The niftiest gimmick since the Cold War ended is invoking ‘humanitarian intervention,’ portrayed as if the USA were a renowned charitable institution aching to save unfortunate investors, uh, we mean, people. When coldblooded statesmen snort that there is no room for sentiment in international politics, they are lying too because sentimentality is a splendid device to conceal crueller motives ~ KURT JACOBSEN and
SAYEED hasan khan
American authorities, aghast at Britain&’s opt-out from a military strike, are busy hyping flimsy evidence about Bashar Al-Assad&’s alleged role in chemical weapons attacks. Are they lying? Never underestimate the exceptional ability of elites to deceive themselves in the routine task of deceiving the pubic for the higher purpose of pursuing ‘the national interest.’ This reputed interest, as it uncannily works out, favours influential players (oil, arms industries, military brass, big brokerage firms and banks) at the expense of almost everyone else. The top 20% (not just the fabulously wealthy 1%) of Americans are flourishing; the other 80% go on steadily losing income, job security, public services and civil rights.
For Obama administration spokespersons, it&’s tempting to peddle any tall (or small) tale suiting their objectives. These highly pedigreed flacks are perfectly sincere too, the better to sell another useless grisly war. Former British PM Tony Blair is perhaps the stellar example of a leader whose theatrical sincerity perfectly served his underlying cynicism, but he was scarcely alone in practising this upgraded carnival barker&’s craft. The competition for Best Con Artist award is keen. Witness new entrant US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose solemn pronouncements are poised to join Colin Powell&’s infamous UN speech in a highlight reel of all-time egregious foreign policy blunders.
These epochal blunders are deliberate, based on blinkered grand policy schemes, which makes them no less damaging to the common good (meaning the aforementioned 80% and the rest of the planet). So how often can snide state elites trot out the same discredited militarist gambit? The answer clearly is they will continue until they are stopped. Make no mistake. High-level state officials, whose daily lives are insulated from the cares and woes of ordinary people, apart from maids and gardeners, view the citizenry as dimwitted and gullible. They accordingly unleash a myriad of propaganda campaigns and are ever on the lookout for persuasive gimmicks.
The niftiest gimmick since the Cold War ended is invoking ‘humanitarian intervention,’ portrayed as if the US were a renowned charitable institution aching to save unfortunate investors, uh, we mean, people. When coldblooded statesmen snort that there is no room for sentiment in international politics, they are lying too because sentimentality is a splendid device to conceal crueller motives. US elites remain intoxicated with fantasies of US omnipotence, all the more so as it appears to wane. John Kerry, who as a young war veteran denounced Vietnam war crimes, now advocates illegal attacks on a Syrian regime the US administration detests slightly more than certain Islamist forces nestled in the fragmented opposition camp. Kerry is a prime example of where you sit (his Cabinet post) determining where you stand. We are sure he believes every misleading word he speaks in favour of a punitive but somehow humanitarian strike.
Yet a wary US electorate mostly recalls Bush and Cheney&’s indecent haste to invade Iraq. Only one American in five supports Syrian intervention. (1 in 5 Americans will believe any absurdity.) The major media innocently pretend that the Iraqi WMD accusations, which the media was too cowardly to question, never happened. That Obama and Kerry a decade later were so eager to pulverize Syria on the basis of their own say-so was alarming.
It is only fair too, in Kerry&’s view, that the definition of chemical weapon excludes napalm, depleted uranium, white phosphorous or any toxic mixture bubbling away in the US arsenal vat. Point this out, though, and you risk being pepper sprayed. The US blithely in the past endangered its own troops ‘(“its own people”) to test chemical weapons. Squeamishness does not fit the US regarding weaponry of any kind.
Invoking the 1999 Kosovo ‘precedent,’ where the US went to war without UN authorization, is akin to saying that because a crime succeeded that new crimes therefore are approved too. The media recently featured endless snippets of families exulting at the death sentence for the Fort Hood soldier who killed 13 men.
Yet did anyone care about the officials whose deceptive practices caused some 5000 US military deaths and the deaths of the hundredfold civilians you can expect when American troops show up? Propaganda exists to channel anger towards diversionary small fry and scapegoats. So no one playing this game of humanitarian elitism imagines there ever are personal costs if they are proven wrong. It&’s all upside.
Count on ‘humanitarian’ scholars to conjure windbag rationales. A New York Times op-ed entitled ‘Bomb Syria, Even if it is Illegal,” penned by a professor evidently bucking for a UN representative job, argues that when mere international law prevents an indignant US from intervening anywhere it is perfectly okay to cite ‘norms’ to justify action. The whole point of studying norms in International Relations, however, has been to figure out how common decency can constrain predatory states.
Instead, this aim gets inverted into awarding carte blanche to pouting superpowers. Some things satirize themselves, and this was one, fuelled by a premature sense of self-righteousness and old time realpolitik. Sure, there are moral grounds for disregarding law, but Obama is no Thoreau opposing a Mexican War land grab nor is he Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden.
How humanitarian are US elites anyway? American legislators clearly show zero attunement to the needs of non-wealthy citizens, let alone for strangers abroad. The public is starting to ask why trillions are lavished on felonious bankers and to wage a pointless permanent war while at home schools are closed, factories shuttered, jobs shipped overseas, incomes fall, and tax breaks are dished out to the wealthy. A little humanitarianism at home would be much more welcome.