Friday, August 09, 2013

American hypocrisy on extradition

By Frank Moraes 

Glenn Greenwald wrote a very insightful article the other day on the hypocrisy of the United States government and and media. It circled around this business of Obama calling off the summit with Vladimir Putin. The White House gave a number of reasons for this including the fact that Russia is persecuting homosexuals. But everyone excepts the fact that it is just that Russia was given Edward Snowden temporary asylum.

Since when did the United States government give a flying fuck about the treatment of the powerless anywhere, even in the United States. After all, it was only last year that Obama "evolved" on the issue of gay marriage. As it is, Obama is perfectly fine with locking up cannabis and cocaine users for decades at a time -- even though he has quite publicly admitting to doing the same thing himself. So it's all about Snowden, because if there is one thing that the administration does care about, it is punishing whistleblowers, or as Obama calls them, "people involved in espionage."

Greenwald noted that the United States and Russian do not have an extradition treaty. So Putin isn't doing anything unusual, much less illegal. But guess who the United States does have an extradition treaty with? Italy. And yet, our great nation of laws broke its treaty when the Italian government asked for the extradition of Robert Lady and other CIA operatives who were convicted in absentia of kidnapping for the purpose of torture. And last year, the United States refused to extradite Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to face genocide charges in Bolivia. And a couple of years before that, we wouldn't extradite terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela.

But we need to have our priorities. These three examples are only kidnapping for the purpose of torture, genocide, and terrorism. Snowden is accused to leaking potentially embarrassing documents. And let us not forget, these three men only harmed poor and weak people. Snowden annoyed some very powerful people. That's the kind of crime that must be punished!

Meanwhile, the press is right there to stoke anger at Russia without providing any context. Even last night's The Daily Show was on it. But more generally, the media have gone out of their way to attack Snowden and put what he's done in the worst possible light. Check out this great argument between Greenwald and James Risen against the entirely typical mainstream apologetics of Jeffrey Toobin. Note how Toobin's arguments devolve into, "You gotta be kidding me!" Because all right-thinking journalists know that the government is always right. And notice also that Piers Morgan is only one tiny step more reasonable than Toobin:


So we continue on with the United States government acting like the corrupt super power that it is. Meanwhile the media spew out their usual happy talk about how we are all good and the evil Russian government just won't follow the law. I grew up during the Cold War. One of the things that we celebrated was that we had a free press whereas the Soviet Union had the government run Pravda. But even then, our press provided one-sided news that rarely came close to the truth. It is the same now -- at least if you get your "news" from the television. 

Afterword 

Jeffrey Toobin's claim is that it is great that we are talking about all of this stuff. Additionally, he admits that we are only discussing this stuff because of Edward Snowden. But he thinks that Snowden is a criminal who shouldn't have leaked the documents. James Risen counted him (and most in the mainstream press), "That's the thing I don't understand about the climate in Washington these days. People want to have debates on television and elsewhere. But then you want to throw the people who start the debates in jail." Morgan bails out Toobin by immediately pushing a straw man, "Is there no limit?!"

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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