptions of Julian Assange. Let’s say you’re an American diplomat in a provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar Province. Let’s say you’re a woman, reporting on the conditions of women in this largely Taliban-controlled area. Let’s say you mention one or two of your contacts in a cable. They are now extremely vulnerable–indeed, they are likely to be rounded up, defigured or murdered for merely talking to the Americans. This is not improbable, it is likely–and even m0re likely in a country like China, with the resources to examine every last one of the 250,000 documents leaked. These are not the sort of stories that make it into the news, but they are where the real collateral damage occurs.

If a single foreign national is rounded up and put in jail because of a leaked cable, this entire, anarchic exercise in “freedom” stands as a human disaster. Assange is a criminal. He’s the one who should be in jail.