The latest blockbuster play released last week at the Theater of the Absurd — also known as the “War against terrorism” — is titled “Afghan War Diary.” Starring the usual American warmongers and its usual bunch of lackeys, the play is full of intrigue, stupidity, feigned outrage, in your face finger-shaking moralizing, and little side-plots that give the critics sufficient material for their column word-quotas. Absurdity does not come in more dramatic garb.
What I find most absurd is that these leaked secrets are surprising to the people who are supposed to know what they are doing in their own “war on terror.” It is like the author of a play, sitting among the audience watching the play (which he himself wrote and directed), is shocked and surprised to see how the play unfolds. Only severely schizophrenic authors can manage that feat.
True, the leaked documents are supposed to be secret and not meant for the public. Perhaps they could come as a surprise to someone who has not been following the news in the last 10 — or even the last 30 — years, and has never been quite good at adding two plus two to get four. But to an average person, the broader conclusions to be drawn from the approximately 92,000 documents should not be the least surprising.
The pope is Catholic; bears shit in the woods; Arundhati Roy is a hypocritical meretricious self-righteous busybody; Manmohan Singh is a spineless toady — that’s the sort of broad conclusions I am talking about. Sure one does not know the exact details, but one can easily conclude that the Pakistani government and its army (hard though it may be to distinguish between the two) are a bunch of a double-dealing murderous pathetic beggars who have soaked up around $19 billion or so from the US in the last ten years, and have been using part of that American largess to fund the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan (and a bit for good measure to fund the Taliban to kill the infidel idol-worshipping Indians.)
It beggars belief that the government of the US does not know that the money they ship to Pakistan is being used by Pakistan to kill American soldiers. It is absurd to imagine that the US government does not have access to its own secret war logs. The US administration is pretending that it did not know, and only after the leaks it knows that Pakistan is a double-crossing nuclear-armed scum of a nation, and it is pretending to talk tough. Hillary Clinton, the US Sec of State, said the other day that someone in the Pakistani government must know where Osama bin Laden is.
Shocking!! I am shocked. I say I am shocked. Not.
I am not shocked because I think what Hillary Clinton said is common knowledge.
Slight digression on “common knowledge.” I may know something and you may also know the same something. But when I know that you too know, and you know that I too know, and moreover, if I know that you know that I know, and you know that I know that you know, and moreover, I know that you know that I know that you know . . . ad infinitum, then it becomes common knowledge.
Hillary Clinton knows that the Pakis know where OBL is; the Pakis know where OBL is; Clinton knows that Pakis know that Clinton knows that Pakis know; the Pakis know that Clinton knows that the Pakis know that Clinton knows . . . you get the picture.
I think that what the wikileaks did by publishing the Afghan War Logs is that it made what was general knowledge into common knowledge.
To appreciate this point, here’s a logical puzzle which is interesting not just for the logical challenge but more so for the deeper lessons it has about common knowledge and coordination mechanism.
The puzzle goes thusly: In a particular village in a land far away, there used to live only two kinds of people. One kind had blue eyes, and the other kind had brown eyes. Peculiarly, while everyone could see everyone’s eyes and note the color of the eyes, no one could ever see what color one’s own eyes were. There were no reflecting surfaces to reveal one’s eyes to one, and all discussions of eye color was tabooed and verboten. There was a rule that everyone knew: if one could ever logically conclude that one has blue eyes, then one has to leave the village the next day.
Life in the village went on year after year with nothing remarkable happening. Then one fine day, when the villagers were busy minding their business, a visitor comes to town. He assembles the entire village and makes an oracular proclamation, “There are blue-eyed people in this village.”
The question is: What happens next?
[The solution to this puzzle and its implications are in part 2 of this post.]