Mar 10, 2014
Love It or Leave It?
Posted on Aug 24, 2013
By Scott Tucker
Since the Ecuadorean Embassy in London now shelters Assange, the criticism that Ecuador is not a paradise of civil liberties may also seem very pointed. I grant the point, such as it is, and we should all feel free to criticize any country. But whistle-blowers against abuses of state power in North America and Europe are not perfectly free agents in choosing places of political refuge. If we demand that political dissenters arrive only in the holy land of our own choosing, then the glib charge of utopianism (so often made against critics of tyranny) must be turned back against the journalists and politicians who make that charge. One price of “the war on terror” (conducted far beyond that aim, in fact) is that professional journalists have grown comfortable as state stenographers, but are wary of making the strong case for liberty.
As David Sirota noted in an article published in Salon on Aug. 20, “This past Saturday, Time magazine senior national correspondent, Michael Grunwald, told his 10,000-plus Twitter followers that ‘he can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange.’ ”
Journalists who patrol the borders of their profession by calling upon the state to eliminate critics of state power do not, of course, question their own right to hold the credentials of their chosen club. “Likewise,” Sirota added, “it is yet more proof that the nonchalant bloodlust that pervades the National Security State also exists inside the establishment media that is supposed to be objectively covering that National Security State.”
Greenwald spelled out the high price in liberty we, the people, are paying day by day for the “special relationship” between the security agencies of the United States and the United Kingdom. In an article published in The Guardian on Aug. 18, after Miranda was detained for nine hours at Heathrow Airport, Greenwald depicted the brave new world of transatlantic security. Miranda (oh, the gods must have a sense of irony) was detained for the full number of hours strictly allowed by British law. He was asked all about his life and associates, and for what reason? Reasons of state, including the deliberate attempt to intimidate the partner of a journalist.
This is the locked down chessboard of Kafka’s “The Trial,” since any move you make may (at the discretion of the authorities) be judged a capital offense. If you are not actually put to death, the professional journalists will even cheer the leniency of military courts, as we have just witnessed in the case of Manning. Journalists might take more pains to recall that one of the civilians killed by trigger-happy pilots (as documented in a military video now widely known as “Collateral Murder”) was in fact a journalist. How do we now know? Only because Manning, who was pathologized and humiliated even in the last days of the trial, made the choice to share the evidence of war crimes with the public.
Obama, who used the bully pulpit of his presidency to judge Manning guilty before a military judge could do so, must have also used his constitutional expertise to sign off on the execution of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a teenager born in the United States. Guilty by association, this boy was duly erased by a drone strike, without judge or jury or any fair day in court. A Nobel Peace Prize winner in the White House was just dealing with “the world as it is.”
When Miranda was detained at Heathrow, he refused both a glass of water and the offer of a lawyer. Why indeed would he learn any lessons from the state except the very lessons the state was leaning on him to learn? The ordeal was not waterboarding, after all, or being hooded and chained in the company of barking dogs. Just a subtle reminder from the state that you pick your friends and lovers at your own risk.
As Greenwald wrote in his Guardian article on Aug. 18:
“The detention of my partner, David Miranda, by the UK authorities, will have the opposite effect of the one intended. … This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the newsgathering process and journalism. It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the U.S. national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.”
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