FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pissing Off Friends is a Doomed Strategy

Like an obnoxious drunk harassing everyone and spilling drinks at a party, the US has continued to make itself both loathed and laughed at in the wake of the revelations about the National Security Agency’s global spying program as revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The latest example of this was the report in Germany last week that the US had been massively spying on millions of German people based upon a tortured interpretation of a secret Cold War-era agreement foisted upon the then Bundesrepublik back in the early 1960s. That agreement gave the US and Britain the authority to surveil Soviet and East German spying activities inside what was commonly referred to as West Germany, and also to conduct spying operations to “protect” US troops based there. Obviously, spying on Soviet and East German spies is a far different thing from spying on Germans themselves, and clearly the Cold War is long gone. As for spying on Germans who might threaten the bases, that clearly could have been handled by police in Germany, and in any even would only involve a small and discrete program, not the monitoring of millions people’s electronic communications.

Angela Merkel, the conservative German Chancellor whose governing coalition is facing a critical national election in a few weeks, and who has been taking a lot of heat from Germans over disclosures that her government knew all along about the American spying program, has been trying to look proactive, and so the her government announced that it was canceling the spying agreement and ordering a halt to the NSA’s spying activities in the country.

The US response: nothing public, but unidentified “sources” in the US government made it clear that, agreement or no agreement, the NSA’s spying would continue (a German government official also stated that the supposed termination of the secret Cold War agreement would have “little effect” on continued spying by the US in Germany).

It’s another indication that the European countries are just puppets working under US authority. Much as an earlier demonstration this summer when the US induced French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish authorities to deny their airspace to transit by a Bolivian presidential jet carrying President Evo Morales, who was en route from Russia back to Bolivia, forcing him to land in Austria, which itself was pressed by the US to have its authorities search the plane, thought by US sources to be carrying Snowden to asylum.

These heavy handed measures by the US are infuriating the people of Europe — normally pro-American — who are angry at both at the US and at their own servile governments.

There are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, it shows that although the US has been seriously weakened by its military failures in Iraq and now Afghanistan, it is still far from just a paper tiger on the world scene. On the other hand, objectively speaking, it is weakened, its military over-stretched and in any event clearly ineffective against situations where the people are defending their own territory. Furthermore, the “enemy” that the US has long “defended” Europe against — the former Soviet Union — is no more, and Russia poses no military threat to Europe these days, so the US military stationed in Europe has no purpose any longer. At the same time, most Europeans see US global banks and other corporations as more of a threat than a benefit.

If the US continues to humiliate European governments, and to throw its considerable weight around — weight that these days is largely adipose, not muscular — Europe could quickly come to resemble South America, where the popular sentiment towards the United States has long been oppositional, not friendly.

In a way, it appears that the NSA’s global spying operations may be a kind of last gasp of a dying empire trying to retain its power by using its technological advantage to obtain blackmail power over foreign government leaders. Given the popular anger in France, Germany and elsewhere at the spying, and the various target governments’ timid responses to Snowden’s revelations, there is almost no other explanation for European politicians’ collective failure to play to popular demands to throw the US spooks out. The only European leader who has had the guts to stick it to the US has been Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose sprawling spy program, while perhaps not a match for America’s state security apparatus, no doubt still has sufficient resources to be able to counter blackmail with blackmail.

Snowden made a good choice, even if it was one forced on him by the US lockdown of most potential asylum states and of all his aerial escape routes to the few countries in Latin America that had the courage to make the offer of asylum. Russia is a country where he can probably feel secure, especially given his threat to have allies around the world release truly damaging US national security secrets he took into exile with him, should anything happen to him. No doubt Russia’s government will be kind to him, in hopes that he will discretely reveal those secrets to them on his own voluntarily.

The remaining question is how long the somnolent and passive US public will continue to buy the crap that Washington is spreading about the allegedly critical importance of the NSA’s massive spying programs to “keeping Americans safe.”

The latest scare stories about overheard communications between the supposedly many-times-slain Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Yemen branch of al Qaeda, allegedly calling for attacks on US embassies and Americans abroad, stories which have led to the US closing its Middle Eastern embassies for a week, and urging all Americans to leave Yemen, are a pathetically transparent effort to both terrorize Americans again while touting the alleged skills of the NSA. In fact, closing the embassies for a week accomplishes precisely nothing, since any actual terrorist or group of terrorists planning an attack can just postpone the action until the embassies are open again for business. As for Americans leaving — advising people to make an unplanned and anxious run for the exits just opens them to attack as they will be leaving familiar surroundings where neighbors can help and protect them, for transit points where they will be concentrated, obvious, and more attractive and vulnerable as targets, whether for a real, orchestrated or “false flag” attack.

We have slid back to the equivalent of the old days when President Bush’s spanking new Homeland Security (sic) Agency would periodically announce a change in the color-coded “threat alert” system, which would then get broadcast by a compliant news media along with the weather reports each day. Remember?: “Thursday’s forecast: threat of thunderstorms, high winds and the terrorist threat alert is Red. Friday’s weather will be sunny with occasional clouds and an terror threat level of Orange.”

There’s no utility in any of this, from the point of view of public safety. It’s all a brazen attempt to win public support for the ongoing establishment — now pretty much complete — of a total surveillance national security state.

Maybe the citizens of this country will wake up and say “No!” But at this point, to do so would require an aroused public willing to go to the polls and toss out every member of Congress who has been supporting the spying, and replacing them with ardent defenders of the First and Fourth Amendments.

Sadly, I’m afraid there’s a better chance of the NSA getting tossed out of Europe than there is of it getting shut down in the US, and even that is not likely.

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail