It wasn't that many years ago when the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union so trampled on human rights that its intellectuals and artists fled for the United States.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn settled in Vermont with his Nobel Prize, preceded by Michael Baryshnikov, Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, and dancer, Alexander Godunov.
But Solzhenitsyn soured on his Valhalla. He delivered an impassioned Harvard commencement address expressing his consummate disappointment in the land of the free. After Perestroika, he returned to his beloved Russia to finish out his life.
Since the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, though, times changed. America became something else. It grew teeth and claws. Its waistline swelled to gargantuan proportions.
Today, Goliath has troops in over 150 countries. It conducts military operations virtually anywhere in the world it chooses. Between 2011 and 2013, it was killing people in nine different countries: Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Honduras, and Central Africa. In the twenty-first century, the United States of America slaughtered over 100,000 human beings.
With unmatched military prowess, it sniffs out pirates off the coast of Africa while greasing the skids of military bases from the center of the Indian Ocean to Greenland. As Mother Jones,' David Vine, writes:
"Around the world, from Djibouti to the jungles of Honduras, the deserts of Mauritania to Australia's tiny Cocos Islands, the Pentagon has been pursuing as many lily pads as it can."
To underscore just how large this beast has grown, today the United States has a thousand military bases overseas. Russia has ten. China none.
But the colossus has other dimensions. Because the Federal Reserve can print as much money as it chooses, which it politely calls 'quantitative easing' or 'mortgage asset purchases' -- an amount now approaching a trillion dollars in newly created currency every year -- the American empire enjoys a titanic clout over the entire world economy. If it decides to "taper" its printing presses, Indian and Indonesian economies implode. If it chooses to curtail loans and credits to Greece -- because Greece was caught buying Iranian oil -- Greece teeters on the edge of insolvency.
So, as Goliath expands his reach, in walked Edward Snowden. He used his slingshot. He accused the United States of spying on the entire American population, listening to phone conversations without warrant, mining emails without court-ordered permission, and eavesdropping on the metadata of 3 billion phone calls each day.
He was preceded in his efforts by Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Pfc. Bradley Manning. Manning tried to expose the hypocrisy in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and will spend the majority of her adult life in an American gulag. Solzhenitsyn tried to expose violations of human rights in the Soviet Empire, and spent most of his adult life in another gulag. And Edward Snowden laid bare violations of rights and privacy in the United States. Still free, he is stalked doggedly for his efforts as Goliath rises up in anger at its frustration with Russia.
No one gets off lightly. Putin must face the consequences of his decision -- a cancelled summit, and perhaps a cancelled Olympics.
Today, the image of America as a land of freedom, human rights, and democratic vision is little more than a vestigial, rump state nestled squarely inside the belly of this leviathan. The beast believes it no longer needs warrants to invade the privacy of its citizens, that it can order the execution of Americans on foreign soil without judge, jury, or sentencing, that it can play loosey-goosey with the Geneva Convention, that it can torture, that it can search any vessel on the high seas that it chooses, and that it can order countries like Panama to search any ship it deems a threat -- like a Korean ship recently dissembled from top to bottom on orders from Washington.
And the juggernaut can simply ignore its own laws which specify all aid be cut off from countries where democracies have been overthrown by force of arms. Only the second democratically elected government in Egypt's history, Goliath simply closed his eyes, decided not call it a coup at all, and continued to pay the enormous salaries of the very generals who toppled Egypt's freely elected government.
Like his predecessor, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Snowden sought refuge and asylum. He thought he could fly to Venezuela. But the United States blocked the plane that would carry him there. He thought he could fly off to Ecuador, but those hopes were crushed, too, as the U.S. threatened to cancel a free trade agreement if that tiny nation was brazen enough to offer solace. Goliath's leverage is incalculable.
Aleksy Pushkov, head of Russia's Foreign Affairs Committee said that Snowden had the "status of a political dissident and a fighter for human rights." The American people agree. Over fifty-five percent believe he is a "whistleblower," neither a traitor nor a criminal. We can only congratulate Swedish professor, Stefan Svallfors, for nominating him for the Nobel Prize
Should he win, Americans will have to confront the bizarre reality that Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Edward Snowden sought asylum in each other's countries, belonged to the same cause, spoke the same language, possessed the same courage, articulated the same values, and stood together against the same malevolent violations of human rights.
Jerry Kroth, Ph.D., is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post. He is an Associate Professor Emeritus from Santa Clara University and maintains a website: collectivepsych.com.
This post has been updated after publication to more accurately reflect The Huffington Post's style guidance for Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Pfc. Bradley Manning.