Note: This was originally posted to my Tumblr blog on 11 May 2011.
Background: I posted this in the comments of a TechCrunch post by Paul Carr. He took the view that Wikileaks members are villains. I strongly disagree. I found it while I was adding Disqus comments to my personal site. Seemed to make sense that it should go here.
We live in a republic (at least we were supposed to). The "government's business" IS the people's business. We have a government that is supposed to be OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people. "The people" are inextricably embedded in the government.
Saying "stay out of our government's business" would be like telling you to "stay out of your family's business" or "stay out of your company's business". We ARE part of the government, it is OUR business.
Now, is it our right to know nuclear launch codes? No. Is it our right to know the president's email password? No. But is it our right to know what sorts of relationships our diplomats are fostering around the world and what sorts of favors are being done for those that assist them? YES.
The problem here is that there is a very powerful argument that the State Department (and the government in general) has been horribly mismanaging diplomacy for decades.
For example, was it really such a good idea for us to arm Saddam Hussein to the teeth? Probably not considering that less than a decade later we ended up fighting him. Of course hindsight is 20-20 but my point is that every time we do some dirty deed in some far off corner of the world it has repercussions later on, repercussions that often involve Americans dying.
This year we cover up military contractors selling child-prostitutes to Afghan officials or use Shell's influence to manipulate the Nigerian government, next year someone we pissed off by doing so detonates a bomb somewhere (maybe on an airplane, maybe next to a naval warship, who knows). And will we really, honestly be able to say that his crime was worse than ours? Not necessarily. And definitely not if we don't know what our crimes were to begin with or even whether we actually committed any!
The reason we have a right to know the kinds of things that are in those cables is that the information fundamentally impacts our lives as Americans. The article mentioned that we elect people to represent us, that is true. But how are we supposed to choose our representatives effectively when we have no idea what they are doing?
Follow-up: Someone responded almost immediately to my comments with a post about how we don't live in a democracy, we live in a republic. His post began: "We live in a republic". Clearly he missed the fact that my comment started with exactly the same words. It was almost as though he'd copy-pasted his comment from a list of talking points or was regurgitating what he'd heard on cable news, because he clearly didn't even read the first sentence of my post. Interesting stuff.