Published on Friday, December 30, 2005 by The State (South Carolina)
The World’s Skepticism About U.S. Intentions
by James R. Hebert
Despite skepticism in the rest of the world, most Americans appear to accept that U.S. foreign policy is driven by a desire to institute democracies around the globe. Difficulties in doing so are usually attributed to the inability of non-Americans to “understand” and “appreciate” the benefits of democracy and freedom.
Notwithstanding practical obstacles in establishing democratic government in places with histories of sectarian violence, most people understand what democracy is. Additionally, I propose that they have a deep appreciation of, indeed yearning for, freedom. The dissonance in much of the world, which overwhelmingly sees the United States as the major impediment to world peace, does not stem from some misunderstanding about democracy. Rather, it results from a deep understanding of the difference between what the United States says and what it does: the Big Lie.
Our government’s role in installing and propping up repressive dictatorships tells much more about the motivation of our leaders than their rhetoric about democracy and freedom. More than 50 years ago, the United States and Britain overthrew democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh and installed Mohammed Reza Pahleva as Shah of Iran. The now-infamous series of events that led to the Islamic theocracy after the overthrow of the Shah resulted in wide-ranging efforts to thwart the Iranians. This included providing Saddam Hussein with many billions of dollars in U.S. military aid. When Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, made his trips to Baghdad in the mid-1980s, Saddam’s mean streak and use of illegal weapons were well-known. Either directly, or through proxies such as Pakistan, the United States has continued to support very repressive regimes in the region, including the Saudi royal family.
Given the U.S. government’s record of replacing democratically elected governments with “friendly” dictators, who should be surprised when people are unappreciative of American-style “democracy”? Who would doubt this government’s will to depose a freely elected democracy intending to nationalize the oil industry (as Mossadegh did in Iran) or intending to demand that the United States relinquish its military bases?
Rather than addressing the valid concerns raised about the extraordinary dangers involved in waging a preventive war in Iraq, the Bush administration presented a case that was seen by an overwhelming majority of people around the world as specious and self-serving. Besides the cynical misuse of the terms “democracy” and “freedom” in an attempt to mislead public opinion, the U.S. government:
States that it abhors weapons of mass destruction. It leads the world in the same types of weapons on which the claim to wage war on Iraq was made.
Demands that countries accept the terms of international agreements such as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Over and over again it has demonstrated selective respect for the rule of law. The most flagrant and blatantly hypocritical examples of non-cooperation are the refusals to support the Anti-Ballistic Missile and land mine treaties. Ballistic missiles are the most effective means for delivering weapons of mass destruction, and land mines are the embodiment of terror. Now, the world sees glaring evidence of the outrageous and brazen disregard for the Geneva Conventions (or even rules of common decency) in the abuse of prisoners around the world.
Woefully misguided U.S. government behavior operates at multiple levels to undermine health and well-being in Iraq, the United States and beyond. The Bush administration has achieved new lows in terms of its arrogance, obstinacy and disrespect of our ideals as a nation.
Still, no administration from either political party has behaved well in the international arena for a long time. Dwight Eisenhower, who oversaw the overthrow of Mossadegh, got it right when he later warned of the military-industrial complex.
Perhaps now is the time to demand that our government behave in a manner consistent with our stated ideals and control the forces that have transformed this great nation from a model to emulate into a pariah state.
Dr. Hebert is a professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics, Arnold School of Public Health, at the University of South Carolina, and president of the board of the Carolina Peace Resource Center.
© 2005 The State and wire service sources