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1 Aug, 2010

U.S. is No Longer the Country it Once Was

Originally Published: 1 August 2010

The latest whistle-blowing revelations about U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan via the website Wikileaks are in the best traditions of American democracy, freedom, transparency and accountability which were widely believed to be the way of the future.

The reactions to it, however, are in the best traditions of military dictatorships, communism and fascism that were widely believed to be systems of the past.

Clearly, the US is no longer the country it once was. A nation which once championed the right of peoples not to be lied to is today at the forefront of lying to the world at large – and then seeking to cover it up.

Gone are the heady days of Vietnam and Watergate. By becoming less democratic, less transparent and more repressive and draconian, the U.S. is acknowledging the obvious: the terrorists it claims to be battling are winning. They are changing America and making it every inch like the military regimes and the communist dictatorships it claims to have vanquished.

Since when has curbing freedom become a means of promoting freedom?

The Obama administration, which came to power promising openness and a less secretive government, is on a Nixonian witch-hunt to track down the sources of the leak. And then what? A midnight knock on the door?

In order to “keep Americans safe”?

Perhaps it is the whistleblowers who are really trying to keep Americans safe, from both terrorists and their own government.

Professionally, I feel exonerated. Whistleblowing was the subject of this column way back on September 22, 2002 headlined “Let’s hear it for whistle-blowers”, in which I referred to the then mysterious Watergate source “Deep Throat” as the “quintessential whistle-blower.”

I wrote: “Everyone has a conscience, some deeper than others, and people are very very disturbed by what they see going on today.

Inspite of various attempts at check-and-balance, incidents of abuse of power, corruption and greed are on the rise. As always, it is the small minority that is courageous enough to take a stand.”

That Sept 2002 column was motivated by news that a former partner in the accountancy company Arthur Andersen had decided to plead guilty to obstructing justice by ordering employees to destroy documents related to the former energy giant Enron.

The former partner was quoted as saying that he had acted after extensive “soul searching about my intent and what was in my head at the time.” He said he feared a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and civil litigation after Enron’s questionable accounting practices came to light.

I wrote then, and reaffirm today, that “those exposed to the real dangers, those with the really strong principles and conscience, are the whistle-blowers.” In a subsequent column, I forecast an emerging alliance between whistleblowers, the media, the judiciary and NGOs.

In the light of the Wikileaks, I take pride in being proved right. Indeed, my track record in forecasting global trends is getting better.

I was among the few journalists who did not go ga-ga over the election of President Obama. In fact I was downright pessimistic about his ability to do anything substantial to advance peace in the Middle East. I am also on the record as stating that the Israelis have no intention of returning occupied territories to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. Both are proving right.

More than 10 years ago, I forecast that there would be no end to the terrorism problem. My columns also have regularly discussed the decline in the power, influence and prestige of the United States as well as the negative downsides of globalisation.

All are proving right. The reason for this is simple. There’s a limit to which the public can be lied to. Every day, hundreds of spin doctors, corporate executives, diplomats, politicians, bureaucrats, public servants, even members of the media, are hard at work finding new ways to lie to, mislead and/or deceive the public.

The game-plan is to classify complex world issues into “good” vs “evil” scenarios and then spin it accordingly. The Soviet Union, the former “evil empire”, has been demolished and replaced with “Islamic terrorism”.

Today, Muslims are under pressure to denounce the fanatics and terrorists in their midst. But “Islamic terrorists” are not aided and abetted by the vast, vast majority of Muslims. However, each and every American taxpayer is paying for the drones, mercenaries and assorted other killers at work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An American public that was outraged when American soldiers massacred civilians in the Vietnamese village of My Lai in March 1968 now feels nothing when civilians are killed in Afghanistan and Iraq? What is different? What has changed?

In a delayed reaction of sorts, the true American traditions of pursuing accountability and transparency are making a comeback. The American public is showing some definitive signs of exasperation at being lied to by its leaders, elected representatives and their allies and financiers in the military-industrial complex.

Someone wants to stir up this sleeping giant and ask where this is all going to end, whether it is actually producing the desired results, and how much more American tax money is to be spent to keep them safe?

The tolerance level of the American people at being duped and brainwashed is running out. The public has had it with sending their children to die over non-existent weapons of mass destruction and bailing out rogue bankers and “financial terrorists” with billions in tax-money while American jobs get transferred abroad.

Truth and justice are winning. The more the U.S. government seeks to silence the whistleblowers, the more will come out of the woodwork, and the more it will setback the credibility, prestige, influence and power of the United States, accelerating its decline and proving me right.

At some point, it will no longer be possible to preach freedom and democracy, transparency and accountability, while practising exactly the opposite.

As I have written on many an occasion: An unjust ruler always falls. Always.