After two years on the hoof from country to country, and having forced the British government and military into an embarrassing capitulation on the legality and legitimacy of the Afghanistan occupation, I sat in a military prison, serving a politicized sentence and sifting through the many letters of support I received each day.
One of them came from the father of an RAF sergeant killed in the Nimrod spy-plane crash near Kandahar. He commended my refusal to return to the war of choice which had robbed him of his 25 year old son and cited Wellington. “The true test of a general”, he wrote, “is knowing when to retreat and to have the courage to do it.” Wellington, of course, understood that if one wants to beat a superior force, one must dictate the where and the when of the fight.
Despite the moralistic suggestions of Nick Cohen that Edward Snowden’s flight is cowardly, it seems obvious to many observers that going on the run as a political fugitive is not only part of a great and grand tradition, but is an entirely legitimate, practical and tactical choice given the grim record of the people who are hollering “Seize him!”.
After all, why would a whistle-blower stand and trade punches with the administration which has had Bradley Manning torturously caged for three years for telling the truth. Snowden’s flight from the enemy is that of a guerrilla faced with superior force.
The young intelligence analyst has exposed the US government as what it is: a lumbering ape whose wealth and power cannot obscure the truth that its default setting is to drone strike the messenger, honk out blood-curdling threats at dissenters and bully those around it. Which is not to say the UK government is any better.
The fact is that the chasing side have all the guns, all the bombs, a monopoly on spying, all the cages and most of the assassins coupled with the demonstrable will to use them. This reality behoves a rogue to stay mobile and to only ever, ever fight on the ground of his own choosing. Needless to say those pursuing Snowden know this, it is a lesson we have long taught to favoured movements from Afghan Mujahedeen to the vicious graduates of the US-based School of the America's, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, a veritable production line of agents trained to overthrow democratic governments in Latin America.
To accuse Snowden of cowardice is first of all propaganda, though the fact that so much of the ad hominem abuse comes from patsy hacks rather than statesmen hints at the bitterness they feel at the sight of people from outside the cloister doing their job for them. Similarly snide and sulky abuse was, and continues, to be levelled at Wikileaks.
Likewise the accusations of him being an attention seeker fall apart as soon as we recall he has given one single interview and subsequently gone to such extreme (and rather entertaining) lengths to disappear from the face of the earth. Clearly the modus operandi of a “grandiose narcissist”.
What we must not do is allow this almost complete media focus on US imperialism’s new running target to distract from the real issue, which is the one that Edward Snowden has himself revealed: the outrageous prying conduct of the UK and British governments being carried out as a matter of policy.
As for Snowden, I wish him well. The longer this saga goes on, the more it is shaping up like a comic and post-modern version of a Tolkien epic. My firmest hope is that while Julian the Grey and Bradley distract the Burning Eye of Obama, young Edward creeps past the goblins and Gollums of mainstream journalism who have been warped and driven mad by their decades of exclusive exposure to The Precious.
I pray he will then penetrate the Black Gates of Washington D.C. and cast The One Memory Stick into the fiery chasm of Mount Secrecy from whence it came, bringing the whole damned thing crashing down.