30 November 2010

Titania & Bottom...

Who says Americans want irony? Last night, I finally got around to reading a few of the secret and confidential U.S. diplomatic cables which have been released by Wikileaks thus far. This is no overwhelming gush of information - thus far, it seems very much dribs and drabs, only 281 of 251,287 at the time of writing. This presumably calculated to maximise the coverage successive revelations will receive. It is well worth reading the unexpurgated Cable No. 08BISHKEK1095 from October 29th 2008 in full. In it, U.S. Ambassador Titania Gfoeller recounts what transpired at a brunch meeting with a certain horse-faced Bottom. There was no post-equine come down, no cries of "My Oberon! What visions have I seen! Methought I was enamour'd of an ass."  By now, you will all have heard about Prince Andrew Windsor's reactionary, extraordinarily clichéd bore-for-Britain routine in the Kyrgyz Republic and Titania's incredulous assessment of his pontification and sub-pub-tedium. Our national bard Robert Burns identified the character type, many moons ago:

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

What I found surprising about this cable - and others - is its gadfly, ironic tone, what might even be described as its literary style. I hadn't given much thought to what sort of values would inform the prose of (previously) sealed communities of diplomatic practice. I suppose I'd imagined a rather more bureaucratic, terse, lifeless form of composition.  Domestically speaking, Wikileaks have currently only published a couple of cables from the London Embassy but I imagine we can expect a political intelligence document or two, describing the state of Britain and thoughts on prominent political figures, past and present. Similar  assessments of the political fortunes and temperaments of Angela Merkel's German coalitions, Sarkozy's fate in France, Prime Minister Erdogan in Turkey  and others have already been published. For the narcissistic Scot, this raises the tantalising prospect that, given the potential geo-political significance of Scottish independence, we may yet read some sort of cable from 2007 or subsequently which touches on wurselves. Scottish legal magazine The Firm have confirmed that "sources close to the UK Government" have told them that the wiki-leaked data includes "significant Lockerbie material". It is exceedingly difficult to determine what this might mean, whether we are talking about the explosion, the trial - or discussion of Megrahi's subsequent compassionate release. Candid assessments, to be awaited with interest.


  1. I'm reminded of a very good friend's opinion of the Duke of Golf. As he served alongside him aboard HMS Invincible, I'm taking his word as gospel.

    His opinion?

    "Fuckin' prick."

  2. Jings, the poor chap Conan! Stuck on a boat with Bottom. L'enfer, c'est les autres...