By Amitabh Pal on July 16, 2014

U.S. spying on Germany is causing a crisis with a major ally.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has ordered the expulsion of the CIA chief there. She made the move after revelations that two German officials were actually U.S. spies. The episode is casting a cloud over U.S.-German relations.

“Everything is overshadowed by this,” a German official told The Guardian.

There are a number of reasons the German government is so upset.

“Germany thought it had a relationship with the United States based on trust and transparency,” says Paul Hockenos, a longtime observer of Germany who is based in Berlin. “It feels it’s being pushed around by the United States rather than respected. Also, against the background of the Nazi dictatorship and the communist regime, Germans are sensitive about surveillance.”

The German government is also responding to intense indignation among the German public.

“People are really pissed,” Hockenos tells The Progressive. “It’s really a bit shocking to hear even conservatives speak with such venom about the United States.”

This is why the German government resisted the pleadings of the Obama Administration to work things out behind closed doors.

“Dialogue in private is fine, but there must be something in public; people are so outraged,” the German official interviewed by The Guardian said.

Professor Immanuel Wallerstein, a veteran analyst of international issues, asserts that the motivations for U.S. spying run deep.

“The basic problem is that the United States is, and has been for some time, in geopolitical decline,” he writes in a syndicated column. “It doesn't like this. It doesn't really accept this. So it keeps trying to restore what is unrestorable—U.S. ‘leadership’ (read: hegemony) in the world-system.”

The defense of the United States is that it wasn’t targeting Germany, but was rather attempting to thwart Russian snooping inside Germany, the Daily Beast reports. But such reasoning doesn’t seem to have convinced even top officials in a U.S.-leaning conservative government.

“So much idiocy and stupidity can only make you cry,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble has said.

U.S. snooping activity in Germany is quite extensive.

“The National Security Agency apparently has at least 150 listening sites in Germany,” writes Jacob Heilbrunn in the National Interest. “U.S. intelligence services have also been trying to suborn German officials to turn over secret documents, including, apparently, the results of an investigation into NSA spying itself in Germany.”

In a piece for Al Jazeera online, Hockenos advises the German government to go further to let its displeasure be known.

Even though the CIA chief explusion is “unprecedented in postwar transatlantic relations, this dramatic step is merely symbolic,” he writes. “The substantive option Germany should—and indeed still can—take is to offer National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden political asylum, as opposition politicians have been demanding for some time now.”

“Providing political asylum to Snowden would mean so much more than this harmless diplomatic swipe,” he adds. “It would spark a reassessment of U.S. foreign policy since the war on terror began.”

Short of that, Hockenos tells The Progressive, the recent contretemps will not have a long-lasting impact on U.S.-German relations.

“I think Germany would back down pretty quickly if the United States were to act more modestly, say I’m sorry, sign a ‘no spy’ agreement,” he says. “This expulsion of one guy won’t really damage long-term relations. Asylum for Snowden, on the other hand, would.”

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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