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America in the World: Silenced by Bush

 "The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity."

--André Gide

One of the legacies of Bush's tragically flawed foreign policy is that it has managed to silence Americans who believe that the United States -- for all its faults -- should condemn aggression in other parts of the world.

If one word describes how Bush has dealt with the rest of our small planet, it is hypocrisy. For the past eight years, the administration's deeds have seldom, if ever, matched its rhetoric. Operation Iraqi Freedom, it now seems clearer than ever, was in fact Operation Iraqi Oil. While the State Department issues human rights reports, the Bush/Cheney regime supports dictators who suppress the innocent. And in Eastern Europe, which the administration proclaims should be a region of peace and stability, it is heightening tensions by installing missile systems against "the Iranian threat."

To prevail in its so-called "war on terror" the White House has allowed the use of inhumane methods -- among them torture -- that go against basic American principles. In a crusade against those it labels as "terrorists" the administration established a detainee camp -- Guantanamo -- that violates fundamental justice.

"No question," said Mr. Bush in June 2006, "Guantanamo sends a signal to some of our friends -- provides an excuse, for example, to say the United States is not upholding the values that they're trying to encourage other countries to adhere to. And my answer to them is, is that we are a nation of laws and rule of law."

Such Bushian doublespeak, expressed with total "sincerity," has regrettably defined America's relationship with our fellow human beings in this new century. As a result, even US critics of the administration's policies are reluctant to condemn aggression by other countries because they do not want to be accused of what the Bush regime, worldwide, will perhaps be most remembered for -- hypocrisy.

The "who-are-we-to-say" syndrome is most evident recently in how American commentators are reacting to the conflict between Russia and Georgia. Pundits -- be they sympathizers of one or the other country -- dare not raise their voices against the aggression undertaken by the side they support. After all, if the U.S. invaded Iraq under false pretenses, how can similar behavior by foreign leaders be condemned by Americans?

For nearly a decade now, the US example in foreign affairs has been to hit first and (if ever) talk later. This has been Bush's "message" to the world, despite the administration's risible efforts to sugarcoat his aggressive, unilateral actions through "public diplomacy" -- far too much of which, under the current regime, has been reduced to the crudest type of propaganda.

Given the record of Bush's tenure in office, Americans, who elected him twice, are now lacking the moral confidence to say "no" to aggression overseas, for fear of appearing hypocritical to the rest of the world (and to themselves as well).

"Hypocrisy," La Rochefoucauld wittily wrote, "is the homage vice pays to virtue." That may be true, in certain social situations. But as regards the US reaction to events abroad, Bush's hypocrisy has led Americans to believe we have little choice but to pay homage only to silence.

For America to again have a credible voice in the world today, we need a new foreign policy based not on Bushian hypocrisy but on the words of the Declaration of Independence: "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" and "Facts ... submitted to a candid world."

John Brown

John Brown is Adjunct Professor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown University, where he has taught courses about public diplomacy. A former American diplomat, Brown resigned from the Foreign Service in opposition to the planned war in Iraq, stating in his resignation letter to Secretary of State Powell that "The president's disregard for views in other nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an anti-American century."

John Brown is a former Foreign Service Officer. His views on public diplomacy and propaganda can be heard at

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