To the royalty in Elizabethan times, the Fool was a royal pain in the neck. Unimpressed by wealth or power, the Fool told it like it was. In today’s world, with its unrelenting barrage of hype and hypocrisy, and a legion of hucksters who sell us Sarah Palin one moment, and new digi-gadgets the next, we need all the Fools we can find.

One man’s branding is another’s bull. Selling mortgages people can’t afford; prescription drugs plans that won’t pay for the drugs you really need; and caring politicians who don’t really care.

Which is why we need Wikileaks more than ever. Because Wikileaks has never been about state secrets or about putting secret agents in harm’s way. Cheney did that to Valerie Plame; not Julian Assange.

It’s because Wikileaks is a royal pain in the neck.

Mostly Wikileaks has allowed us ordinary folk to see what the powerful see every morning. The private memos and documents of our State and Defense Departments. We’re not talking troops movements but the unvarnished picture of the people and places we throw our tax dollars at. Secret because we’re not supposed to know our Ambassador to Afghanistan thinks we just gave control of TWO BILLION DOLLARS to a warlord crook.

Julian Assange should be thrown in jail because he’s published information that reveals we’re giving our hard-earned money to a thieving thug. And some young GI is in solitary confinement because he had the balls to take all these supposedly secret documents and move them into the light of day.

So who should be in jail? The corrupt Afghani? The US politicians who hand our tax money to Afghan thieves while Americans have no work?

Who deserves to be criticized? The Fools, like King Lear’s Fool, who risk being beaten to tell us uncomfortable truths? Or a Congress and President who assure us we are making progress in Afghanistan while knowing full well the rulers of Afghanistan are the problem not the solution?

Fools come in all shapes and sizes. I have no idea about Julian Assange and the way he treats women; and know even less about U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, the alleged unconvicted leaker who is in jail.

But I do know that, when asked about the effects of Wikileaks, Vice-President Biden admitted “I don’t think there’s any substantive damage, no. Look, some of the cables are embarrassing …”

The reality is that the powerful hate to be embarrassed. And nothing is more embarrassing than the truth.

Remember King Lear? The old, once powerful guy allowed his conniving daughters to take his kingdom and his pride. It’s the Fool who tells Lear what he’s really done: “ever since thou mad’st thy daughters 
thy mother; for when thou gav’st them the rod, and put’st down 
thine own breeches …”

The Fool reminds us that no one really wants to hear the uncomfortable truth: “I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They’ll have me whipp’d for speaking true; thou’lt have me whipp’d for lying; and sometimes I am whipp’d for holding my peace. I had rather be
any kind o’ thing than a fool! And yet I would not be thee, nuncle.” Who’s the Fool here, the Fool wants to know?

So here are some Wikileaks:
High-ranking members of China’s elite orchestrated the hacking of Google to clamp down on internet use. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the US to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program. Prince Andrew was pissed off by an anti-corruption investigation which hampered British efforts to bribe crooked officials in Kyrgyzstan. Hillary Clinton wanted to know whether Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner was still taking meds to calm her nerves. And Burma’s military junta wanted to buy the British soccer team, Manchester United.

Then there’s Iraq where we’ve spent $766 BILLION with close to 3,500 American casualties and 33,000 wounded. Wikileaks tells us bewildered Iraqi diplomats are outfoxed by the Iranians. Iraqi government officials see Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to their state. And Hillary Clinton agrees: Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups; and its government won’t stop the flow of money.

According to the New York Times: “The documents … reveal many previously unreported instances in which American soldiers killed civilians – at checkpoints, from helicopters, in operations. Such killings are a central reason Iraqis turned against the American presence in their country, a situation that is now being repeated in Afghanistan.”

And then there are gems like our US ambassador sought assurances that the Ugandan government would consult the US before using American intelligence to commit war crimes.

You owe it to Bradley Manning and Julian Assange and yourself to read some of this stuff at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/series/us-embassy-cables-the-documents.

Embarrassing. Even horrifying. Revealing we are the Fools for allowing these leaders to lead us.

The Berkshire Record, January 6, 2010. © Mickey Friedman