Wednesday, June 06, 2012

America's Rank Hypocrisy -- Why Is it Only an "Atrocity" When Other Countries Do It?

From AlterNet, Noam Chomsky's latest syndicated column:

In his penetrating study “Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-Opted Human Rights,” international affairs scholar James Peck observes, “In the history of human rights, the worst atrocities are always committed by somebody else, never us” – whoever “us” is.


Thus in the “Cambridge History of the Cold War,” John Coatsworth recalls that from 1960 to “the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those in the Soviet Union and its East European satellites.” But being nonatrocities, these crimes, substantially traceable to U.S. intervention, didn’t inspire a human-rights crusade.

Also inspired by the Chen rescue, New York Times columnist Bill Keller writes that “Dissidents are heroic,” but they can be “irritants to American diplomats who have important business to transact with countries that don’t share our values.” Keller criticizes Washington for sometimes failing to live up to our values with prompt action when others commit crimes.

More here.

And Chomsky offers a few more examples of America's rank hypocrisy on the issue of human rights, not even scratching the surface, but, hey, it's a short essay. Indeed, this has been a theme running through much of the Chomsky stuff I've read over the years: the US has committed unspeakable atrocities in pursuit of its "national interest," again and again, but never, ever, ever admits it, even while it excoriates other nations for doing the same thing--a minor corollary to this is that you get the same deal if you're an ally; that is, the US always looks the other way when an American client states tortures and murders.

And it's not just the government, either. The American people, by and large, not to mention the press, schools and universities, and other major institutions, are all in on the game. Even when they clearly know about it and acknowledge such atrocities. So, for instance, everybody knows that the US essentially wiped out, that is, committed genocide against, its native population in order to possess their lands. But this isn't really ever compared to the Nazi Holocaust, or the the bloody Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia, or the Spanish Inquisition. It is almost as though everybody agrees that it's okay for us to do it, but not for anybody else.

This is the essence of "American exceptionalism." It's severe psychological denial of our true nature, and it happens, every day, on a massive scale. We maintain our self-image as the good guy simply by denying that we are, in fact, bad guys.

I mean, of course, the US has done a lot of good throughout its history. Nothing is black and white. But until we can come to terms with our national sins, our culture, what it literally means to be an American, is based on an enormous lie. And that enormous lie enables us as sinners, again and again. This will not end until we're honest with ourselves, and Obama's ever increasing drone strikes which inspire hardly any domestic protest at all indicate that we're nowhere near achieving such honesty.