July 2013        

An honest citizen criminalised


As I write, Edward Snowden, sought on espionage charges by the US authorities, is holed up in Moscow, bound (possibly) for Ecuador. His presence in the capital of the former “Empire of Evil” reinforces the official US line: that Snowden betrayed his country by revealing to the world the existence of “Prism,” a project by the US intelligence services to spy on the whole world through all electronic communication systems, including the internet.
     To say that this project is criminal is to put it mildly. The News of the World in Britain was shut down for infinitely smaller invasions of privacy, and there are still criminal charges pending there.
     Snowden’s “crime,” an act of exemplary citizenship, informs US citizens that their government is involved in systematic criminal activity. Yet if apprehended by the US authorities he faces the certainty of lengthy imprisonment under harsh conditions, as witness the case of the good soldier Manning, at present being tried by a military court.
     But couldn’t Snowden have taken refuge in some other, more democratically presentable European capital than Moscow? Hardly, given the case of Julian Assange, director of Wikileaks, who cannot leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London for fear of being arrested by the minions of a US vassal state, Great Britain, and extradited directly to the United States or via Sweden, where he is wanted on dubious sex charges.
     “When a finger points at the Moon, only the stupid gaze at the finger,” a Chinese proverb tells us. And the ploy of the Washington spin-merchants is to fascinate a dumbed-down citizenry with the finger rather than to concentrate on dark clouds threatening to engulf the Moon.
     Demonising the messenger—Snowden, Assange, or Manning—diverts attention from the intrusiveness and total illegality of “Prism,” as announced by those messengers, towards ephemeral issues—such as the present and future whereabouts of Edward Snowden.
     In the wider context, Obama is as avid a defender of the imperialist world order as his predecessor, George W. Bush. The latter sent conventional armies to invade territories, bringing him a host of domestic and external problems; Obama, the more subtle war criminal, uses advanced technology to have drones murder black-listed enemies of the United States, wherever they may be, and to spy on the mobile phones and internet accounts of American and foreign journalists.
     The fact that Obama is the leading proponent of present-day cyber-warfare has been revealed by Snowden and the other whistle-blowers. While this confirms Obama’s “modernity,” as against the Republican Party’s right, it annoys erstwhile supporters who elected him for his “progressive” image. Thence Washington decided to stigmatise the messengers, drawing public attention away from Obama’s criminality towards the hunt to capture them.
     More sinister yet is the attempt to legitimise this course of action by declaring that US citizens (and others) have already accepted restrictions on their liberty and privacy to assist in the “war on terror.” This abuse of public fear marks the acceleration of a drift towards totalitarianism. The fact that the innocent are the prey while the guilty hunt them down and imprison them bodes ill for the future.
     As John Pilger, the renowned veteran war correspondent, wrote, “the power of truth-tellers such as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden is that they dispel a whole mythology carefully constructed by the corporate cinema and the corporate media. Wikileaks is especially dangerous because it provides . . . a means to get the truth out. This was achieved by Collateral Damage, the cockpit video of a US Apache helicopter allegedly leaked by Manning. The impact of this one video marked Manning and Assange for state vengeance. Here were US airmen murdering journalists and maiming children in a Baghdad street, clearly enjoying it, and describing their atrocity as ‘nice.’ Yet, in one vital sense, they did not get away with it; for we are all witnesses now, and the rest is up to us.”
[TMS]

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