Double Trouble :

The Rule of Two Standards

Critics of the war in Iraq have grown accustomed to being told they are unworthy of American freedom because they exercise their freedom of speech. This contradictory understanding of freedom reveals an ugly undercurrent in American culture that worships authority and the flag, right or wrong.1

But with freedom comes responsibility, and not merely the responsbility to shut up when told. What follows are some observations about American hypocrisy.

  • Treaties?
    Although the US is a signatory to a variety of arms treaties and nuclear non-proliferation treaties, Bush opted out of them. This is actually illegal in cases where the treaties were ratified by congress, but so be it: the US is no longer, apparently, subject to international treaties.
  • Torture, Terrorists, and a War of choice
    America, the compassionate nation that went to Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people, is outraged by the alleged mistreatment of Private Jessica Lynch. Yet it turns out, the US has been mistreating (to the point of homicide in many cases) captives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The brutality of the murderous decapitation of Daniel Berg is linked, by the use of the orange overalls, to the situation of thousands of Muslim men held in Guantanamo Bay, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, without legal representation. While the Bush administration rightly criticizes the brutality of these murderous abductions, what they fail to acknowledge is the parallel brutality of the high tech weaponry that has been used to -- and we need only speak of civilian casualties, mind you -- have been killed by American "precision weaponry" than were killed on 9/11. The American soldiers are likewise victims of Bush's criminal arrogance. Moreover millions will suffer the environmental consequences of these wars. Despite the myths sustained by corporate media deference, the brutishness of Bush's behavior rises to the same level as the actions he so condemns.
  • The World Court
    Until late June, 2004, the U.S. had intended to extract a pledge of immunity from the United Nations for all American troops. Even though the Abu Ghraib scandal made it impossible to pass that resolution, the U.S. has nevertheless negotiated, coercively, agreements with dozens of nations that prevent Americans from being held to the same standards as other citizens of the world. Moreover, the Iraqi constitution rammed through by Paul Bremer and his technocrats exempts coalition troops and private contractors from all Iraqi laws. The contradiction, of course, is that the U.S. demands adherence to the "rule of law" from Saddam, and then turns around and exempts Americans from as many laws as possible. There is a notable exception. One law the US technocrats saved from Saddam's playbook was the one outlawing unionization.
  • Visual proof vs. Reasonable doubt: The Precision Guided Judge and Jury
    The standard of proof required in American courts cannot apply to the justice meted out at the end of a bayonet by US force in the international arena. This is why the US goes to such pains to remain unaccountable to the World Court. As the American media dutifully reports, time and again, about how the US has "destroyed a safe house for suspected militants" or has killed "terrorists" with "precision guided weapons," it is worth stopping to think what standards of justice these extrajudicial executions follow. The whole edifice of justice and justification is based on deceit. A war of choice has led to a predictable cycle of violence whose main catalysts were the power-mad profiteers in Washington. Under such circumstances, the notion that violence is justified in putting down resistance and insurrection would be laughable if it weren't so tragic. Targeted assassination and missile strikes are even more reprehensible because the myth of clean war is so obviously contradicted by the corpses of women and children who are either unseen by, or unimportant to, the detached murderers (at CENTCOM in Florida?) who assent to killing at a distance, by missile or unmanned "predator drone."
  • Voting, Democracy, Race
    Greg Palast writes: 'Florida's Gadsden County has the highest percentage of black voters in the state -- and the highest spoilage rate. One in 8 votes cast there in 2000 was never counted. Many voters wrote in "Al Gore." Optical reading machines rejected these because "Al" is a "stray mark." By contrast, in neighboring Tallahassee, the capital, vote spoilage was nearly zip; every vote counted. The difference? In Tallahassee's white-majority county, voters placed their ballots directly into optical scanners. If they added a stray mark, they received another ballot with instructions to correct it. In other words, in the white county, make a mistake and get another ballot; in the black county, make a mistake, your ballot is tossed.' 2
  • Subsidies to American business, IMF, World Bank
    The US has always propped up its own businesses with government subsidies, while US dominated Word Bank and IMF make a strict point of demanding that no such protections are allowed for businesses in the developing world. Chomsky writes that in 1945 the US "imposed an 'Economic Charter for the Americas' designed to eliminate economic nationalism 'in all its forms.' With an exception, however: economic nationalism remained a crucial feature of the US economy, which relied far more than in the past on a dynamic state sector, often operating under the cover of defense" 3
  • Weapons inspection disclosure vs. Public policy disclosure
    No amount of disclosure and cooperation would have been enough for Iraq to avoid the invasion. Although weapons inspectors were admitted and given unprecedented freedom to investigate, Bush would soon launch his war anyway, later even claiming that Saddam had not let the weapons inspectors in. Before the war, too, Bush made a point of criticizing Iraq for expelling weapons inspectors during the Clinton administration. This was, of course, untrue. They were recalled in advance of an American bombing campaign (that was not endorsed by the UN). But the recurrent demands for disclosure and cooperation that Bush makes with regard to others have no bearing on his responsibility to the public. The 'task force' that sat in secrecy to concoct the US energy policy should, according to the Freedom of Information Act, be required to disclose who participated. But Dick Cheney has fought tooth and nail to preserve the secrecy of these events, which clearly have a bearing on such hot button issues as the California power scandal and the war in oil-rich Iraq. In general, the Bush administration has been quick to classify information that would be politically uncomfortable, using national security as a cover for its crony capitalism, corruption, and subversion of national and international laws.
  • Democracy and Preemptive Legislation
    The US purports to be bringing democracy to Iraq, but it has used its summer of occupation to ram a constitution down the throats of the Iraqis. It attempts to legitimate the privatization of their government-run agencies, especially the oil sector. But it also makes pivotal decisions for the Iraqis like the separation of church and state. Moreover, the "government" to which the US handed over (limited) "full sovereignty" was largely composed of the same American-selected former CIA employees who had been running the provisional assembly.
    [A]s he prepared to leave Iraq, Mr. Bremer listed reduced tax rates, reduced tariffs and the liberalization of foreign-investment laws as among his major accomplishments. Insurgents are blowing up pipelines and police stations, geysers of sewage are erupting from the streets, and the electricity is off most of the time -- but we've given Iraq the gift of supply-side economics. -- Krugman, June 28,2004 4
  • If you're not with us...
    One seminal problem in the present age is the tendency to characterize all forms of political activity that are obnoxious to the ruling elite as "terrorism." Bush himself started on this path with his "with us or against us" rhetoric, and it has resounded in a variety of ways ever since. American corporate television news blithely reports about how police efforts to control anti-war protests are motivated by the need to prevent "terrorism." Bush's Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, called the 2.7 million member National Education Association "a terrorist organization" (Remarks February 23, 2004). In June, 2004, bioterrorism provisions of the USA Patriot Act was (mis-) used to intimidate artists from the collective Critical Art Ensemble (CAE). Likewise, the so-called War on Terrorism has been used abroad to suppress opponents. Human rights groups have reported on the adverse affects of this new world order and have condemned the principle of preventive aggression.
  • Hypocritical leaders
    Of course, the duplicitous standards that are applied in American foreign policy have parallels in the character of the nation's leaders.
  • Drug politics
    Does G.W. Bush feel the law does not apply to him? That might explain why he refuses to comment on his own "youthful indiscretions" with cocaine -- which he does not deny occurred in his mid-20s. Somehow it makes sense to him that his crimes should be ignored while the crimes of indigent youths are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
  • War and patriotism
    G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Rush Limbaugh all like to criticize liberals for failing to support war in Iraq. But Bush dodged service in Vietnam by using his father's influence to land a soft stateside Texas appointment. He didn't fulfill his duty, but he did better than Limbaugh, who got a medical deferment for a "boil on his ass" (Nader). Cheney avoided service through a series of bureaucratic petitions. The point here is that these chickenhawks have no legitimate right to criticize veterans like Kerry and former Senator Max Cleland, a triple-amputee who was labeled a coward by Republicans during the 2002 Senate race.


1. A nationalistic rant sent to the author in early 2003:

For all you Anti-War assholes, GET OUT OF OUR GREAT COUNTRY! Say your mind if you want, but stay out of the streets and blocking our roads. Over 300,000 troops go to war WILLINGLY, so that we can remain a free country... So that we can say what we want to say, do what we want to do.. and this is how you treat them?!?

You happy-tree-hugging-hippie-assholes need to get out of the 60's and realize that Saadaam is an insane man. You think losing 3,000 people on 9/11 was a loss?? Wait till someone else comes along and takes out half of the USA. If they do, I hope the majority killed are dumbass's like yourselves. Everyone taking place in the Anti-War protests need to wake up and realize there isn't such a thing as PEACE, and never will exist... ANYWHERE. Not even in our own country. WAKE UP!!! Stop screwing around and keep our troops motivated so they can come home. SUPPORT our troops, our families, our friends. THEY ARE PEOPLE TOO. Stop thinking of your own damn self.

But hey... thats only MY opinion. You don't see me spraypainting some anti-war protestors home. I have too much to do to play like a 6 year old. USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA USA

This person could be commended for not lashing out physically, since in fact others were not so tolerant. Property damage, including burning, was part of this movement to silence dissent.
3. Chomsky, Noam. Hegemony and Survival, Chapter 3.
4. Krugman, Paul. Editorial. June 28,2004,