August 3, 2013

In the late 1980’s, an old friend of mine based in Moscow was calling her husband in the USA late one night. She said it was a “typical dumb husband/wife call,” mostly about a broken garage door.

Around midnight, a gruff voice broke into the call. “This is your KGB listener. This is the most boring, stupid call I’ve ever listened to. Shut up and go to bed!”

Ah, those innocent Cold War days. Today, Big Brother listens to your calls, reads your email, and follows your internet searches on silent cat’s feet.

China’s Taoists warned, “you become what you hate.” They are right: the September 2001 attacks on the US, as John Le Carré wrote, producing a period of temporary psychosis. America was knocked back to the ugly days of Sen. McCarthy’s Red Scare of the 1950’s. The big difference was that today the bogeymen of “terrorists” have replaced menacing Marxists. And today, terrorists were everywhere.

When I enlisted in the US Army during the Vietnam War, we were taught that it was our duty as American soldiers to report all war crimes and violations of the Geneva Convention, and to refuse to obey unlawful orders from superiors as established at post WWII Nuremburg trials At the time, I was proud to serve in America’s armed forces.

Today, the military trial of document leaker PFC Bradley Manning has echoes of the Soviet era: a show trial in which a lonely individual is slowly crushed by the wheels of so-called military justice, an oxymoron.

The dramatic revelations of fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden brings back sharp memories of Soviet-era dissidents, jailed, banished, locked in foul psychiatric hospitals for daring to speak the truth.

In my day, those seeking justice and freedom used to defect from the East Bloc to the United States and Britain. Now, ironically, we see a major defector, Ed Snowden, fleeing to Russia.

While the corporate-owned US news networks sugarcoat or obscure the NSA and Afghanistan War scandals, it’s left to Russian TV (RT) to tell Americans the facts. Who would have thought?

We journalists used to mock Pravda and Trud as party mouthpieces. Today, it’s the party line all the time from the big US networks, online news, and newspapers.

The Republican far right calls Snowden and Manning traitors; some demand the death penalty. Snowden’s lawyers warn he faces torture and possibly execution if he returns home; Manning has already had a long term in solitary confinement, which is itself a form of psychological torture.

We recall the horrific case of a Chicago gang member Jose Padilla during 9/11 hysteria. In an order signed by President George W. Bush, Padilla was accused on the flimsiest grounds of being an enemy combatant and stripped of all legal rights. He was held for over three years in solitary, tortured, sleep and sensory deprived, and injected with psychotropic drugs. Padilla was broken physically and mentally, then sent to prison for 17 years.

Such a gruesome fate could await Manning and Snowden.

I don’t know if PFC Manning took his charges of war crimes and other illegalities up the chain of command, the proper course for soldiers. He would, of course, have gotten nowhere – just look at the crimes committed at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. Going out of the command structure insured that Manning would have faced serious charges. Releasing a sea of details about US foreign policy inevitably courted severe punishment.

But as far as we know, Manning’s revelations didn’t harm America, it only embarrassed Washington by making it look bullying, two-faced and utterly cynical. Bureaucrats hate embarrassment much more than spying.

Snowden followed candidate Barack Obama’s pre-election call on whistleblowers to reveal waste and wrongdoing. America’s intelligence agencies have clearly overstepped their bounds and likely violated the law. A majority of Americans don’t buy the claim they were spied on to protect the nation from vague terrorist threats.

Snowdon and Manning were, in my view, patriotic Americans warning their nation that its ruling elite, obsessed with power and global hegemony, had veered way off course and were violating the US Constitution. However foolhardy, they acted with courage and honor.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2013

This post is in: 9/11, Afghanistan, Al-Qaida, China, History, Intelligence, International Politics, Russia, Soviet Union, USA


  1. solum temptare possumus says:

    While I agree with all that has been said by Mr Margolis and my fellow responders, I seek to see connections through the filter of written history; perhaps our best teacher of current conditions.
    I did not have to look to far into the past for one of the greatest wordsmith and essayist, the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.
    Quote: “Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence”.
    What has happened in America then and recently can be seen in ancient Rome; also well documented.
    One can only hope that a literate tech savvy youth can focus through the myriad distractions, before it is to late, and take to heart this message from the same orator:
    Quote: “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive”
    Further evidence of this corruption is in a new book I recently purchased. I heard about it on the show Fareed Zakaria GPS. (Global Public Square). He has a segment called “My Take”, and mentioned last sunday this book: “THIS TOWN Two parties and a Funeral In America’s Gilded Capital” by Mark Leibovich. What struck me was a few of the points Mr Zakaria mentioned:
    1. Representatives and Senators spend 3 out of 7 days each week Fundraising.
    2. 42% of Representatives and 50% of Senators become Lobbyists after their time in Congress.
    3. Why Washington works well for Lobbyists and not so well for US Citizens.
    To all beliefs, religious or not, I respond; God or Reason Save the United States of America.
    ad iudicium

    • Carol789 says:

      Empires rise, empires fall. Most fallen empires were victims of foreign conquest, something that is not lost on leaders and military commanders. This has been happening since the beginning of man. One day the US empire will also fall, maybe not for a hundred years or more, but it will happen. The irony of conquest is that the more an empire extends itself, the more vulnerable it becomes.

      Is it possible for life to evolve any other way? Maybe not. Maybe the mistake we make is in not accepting that these limitations are inherent in the human condition whether we like it or not. There never seems to be any serious attempt by man to control the instinct for conquest by any means other than warfare.

      Don’t expect technology to play any role other than indulging the MIC because tech savvy youth just want recognition for their ability to manipulate the tools of the day without really considering the consequences of who they are empowering with their efforts. This comes from vanity, another inherent trait, just as difficult to overcome and just as prone to tunnel vision.

      • solum temptare possumus says:

        This is a classic glass half full, glass half empty scenario. Optimism versus Pessimism. I hope for the former, although the way the world is heading, I can agree with your position. If the wired world could connect all US citizens to fight for one cause, say abolishing the Federal Reserve, those that manipulate the airways behind the scenes would probably shut down the www. 🙁
        ad iudicium

      • I suspect that many of the early powers that have failed due to foreign conquests have initially failed due to internal rot… and the foreign conquest was simply an aftermath.

        Failure in a hundred years seems a little ‘far fetched’… maybe a few years, and certainly less than a decade with the current road it has taken.

  2. I think you may have the tense wrong in your headline… I think the US has long passed that ‘goal’…

  3. China`s Taoists warned, “you become what you hate.” The present powers in the US are surely proving that to be true. Because of the cold war rhetoric and propaganda, we were all lead to believe, that anything and everything Russian, or rather Soviet, was backward, archaic and inherently evil. And while some of it may have a foundation in truth, a lot of it, as we learned later, was sheer propaganda to get the peoples of the west to hate intensely enough, that they would be willing to lay down their lives in defense of what they were made to believe was the ‘God-given’ duty as citizens of what is known as the so-called ‘free world’. Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev soon proved that picture to be warped and untrue, when they met Ronnie and Nancy so many years ago. Raisa seemed so self-assured, while Nancy seemed to trip over her astrological beliefs.
    Manning and Snowden are discovering first hand, what that definition of freedom really is. No more than just another lie, like the official story of 9/11 and the causes and justifications for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    After that Vietnam fiasco, which had the same earmarks, we ought to have known better than to fall for it again.
    John Le Carré was right-on with his assessment of America and may I add a lot of other countries as well about that ‘temporary’ psychosis, except that the term temporary must be seen here as relative. The same thing applies to the McCarty induced psychosis of the fifties. In fact it would be hard to differentiate between psychosis here and the religiously induced fear by means of the propaganda machine, that seems to get the best oiling and maintenance of all the government machinery. The loss and shame of the Vietnam war seems to have been so traumatic, that it made that psychosis an almost permanent characteristic, judging by what the MSM allows us to detect between the lines of their propaganda lies.
    “The dramatic revelations of fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden brings back sharp memories of Soviet-era dissidents, jailed, banished, locked in foul psychiatric hospitals for daring to speak the truth.” I read here. But what are the conditions, that Bradley Manning has endured, still endures and like will endure for a long time yet, for doing, what the soldiers were taught, when they went to Vietnam?
    Because of the mention of José Padilla here, I consulted wikipaedia on this topic and there was a description of what happened to this man. It is a horror story, that would have been perfect fodder against Stalin`s regime, which we are lead to believe, was the worst the world ever experienced. Of course the US has its own Stalin in GWB, complete with Rumsfeld playing the role of Molotov and the CIA amply fills the shoes of the old KGB.
    Military justice sure is an oxymoron and may I add, the entire present US justice system as well, if we properly define ‘justice’.

  4. George Rizk says:

    Hello Eric,

    As I read you, and many others on Lewrockwell, it appears to me as Bill Maher always make fun of the right wingers THAT WE ARE LIVING IN A BUBBLE!

    Very few Americans have independent thinking. All are regurgitating whatever the mainstream media tells them.

    So glad to see that you consider Snowden a whistle blower.

    Best regards

  5. Mike Smith says:

    The title of this article reminds me of an old joke about the Lone Ranger.

    The Lone Ranger and Tonto find themselves after a long exhausting horse ride staring up at canyon walls filled with hostile Apache warriors. The Lone Ranger sensing the impending doom, turns to Tonto, his faithful Indian scout, and says “What do WE do now Tonto?” Tonto slowly turns towards to the Lone Ranger, thinks of his Indian brothers and says “What do you mean WE, whiteman?”
    Many have felt the US government has sold out to lobbyists, special interests, the wealthy, etc for a longs time now. Certainly longer that the current post 911 era.
    As for conducting wars, genocide, barbarity and foreign policy under false pretenses in order to pursue monetary gain for a small elite, hell. One could go straight back to the American Revolution for an example. Or Harrison’s actions leading into the war of 1812, or the Spanish American war, or so many other examples.
    Some cry what is this world coming to… but it is the same world it has always been. The only change is who is on the dirty end of the stick.

  6. When we were in France I got to see RT for the first time and what I saw was a terrifying documentary on the Louisiana oil spill and how BP conspired with the Obama administration to not only allow the BP executives literally get away with murder, it also helped cover up the true extent of the damage and what happened to anyone who spoke out against it and could not be intimidated or bought off.
    One of the facts reveled was how the reason why BP is so powerful is because it is the soul supplier of fuel to the American military, something the American military would rather die than talk about.

    What RT also talked about is the hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay and how the military is force feeding the prisoners using the most painful methods possible. The American media has chosen to totally ignore it altogether.

  7. I also believe a truly better world is possible. The real fools are too busy shredding our constitution trying to suppress it…lol

  8. The more things change,the more they stay the same.We must never forget the massacre at My Lai of old men,women and children by US soldiers under direct orders from Saigon.Lt.William Calley was the commanding officer who gave the final order to carry out this atrocity.

    The above link will serve as a refresher.Since the end of the second world war,the US has become the biggest trouble maker in it’s quest for world domination through intimidation and the all too mighty Industrial Military Complex.The American people are living under fear that if they retaliate or mock the system,they may end up in the slammer accused of terrorism and/or espionage.It is long overdue that Americans take back their country from the grips of Washington who have absolutely no regard for the safety of their citizens.They are just a bunch of rogue criminals that need to be brought to justice (if such a word exists anymore).They have managed to convince the people,that terrorism is their “new enemy”….which some of us know as being bogus.Washington created this atmosphere starting with 9/11.

    It is terribly sad that a nation with people of great minds and accomplishments are finding that their efforts are no longer being recognized in the manner that they should be.Heck if a first term President (Obama) received the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after his first inauguration for doing absolutely nothing is becoming the norm,then there is something drastically wrong with society.Meanwhile,the only real ‘safe’ way of communicating is by writing a handwritten letter with a stamp on it to the intended recipient.The worst that can happen here is that some crook working at the Post Office might steal it thinking it contains cash or maybe even gift cards.This,clearly,is a lose lose situation.Americans are in for dismal future as it stand snow until Washington is cleaned up….thoroughly.Meanwhile…my highest regards to two American heros….Snowden and Manning.At least they showed some fortitude in hopes of saving their doomed country.

    • The problem predated My Lai by several decades… FDR’s action in prompting the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbour comes to mind, and the ‘meddling’ of American Business in world affairs prior to this is unknown to me. I suspect, however, that things haven’t changed since the Spanish-American war.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.