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Shamelessness, Thy Name Is Blinken – OpEd

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The gold standard for shamelessness has long been the guy who murders his parents and then pleads for the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.

The US, as well as the lickspittle NATO nations of Europe have pretty much topped this hypothetical example with a real one. They accomplished this by going into high dudgeon over Belarus President/dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s ruse of warning of a bomb on a UK Ryanair passenger jet flying from  Greece to Lithuania and sending Belorus fighter jets to intercept and ‘escort’ and divert the plane to a landing in Minsk. There his police conducted a comic “search” for the nonexistent threat and then arrested a critical Belarus journalist who was on board.

European countries are calling Lukashenko’s outrage an official government act of piracy and are threatening to ban all flights from Belarus in response. In the US, an indignant Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement saying:

“The United States strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk. We demand his immediate release. This shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenko regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens. Initial reports suggesting the involvement of the Belarusian security services and the use of Belarusian military aircraft to escort the plane are deeply concerning and require full investigation.”

Blinken added that the US would join America’s “partners” in the EU and Lithuania  and Greece [the two terminuses of the diverted plane’s flight] in calling for the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization to review these events.”

What seemed to exercise Sec. Blinken so was the threat to “independent media” posed by this unusual act of repressive government power in an effort to shut down a journalist. “The United State once again condemns the Lukashenk regime’s ongoing harassment and arbitrary detention of journalists,” Blinken said archly.

So why is the US in this case so uniquely shameless?

It was only eight years ago that it was the US that was forcing down a plane, only in that case it was not just any plane but rather one carrying a head of state, Bolivian President Evo Morales.  But as with this latest incident the goal was harassing an “independent media” and nabbing a critic.  In that 2013 incident the real target was Edward Snowden, source for one of the biggest stories of the century:  the disclosure  thousands of documents from a global spying program by the top secret US National Security Agency where he had been employed as a private contractor.

Snowden, you may recall, ended up trapped in the transfer area of the Moscow Airport for weeks because the Obama administration had revoked his passport while he was flying from a hideout in Hong Kong in hopes of reaching some haven willing to grant him asylum from prosecution in the US for espionage and other crimes.

While Snowden was camping in the airport, the US apparently received what it thought was a tip that Snowden was being granted asylum in either Cuba or Bolivia and that he would be spirited out of Russia on the Morales presidential plane, which was bring him home from a  summit meeting he’d attended with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Reportedly under US pressure, European governments in the UK, Spain, Portugal and Italy all denied the leader’s plane a landing for needed refueling, foring the presidential aircraft to turn back an land at the airport at Vienna, where the Bolivian president was forced by complicit Austrian government officials to endure the indignity of having his presidential craft searched for a hidden Snowden — who was, embarrassingly, nowhere to be found. (If Morales had been flying Snowden to Bolivia to obtain asylum there or elsewhere in Latin America, that would have been his absolute right, not a criminal act)

In the end of course, Snowden, still at the Moscow airport, was granted asylum by Russia, where he remains to this day. He will likely will become a  Russian citizen eventually, since the US under three consecutive presidents has made it clear that if he tries to fly elsewhere, he will have his flight grounded like what happened to Ryanair passengers, and be carted off like Pratasevich in chains to face espionage charges in the US.

And for what?  Exposing what virtually every American agrees is a massive violation of the Bill of Rights, and that most major US media outlets considered to be the story of the century.  So much for respecting “independent media” in the US, and for respecting international sovereignty and the rule of law.

The US action in 2013 was far more egregious than that of Belarus this month. A flagrant breach of international law, .it established a precedent that Belarus’s Lukavshenko is simply taking advantage of.

All Belarus dictator Lukoshenko did was force a civilian airliner to land and to inconvenience 120 international passengers for a few hours while arresting his domestic journalistic enemy.  What Obama did, almost certainly with Blinken’s assistance, I might add,  was wilfully violate the sovereignty of a nation by preventing and even risking the life of the popularly elected president (not dictator!) of an independent, sovereign Latin American nation, forcing the Morales presidential plane to land and submit to a search.

At least Lukashenko had the huevos to commit his outrage against international law overtly. Obama hid his treacherous violation of international law and the sovereignty of nations by claiming the forced landing of the Morales plane was the work of Western European nations (the so-called “free world”) — nations which in fact had no interest in Snowden or in President Morales.

And Blinken’s role?  During all of 2013, from the start of Obama’s second term, Blinken was deputy national security advisor to the president, meaning this shameless hypocrite and more recently shameless arms peddler,  was surely intimately involved in the scheme to capture Snowden by hijacking the Morales presidential jet. Blinken equally surely was also actively involved in the behind-the-scenes pressure brought on European governments to deny landing permission to the Bolivian presidential jet so that it would have turn around and land in Austria. (England, Spain, Portugal and Italy all didn’t come up with that hokey plot on their own. They can’t even agree on fishing rights or acceptable limits on national debt!)

The moral standing of the US has been in the toilet for decades, of course, but this latest hypocritical US official expression of indignation over the Lukashenko outrage moves the US out of the toilet and into the sewer.

Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective. Lindorff is a contributor to "Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion" (AK Press) and the author the author of “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press). He can be reached at [email protected]

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