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Our prissy Secretary of State John Kerry, hair carefully coiffed for his interview, told NBC’s Brian Williams last week that fugitive National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden should “man up” and return to the US to “stand in our system of justice and make his case.”
The supposedly “manly” Kerry (whose claim to “courage” is having employed the high-calibre machine gun mounted on his Mekong River gunboat to blow away unarmed fishermen and lightly armed Viet Cong freedom fighters, or having called in air strikes on them) has been hiding his later youthful history of standing up against the Vietnam War, and of condemning American war crimes there. He surely knows from his carefully buried past as a critic of the Vietnam War plenty of fellow American veterans, as well as Vietnam-era deserters and also draft resisters, who did just that — they “made their case” in “our system of justice.” And Kerry also surely knows what happened to them: most ended up getting shuffled off to jail by an American “justice” system that, particularly when it comes to national security and opposition to the state, operates on the Lewis Carroll principle of “verdict first, trial afterwards.”
Yet Kerry, in that same NBC interview with Williams, forged right on and, as the fourth man in line under the US Constitution to assume the Presidency if something were to happen to the president, vice president and speaker of the House, declared that Snowden is guilty as charged, saying, “This is a man who has betrayed his country.”
Um…What trial decided that, Mr. Secretary? The one you want him to come submit to?
And Kerry is not alone in convicting Snowden in absentia and without a trial. He is only echoing the sentiments of his boss, President Barack Obama, who has already made it clear that he thinks Snowden is guilty under the Espionage Act — that hoary World War I-era law that his administration has revivified from a legal crypt to prosecute whistleblowers and under which Snowden has been indicted by the US Justice Department. As Obama put it at a White House press conference, “The way in which these disclosures happened has been damaging to the United States and damaging to our intelligence capabilities…I think that there was a way for us to have this conversation without that damage. As important and as necessary as this debate has been, it’s important to keep in mind this has done unnecessary damage.”
The nation’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Eric Holder, has also said he thinks Snowden belongs in the slammer (though he promised Russia that Snowden, if handed over to the US for arrest, would not be tortured, and that if convicted, would not be executed). As Holder put it, in a question-and-answer session worthy of Lewis Carroll held at the University of Virginia Law School, his office would be “willing to discuss” a deal with Snowden, but only if Snowden first pleaded guilty! As he said in a statement released by the Justice Department, “If he is prepared to plead guilty (to federal charges related to leaking an enormous amount of NSA documents), the Justice Department is prepared to discuss with his lawyers how he could return to this country.”
And that is the legal/prosecutorial machine which Secretary of State Kerry is referring to when he suggests Snowden should come home and agree to “face the music” in “our system of justice.”
Let’s be clear here. As Kerry surely knows, Snowden, under the Espionage Act, would not even be allowed to present — even at the sentencing phase of any trial — an argument justifying his decision to copy the NSA data, and to provide it to journalists. Nor, under the Espionage Act, would he be permitted to argue that the data had been unconstitutionally obtained by the NSA, or that it was improperly classified as secret. None of that would be permitted. All he would have a right to do would be to attempt the impossible and try to prove that he did not steal the data.
That is not a genuine trial. That is a witch-hunt. It is a star-chamber trial, like those routinely orchestrated in Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia.
Snowden doesn’t need to prove his machismo. He has displayed more guts in singlehandedly exposing the staggering crimes of the NSA and the Obama administration against the American people, and the people of the world, than John Kerry has shown in his entire sorry life. In fact, if Kerry had any real courage, he would admit to the American people that he nearly managed to drag this country into a tragic war in Syria (on the side of Al Qaeda!), with the lies he spouted about a purported slam-dunk case of poison gas use by Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad last year. He would admit that his own State Department was behind the bloody coup that toppled the elected government of Ukraine. And he would admit that the fliers circulated in pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine purporting to require Ukranian Jews to register with the local rebel government were frauds and a false-flag action designed to discredit the rebels.
Kerry knows what courage is mainly because he is so clearly lacking in it. That was made abundantly evident during his sorry campaign for president back in 2004, when he ran as fast as he could from his brief history as a critic of American imperial war-making back in 1971, presenting himself instead as a bronze star-honored killer.
But his real gutlessness lies in his failure to denounce the Obama Administration’s new $65-million, 13-year campaign called the Vietnam War Commemoration Project, which aims to revise history and portray the Vietnam War as a noble and heroic American effort to spread freedom and democracy. Kerry knows full well, having participated in that decade-long genocidal atrocity, and having once passionately spoken out against it, that this huge taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to erase all memory of America’s crimes in Indochina is propaganda worthy of Goebbels. That he hasn’t quit his Secretary of State post in disgust to protest this sick project and offered his support instead to an effort by some Vietnam Vets to challenge that lie called the Vietnam War Commemoration CORRECTION Project, tells us all we need to know.
Kerry has no right to question anyone’s “manhood.”
Having John Kerry tell someone like Snowden to “man up” is the moral equivalent of Richard Nixon telling someone to follow his conscience or Bernie Madoff telling a homeless beggar to get an honest job.
Snowden would have to be crazy or a masochist to come back to the US and submit his fate to the “American justice system” touted by Secretary Kerry.
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).