In recent days the controversy about Edward Snowden has reached a fever pitch with media outlets such as the New York Times weighing in on the case for clemency. While it can certainly be argued that Mr. Snowden provided a valuable service to the American public by serving as a whistle-blower it can also be strongly argued that the young man broke his compact to our government and to protect and serve under the constitution of the United States. This having been said, the arrogance of the US Government in most matters is galling. The Presidency has become almost an imperial post under successive administrations meant to oversee an Empire that stretches across the globe while protecting the interests of Wall Street and capitalist class that exploit global resources and populations. The President himself becomes subservient to advisors and other political considerations that dictate the direction of American policy.
The view that the NSA programs endangers American values is a highly subjective one. It can be claimed that without the NSA’s programs America and “American values” would be less safe around the globe. The NSA has been entrusted to keep the America of the political elites safe and while some excesses perhaps illegalities have certainly transpired we must consider what truly American values represent in this day and age. How many individuals have actually been inconvenienced by the NSA’s programs? Contrast that with the number of terrorist attacks on American soil since the program began and you see a case is to be made for continuing perhaps even intensifying the efforts by the NSA. Americans have consistently voted based on fear or misinformation in national elections and to complain about the NSA now seems to me to be more than slightly disingenuous. President Eisenhower warned the nation about the growing Military Industrial Complex in 1960, yet the American public often times motivated by panic and plastic patriotism has continued to vote in public officials that subscribe to a militaristic view of the state. This trend has only intensified since 9/11 and the bliss ignorance tinged with bravado about foreign policy that many American demonstrate is truly dangerous in a democracy.
The pretense under which Snowden is being judged an American hero in some quarters is based on a dated view of what the United States represents. The country has not the bastion of civil liberties and individual rights Snowden’s defenders believe it should be in decades. Paranoia about the Soviet Union and now Islamic based terrorism have led the US to be the most militarized and the least free of all western nations. Those wishing to change this have adopted Mr. Snowden as a hero, but must understand the train left the station decades ago, even before Edward Snowden was born. The optimism of the 1960s and the rulings of the Warren Court have largely been dispensed with thanks to a warped view of American Exceptionalism, something that has been wildly misinterpreted by the ruling elites of this nation.
The United States spies all the time using surreptitious means. Just last month the case of Devyani Khobragade an Indian Diplomat brought forward from some the theory that the US Government had contracted with a Christian maid whose family was quickly given asylum in the states to spy on the Indians. We also have seen evidence of extensive spying on American allies Israel and Germany recently revealed. These are after all being done in the name of protecting American interests, and as we have seen in recent years those interests largely involve the fate of Wall Street and the sale of Military hardware to allies. (In India’s case the offense that created tension was not buying American built airplanes)
“American values” are not what they once were. In today’s United States you are expected to follow orders and safeguard American interests. Mr. Snowden knew full well his responsibilities when he became a contractor. He violated those responsibilities. While he may have had a fit of conscience after the fact, he quickly learned the United States isn’t in the mood to offer clemency or have a free and open debate about these sorts of things.
We must also consider Snowden’s actions after fleeing the country. He made common cause with China and Russia, two enemy states of the USA. Being used as a propaganda tool for Russian despot Vladimir Putin, who has created an Oligarchy that even the Wall Street and Military types that control the levers of US power would envy. My own personal sympathy for Snowden dissipated with his Putin alliance. From where I sit Putin’s Russia represents a dark reality of where the entire world may be headed if the levers of power are not distributed away from plutocracy across the globe.
Ultimately, with the view of what America has become, Snowden must be tried and help responsible for his crimes. That is after all the United States the citizens have voted time and time again to build. It is a nation that has repeatedly proven that it values morality less and plastic patriotism more. In another day and age, Snowden could be held up as an example of American virtue, but not today, not in the post 9/11 America.
This administration has a choice to make. Historical legacy or short term political expediency are the competing factors. I have faith that our President is concerned about the former but those around him seem time and again only interested in the later. For that we must truly worry.