Hypocrisy laid bare
Hypocrisy has always been an important denomination of political currency, but today it has seemingly become the coin of the realm.
One could easily ascribe it to the reascending of right-wing politics in the US and Europe, which is almost always accompanied by a politics of hypocrisy, since as a rule such politics involves the use of populist rhetoric to concentrate a country's wealth and resources in the hands of ever fewer people.
In the US, the vitriolic Republican-corporate attacks on healthcare and other much needed reforms in the name of protecting the rights of individual citizens, reflect an increasingly toxic political culture and the power of the right to manipulate deep-seated fears and prejudice for its own ends.
However, the continuities in US foreign policy between the Obama and Bush administrations reflect a more systemic hypocrisy whose negative consequences have global implications.
The US - like great powers before it - has long declared its intention to support freedom, democracy and progress while pursuing policies that encourage, or even demand, their opposite.
Not surprisingly, it has also turned a blind eye to its allies' or clients' hypocrisies: Israel declaring its desire for peace while intensifying occupation, Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, promising to fight corruption while rigging elections and placing family members in crucial positions.
Then you have this or that Arab leader pledging democratic reform while continuing to arrest and abuse citizens - until the disconnect between words and deeds threatens core American interests.
With enemies, such as Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) or Iran today, hypocrisy is assumed, even when evidence suggests that at crucial moments they might actually be telling the truth.
But who's looking?
Whether friend or foe, it is the people who suffer from a geopolitics grounded in hypocrisy.
The hardships of the present economic downturn in the US only hint at the pain caused to the peoples of the developing world, who bear the brunt of the full power of the economic and political interests lying beneath the hypocrisy of the global powers and their leaders alike.
And these consequences are often not just painful, but deadly.
Two generations ago in Southeast Asia the death toll reached into the millions, today in Iraq and Afghanistan the toll is in the hundreds of thousands of dead and injured. But the suffering rarely makes headlines, unless it can produce images that are too powerful to ignore.
The Abu Ghraib scandal produced one such moment, although its quick dissipation (perhaps owing to an innate sense among many Americans that the hypocrisy they revealed was ultimately not merely that of the Bush administration, but the country as a whole) ensured that the Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congress paid no price for the activities they revealed.
The most recent opening in the haze of media and political hypocrisy began with the near simultaneous revelations of civilian deaths at the hands of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The now ubiquitous Wikileaks video footage of soldiers firing on Reuter's photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, his colleague Saeed Chmagh, and several other civilians in Baghdad in July 2007 was equalled in graphic power by the accusations that in February 2010, US special forces personnel had not only killed two pregnant women along with a teenage girl and two local officials in Khataba, Afghanistan, but carved the bullets out of the bodies to remove evidence of their responsibility for the deaths.
The hypocrisy of the official responses has been glaringly on display.
When asked whether the Wikileaks video would hurt America's image, Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said it would not, precisely because what the video really showed was the fog of war.
"These people were operating in split-second situations .... And, you know, we've investigated it very thoroughly .... It should not have any lasting consequences...”
April 15, 2010
Hypocrisy and the End of Empires
Hard truth by Mark LeVine. Excerpt: