Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

He's A Lonely Boy, He Ain't Got A Home

It's hard for me to settle on a way to write about Edward Snowden's predicament, because there is a grudging part of me that wants to commend him for being a "doer". He saw something that pissed him off about the government of the country in which he lived and he by gawd did something about it. In a country where any number of lax-asses can't be bothered to read a newspaper or vote, he should be awarded with many, many "give a shit" points. I kind of want to sympathize with the situation he's in--a stateless wanderer who can't go home again without paying a high price for his act of conscience. In a world where things were really fair, wouldn't good intentions count for something? But at the same time, I can't help but question what he's done and what his plans and motivations were just because of all the unintended consequences that he doesn't seem to have anticipated.  It's one thing to believe in openness and want to defend the privacy of individuals against an omnipresent surveillance state--especially when such a paradigm may have no urgent purpose and be too ripe for exploitation by a corrupt government. It's another thing to all on one's lonesome determine that now is as good a time as any to let it all hang out, and then trot the globe hoping blowback is a thing that only happens to nations--not, you know, "doers".

Which is why the "terminal" plight of one airport bound whistleblower (or is it, hornblower?) opens up another meditation on exactly what his long game will have to be, because one can not live in an airport. But it has become clear that the promise of a berth with Ecuador  is essentially evaporating (and the relationship between Ecuador and Julian Assange of Wikileaks is possibly a little strained, by now, too)--long story short: Ecuador isn't running a hotel for wayward truthtellers.  And the possibility of asylum with Russia is not without strings:

Putin, who hosted a summit of gas-exporting nations in Moscow that included leaders from Venezuela, Bolivia and Iran, said he doesn't know if any of those attending could offer Snowden shelter. 
"If he wants to go somewhere and there are those who would take him, he is welcome to do that," Putin said. "If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: he must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound on my lips." 
Putin added that Snowden doesn't want to stop his efforts to reveal information about the U.S. surveillance program. 
"Just because he feels that he is a human rights defender, rights activist, he doesn't seem to have an intention to stop such work," Putin said.

And this is not without reason. While Snowden may have access to intelligence that is at least somewhat useful, and there may be some countries who don't entirely mind giving the US a "black eye", he's still kind of a diplomatic nightmare and a weird walking irony, since most of the nations on his asylum application list aren't exactly champions of the repressed, themselves. Because he has become so high-profile, countries that might consider hosting him are well warned-off. (And no, they don't need direct pressure from the US to know this.)

However, I've given some thought to whether his notoriety isn't in his favor in the one place that would love to have him--the US. I doubt he would be given the same treatment as Bradley Manning, let alone be "droned to death"--specifically because the whole world would be watching. It seems to me that the conditions that Edward Snowden's father indicated as being favorable to his son's return would be honored because of this. And should he return to the US to face sentencing and a trial, the actual questions of what he has uncovered can be properly publically debated, with less emphasis on "Where's Edward?" and "What will he do next?"

Provided, of course, that this a thing still within his means to do.  Which, though my glib blog title may have you think otherwise, is the thing that makes me fear for him. There are many forms of alienation--but being rootless because one has cut oneself off from one's roots is a terrible renunciation. More terrible if it was made for one.


upyernoz said...

"most of the nations on his asylum application list aren't exactly champions of the repressed, themselves"

do we know that? The link you provide says there is a list, but not what countries are on it. Of the countries that have admitted receiving an inquiry for asylum (many are not counting it as an application because he can't legally apply until he reaches their soil), I have heard Finland, Iceland, India, and Russia, only the latter I would call "not exactly a champion..."

upyernoz said...

It looks like the list of nations where he sought asylum leaked. Of the 19, I'd call Austria, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Switzerland as being pretty good on press freedom issues. Russia and Venezuela less so, and I don't know about Bolivia and Nicaragua.

upyernoz said...

oh, and China is obviously on the bad list. It's probably the worst of the bunch.

Why he applied to China after leaving that country makes little sense to me. But I guess that just goes to show that he is making this up as he goes along.

Vixen Strangely said...

Yeah, I think my statement regarding "champions of the repressed" suffers from a lack of clarity (and probably I was starting to get link-fatigue). On press freedom, the countries are a bit of a mixed bag--his choices as actual destinations of China and Russia are puzzling on principle--although it seems to me that the countries more likely to take him would be those with a) less-friendly relations with the US and b) less press freedom.

But I also find myself in favor of a kind of "everyone does it" argument--and this is speculative on my part--I would not be entirely surprised if European allies who are rather shocked by US surveillance revelations don't have similar programs (and that NSA would be aware of some of them). I sort of wonder if the Pandora's Box that's been opened has any embarassment in it for other nations besides the US.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Love the New York Dolls reference! Yeah, Snowden really doesn't seem to have thought through the implications of his actions prior to blowing that whistle. I hope he finds some sanctuary (it pains me to think that my country isn't necessarily the "good guys", but I realized that years ago).