No one likes a bully and no one likes a liar. The United States government is surely both because other nations have no problem openly treating it with the disdain it deserves. The saga of Edward Snowden provides the latest proof of the disrespect that America has brought upon itself. Its tantrums and rants mean little to anyone outside of the USA bubble.
Snowden is the NSA whistle blower who presented proof to the world that the United States is a lawless nation which treats its own citizens as enemies. The response to his revelations proves that the American people have no friends in Washington, not in the White House or Congress or on either side of the political aisle.
After making his revelations public Snowden headed for Hong Kong apparently in the mistaken belief that there he would be protected from extradition. When the United States decided to charge him and suspended his passport he flew to Russia and officially asked Ecuador for asylum. After angry denunciations from the secretary of state, senators and butt kissing so-called journalists, Russian president Vladimir Putin made all their points moot when he announced that Snowden will not be turned over. He reminded the United States that Snowden has broken no Russian laws and that there is no extradition treaty between the two countries. Not content to merely say no, Putin got in a few digs of his own. Emphasizing that he didn’t wish to discuss the matter further he said, “It’s like shearing a piglet. There’s a lot of squealing and very little wool.”
The Chinese government was equally dismissive. After Secretary of State John Kerry issued public warnings of “negative consequences” to U.S./China relations, Chinese government spokeswoman Hua Chunying also got in her digs and reminded the United States that Snowden revealed evidence of American espionage directed at China. “I’d like to advise these people to hold up a mirror, reflect and take care of their own situation first.” Ouch.
It is striking that both China and Russia allowed Snowden to travel despite the government’s very public requests to prevent him from doing so. Both countries were quite happy to give America a very public comeuppance. It isn’t actually very surprising considering the belligerence with which our government has behaved.
In 2011 the United States connived and got both China and Russia to agree to a no fly zone in Libya, only to turn the measure into a license to overthrow Gaddafi and have him killed. Both countries were made to look like fools but like all bullies the United States hopes that they won’t mind getting fooled twice and will go along with a similar scenario in Syria or any other place on earth where America chooses to act like a gangster nation.
All talk of reboot and rests are just that, mere talk. The U.S. goes out of its way to impede China’s inevitable rise to worldwide economic supremacy with the “pivot” that is a way to intimidate China with military force. Demands to turn over an American whistle blower consequently fell on deaf ears.
Unfortunately the lessons to be learned about the Snowden case are lost on a misinformed public. Americans haven’t even been given the most basic information about what Snowden has revealed or that the few members of congress who question the data sweep can’t reveal the nature of their concerns because the material they want to present is classified. When we should get genuine reporting we get derision and snark from “journalists” acting like mean kids in the high school clique.
Snowden may be thought of as heroic but isn’t necessary to idealize him in order to defend his actions. He is a whistle blower and prior to the Patriot Act and the Obama administration escalation of persecution, whistle blowers were protected. In 1971 Daniel Ellsberg released the classified pentagon papers to the New York Times but the Nixon administration had little legal recourse against him.
Armed with the Patriot Act and a determination to hit dissenters with the heaviest sledge hammer possible, the Obama administration threatens Bradley Manning with life in prison. One thing is absolutely certain. If Snowden hadn’t flown to Russia he would be facing the same terrible fate.
In its zeal to get another whistle blower the government didn’t even know how to use the traditional diplomatic niceties which are used to get business done. The harangues and threats had the opposite effect of making Snowden sympathetic and irritating nations already angry with American arrogance.
It isn’t clear if Snowden will ever get to another country or if he will spend his life at Moscow’s airport. Whatever the outcome of this particular case, it is clear that when America’s military might isn’t a factor it is treated with all the respect any pariah deserves.
About the author: Margaret Kimberley
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR (http://www.blackagendareport.com), and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.com.