Channeling George: A Surplus of Snowdens

News at Home
tags: CIA, Snowden

Thomas Fleming is the author of more than forty books including Washington’s Secret War, the Hidden History of Valley Forge in which Jedediah Snowden appears. 

Do you think arrogance is an inherited trait?

Why do you ask, Mr. President?

    I saw a recently that Edwin Snowden has announced he’s ready to cut a deal with the United States. He’s apparently grown weary of hiding out in Moscow. He’s even ready to do some jail time if we let him come home.

            Perhaps we should explain who we’re talking about.

        I’m talking about the man who leaked thousands of confidential transcripts of American surveillance of other nations, friends as well as foes. We were trying to make sure no one was plotting another 9/11. Snowden seems to think his leak was a noble gesture.  By interesting coincidence, in 1778 I had to deal with another Snowden, named Jedediah. He thought he knew how to win the American Revolution without any help from me and my Continental Army.

Why did he feel it was his job to come up with this plan?

         Snowden  and his pal  Benjamin Harbeson were convinced that a regular army was not only unnecessary, it was dangerous.  It threatened the liberty Tom Jefferson celebrated in the Declaration of Independence.  Like the current Snowden’s attitude toward the CIA, Jedediah saw no need for an army that had to be paid and fed.  There were easier ways for free men to win a war.

   Were there other Americans who believed this?

      You bet there were.  You can start with a famous name, Samuel Adams.  His cousin John leaned in the same direction. Another guy was Benjamin Rush, the Philadelphia doctor who signed the Declaration and was convinced I was a lousy general. Sam headed a party in Congress, who were determined to treat the army with suspicion and dislike. For them, the word militia had a magical ring. Militia were free men volunteering for a few weeks to defend their homes and families, as they supposedly did on April 19, 1775. They didn’t sign away their freedom for a three year enlistment like a regular – something that appalled these moral purists.

 How did your Snowden plan to win the Revolutionary War?

    His strategy was based on simple arithmetic. He and his pal Harbeson checked the militia rolls of the state of Pennsylvania.  There were 70,000 men on the list. In Philadelphia, the British had about 15,000 men – mercenaries, Snowden called them. Free men could defeat mercenaries anytime, anywhere, right? Especially if they outnumbered them 5-1.

Where were you and your Continental Army at this point?

       We were in a place called Valley Forge, trying to figure out how to feed 10,000 men. When they didn’t get their daily ration of bread and meat, they chanted “NO MEAT! NO BREAD! NO MEAT!”  It sounded like the voice of doomsday to me and General Nathanael Greene, who was doubling as quartermaster.

This didn’t bother your Snowden?

       He was hanging out in Lancaster, about forty miles away. That was the temporary capital of Pennsylvania.  These local politicians spent most of their time denouncing me and the Continental Army for letting the British capture Philadelphia.  When they weren’t calling me names, they were writing a militia law that was so exquisitely fair, you couldn’t raise ten men when you needed them in a hurry. Their government was all about rights and almost nothing about responsibilities.

  How were they going to win the war?

    Snowden’s plan was so simple, he was convinced it was brilliant. He wanted to call out every militiaman on the state’s rolls. With 70,000 men, they were going to march on the British in Philadelphia and call on them to surrender. If they said no, they were going to slaughter them to the last man. Presto, the war was over!

What was wrong with that plan?

       This 70,000 man militia army had to be fed three meals a day. Militia got just as hungry as regulars. Maybe more so. It would take a week, maybe two weeks to assemble this  army. Pennsylvania is a big state. If we were panicky when “NO MEAT!” resounded through Valley Forge, you can imagine what five times that many hungry men would have sounded like wherever they were camped. Unlike regulars, militia had little or no discipline. They would have looted every farmhouse for dozens of miles around Philadelphia. Neither Snowden nor his partner had given a moment’s thought to how to feed them.

What did you do?

    I knew they wouldn’t take any orders from me. A civilian authority, such as the Continental Congress, was different.  Behind the scenes, I convinced the Congress to stop them. They told Snowden and his pal to take their magical arithmetic and go home.

 What does this tell us about the 21st Century Snowden?

     He’s the same sort of  arrogant type, who thinks his personal opinion is superior to everyone else’s. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop this Snowden before he inflicted serious damage on the country.  If he wants to come home, he should be prepared to spend ten or twenty years in prison, thinking about how he’s made it easier for a foreign enemy to attack America.