• Russians Understand the Hypocrisy State Department Denies

    March 20, 2012

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Embassy/State

    The article below appeared on a Russian news site. It shows the Russians, after years of autocratic governments, and after years of watching the US plead for their rights when it was politically beneficial for the US to do, understand the hypocrisy of our State Department.

    While blathering about how other governments should not stifle dissent, State claims that its “regulations” do not permit writing, speaking or blogging in a free society without the Government’s permission. The State Department can talk itself into believing there is no hypocrisy in that, but the rest of the world understands what is really going on.

    The American media, always ready to stand behind Russian whistleblowers, shows remarkably little interest in whistleblowers operating closer to home. There is a good example for that in the case of Peter Van Buren, a State Department officer, who recently received a termination notice from his employer. Obviously, the foreign service is not unhappy about Van Buren’s language skills (he speaks four languages) or lack of experience (in his 24 years of service he had been posted to a dozen of countries, including Iraq). The reason is Van Buren’s book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.

    To a Russian, this title sounds familiar, since it reminds us of the immortal formula coined by Russia’s former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for bungled government action: “We always mean well, but we invariably do it the usual way.”

    One could easily imagine how the American correspondents in Moscow would pounce on a similar author from some government service in Russia after the news of his receiving a termination letter. But when the “Terminator” is Mrs. Clinton, there is surprisingly little fascination about the case.

    And this is certainly an undeserved lack of attention, since Van Buren’s story has all the elements of a whistleblower drama (or shall we call it a “human rights thriller”?) Here we have the State Department’s bureaucrats moving to fire Mr. Van Buren on 8 charges such as linking his blog to the WikiLeaks site (what about access to information acts?); disclosing classified information (as if the results of George W. Bush’s action in Iraq are a secret to anyone); and publishing an unauthorized blog (what about freedom of speech?)

    The most interesting accusation, although, is the one of “bad judgment” which consisted in Mr. Van Buren’s criticism of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and some of his blogged remarks on the then-presidential candidate Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R.-Minn.). The “coup de grace” on top of it all was Van Buren’s failure to clear each blog posting with his bosses. (Never read the stories about “tight-lipped officials” in other countries, such as Russia? But even the Soviet bureaucrats did not have to “clear” their letters with their superiors.)

    So, what was so bad about Mr. Van Buren’s “judgment”? In his blog, he almost never uses previously unpublished materials, most of the space is filled with comments on the recent killing of 16 civilians by a US soldier, on failures of the American economic aid to Iraq, on the generally flawed character of American “nation building” in Moslem countries.

    “Quite obviously, the State Department is prosecuting me for exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression. No, not really: they say they’d love for me to write stuff they don’t agree with, all I need is to ask their permission first,” Van Buren writes sarcastically in his blog.

    One cannot find any personal calumnies against Mrs. Clinton on Van Buren’s blog, there is just some pretty sound judgment on the “American empire” and its future. Here is a typical quote:

    “America faced a choice and blew it. As an empire, we either needed to take control of the world’s oil or create a more equitable and less martial global society to ensure our access to it. We did neither. We needed either to create a colonial system for adventures like Iraq or Afghanistan along the Victorian model, or to not invade and rebuild those places. We did neither. Simply pouring more and more lives and money into the military is a one-way street going in the wrong direction. We can keep spending, but when the millions of dollars spent on weapons can be deflected by acts of terrorism that cost almost nothing, we will lose.”

    Is it “bad judgment?” A lot of people, having read the stories about the “postwar” (or is it wartime?) reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan would argue that this judgment actually hits the spot. New York Times

    But, obviously, such a judgment would not get a “clearance” from the State Department’s officials. So, who is making a “bad judgment” in this case?

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