I expected Obama to be a terrible president, but I thought he’d be less outrageous on civil liberties than he is, and I thought his administration might turn down the hypocrisy a notch. As if!
Not only has the US charged Edward Snowden, like Bradley Manning, with offences not resembling what they actually did, in both cases to cover up embarrassing and illegal activities by government personnel high to low. But in the case of Robert Seldon Lady we have an American convicted in an Italian court of kidnapping. Unlike the situation with Russia, we have an extradition treaty with Italy, and we generally take their legal system to be legitimate. Yet when Italy demands the extradition of Lady, and he is temporarily detained by Panama, the US government exerts tremendous pressure to get him released before he can face the legal version of the extraordinary renditions he was involved in. So Lady has been convicted of an actual and obvious crime by a legitimate court in a country we have an extradition treaty with, but we refuse to extradite him. In the very same week we demand that Russia hand over Snowden who hasn’t been convicted, hasn’t obviously damaged anything but reputations, and we don’t have an extradition treaty with Russia. Everyone else in the world sees this and understands the meaning. Only Americans who watch American television miss it.
Case in point: check out Eric Holder’s protestation to the Russians that hey, we have a legal system over here and we don’t do that nasty stuff other people do (hint, hint).
Holder says he sent the letter, addressed to Alexander Vladimirovich, Russia’s minister of justice, in response to reports that Snowden had applied for temporary asylum in Russia “on the grounds that if he were returned to the United States, he would be tortured and would face the death penalty”.
“These claims are entirely without merit,” Holder said. In addition to his assurance that Snowden would not face capital punishment, the attorney general wrote: “Torture is unlawful in the United States”.
“We believe that these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr Snowden’s claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise,” Holder wrote.
With a straight face Holder can make the statement that torture is unlawful in the United States? What are the penalties, then? We know of many Americans who have been involved in ordering and executing torture, which is unlawful; but Eric Holder has not lifted a finger to prosecute them. We know that Bradley Manning has been tortured, and so do the Russians.
Is Holder truly that naive? Or is it hubris, that whatever the US says must be taken as absolute fact despite the obvious contradictory evidence sitting right in front of us?
As empires crumble those at the center scramble to grab the last bits of power and wealth. Which generally just makes them targets.