American “Deceptionalism”

exceptionalism

Last Wednesday’s reflection was about Peggy’s and my experience in St. Peter’s Square ten days ago. It was then, I was saying, that Pope Francis gently and subtly confronted our bellicose president and joined Russia’s President Putin in defusing a potentially disastrous crisis not only for Syria and the United States, but for the world. I suggested the pope might be the unsung hero of day.

By all measures, President O’Bomb ‘em was the villain.

His speech last Tuesday confirmed that. There he maintained his belligerent stance despite world opinion, that of the U.S. electorate, and of world moral leaders. Worse still, he portrayed the administration’s position as continuous with a supposed United States moral leadership. Specifically, he claimed that for seven decades the United States had been “the anchor of global security.”

Let’s see: that would bring us back to 1943. Was Mr. Obama referring to the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran in 1954 and the 25 year reign of terror by Mosaddegh’s CIA replacement, the brutal Shaw of Iran, Resa Palavi? Or perhaps Obama had in mind the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz Guatemala’s democratically elected president that same year – and the 40 year dirty war waged by the U.S. supported military which then killed more than 200,000 of “their own people.” Or was the president thinking of the U.S. wars in Indochina and the millions of lives it claimed. Or perhaps he was referring to the overthrow of Chile’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende in 1973 – on September 11th of that year (what Latin Americans refer to as “the first September 11th). By all measures, the Chile coup was far worse than what occurred here on September 11th 2001. Or maybe the president was referring to our countries disastrous support of Mobutu in the Congo or of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The list truly goes on and on.

Either our Harvard educated president is ignorant of those details, has forgotten them or he was deliberately lying to intentionally foster Americans’ legendary ignorance of history. I’d recommend that he read Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States and Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States. That would make him realize that only the ignorant can say (as the president put it in his speech) that we are “exceptional.”

That is, unless by American “exceptionalism” he meant (as Rob Kall recent
ly put it) that:

“We have more prisoners than any other nation– and most of them haven’t harmed anyone, but prosecuting and jailing them keeps them off the voter roles in many states.

We have the largest military and largest military budget– which means more money going to expenses that do not grow the economy or build the nation’s inner resources and strengths.

We spend more on healthcare than any other nation, yet we are the only first world nation, the only member of the G-20 nations which does not provide health care for all citizens.

We are a nation that spends more on spying on citizens than any other nation.

We are a nation that uses more psychiatric drugs than any other nation.

We are a nation that sets the standard for voting corruptibility, with electronic tallying that is impossible to reliably recount.

The list goes on and on, and then there are all the other list items where we are low, like infant death rate, access to WIFI, educational skills…”

No, America is not exceptional in the way the president meant. It is a rogue state, an outlaw state. It is the world’s bully and needs to be reined in.

Interestingly, the ones doing that reining are the pariahs of the last century, Russia diplomatically and China economically. For example, it was the Russian president who in the Syrian crisis ended up taking the high road stressing the need for diplomacy, dialog, and reconciliation.

Definitely conceding that high ground to Mr. Putin, Mr. Obama seemed content with the low. While calling Mr. Assad to observe international law, Mr. Obama himself violated those norms by peppering his speech last week with threats of violence that are themselves thereby prohibited. (Remember, the use or threat of force outside circumstances of immediate self-defense is prohibited by international law.)

So with black hat firmly in place, the U.S. president attempted to persuade Americans, both conservative and liberal of the moral superiority of bombing rather than diplomacy, dialog, and reconciliation. In defending the morality of bombing, the president said nothing of the will of his constituents or the alignment of votes in Congress. Certainly, no mention was made of the dissenting positions of Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Dali Lama all of whom had strongly opposed Mr. Obama’s plans.

Meanwhile, the president ignored a golden opportunity for using Mr. Assad’s concessions around chemical weapons for ridding the entire Middle East of such threats along with nuclear weapons. He could easily have done so and reclaimed the true moral high ground by calling for a Geneva Conference to that end.

He did not for one simple reason. And that is that Israel, America’s staunch ally, has refused to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibits not only the use of chemical weapons, but their possession. Israel stands in violation of international law in virtue of its huge stockpile of chemical weapons along with an equally huge arsenal of nuclear weapons. No one in our government or the mainstream press says anything about that. They never will.

Israel also continues to illegally occupy the Golan Heights in Syria no less.

There’ll be no discussion of that either by our president, secretary of state or mainstream media.

Mr. Obama succeeded in only one thing last Tuesday. He made it clear that he and his country are not exceptional.

We are “deceptional” on the one hand and deceived on the other.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 40 years. Three grown children. Four grandchildren.

One thought on “American “Deceptionalism””

  1. Thanks for telling the truth about American government Mike, in spite of your being aware that dutiful fascist bureaucrats are putting you on a “watch list”. We may soon enter the days when speaking the truth will get one whisked away to some dark place, branded as a “terrorist”. After all, didn’t Bush threaten us that “either you are for us, or you are against us”? Spoken like the little tin pot fascist he was and is. I would like to hear from some of you out there who follow this blog to get your opinions on this piece by Mike. Or are you too intimidated to speak up?

    Like

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