Germans ‘Duty Bound’ in Light of ‘Shameful Past’ to Give Snowden Asylum
“Authoritarian states have a genius for damaging themselves by the obsessive persecution of individual dissidents whom they thereby transform into celebrity martyrs,” journalist Patrick Cockburn writes in The Independent. “Today, it is the post 9/11 United States that discredits itself by its relentless pursuit of [NSA whistle-blower] Edward Snowden under the pretense that he is an arch-traitor aiding the enemies of America.”
European governments — Germany in particular, for its role in the human atrocities of the last century — should recognize the United States’ manifesting authoritarianism and respond humanely by offering safe haven to the fugitive former intelligence contractor, Cockburn says.
Cockburn argues that contrary to earlier decades, Western Europeans have little to envy in the way of political freedom in America today. The United States reacted to 9/11 by building a massive, offensive security apparatus, losing “its immense advantage in world politics of being the country where people believed that they were not going to be unjustly jailed or otherwise mistreated by the state.”
As time rolls by, Snowden’s ethical stature becomes only clearer and more formidable. In order to inform Americans of their government’s extra-constitutional spying on them, he gave up “a very comfortable life” with a six-figure income, a home in the paradise of Hawaii and ready contact with his loving family. He said: “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine. … ” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
Cockburn writes that “It is satisfying, if gruesome, to watch great powers shoot themselves in the foot. This was true of the mistreatment of Bradley Manning after the WikiLeaks revelations and it is true again of Snowden. Washington imagined it was a smart move to chase him into the limbo of the transit area in Moscow’s main airport, but thereby guaranteed that he was at the centre of international attention, rather than allowing him to proceed to the great media-hub of Bogota (The Shah made a similar mistake in 1978 when he got Saddam Hussein to force Ayatollah Khomeini to quit Iraq for Paris).”
Cockburn calls European cooperation in the isolation of Snowden “craven.” In a clear display of the United States’ iron influence on many European nations, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal all bowed to U.S. wishes to deny passage to the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales on the simple suspicion that Snowden might be on board. Anger didn’t last in Europe, including among the intelligentsia. This indifference to “freedom of expression and state secrecy” was foreshadowed last year “with the shallow media sneers at Julian Assange.”
“The only person in Europe to see Snowden’s fate both in terms of political morality and in the context of the history of the US and Europe,” Cockburn writes, “is Rolf Hochhuth, the German author and playwright.”
— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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Patrick Cockburn at The Independent:
Hochhuth points out in the petition that where government is both accuser and perpetrator “the accused has no hope of justice”. He added that if Snowden returns to the US he faces years in prison, but if he stays in Russia he will be permanently muzzled.
So, why should Germany of all countries offer asylum to an American? Hochhuth writes that “more than any other, the German people are obligated to honour the right of asylum because, beginning in 1933, our elite, without exception from the Mann brothers to Einstein, survived the 12-year Nazi dictatorship purely because other countries, with the US as the greatest example, offered asylum to these refugees.”
… “It is the highest moral duty of Germany to give asylum to Edward Snowden,” concludes Hochhuth’s petition, “[because] we as no other Europeans are duty bound in the light of our shameful past!”
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