July 27, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – There’s been so much dramatic news these days – from Greece’s miseries to Iran, China from blowhard Donald Trump – that the shocking story of how America’s National Security Agency has been spying on German and French leadership has gone almost unnoticed.
Last year, it was revealed that the NSA had intercepted Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. She is supposed to be one of Washington’s most important allies and the key power in Europe. There was quiet outrage in always subservient Germany, but no serious punitive action.
Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, was also bugged by American intelligence. Her predecessor, Luiz Lula Da Silva, was also apparently bugged.
This year, came revelations that NSA and perhaps CIA had tapped the phones of France’s President, Francois Hollande and his two predecessors, Nicholas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac. Hollande ate humble pie and could only summon some faint peeps of protest to Washington. Luckily for the US, Charles de Gaulle was not around. After the US tried to strong-arm France, ‘le Grand Charles’ kicked the US and NATO out of France.
This week, Wikileaks revealed that the US NSA had bugged the phone of Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for over a decade. Imagine the uproar and cries “the Gestapo is back” if it were revealed that German intelligence had bugged the phones of President Barack Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry.
A lot of Germans were really angry that their nation was being treated by the Americans as a northern banana republic. Many recalled that in the bad old days of East Germany its intelligence agency, Stasi, monitored everyone’s communications under the direct supervision of KGB big brother at Moscow Center.
The National Security Agency and CIA claim their electronic spying is only aimed at thwarting attacks by anti-American groups (aka “terrorism”). This claim, as shown by recent events, is untrue. One supposes the rational must be a twist on the old adage “keep your enemies close, but your friends even closer.”
Ironically, the political leaders listed above – save perhaps Brazil’s da Silva – are all notably pro-American and responsive to Washington’s demands.
Why would the US risk alienating and humiliating some of its closet allies?
One suspects the reason is sheer arrogance…and because US intelligence could do it. But must US intelligence really know what Mr Merkel is making Mrs Merkel for dinner?
Until Wikileaks blew the whistle, some European leaders may have known they were being spied upon but chose to close their eyes and avoid making an issue. Raising a fuss would have forced them to take action against the mighty US.
Besides, British, Italian and French intelligence are widely believed to have bugged most communications since the 1950’s. But not, of course, the White House or Pentagon. The only nation believed to have gotten away with bugging the White House was Israel during the Clinton years. The Pentagon was bugged by a number of foreign nations, including Israel, China and Russia.
Humiliating Europe’s leaders in this fashion is a gift to the growing numbers of Europeans who believe their nations are being treated by the US as vassal states.
There is widespread belief in Western Europe that US strategic policy aims at preventing deeper integration of the EU and thwarting a common foreign policy or a powerful European military. Britain serves as a Trojan horse for America’s strategic interests in Europe.
Way back in the 1960’s, then German defense minister Franz Josef Strauss, an ardent proponent of a truly united Europe, thundered that Europeans would not play spearmen to America’s atomic knights. But, of course, that’s just what happened.
The US still runs and finances NATO in the same way the Soviet Union commanded the Warsaw Pact. Washington calls on Europe for troop contingents in its Mideast and south Asian colonial wars in the same way that the Persian Empire summoned its vassals to war.
Many Germans and French, both right and left, would like their leaders to react more forcefully to NSA’s ham-handed spying. However, Mrs Merkel and President Holland are both political jellyfish eager to evade any confrontation with Big Brother in Washington. Maybe he has too much dirt on them.
But a confrontation is inevitable one day if Europe is to regain its true independence that was lost after World War II.
Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.
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