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Pitts is wrong on Snowden and his place in history

Perhaps Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts is right when he argues that Edward Snowden is no hero – because, according to Pitts, Snowden is evading punishment by “going to Venezuela.” My question for Mr. Pitts is, “Then what is he? What is Mr. Snowden?”

Pitts insinuates that Snowden failed to act out of conscience, and out of love of what the United States “can be” in the memorable phrase from HBO’s Newsroom (Season 1).

Was Eugene Debs a hero for serving out most of his 10-year federal sentence, or for speaking out against the war? Pitts airily dismisses Daniel Ellsberg’s caveat that the United States has changed since Watergate, and that Snowden “would likely be ‘disappeared’ into solitary confinement” (scare quotes added). After all, many died for their civil rights in the South.

But the country was different then. If “half” the country was deeply racist, and part of it was committed to a system of “separate but equal,” still, the remaining majority prevailed. Alas, as former President Jimmy Carter recently observed at the Atlantic Bridge meeting in Atlanta, as reported by Der Spiegel, America has no functioning democracy.

Der Spiegel also referred to an oped piece published last year by the New York Times in which Carter wrote that since Sept. 11 our lack of regard for human rights around the world has greatly diminished our moral standing as a nation.

I’m assuming that the president was referring to kidnappings (“renditions”), assassinations (drone strikes), our complicity in and advocacy of torture – including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and solitary confinement – and our ongoing national disgrace at Guantanamo.

His latest remarks suggest that he fears anti-democratic “chickens” have come home to roost.

And this is the real message of Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg and Jimmy Carter.

Doug Aerie

Buffalo