News & Politics

Kim Darroch Resigned After Insulting Donald Trump—but These Burns by American Diplomats Were Even Harsher

Secret diplomatic cables from Washington reveal 40 years of cattiness and badmouthing.

Photograph of Sir Kim Darroch by Jeff Elkins

The British ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, resigned his post today, after cables that he wrote panning the Trump administration were leaked to the British press—describing the White House as “inept,” “dysfunctional,” and “chaotic.” He also evaluated Trump himself, whom Darroch described as “radiating insecurity.”

Darroch, of course, was simply doing his job—giving unvarnished observations to his boss. Americans working abroad do it, too, and we have proof: In 2010, Wikileaks dumped a cache of more than 250,000 leaked diplomatic cables that had traveled between Foggy Bottom and hundreds of diplomats abroad.

In these cables, Americans turned bad-mouthing, disparagement, and high-minded trash talk into something of an art. Here are the most choice insults that American diplomats relayed to Washington about their host countries.

  • In Budapest, American diplomats panned incoming president Viktor Orban, writing that “the new Fidesz administration has proven as inept as its Socialist predecessors.”
  • The American ambassador noted that Ecuador’s minister of finance was, in fact, “inept on economics.”
  • Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was called “feckless, vain, and ineffective.”
  • In a cable from 2008, the American ambassador accused the Honduran president of  “changing his views by the day, or in some cases by the hour.” The ambassador called the president “erratic in his behavior,” which he likened to that of “a rebellious teenager.”
  • In one famously irascible cable, the charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Singapore described North Koreans as “psychopathic types” and their leader—Kim Jong-Il—as a “‘flabby old chap’ who prances around stadiums seeking adulation.”
  • The American Embassy in Madrid described Spain’s defense minister as inexperienced and overly focused on demanding deference in meetings; “wearing the Spanish ego,” the Americans said.
  • In Moscow, the American embassy noted that Dmitry Medvedev, then the president of Russia, merely “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.”
  • A Kazakhstani diplomat “cultivates the image of himself as a congenial, debonair socialite,” noted American officials in one cable—but underneath “that facade” he was “intransigent” and “convoluted,” with “the ability to talk at great length while saying very little of substance.”
  • The American embassy described one Ukrainian official as “a cartoonish buffoon,” attracted to obnoxious tirades “like a moth to a flame.” It could be worse: The president of Turkemenistan was marked as “a malevolent buffoon.”
  • An official in Ghana, who was apparently drunk, was expelled from his own embassy, threatened to have the ambassador fired, then arrived at the U.S. embassy demanding money—”an extremely obnoxious individual,” the Americans observed in a cable.
  • In one 2006 cable, the American ambassador to Peru called president Alan Garcia “pompous and inflated,” a “know-it-all” with a “superior tone.” Garcia did have an “Achilles’ heel,” the Americans noted: “a colossal ego.”
  • The American ambassador to Eritrea, writing in a confidential cable to the State Department and the CIA, passed on some high-level intelligence: The president was a “ranting, paranoid narcissist.”
  • American diplomats in Ecuador shared a few ideas about how to manipulate Ecuador’s permanent UN representative, who “likes whiskey, cigars and flirting—not necessarily in that order,” they observed. They also noted he surrounded himself with women—and that his UN staff was 75 percent female.
  • In a cable note titled “Sleeping With the Enemy,” the American consul in Shanghai relayed to Washington that several high-ranking officials were sleeping with the same mistress—who was secretly a Taiwanese intelligence operative. The Americans couldn’t resist throwing some shade on the Chinese: The “promiscuous socialite” who had seduced the Chinese leaders, the Americans snickered, was “anything but pulchritudinous.”

Benjamin Wofford
Staff Writer

Benjamin Wofford is a contributing editor at Washingtonian.