Friday, June 14, 2013

The Harsh Truth

So the United States is spying on my e-mails, facebook posts, tweets, and tracking all my web-movement to ensure that on the day I decide to engage in anti-US nefariousness the US government will be able to send in a Predator (or is it Reaper) drone armed with hell-fire missiles and exterminate me by remote control. The spying on non-US citizens by the US' National Security Agency, and other intelligence organisations, has outraged many US citizens because they, too, have been the targets of this spying, though unwittingly. Even Kenya, it seems, is the top target in Africa for online snooping by US spooks. Pundits, in and out the US, are complaining, loudly, of the "invasion of privacy" and the "implications" of this invasion in limiting other rights.

Edward Snowden, the civilian contractor for the NSA who revealed the online spying operations of the NSA, sounds like one of those annoying US citizens who's very sure about "his rights;" though how the 29-year old nerd manages to speak of privacy of the US citizen as inalienable while glossing over the alienability of non-US citizens' privacy does not square with his desire to "respect the Constitution."

While it is a bit creepy that Barack Obama and his government would want to know what I think, how I think it and what I intend to do about what I think, I am unable to blame them, save as a tactic to promote the interests of all Kenyans. The United States, for a time, was the single most powerful nation in the world, capable of dictating to, and bullying, every other nation to toe its line over a raft of issues. But today, it is part of a very complex world where its great military power, economic might and technological lead are irrelevant in the face of faceless organisations that seek to destroy it. Its power was useless when al Qaeda's operatives hijacked aircraft within the US and used them as weapons over eleven years ago. So today, in order to ensure that al Qaeda and its successors and emulators do not accomplish what they did in 2001, the US government through its national security apparatus, spies on friends and foes alike, violating the civil rights of citizens of friendly and belligerent nations without fear pr favour. The US' attitude seems to be, "Get on board...or tough shit!"

But in a multi-polar, complex and complicated world, how we react to the US spying depends on whether we believe that the United States is washed up. The proof seems to suggest that it is not. Despite the Global Economic Crisis (which it caused), multiple wars and armed engagements worldwide, or the perceived decadence of its entertainment industry, the mass of immigration seems to be pointing inexorably to the United States. It remains the land of opportunity. However, if you truly believe that the United States is not for you, and that you are fine without all the fine things it produces, then you are well within your rights to wage an e-Jihad against it and attack its spying infrastructure (good luck with that.)

We are all standing idly by as Syria is turned into rubble. We know what must be done. We know who has the capacity to do it. We want them to do it. But we will rant and rave about the US' unilateralism as if it means anything when we can do nothing about it. If Barack Obama orders his Marines to take Damascus, remove Bashar Assad from power, install a friendly puppet in his place, and reward US corporations for the their support, while we do nothing and watch from the sidelines, what moral authority will we have to demand a piece of the pie or kid gloves from the US?

The debates and arguments about the invasions of privacy by the United States are an intellectual navel-gazing exercise designed to insulate us from the harsh reality that we can do little to stop it save wage war (which we would likely lose.) This harsh reality is demonstrated when the President of the United States travels abroad: we may hate him, his country and all they stand for, but we still want to bask in the (reluctant) glory of having him come calling, implicitly endorsing your presidency, prime ministership, whatever, and, crucially, introducing you to the men and women who truly matter in the United States: CEOs of transnational corporations that make or build things.

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