Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Manning, Snowden, Assange for Nobel Peace Prize

After the disastrous and altogether premature decision to award Obama the peace prize in 2010 the Nobel committee owes us one. Who better than the above three brave people who’ve chosen to sacrifice their normal lives, not to mention the loss or possible loss of their freedom, and subject themselves to the potential of abuse and maniacal harassment, all for the sake of unveiling to the people of the world the web of secrecy, hypocrisy and deceit that surrounds the US and, as we’ve seen lately, the UK governments.
As a poignant indicator of how debased the US government has become in the eyes of the world, Eric Holder, America’s chief law enforcement officer, in his plea to Russia to have Snowden returned for prosecution, felt it necessary to assure Putin that Snowden would neither be tortured or abused and given a fair trial. After the government’s disgraceful treatment of Manning, his assurances beggar belief.
Thirty-five years in prison for embarrassing the US government. In spite of the constant hype, there’s not been a single incident in which actual harm was done to an individual in government by Manning’s leaks. He did, however, release diplomatic cables which provided information which helped to solidify the opposition to Abedine Ben-Ali of Tunisia and led to his ouster, amongst other important revelations. He also opened the world to US duplicity and hypocrisy. The American servicemen who recorded themselves murdering 14 innocent people including women, children and two Reuters journalists from their helicopter, seemingly just for fun, served no time, Manning who exposed their bloodlust, gets 35 years.
Manning couldn’t have known the degree of vengeance Obama would take out on him, including treatment tantamount to torture according to the UN, but Snowden certainly had that in mind before he outed the PRISM mass spying program. He reportedly knew about PRISM and agonized over blowing the whistle for five years before he took the plunge. He was under no illusions and knew that he would be hounded to the ends of the earth by the wounded-tiger US government. In an act of arrogance, hubris, chutzpah and bullying unparalleled in the modern world, a plane carrying Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, was forced to land in Austria because several European countries denied the plane the right to fly over their territory at the behest of the US because it was suspected that it might be carrying Snowden. Treated like a common criminal or drug mule, Morales, leader of a sovereign country, was forced to cool his heels for 12 hours while the plane was inspected for traces of Snowden.
If the shoes were on the other feet and a similar incident happened to Obama, it would be considered an act of war. But America is the exceptional and indispensable country and is so inherently good and righteous with intentions so pure and goals of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ so important to the world that it gets to play by its own rules. It can do no wrong. Paraphrasing Nixon when asked if a plan of his was constitutional, responded, if the president of the US does it, it must be legal, constitutional, wholesome and important. By extension, it’s okay for the US to kill ‘suspected’ terrorists; that is, people who were never convicted of a crime or given a chance to defend themselves, because the US can’t take a chance on people who ‘might’ cause it harm. And if innocents become collateral damage, that’s the price to pay for (our) freedom and security.
In Manning’s defense at the sentencing phase of his (for now, considering he/she still has all his man parts, I’m going to call him/her a he) trial, he groveled a bit. I don’t blame him at all for trying to minimize his time behind bars. After spending only a few days in jail (on a marijuana cultivation charge) I became a model of contrition: No your honor, I’ll never do that again. Yes your honor, I’ve learned my lesson. At any rate what he said was he had no intention of harming the US government and it was foolish to think a small person like himself could change the world. Yet he undoubtedly, unquestionably, did change the world. An ordinary person of such little physical stature, only 5’2”- 157cm, has become a moral giant. After the execrable treatment he received at the hands of the US military in the three years prior to his trial, essentially toughening up his moral resolve, the 11 or so years he’ll wind up serving, assuming time off for good behavior, will be a piece of cake: relatively speaking, that is, not even an hour behind bars is easy to do.
Julian Assange, head of Wikileaks who helped disseminate Manning’s leaks, now holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than a year, is wanted for questioning related to a sexual harassment charge in Sweden. As I understand it, he did the deed without using a condom, against her wishes, in otherwise consensual sex. For that he too has been hounded. He’s not been indicted or charged, only wanted for questioning. He offered to be questioned in England. Somehow, though Sweden has questioned people outside its country in the past on much more serious charges, in this case Assange has to be in its grips for proper questioning. Assange offered to go to Sweden if that country made a commitment not to extradite him to the US, but they refused. Police business as usual? Hardly, the US is a vindictive bastard that’ll go to any length to snare prey it considers insolent and disobedient.
 Glenn Greenwald, reporter for the Guardian newspaper, has been the go-to guy for the Snowden leaks. In the latest iteration of security insanity, the UK held his partner David Miranda for nearly 9 hours – the legal limit without charging someone – under a terrorism statute and confiscated his computer equipment. He was en route in the UK, heading back to Rio where the two live, carrying hard drives and such pertaining to Edward Snowden’s leaks. The editor of the Guardian has recently revealed that two months earlier, the UKs version of the NSA came by to physically destroy – you know, using hammers – hard drives, etc., containing leaked info. Unfortunately for the security state, this isn’t 1954 anymore, and there undoubtedly are multiple copies of that data situated around the world. Snowden has made it clear that if anything happens to him an avalanche of leaks will hit the cybersphere. He has a right to be concerned for his safety. At this point the US is livid about his leaks and I wouldn’t put it past the CIA to give him the Bin Laden treatment – murdered on the spot and then his body dumped in the ocean - if they ever got their hands on him. Think of the friend of the Boston bombers who died while being questioned by the Feds. Somehow after several hours of questioning with as many as five agents in attendance, he suddenly became so dangerous they had to kill him.
 On a related topic, the CIA, in response to a Freedom of Information request, has finally admitted it had a role in ousting Mohammed Mosadegh, elected leader of Iran in 1953. Though it’s been common knowledge for decades, it’s good to hear it from the source and to see in unequivocal terms that it was his intention to nationalize Iran’s oil industry that spelled his doom. Not any fancy talk about freedom and democracy - he was after all Iran’s first popularly elected leader - but raw, cold and callous protection of corporate profits. The blowback is still blowing hurricane strength as Iranian leaders point out with regularity the CIAs role in his deposing. As for the Shah, his US authorized replacement, a picture reflecting his evil is seared into my memory: it showed a gathering of about 50 people with a man holding up his toddler son who’d had his arms cut off by the Shah’s police as punishment for the father’s transgressions.
Mosadegh was a progressive populist leader. Iranians are a highly educated people with a very long and proud history. Who’s to say where Iran would be today if the US hadn’t interfered in its affairs. When people see their democratic choices cretinously and illegally thwarted, they sometimes take up arms, bringing on revolutions. What other avenue do they have for obtaining justice and fairness?
The blood spilled at the hands of or as a result of US intervention for corporate control and profits is legion, not to mention demoralizing and disgusting. If anyone wants to delve deeply into the machinations of the CIA, I highly recommend a novel by Norman Mailer titled Harlot’s Ghost. It’s a novel but has an extensive bibliography. It’s also a very long book, about 1200 pages, but worth every minute of it.
Courageous people like Manning, Snowden and Assange who’ve sacrificed their personal well-being for the sake of exposing the duplicity and criminality of the US government deserve the highest praise, not decades in prison. In contrast to the terrible mistake of awarding the prize to Obama, the Nobel committee has often chosen dissidents, including people like Aung San Sue Kyi and Liu Xiaobo who weren’t allowed to receive their prizes because of opposition from their governments. Now it’s time for the committee to stand up to the USA and honor true peacemakers, the whistleblowers.