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
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
- Torture, Terrorists, and a War of choice
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
- 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
- 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.'
- 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"
- Weapons inspection disclosure vs. Public policy disclosure
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:
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.
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
3. Chomsky, Noam. Hegemony and Survival, Chapter 3.
4. Krugman, Paul. Editorial. June 28,2004, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/29/opinion/29KRUG.html