Dutch newspapers and television have for days been snowed under by WikiLeaks revelations about the Netherlands. WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange says it’s no coincidence that this is happening just now - Dutch MPs will soon be voting on a proposed new mission to Afghanistan.
Mr Assange thinks it is important that the Dutch public has access to all the information at this crucial time:
“We have a lot of work to do so we have to prioritise which country we are going to try and help get out this material for first. And this particular case for the Netherlands, well, there’s this very important vote for it in parliament. So we listened to what Dutch journalists said, and tried to get this out to the Netherlands before that vote.”
Mr Assange says it doesn’t matter to him which way the Dutch MPs vote, “as long as there’s openness”. The leaks involve diplomatic reports from the United States embassy in The Hague. These are interesting, says Mr Assange, because US ambassadors to small countries are not so guarded in what they say:
“In my view, the greatest value in this material is to these small regions. Because it is in the smaller regions that we see more fulsome disclosures. We see less cautious language used by diplomats in their correspondence.”
Despite this, we have yet to see a ‘million-dollar leak’. There doesn’t appear to be any one revelation which will test political relationships or lead to the fall of major politicians.
That doesn’t mean that the latest Wikileaks revelations will not result in political debate. The Labour Party has been stung by the news that, in 2009, senior Dutch civil servants conspired with the US to break the resistance within Labour to an extension of the Dutch mission in Afghanistan. At the time, Labour was a member of the governing coalition.
The leaks show that the then Labour leader and deputy prime minister, Wouter Bos, was put under pressure to say ‘yes’ to Afghanistan. The US message was that he should understand that the Netherlands would no longer be welcome at G20 meetings if the Afghan mission was not extended. Mr Bos held his ground, the mission was ended and the Netherlands was not invited to the last G20 talks.
The leaks also show that the US has been worried since 2004 about the rise of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders. Just like the Dutch government, the US administration was irritated by the film, Fitna. Mr Wilders is not viewed as a friend of the US. His opposition to the military mission in Afghanistan and his rejection of development aid are seen in a negative light by Washington. His fierce anti-Muslim rhetoric also counts against him.
Mr Wilders is in turn angry after it was revealed that Queen Beatrix commented on the extension of the Afghan mission. She apparently told US Ambassador Fay Hartog Levin that the extension of the military mission would be difficult but “should definitely go ahead”. “Her majesty ought not to meddle with Afghanistan,” was Mr Wilders’ response to the leak.
Current Prime Minister Mark Rutte says the latest Wikileaks revelations “don’t help diplomacy”. He argues that, if he can’t be sure his words will remain confidential, his talks with diplomats will be less than “all out”. However, he appears to be keeping it all in perspective: “It’s best to say the same behind closed doors as in public. Then, you don’t have to worry.”
Watch Julian Assange's interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS by clicking here