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In the late 1980's, it was the capitulation of the Soviet Union.
This week it was the massive civilian protests in Egypt.
In both instances, the great, and mighty Empire....having spent many fortunes expanding it's intelligence gathering resources and powers.....had no idea what was about to happen.
This morning, I had the chance to ask a member of the House Intelligence Committee whether they had ever been briefed that such a thing was possible. Answer: No. So when the Beltway “experts” tell you what’s going to happen next, take it with a grain of salt.
Empire has it's limitations. Even when it's citizens, it's leaders and it's media don't see those limitations.
What sticks out like a sore thumb in the U.S. teevee news reports and pundit bloviations over the Egyptian protests is the sense that the dispute in Egypt, a grassroots protest over Egyptian President Mubarak's government....is, somehow, really all about us. The U.S.A.
Even though President Obama kept his comments to a sober minimum yesterday when addressing a press gathering about the Egyptian protests, he still could not stop himself from telling President Mubarak what he should do.
Obama called on Egypt's government to reverse actions it has taken to "interfere with access to the Internet, to cellphone service and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st century."
This from the leader of an Empire where every electronic communication is intercepted and passed through complex computerized algorithms which search for terrorism clues.....without probable cause or judicial warrants.
This from the leader of an Empire which arbitrarily commands Internet sites like PayPal to suspend service to whomever it singles out, again without warrant or legal authority, as it has done throughout the WikiLeaks saga.
This from the leader of an Empire which has actively engaged in computer terrorism against not only Iran's nuclear centrifuges but the servers of whistleblower, Julian Assange, as well.
This from an Empire which for decades has worked clandestinely to install leaders in foreign countries. From Latin America, to the Pacific rim, to the Middle East....the U.S. has made a science out of stifling the democratic wills of foreign populations, working instead to put the guy, the government, into power in those countries that the U.S. government wants in power.
I think the dissonance is deafening.
And the American media? My goodness.
Atrios at the Eschaton blog put it this way.....
I get depressed by the fact that whenever there is a major event somewhere in the world few people can manage to go past the question of, "What should we (the US) do?" I know that things are a bit more complicated, and our being involved in everything already complicates them further, but the answer, mostly, is "nothing."
Allow me to expand on that thought....
You know how when you're having a conversation with certain individuals.....and the other person constantly uses the things you bring up as opportunities to spin out stories about themselves? No matter what the topic or issue.....with some people....everything always winds up being about them.
The United States has become that person.
Empire is not simply expensive and unwieldy.....it also turns it's citizens into self-absorbed teenagers.
And like self-absorbed teenagers, American media have spent the better portion of the last 48 hours (what? there's no other stories to talk about) wondering what it is that "we want" in Egypt.
Ironically, the Egyptian protest against Mubarak which American talkingheads are "reporting" on contains within it's grievances the fact that Mubarak has been too cozy with American interests and not as mindful of the interests of the Egyptian people.
Instead, the mighty and enlightened U.S. media.....the same media and intelligence which missed the end of the Cold War, missed the non-existent WMD's in Iraq, and now has missed another middle eastern civilian protest..... blubbers on and on about knowing what's best for Egypt.
It's Always All About Us.