Reading about young American whistleblower Edward Snowden, hiding from the US government in a hotel in Hong Kong makes you wonder if you are in the middle of an improbable CIA movie. It’s even more chilling when you consider the fact that the US and Britain, generally considered the bastions of democracy, free speech etc, are hounding Edward Snowden, Manning and Assange. The Orwellian drama unfurling before us is almost surreal.
I grew up in a home where Kennedy was the hero and Kruschev, the bad guy. For the last five decades we’ve been taught that Big Brother looms large in Russia and China. After all, it’s James Bond who is iconic. How ironic it is therefore, that there’s a brave young man, forced to flee the land of Liberty, and take refuge in Hong Kong, where Bond baddies, according to legend, thrive. Snowden’s story is the stuff that warrants a Hollywood epic. He is the quintessential young hero fighting for the American way of life. For truth and justice. The Abe Lincoln of our times, I would have thought.
Consider this: the young man has little to gain from his exposé. He knew he would be on the run for the rest of his life. It took raw courage, to go to the press with his story. He knew he had everything to lose. The resultant smear campaign is shocking. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has said, ‘I felt about Edward Snowden the same way I felt about Daniel Ellsberg, who changed my life, who taught me a lot.’ Most people in the US, and all over the globe, feel that way. Snowden will go down in the annals of history as a hero with extraordinary courage.
The average person in the US is, I gather, appalled that Big Brother can now tap into their bedrooms, family rooms, tape conversations, snoop into emails and track their cell phones. Yet sooner or later, we are being told, systematically brainwashed rather, that we need to put up with all the surveillance for our own good. Because of terrorism. The Patriot Act rules since 9\11. Yet consider this: an unjust war was waged on Iraq though Iraq had nothing to do with 9\11. It is now universally acknowledged that the US and Britain went to war with fudged up, concocted evidence.
For the record, it was the US military’s covert operations which funded, armed and propped up both Saddam and Osama. The first, to fight Iran and the second to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. And now, in an unbelievable twist of mockery, the US proposes to hold talks with the Taliban. Whither women’s rights? What about the concern for democracy and freedom. Or the fight against fundamentalism?
How is it possible that they can do what they do and get away with it? Bush, Cheney and Blair who sent thousands of young US and British soldiers to their deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Iraqi and Afghan bodies don’t count in their view of the world) who threw away billions in an unnecessary, illegal war, are laughing all the way to the bank. Their personal fortunes have grown enormously in the last decade while their countries’ economies plummeted. In my view, they are the criminals.
Yet, a brave young man who has put his life on the line, for the US, to bring to the world an exposé that has shocked everyone, can be hounded and terrorized for his valour and patriotism.
A million people marched in London to stop Blair going to war. They were powerless to change the course of history. Will the world’s most powerful democracy allow the remorseless wheels of the state to cruelly, inexorably grind to dust a good, decent young hero? George Washington and Abraham Lincoln would not today recognize the country they fought for with blood, sweat and tears. The US must rise and fight for its brave, young son. The Statue of Liberty weeps.