"And what sort of lives do these people, who pose as being moral, lead themselves? My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrite." ~ Oscar Wilde
In a recent TV interview, President Joseph Biden was asked if he believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a killer. In a display of foreign policy bravado and with little hesitation he replied, "yes." It is telling that commentators rarely question the violent behavior of America’s presidents.
The United States has assumed the role of arbiter of good and evil, casting itself inevitably as a most decent nation with the right to condemn and punish others.
History has demonstrated that America’s belief in exceptionalism has bred an arrogance that has accustomed its leaders to believe they have the right to use their political and military power destructively around the world.
Before condemning the behavior of other nations, America needs a national truth and reconciliation reckoning with its own violent past and present. For a country to chart a new course it must make its injustices visible.
Putin is undoubtedly a ruthless autocrat, but he is not the only member of the "killer’s club." One has only to consider the recent murders ordered by a U.S. president, former president, Donald Trump.
In violation of international law and existing U.S. executive orders, Trump ordered the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in January 2020. In addition to Soleimani, nine others died in the attack at the Baghdad International Airport. And in November 2020, Trump, with Israel as the conduit, assassinated Iranian nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
America’s pattern of violence was ramped up with President George W. Bush’s war on terror – military assaults on Afghanistan, Iraq, rendition, CIA black sites (secret prisons), Guantanamo and the use of torture.
When President Barack Obama took office he expanded Bush’s use of "kill lists" – lists of human targets. Obama authorized hundreds of military drone strikes, which killed countless non-combatant civilians, including children. Without trial, he imposed the death sentence on alleged terror suspects. Trump continued his predecessors’ practices, with even fewer safeguards. The Biden administration is currently reviewing whether it wants to continue the policy of secretly killing people in countries around the world.
American presidents have ordered coups, invasions and wars in which millions have died. Some of the most obvious cases include Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Congo, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iran, Iraq (1991and 2003), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and U.S. support for Saudi Arabia as it bombs civilians in Yemen.
Murder is not the only form of violence the United States has used to get its way.
Economic sanctions that deprive people of food, medicine and the ability to make a living have become the primary weapon of U.S. foreign policy. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have died as a result of U.S. embargoes and economic sanctions on countries such as Cuba, Iran and Venezuela, countries that have refused to acquiesce to U.S. demands.
The United States has been playing the role of global policeman since the Second World War. The people of one region in particular, the Middle East, have suffered immensely from Washington’s bluster, bullying, military aggression and financial pressures.
Since the attacks of 9/11, the Middle East has overwhelmingly come under U.S. control. American warships, bombers, drones and missile batteries and over 100,000 American troops blanket the region. Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen are among the regional holdouts. Because of their refusal to bow to U.S.-Israeli pressure, they have faced devastating economic and military assaults.
To cement its hegemony, Washington has enlisted despotic Arab regimes and apartheid Israel as regional satraps. Despite the abysmal human rights records of its Arab Gulf allies, the United States provides them with access to the most lethal weapons to crush internal dissent. To maintain its imperial partnership with Israel,
America’s leaders have acquiesced to the war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank, and they have made certain that the Palestinians will continue to suffer and die in their own country.
Quite a record.
(c) 2021, Dr. M. Reza Behnam
Dr. M. Reza Behnam is a political scientist whose specialties include American foreign policy and the history, politics and governments of the Middle East.