The ugly face of western imperialism shows itself again

Although president Obama disdainfully says that he would not scramble jets to prevent Edward Snowden from traveling to another country, suggesting that Snowden is not important enough for him, there is no reason to believe him because he and his administration have has proven themselves to be liars.

In fact his administration is pulling out all the stops in their efforts to hound Snowden, clearly putting extreme pressure on every country in order to get their hands on him. The latest outrage was the actual blocking of the plane of the Bolivian president Evo Morales from the airspace of several countries, forcing it to land in Austria and being searched. Bolivians are outraged at this insult to their leader, with the vice president saying that the president had been “kidnapped by imperialism”.

Glenn Greenwald comments on this extraordinary event and how it once more reveals the hypocrisy of US and its western allies.

But on Tuesday night, the governments of three of those countries – France, Spain and Portugal – abruptly withdrew overflight rights for an airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was attempting to fly home from a conference in Russia. That conduct forced a diversion of Morales’ plan to Austria, where he remained for 13 hours before being able to leave this morning.

These EU governments did that because they suspected – falsely, it now seems – that Morales’ plane was also carrying Snowden: the person who enabled them to learn of the NSA spying aimed at their citizens and themselves that they claim to find so infuriating. They wanted to physically prevent Bolivia from considering or granting Snowden’s request for asylum, a centuries-old right in international law. Meanwhile, the German government – which has led the ritualistic condemnations of NSA spying that Snowden exposed – summarily rejected Snowden’s application for asylum almost as soon as it hit their desks.

A 2013 report from Open Society documents that Spain and Portugal were among the nations who participated in various ways in rendition flights – ie kidnapping – by the US. In particular, the report found, “Spain has permitted use of its airspace and airports for flights associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations.” Similarly, “Portugal has permitted use of its airspace and airports for flights associated with CIA extraordinary rendition operations.” The French judiciary previously investigated reports that the French government knowingly allowed the CIA to use its airspace for renditions.

So these EU states are perfectly content to allow a country – when it’s the US – to use their airspace to kidnap people from around the world with no due process. But they will physically stop a plane carrying the president of a sovereign state – when it’s from Latin America – in order to subvert the well-established process for seeking asylum from political persecution (and yes: the US persecutes whistleblowers).

All of this smacks of exactly the kind of rank imperialism and colonialism that infuriates most of Latin America, and further exposes the emptiness of American and western European lectures about the sacred rule of law. This is rogue nation behavior.

The extreme measures the US is taking to get hold of Snowden is a very good reason why it is so important that they fail in their efforts, because we have an extremely vindictive and lawless government that will not think twice about subjecting him to torture.


  1. slc1 says

    Things are not looking too good for Snowden. Apparently Ecuador has rejected his request for asylum. That essentially leaves Cuba, assuming he can find a way to get there.

  2. Corvus illustris says

    Depending on which Austrian functionary you believe, per Spiegel either everybody on Morales’ plane had their passports kontrolliert or the plane was physically searched by Austrian police/border control to make sure that Snowden was not on board. All of South America should be livid over this.

    I wonder what would happen if the same treatment were accorded to Air Force 1. Hey, one of our international criminals might be on board.

  3. mobius says

    I saw this reported as breaking news on Rachel Maddow. There, it did not mention Spain, but did mention Italy as one of the countries that denied their airspace to the plane.

    At any rate, this was the plane of a SOVEREIGN HEAD OF STATE! As reported on Maddow, this was a diplomatic plane, meaning…if I understand things correctly…it should have been immune to search by a foreign power. Even if not so, it still shows a huge disrespect for international relations and international law. It is perfectly understandable why Bolivia is up in arms about this.

    The longer this goes on, the worse the US government and Obama in particular look.

    (And as bad as Obama has been on certain issues, I shudder to think what it would have been like under the Republicans. All the same bad sh*t that Obama has done, plus disastrous social policy as well.)

  4. Chiroptera says

    But Morales was elected against the wishes of the US government, so he doesn’t count as a real head of state.

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