August 15, 2008

The view from the top of Mount Hypocrisy

Mount Hypocrisy has been scaled again.

"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century," (George Bush)

Bush didn't say it to describe Israel, or for that matter the U.S., but Russia, after Russia invaded Georgia to protect the residents of South Ossetia from being shelled by their own government.

Shockingly, a hand did not appear in the sky, did not grab the Moron-in-Chief, and did not mop the floor with his eyebrows. I say 'shockingly,' because there are certain things that God shouldn't let pass in silence even if He or She doesn't exist.

But the crucial lesson to remember here is that Bush is completely in type as far as U.S. foreign policy is. His stupendous pomposity and lack of shame create the impression that the U.S. under him is uniquely in the wrong. Nothing is further from the truth. The U.S. has always supported genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass murder, especially when governments do these things to people under their jurisdiction.

The most glaring example of this perhaps is Bangladesh, where events four decades ago bear a striking similarity to the present. In 1971, the people of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, demanded regional autonomy. The Pakistani Junta, backed and armed to the teeth by the U.S., attacked East Pakistan and began a systematic genocide that left one to three million dead. Finally India intervened, invaded East Pakistan, defeated the Pakistani army and guaranteed the independence of Bangladesh.

Throughout the conflict, U.S. officials knew of the genocide, supported the Pakistani military, and even sent a nuclear aircraft carrier to intimidate India. Nixon's administration even urged China to move forces to its Indian borders in order to deter India from intervening.

Then there is Cambodia. Pot Pot was an equal opportunity mass murderer, but he reserved special attention to attacking Cambodian villages with ethnic ties to Vietnam. in 1979, after years of low intensity conflict, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and ended Pol Pot's horror show. The U.S. was aghast. U.S. officials vocally condemned the Vietnamese invasion and then set on providing military support to the ousted Khmer Rouge who retreated to the Cambodia-Thailand border. U.S. bodies provided tens of millions of dollars worth of U.S. aid to the Khmer Rouge up until 1990 (as far as we know). Throughout all this time the Khmer Rouge conducted terrorist attacks against Cambodian villages and plotted its return to power.

These are just the two instances when a government's attack on its own people was stopped by a foreign invasion. Other U.S. backed genocides, ethnic cleansing campaigns, and mass murder of dissidents occurred in so many countries--Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Palestine, Chile, El-Salvador, etc-- that recounting them would require a book, not a blog entry. (Fortunately, the book exists, William Blum, Rogue State, A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, 2000).

Like Russia, both India and Vietnam had their own political and strategic reasons to stop the murder of civilians. Russia's rulers are no Robin Hood. They are a cold, rational guild seeking its own power, just like the U.S. But here is the question. If self-interest were the sole determination, at least occasionally a state would find itself defending human rights outside its borders. This is what happened to Russia in South Ossetia, to Vietnam in Cambodia and to India in East Pakistan. How come the power of the U.S. depends every time of supporting mass murderers? How come with the one exception of WW-II, despite being involved almost yearly in military conflicts, the U.S. is so consistently on the side of death?

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