A former U.S. ambassador to Manila recoiled at the ‘garish’ celebrations put on by Imelda Marcos for her husband in 1973, the latest batch of WikiLeaks cables reveal.
William Sullivan said he was baffled to see hundreds of troops dress up as women in honour of the Philippine dictator during the party – which lasted a full two days.In a frank assessment he said: ‘Every aspect of the occasion was too much, too long and in questionable taste’.Sullivan’s dispatch is among the more colourful of the more than 1.7million U.S. diplomatic records from 1973 to 1976 released today by Wikileaks covering intelligence reports and congressional correspondence.They contain more serious dispatches too such as the chilling joke from former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: ‘Illegal we do immediately, unconstitutional takes a little longer’.
His cynical comments drew laughter from the men in the room in Ankara, Turkey, to discuss cutting off aid to Cyprus, but they have a grim irony given Kissinger’s controversial role in the Vietnam War.Many of the cables have already been declassified but by putting them onto a publicly searchable database Wikileaks is making them far more widely available than before.Thousands of the documents are marked NODIS (no distribution) or Eyes Only, as well as cables originally classed as secret or confidential.
Much of the work was carried out by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 41, during his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been staying since last summer under effective house arrest.Sullivan’s dispatch was written on September 12 1973 to the Commander in Chief U.S. Pacific Command and colleagues at the Department of State.It read that although the official account said that President Marcos ‘spent a quiet birthday at his desk’, in fact he enjoyed a ‘two-day blast’ organised by his flamboyant wife, who is known for having the largest collection of shoes in the world.The cable reads that all work ‘came to a halt’ and that the funeral for a Cardinal who had died recently was ‘very largely eclipsed’.
There was a military review and fly by, a slew of ceremonies, a dinner, a concert and a show all followed by an ‘extravaganza’.The cable reads: ‘In general, every aspect of the occasion was too much, too long and in questionable taste.‘For example, all general officers in the armed services were required, as part of the palace floor show, to parade in garish female attire. ‘This caused much grumbling among the military hierarchy and wives of service chiefs stood conspicuously in a grim, unsmiling phalanx.
‘Although Imelda was responsible, the president seemed to enjoy it and appeared unaware of the negative vibrations among his courtiers, especially the senior military, upon whom so much of his future programs will depend.‘Only the Marcos children, to their credit, appeared embarrassed by the display’.In Sullivan’s opinion, the whole affair was a ‘saccharine suffusion of sycophancy which reminded me unhappily of the heydays of Sukarno and Shianouk’, a reference to brutal former leaders of Indonesia and Cambodia.
The Kissinger cables are so named because Kissinger, Secretary of State and National Security Adviser during the time, features in them a total of 205,701 times.By the time he had the meeting on March 10 1975 he had already been responsible for a secret bombing campaign in Vietnam and helped to get the US engaged in controversial conflicts.They included the Yom Kippur War and supporting the repressive military Junta led by General Augusto Pinochet in Chile.At the meeting, the cables say Kissinger said: ‘Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.” [laughter]
‘But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.’Kissinger would have to wait decades before such comments would come to light.Elsewhere in the Kissinger cables The Vatican is painted in a bad light.In a cable dated October 13 1973 high ranking Vatican official Archbishop Giovanni Benelli plays down the abuses being carried out by the Pinochet regime – as ‘communist propaganda’.In fact what was happening would become one of the most brutal periods in Chile’s history with 3,000 people had been killed during 17 years of military government.
The cable reads: ‘Archbishop Benelli, Vatican Deputy Secretary of State, expressed to illing (sic) his and Pope’s grave concern over successful international leftist campaign to misconstrue completely realities of Chilean situation.‘Bellini labeled exaggerated coverage of events as possibly greatest success of Communist propaganda, and highlighted fact that even moderate and conservative circles seem quite disposed to believe grossest lies about Chilean Junta’s excesses.’The cable adds that there was ‘mopping up’ going on in Chile and that the Junta were making ‘every effort’ to bring things back to normal.
Among the lighter moments is a cable from the US embassy to Russia Moscow, sent in January 1975.It discusses which musicians should be approached for a tour of Russia, which at the time was America’s sworn enemy in the Cold War.The author says that soul music is ‘not of top interest here’ and that ‘soft rock, blues / rock or country rock’ would be better.The author hopes to approach ‘top individuals and groups’ such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan or Don Mclean to come to what was then the USSR and act as ambassadors through their music.
Other dispatches show that, thinking their reports would never be read by the public, diplomats were frank in their assessment of world leaders.A 1976 cable from the Canadian embassy says the country’s former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was an ‘idealist…rather testily moralistic’.It also reveals his wife Margaret did not want French spoken over the dinner they hosted as it would have ‘ruined the evening’.Upon becoming Prime Minister of France, Jacques Chirac is described in 1974 as a ‘young wolf’ with ‘remarkable political expediency’.
He may ‘lack the human touch’ but he does love the ‘American Way of Life’ and used to creep over to the US Embassy in Paris to eat what he thought was real American food.The cables were made public after Wikileaks had undertaken a detailed analysis of the communications.The data is five times larger than Cablegate, a set of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks from November 2010 and over the following year.These documents were released after being anonymously leaked and detailed U.S. foreign policy over the last decade.Assange, an Australian national, sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London last June over fears that he would be sent to the U.S. if he was extradited to Sweden to face sexual offence claims by two women, charges he denies. – DailyMail