When Barack Obama took office in 2008, many Americans – myself included – believed that this country had turned a corner on many fronts, principally the geopolitical front.
The Obama administration would close Guantanamo, we thought. It would scale back our reflexive reactions to 9/11, refusing to trade our constitutional freedoms for the illusion of safety and security, we thought. It would reject the Bush administration's propensity to drone sovereign nations and roll back the intelligence community's intrusive breaches of Americans' Fourth Amendment rights, we thought.
Much of the world thought this as well.
However, the international community has come to learn that we were mistaken. The international community, with revelations of just how deep the NSA's surveillance reach extends into the lives of foreign citizens and nations, has come to associate America as an Orwellian entity in ways it never before had. Western citizens have begun to understand what many Middle Eastern countries have known (from experience) for years: America's power is too much to bear.
Hong Kong's official statement today on Edward Snowden's departure represents this view quite starkly. For after essentially explaining its screw you rationale for rejecting America's extradition request, Hong Kong had this to add:
Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.Protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong. This dig at the United States, rare for Hong Kong, elicited a prescient comment from RocketJSquirrel:
The world has stopped believing we stand for anything but our own power. We have lost legitimacy.We have lost our legitimacy in the world.
Torture, above all, brought this into being. Obama's refusal to go after the torturers delegitimized us further. Gitmo, Bradley Manning, violating sovereignty willy nilly, drone strikes even on American citizens... Basic disrespect for the principles we have preached so self-righteously to the world, on a scale that makes even prior hypocrisies (Reagan's Central American policies, Nixon's bombing of Cambodia, dropping atom bombs on cities full of civilians, genocide against Native people, slavery, internment) look like prologues to planned global domination.
It didn't have to be this way.