Edward Snowden’s decision to run is a sound tactical choice

I wish the fugitive well. But we should focus on what he revealed, not who he is

Related Topics

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.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Ventilation Cleaning Operative

£15600 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: the battle of the election videos, and a robot sarcasm detector

John Rentoul

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping child abuse taking place right now

Mary Dejevsky
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower