Washington’s panic over Snowden and the case of the Bolivian president’s plane

Bolivian President Evo Morales

Bolivian President Evo Morales

It should have generated screaming headlines: “President of Bolivia’s plane forced to make emergency landing due to U.S. pressure.”

Instead, the U.S. corporate media ran small articles telling how the plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales home from an energy conference in Moscow was refused overflight permission by France, Spain, Italy and Portugal on July 2 while in the air.  It couldn’t land to refuel before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The plane finally had to touch down in Vienna, Austria, where it sat for 13 hours, until Morales allowed an Austrian “inspector” onboard.

Why did this shocking, unprecedented assault on the sovereign nation of Bolivia happen? The forcing down of Morales’ plane is a violation of international law: Aircraft carrying government leaders have diplomatic immunity. So the countries involved gave only technical reasons for refusing to allow the plane to fly over their territory.

While none in authority actually admitted it, everyone knew the real reason. The U.S. believed that someone very important to its “intelligence” agencies might be on board. He wasn’t, as it turned out. But the message had been sent to the world: “We want Snowden and we’ll do anything to get him.”

Edward Snowden is the contract worker for the National Security Agency who sacrificed his career, and perhaps much more, by releasing to the world documents showing the vast extent of U.S. electronic spying on scores of countries — and people in the U.S. too. He is considered a hero by millions of people, including many, many in the U.S., for having gone up against his employers —  the vast repressive apparatus of the seemingly all-powerful government of the United States.

Of course, most people already suspected the U.S. government had been using the hyper-modern technology at its command to mine all kinds of data: text messages, emails, phone calls, twitter feeds, etc. — and privacy be damned. That really wasn’t the point.

The point was to show the literally millions of people who are involved in this kind of “secret” work that the government owns their souls and they’d better not follow their consciences instead of the contracts that bind them to secrecy.

What this incident reveals, however, is that the imperialist government, which exists to further the interests of a small segment of society — much smaller really than the already hated 1% — is not all-powerful. It relies on being able to keep under its control a vast bureaucracy that, in periods of rapid social change and chaos, may have their own ideas about the justice and validity of what they are being forced to do.

In other words, while many of these government employees (or people like Snowden who work for government contractors) may be very well paid by comparison to other jobs, they are workers. In the long run, their interests are in direct opposition to those of the tiny elite ruling class who benefit most from this dying and destructive economic system of capitalism.

What the U.S. did, in collusion with its European imperialist allies, has already provoked a strong response in Latin America.

The foreign minister of Venezuela, Elias Jaua, said: “All the countries that have denied permission for the flight of our brother president, Evo Morales, must be held responsible for his life and his dignity as president.” (Associated Press, July 2)

An extraordinary meeting of the Union of South American Nations has been convened for July 4 in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba to discuss what happened.

Bolivia filed a complaint with the United Nations on July 3 over what it termed the “kidnapping” of its president. The Bolivian ambassador to the United Nations, Sacha Llorenti, said the enforced rerouting to Austria was an act of aggression and a violation of international law.

The British Guardian wrote on July 3, “The U.S. admitted that it had been in contact with other nations over potential flights by Snowden.”

This outrageous incident will not be forgotten. Washington hopes it will intimidate any country that might offer Snowden asylum. Progressive people hope it will stiffen the resolve of those all over the world who are willing to resist the dictates of the imperialists.

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