My Own Personal WikiLeaks

Although the release of 250,000 cables may be a minor disaster for U.S. foreign policy, it's been a boon for the reputation of the Foreign Service. It's no secret to me that some FSOs can write well, and quickly, too--one China hand I worked with was notorious for his ability to attend high-level meetings and then spit out pithy paragraphs with the velocity and accuracy of a nail gun. Dollar for dollar and pound for pound, they're arguably the most intellectually accomplished bureaucratic tribe in the government.

But let's face it: for all the brilliant and occasionally bitchy--excuse me, "frank"--meisterwerks by ambassadors and political and economic officers, the bulk of cable traffic is a bit more, um, mundane. Inspired by the courage of Messrs. Assange and Manning, I've dug through my archive (which is strictly unclassified--unlike Sandy Berger or Fawn Hall, I didn't want to risk paper cuts in odd places) to release some cables that reveal some of the darkest aspects of American diplomacy.

STATE 053495 tells you all you need to know about U.S.-Belarus relations.


STATE 405499 proves that, as Chairman Mao once said, the United States is a paper tiger.

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STATE 100433 still haunts me. I was the "gift officer" during President George H.W. Bush's trip to Tokyo when he famously fell ill, triggering an avalanche of get-well gifts from ordinary Japanese (and a classic routine by a Japanese TV comedian who taught his pet monkey to "do a Bush" by clutching its stomach and falling over). Never did find out what happened to those sandals.

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SINGAPORE 007619 gives some insight into what FSOs do during the 98 percent of their time when they're not schmoozing with foreign ministers: they're booking sightseeing tours for CODELS (congressional delegations).


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Luckily, some FSOs know how to yuck it up and keep the absurdities of bureaucracy in perspective. As proof, let me offer this bit of departmental whimsy, drafted by a colleague whose name is now beyond the reach of my synapses.

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Presented by

James Gibney is a features editor at The Atlantic. He was a political officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, where he wrote speeches for Warren Christopher, Anthony Lake, and Bill Clinton.

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