Ready for Their Close-Up: 1925
1 hour ago
There it is again, that word 'disingenuous' applied to the thinking of President Obama. In an earlier post I commented on this word so commonly applied to the President.
By Robert Scheer
How do you justify criminally charging a government contractor for revealing an alarming truth that the public has every right to know? That is the contradiction raised by President Obama now that he has, in effect, acknowledged that Edward Snowden was an indispensable whistle-blower who significantly raised public awareness about a government threat to our freedom.
Unfortunately, the president didn’t have the grace and courage to concede that precise point and remains committed to imprisoning Snowden instead of thanking him for serving the public interest. But Julian Assange, no stranger to unrequited integrity, nailed it. “Today, the president of the United States validated Edward Snowden’s role as a whistleblower by announcing plans to reform America’s global surveillance program,” the WikiLeaks founder said in a statement posted Saturday, the day after Obama’s remarks.
While boasting, “I called for a review of our surveillance programs,” Obama avoided the obvious fact that this review was compelled not by a sudden burst of respect for the safeguards demanded by our Constitution but rather Snowden’s action in making the public cognizant of the astounding breadth and depth of the National Security Agency’s spying program.
Once again, Obama managed to blame not those responsible for government malfeasance, himself included, but instead the rare insiders driven to do their duty to inform the American people. “Unfortunately, rather than an orderly and lawful process to debate these issues and come up with appropriate reforms, repeated leaks of classified information have initiated the debate in a very passionate but not always fully informed way,” he said.
How disingenuous, to put it mildly. Without the leaks, there would be no reforms. We, the voters, couldn’t initiate a debate about the wisdom of this extensive spying because the government officials who authorized it, from the president on down, kept us in the dark.
There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).
I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.
He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began recently. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Torture described Manning’s conditions as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” (That realistic prospect, by itself, is grounds for most countries granting Snowden asylum, if they could withstand bullying and bribery from the United States.)"
I quickly found out how much the Bush years had radicalized him. I remember his words better than the place—I think it was over burgers at the Tombs, surrounded by World War I propaganda posters—where he said to me: “I want—and I’m very serious about this—I want to see Bush and Cheney impeached, removed from office, then put on trial as war criminals.” To hear this from someone as genial, gentlemanly, and temperamentally conservative as George Carey was electrifying—like hearing Jimmy Stewart curse a righteous blue streak.
That I should give my hand, or bend my neck, or uncover my head to any man in mere homage to, or recognition of, his office, great or small, is to me simply inconceivable. These tricks of servility with the softened names are the vestiges of an involuntary allegiance to power extraneous to the performer. They represent in our American life obedience and propitiation in their most primitive and odious forms. The man who speaks of them as manifestations of a proper respect for "the President's great office" is either a rogue, a dupe or a journalist. They come to us out of a fascinating but terrible past as survivals of servitude. They speak a various language of oppression and the superstition of man-worship; they carry forward the traditions of the sceptre and the lash. Through the plaudits of the people may be heard always the faint, far cry of the beaten slave.
Respect? Respect the good. Respect the wise. Let the President look to it that he belongs to one of these classes. His going about the country in gorgeous state and barbaric splendor as the guest of a thieving corporation, but at our expense—shining and dining and swining—unsouling himself of clotted nonsense in pickled platitudes calculated for the meridian of Coon Hollow, Indiana, but ingeniously adapted to each water tank on the line of his absurd "progress," does not prove it, and the presumption of his "great office" is against him.
Can you not see, poor misguided "fellow citizens," how you permit your political taskmasters to forge leg-chains of your follies and load you down with them? Will nothing teach you that all this fuss-and-feathers, all this ceremony, all this official gorgeousness and brass-banding, this "manifestation of a proper respect for the nation's head" has no decent place in American life and American politics? Will no experience open your stupid eyes to the fact that these shows are but absurd imitations of royalty, to hold you silly while you are plundered by the managers of the performance?—that while you toss your greasy caps in air and sustain them by the ascending current of your senseless hurrahs the programmers are going through your blessed pockets and exploiting your holy dollars? No; you feel secure; power is of the People, and you can effect a change of robbers every four years. Inestimable privilege—to pull off the glutted leech and attach the lean one!