So now Hilary Clinton is passing moral judgement on Vladimir Putin for sending attack helicopters to the Assad regime in Syria. Has America really got the moral high ground to pass such a judgement? Have we not witnessed America proactively supporting and arming despot regimes or dictatorships in the past?
Yeppur. On quite a few occasions in fact. Wasn’t it America who trained and armed the Taliban (formerly the Mujahedin) during the 80s Russian-Afghan conflict? And weren’t they also sending arms to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war of the same era and authorizing the sale of materials known to be used in the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons with the purpose of boosting US exports and securing political influence over Saddam Hussein? Yep. I’m sure that was America.
I don’t want to sound like I’m siding with Mr. Putin. We have seen many examples of his misbehavior in the past, including withholding vital fuel supplies to the Ukraine (perhaps slightly justifiable since the Ukrainians were in all likelihood siphoning off gas from pipelines supplying EU countries). Admittedly Vladimir Putin, seemingly consistent with most Russian leaders, hasn’t got the friendliest of dispositions and comes across as a chap who is very difficult to do business with (probably a bit like Stalin who had a really crappy childhood with an authoritarian father who used to slap him around all the time). It is a notable fact that no Russian leader, at least to my knowledge, has ever been caught smiling on camera, and I think they have vetoed just about every UN resolution ever submitted. There seems to be something about that job that makes these people really difficult to get on with. But despite all this I think it is healthy to acknowledge now and again the breathtaking arrogance and hypocrisy coming from Washington when pronouncing so many judgements on others for doing things that they themselves are so guilty of many times in the present and past.
It may indeed be true that Vladimir Putin rigged the latest elections in order to hold onto power, but isn’t that what America helped to do in Chile in the 70s? It may be true that Vladimir is not a strong believer in human rights but General Pinochet wasn’t either, and America had no qualms about supporting him. And let’s not forget Pinochet was responsible for the torture and killing of some 30,000 people including women and children. A minor human rights violation perhaps? It was only by the mid-eighties when the human right abuses of the Chilean government became so well publicized and American foreign policy was correspondingly put under a harsher spotlight did America start to distance itself from this brutal regime.
Then there was Nicaragua. General Somoza was as corrupt and brutal as they came. Was America perturbed by this? Not on your nelly. Instead of condemning him for his atrocious record of human rights violations America actively supported Somoza, supplying him with military aid and supporting the Contras who were actively seeking to bring down the immeasurably more palatable government that replaced this brutal dictatorship (partly by covertly selling arms to Iran and diverting the funds to the Contra rebels!) And in Cuba, America sent aid to El Salvador’s military junta which directly led this brutal regime to send death squads into the countryside looking for peasants, with correspondingly horrific consequences.
And what have America been doing at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib for some years now? Detaining suspects without trial and in some cases even torturing them.
So are we perhaps seeing a subtle case of double standards here?
America loves to portray a simplified and misleading image of a good vs evil, with America and her allies being the good guys, and all they oppose the bad guys. This is complete fiction, and is more the stuff of Hollywood. America has very little moral high ground for that kind of high-minded conceited self-serving notion.
Why is this notion of good vs evil such a dangerous idea? Woodrow Wilson recognized the general militaristic nature of dictatorships and totalitarian regimes when drawing up his 14 point plan in the aftermath of the First World War. He reasoned that with genuine representative governments in place the world would have a much better chance of preventing future conflicts, at least on the scale he had witnessed during his lifetime, reasoning that the common people generally have little or no appetite for military conquest and domination over others, this being the exclusive province of militaristic autocratic rulers and military juntas. So any government genuinely reflecting the interests of the people will naturally be less militaristic. I agree that democracy has to be a step in the right direction. But what Woodrow Wilson seemingly didn’t reckon on is the disposition of so-called representative governments to effectively be controlled by, at least to some degree, the powerful business and corporate elites of the world, whereby so much policy making would reflect this unhealthy relationship. And this unholy alliance will always lead, on some level, to aspects of colonialism by its very nature. And we have certainly witnessed the outcome of this unhealthy relationship on multiple occasions in recent world history. Also Woodrow Wilson probably didn’t reckon on the remarkable ability of governments to dupe its electorate into believing certain mistruths, the widespread belief of such mistruths working to the benefit of the dubious political agendas of certain government that I could name (the Bush Administration springs to mind). And it isn’t as if there was even any need to employ particularly cunning propaganda tactics in order to facilitate these widespread misconceptions. An excellent illustration of this fact is the submission of a British intelligence report used alongside other similar reports as a basis for justifying the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, this report allegedly bearing an uncanny resemblance to a student’s college dissertation that had been downloaded. The intelligence agency concerned didn’t even go to the effort of correcting all the typos and standardizing the spelling. Not exactly a Goebbels standard propaganda ploy was it?
We must as a society stop buying into some of these misconceptions that lead us to believe we are always the freedom fighters who are liberating other parts of the world more primitive and uncivilized than our Western civilization. This kind of basic idea has been used as a basis for justifying colonialism and control of others for many centuries. It is nothing new. If we are as civilized and intelligent as we purport to be we should start to try and transcend this level of thinking and look to a different approach in our foreign policies and attitudes to other cultures and political systems.