U.S. Moral Hypocrisy
As the West, led by the United States rushes to condemn foreign adversaries, it might behoove them to reflect on their own conduct on the world stage
London , United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland - 2 Jan 2018 - Ghassan Matar
The West scoffs at Russia’s involvement in Syria in order to secure its oil interests, yet can’t the case be made that the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq can to some extent, be attributed to oil interests there? How about the reaction to the tragic downing of a passenger jet over Ukraine that was shot down by a Russian made BUK missile, as disgusting the act was, there is hardly any mention of American, British, French or Israeli manufactured arms being wielded by ISIS to kill American soldiers and civilians.
The same can be said about the Saudi war on Yemen, totally absent from the U.S. media with little or no coverage in the mainstream British press; with an occasional touch of lip service by the British prime Minister, while at the same time, selling the very same weapons to Saudi Arabia that are killing mostly women and children. What about the two decades old US military actions in Somalia, the partitioning of Sudan, the meddling in Ukraine and the near total destruction of Syria, all of which were also about the control of oil and preservation of American economic hegemony.
Finally, Israel and the United States condemn the ongoing Iranian regime crackdown on protesters even as Israel beats, humiliates and locks up women and children who are also expressing their rights to protest an illegal occupation lest not forget the way the occupy movements were brutally crushed by Obama.
The West accuses Russia for interfering in elections; and yet refuses to acknowledge the constant interference in elections across the globe; none so more obvious then the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, captured so eloquently when a secret recording of a conversation between Victoria Nueland and Geoffrey Pyatt revealed the U.S. was not just interfering, but actually picking the winner of the elections while trashing the opposition of the EU; And finally, the West cannot comprehend how Russia can flout international boundaries by annexing South Ossetia and the Crimea, and by supporting revolt in Eastern Ukraine. But a cursory review of history will remind America of Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Texas as some of the many territorial grabs that America has made over the past two centuries, not to mention the endless slaughter of defenceless nations and the outright destruction of entire countries such as Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Russia.
Though in no way should we become apologists for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s draconian policies and authoritarian style of rule, it may do us well to remember that great nations often have and currently do, sometimes ruthlessly pursue their self-interest. What is more, a government’s pursuit of the nation’s self-interest is arguably its sole mandate from those it represents. It is only in how its leaders construe that self-interest, narrowly or broadly, in isolation or as part of an increasingly integrated global community, that largely distinguishes one nation’s course from another.
As the West, led by the United States rushes to condemn a foreign adversary, it might behoove them to reflect on their own conduct on the world stage and ask themselves whether they truly occupy the moral high ground or are just being hypocrits.
A democracy can be a fragile thing, one that demands constant vigilance and care. As the Western nations seeks to steel itself against an array of boogeymen personified first by Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan and shortly after by Libya, Iran, North Korea and Syria and currently by Russia, it might do them well to remember the financial, moral and security consequences of acting upon their grievances in Iraq, which many say contributed to the creation of a power vacuum that led to the eventual rise of ISIS and a global terror threat.
It may be comforting to attribute Donald Trump’s presidential victory to Moscow, but that would be dismissive of its own agency and culpability, for it is the U.S. who pulled its levers last November, not Mr. Putin. The U.S. would be wise to defuse tensions and to seek common ground with those foreign adversaries who seem by and large to be acting in accordance with the will of their own people, and ought to take a discomfiting look in the mirror at a nearer, more frightening boogeyman.
America is an incredible nation, nonetheless, it is not an unblemished, faultless actor, and it does itself a disservice to claim otherwise. Russia certainly has made lamentable transgressions, and indeed all people should be outraged. But imposing ineffectual sanctions upon Russia for its actions amounts to the pot calling the kettle black. America must own up to her mistakes and act so as to inspire others through her example instead of seeking to punish others for crimes tantamount to those for which we too are guilty.
In his recent op-ed in the New York Times, Vladimir Putin raised hackles among the talking-heads across the U.S. when he questioned the wisdom of President Obama’s evocation of the narcissistic idea of “American exceptionalism.” After all, the exceptionalism of the U.S. has never been a subject for reasoned discussion or debate in the media or elsewhere. Everyone knows that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world and, therefore, has special privileges and responsibilities! Those privileges and responsibilities include not bothering with international law or processes when the government decides that the “world” (meaning itself and a few European nations and a couple of their client states) will take responsibility to enforce global order according to its own interpretations, values and needs.
The fact that many in the U.S. believe that those interpretations, values and needs are neutral, impartial representations of the global community at large are on full display every night on Western Mainstream media news channels, where state propagandists posing as journalists and the coterie of paid ex-military and U.S. intelligence consultants make impassioned arguments in favour of the U.S. waging war on Syria as a “punishment” for its alleged use of chemical weapons, or outrageous remarks such as threatening to destroy North Korea over their Nuclear weapons program; while deliberately ignoring Israel’s own nuclear arsenal secretly developed after the Apollo Affair incident of 1965, where between 200 to 600 pounds of highly enriched weapon’s grade uranium was stolen from NUMEC, this is in addition to the fact that neither Israel, Pakistan or India are signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and the West cannot do anything about it because they are Nuclear Powers.
But for many of us, the story of American exceptionalism is an alien story, a children’s fairy tale spun from the fertile imagination of revisionist historians, a tale wherein indigenous people were sidekicks to lone rangers, the African slave trade was an unfortunate aberration that was corrected by Lincoln, children did not work in factories, women were not slaves to men, socialists and communists were not harassed and jailed, U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were not placed in concentration camps, the U.S. did not unnecessarily drop two hydrogen bombs on Japan instantly killing 300,000 thousands innocent civilians and the U.S. did not torture people or illegally render them and lock them up without habeas corpus.
It is that story which informs the thinking of U.S. Presidents; take Obama who declared that “for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security” i.e. the provider of an indispensable safety net without which transcontinental chaos would have ensued. In his version of exceptionalism, there was no CIA overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran in 1953; the brutal war in Vietnam was a war to free the Vietnamese people from communism; there is an explanation for why the U.S. gave its support to the Apartheid government in South Africa; the coup in Chile was an internal event that did not involve the CIA, and the millions of people who died in Iraq were worth the price to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
It is worth to consider how a psychologist would interpret such a ridiculous concept in which perpetrators seek to control the disclosures and discourses of abuse:
“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no-one listens… After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it on herself; and in any case, it is time to forget the past and move on.”
For African Americans experiencing depression-level economic conditions, poor and young Americans murdered by agents of the state at a rate of one every 28 hours, children locked away for life without the possibility of parole and more than a million Americans entombed in the dungeons of the nation’s prisons, one does not need Vladimir Putin to remind the world of the fiction of “America’s” commitment to values and social practices that make it “exceptional” in the community of nations. That reminder was also not necessary for the indigenous people who still struggle for sovereignty, dignity and self-determination in the aftermath of their American holocaust and America’s God-given manifest destiny.
Van Jones, the one-time black progressive who has since sold his integrity to the Democratic Party and CNN, recently joined Newt Gingrich during their new show to castigate Putin for having the audacity to suggest that the U.S. was not exceptional. Attempting his best effort at sincerity, Van offered that no other country in the world could have made the progress toward closing the gap between its stated values and social practices as the United States. Of course Van knows better – he has not forgotten the American history of oppression, nor is he unaware of the contemporary crisis facing black working class and poor people. He has simply decided to deny the existence of those realities.
However, for the rest of the world which has been invaded, enslaved, murdered, subjected to systematic racist dehumanization and colonized, they have not forgotten or denied those realities despite the best efforts by the perpetrators of the ongoing oppression to compel them to forget and just move on.
In fact, they have done the hard work of reconstructing our own stories and clearing our eyes in order to see the world unencumbered by distorted myths and narratives that marginalize our experiences.
As a result, the rest of the world don’t harbour any illusions about America and its real intentions when it professes humanitarian concerns. They know and understand very well that the ideological foundation of U.S. exceptionalism and the equally odious notion of “humanitarian intervention” is just another manifestation of supremacy.
From our experiences and analyses, we can see that the assumptions of Euro-American racial and cultural superiority are so normalized, and social practices and structures so deeply inculcated in the collective consciousness of Americans of all races, nationalities, gender and class, that the cultural and institutional processes and expressions of white supremacy have been rendered largely invisible.
That is why so many Americans, despite their reservations related to Syria, still ultimately support the idea that the U.S. government has the right to contravene international law in order to uphold international law, to kill at will, to decide what nation has the right to sovereignty and to determine that the value of lives of human beings in Syria are worth more than the lives of the more than 2,000 murdered by the Egyptian military, or the 1,400 Palestinians murdered by the government of Israel a couple of years ago.
But as obvious as these moral contradictions are to most of the peoples of the world, it took the questioning of U.S. exceptionalism by the President of Russia to cause people in the U.S. to finally give some thought to an idea that they had taken for granted as self-evident.
What many people around the world understand is that exploding the dangerous myth of American exceptionalism is absolutely critical if the global community ever hopes to collectively solve the existential challenges that we face on the planet today. We can only hope that after a decade of war and a capitalist economic crisis, people in the U.S. will come to understand this and recognize that their interests and those of their elite are not the same, and that the U.S. must participate in the community of nations and peoples as equals.
The world can no long afford for the people of the U.S. to continue to allow the country’s elites to impose their will over the rest of humanity. If people in the U.S. have moved closer to that realization that would be truly exceptional.