The President of the United States or any member of Congress has tremendous gall anytime they stand in front of an audience and proclaim that the United States is still the great beacon of the world when it comes to justice and human rights. It no longer is. Through its foreign policy, our government continually brushes aside those principles in the name of national security. We support through money, military aid, and international diplomacy what is supposed to be the very antithesis of our own governing system – undemocratic, ruthless, and corrupt autocrats all because they are with us and not against us in our war on terror. At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves, are we comfortable with violating our principles for what seems to be a fleeting safety? Can we rest easy knowing that our support of tyrants brings carnage and chaos to millions? Lastly, and most importantly, are we sure that our betrayal of American ideals abroad makes us safer or does it just, like many experts believe, provide a huge recruitment boost for terrorist organizations?
For 23 years the U.S. government turned a blind eye to Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. In Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh’s speech in Doha last week he mentioned a conversation he recently had with a friend in the joint special operations business. The friend was devastated that Ben Ali had been overthrown because, “he was such a good friend” of the United States. You see as long as he supported us in our “War on Terror” he had the full blessing of Washington. Never mind that he ruled his country corruptly by stealing successful private businesses and abusing political contacts to enrich himself. Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was our “guy” in Tunisia because he was for us and not against us in our fight against terrorism.
Of course many analysts are predicting that the Tunisian revolt is just the tip of the iceberg. Right now in Egypt violent upheaval against the long time rule of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak is well underway. Mubarak is a man much despised by his own people but supported by the U.S. because he again supports our war on the so-called “bad guys”. When I was in Egypt last year I asked several Egyptians their opinion of their president. None responded at all or simply changed the subject. Understand that unlike in the U.S. any dissent against Mubarak in Egypt is brutally put down. After 29 years of his rule many Egyptians still live on about $2 a day. It is the widespread poverty caused by high unemployment and rising prices that have sparked the most recent turmoil. Oh, and throw in a few alleged stolen elections by Mubarak and you have the recipe for a major revolt.
And just what has been the reaction of our leaders to Egypt’s strife? As expected, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton spewed the standard pablum delivered at a time like this, “We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” Blah, blah, blah. You mean to tell me that it takes violent protests in Egypt to get Hilary Clinton to realize Mubarak is a thug? Besides it’s a little late now given the regime has resorted to killing its own people in the streets. But again, Mubarak is our buddy. What are several dead Egyptians when the larger ‘War on Terror” is at stake?
An analysis of our government’s hypocrisy would not be complete without a discussion of our unconditional support for Israel. Let’s face it, with U.S support Israel is perpetuating an apartheid state no less egregious than the one that existed in South Africa pre-1994. Within Israel the movement of Palestinians is restricted. Millions are imprisoned in cramped quarters in Gaza and the West Bank. New Israeli settlements expand onto previously held Palestinian land. Essentially, the Palestinians are at the complete mercy of the Israelis with Washington’s full support.
Now we have the release of the so-called “Palestine Papers”. These are secret documents that have leaked out detailing conversations between American and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials about the Goldstone Report. The report was a culmination of the United Nations’ probe into war crimes committed during Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008-2009. If approved by the U.N. the report would have opened the door for international tribunals to try Israeli officials accused of war crimes. According to the leaked documents, the U.S. connived the PA into stalling a U.N. vote on the report in the name of Israeli/Palestinian peace negotiations. Additionally, U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell got the PA to agree to the following:
“The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”
So essentially, the U.S took away about the only bargaining chip the Palestinian people have in their negotiations with the Israelis, namely the ability to prosecute Israeli war criminals in front of the world. How could this happen and why would the PA agree to this? It has been speculated that perhaps the U.S. threatened to cut off aid to the PA. or simply that Israel threatened to release tapes implicating PA president Mahmoud Abbas helping Israel coordinate the attack on Gaza. Abbas has been accused of this treasonous act because at the time Hamas was on the rise and he sought to destroy them in Gaza. Either way it was an enormous sell out of the long suffering Palestinian people. And once again, the United States was there helping a regime (Israel) orchestrate a massive injustice.
So the next time we hear some politician proclaim that America is that “shining city on a hill” for upholding the high standards of justice, democracy, and human rights around the world don’t believe them. It is all hyperbole. Behind the rhetoric are millions who are suffering because of our support of tyrannical regimes. And that is why they (extremists) hate us. It is not because of our freedom, but because we contribute to taking away theirs.
Article first published as Hypocrisy of U.S. Foreign Policy Produces Terrorism on Blogcritics.
Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina