April 1, 2003
by William Blum
* Perhaps the most Orwellian quote to come out of the Vietnam war, now a classic, was "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Now comes Mr. Rumsfeld, speaking of US "precision bombing" in Iraq: "It looks like it’s a bombing of a city, but it isn’t."(1)
* The US decision to not continue its military campaign in 1991 and overthrow Saddam Hussein was likely due to the great uncertainty of who or what would replace him. Washington didn’t want a Shiite government, which might join forces with neighboring Iran; nor a Kurd government, which would upset ally Turkey; nor any kind of even-nominally democratic government, which would upset Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; nor any kind of progressive government, which would upset Washington. But for the current war this problem has been solved, with a remarkably simple solution — Washington itself will replace Hussein.
* Can Iraq expect "liberation" and a markedly improved life after the Empire takes over? Let’s look at the results of the Empire’s recent onslaught and occupation of Afghanistan.
1) warlords are active again
2) opium cultivation is once again booming
3) a man hand-picked by Washington is president; both the president and several of his ministers are actually Afghan-Americans
4) countless homes and other buildings have been destroyed by US bombing
5) thousands of innocent civilians have been killed as well as thousands of others engaged in combat who were only defending the country they lived in from a foreign invasion; not one of the many dead has been shown to have had any connection to the September 11 attack; most of the so-called "terrorists" at the training camps had come to Afghanistan to aid the Taliban in their civil war, a religious mission, none of Washington’s concern
6) crime and violence are once again a danger in the cities’ neighborhoods, which had been made safer by the Taliban
7) the country is occupied by foreign troops who often treat the population badly; US forces seize Afghans and take them away without explanation and keep them incommunicado indefinitely; some are sent to the 21st century’s Devils Island in Guantanamo Base, Cuba
8) in Kabul, the number of children suffering from malnutrition is almost double what it was before the American invasion(4)
9) the quality of women’s lives has very slightly improved, but is still far below what women enjoyed under the government the United States overthrew in the 1980-1990s
* "A man who allegedly wanted to harm people of Middle Eastern descent because of his anger over the World Trade Center attack has been arrested in a string of New York workplace shootings that left four people dead."(5)
How does this differ from US armed forces killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan? The American servicemen will not be charged with murder.
* Here’s one of the empire’s arrogances which may have escaped your attention. First we have Robert Kagan, a leading light of the American foreign-policy establishment and an intellectual architect of an interventionism that seeks to impose a neo-conservative agenda upon the world, by force if necessary. Kagan declares that the United States must refuse to abide by certain international conventions, like the international criminal court and the Kyoto accord on global warming. The US, he says, "must support arms control, but not always for itself. It must live by a double standard."(6)
Now we have Robert Cooper, a senior British diplomat and key foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Cooper writes: "The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. … When dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era — force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself."(7)
His expression, "every state for itself", can be better understood as simply that some state, somewhere, is not doing what the American Empire and its junior partner in London wish.
So there we have it. The double standard is in. The golden rule of do unto others as you would have others do unto you is out. Noam Chomsky has spoken of "the principle of universality: if an action is right (or wrong) for others, it is right (or wrong) for us. Those who do not rise to the minimal moral level of applying to themselves the standards they apply to others plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of appropriateness of response; or of right and wrong, good and evil."
Robert Kagan and Robert Cooper and their ilk of course know this. A 7-year-old child, with his or her acute sense of unfairness, knows it very well. It’s usually called hypocrisy. So why do the empire’s intellectuals peddle this double-standard silliness? I’d put it this way: They, like most people, have a vision for the kind of world they’d like to live in; let’s call it a laissez-faire, globalized, Judeo-Christian, law and order, white-man’s-burden, ridding the planet of all governments not subservient to Washington, world. Now most of the world’s people have experienced quite enough of this already, thank you, so the imperial mafia have a very difficult time selling or defending their utopia on the basis of legal, moral, ethical or fairness standards; so what to do? Aha! They decide that they’re not bound by such standards. But the rest of the world is.
(1) Sidney Morning Herald, March 25, 2003
(3) White House press briefing, Nov. 14, 1997, US Newswire transcript
(4) New York Times, March 2, 2003, Sect.4, p.2
(5) Washington Post, March 31, 2003
(6) Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe In the New World Order (New York, 2003)
(7) The Observer (London), April 7, 2002
William Blum is the author of "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II" and "Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower". <www.killinghope.org>