An ‘exceptional’ nation: American double standards

12:11 31.07.2023 •

Since the foundation of the USA about 250 years ago, Americans have seen themselves as the savior of mankind and as the unchallenged leader of the “free world”. Since 1798 the USA has undertaken 469 military interventions. 251 of these interventions alone were undertaken over a 30 year period since 1991, stresses Kristian Labjerg, who worked for the Danish Development Agency and UNICEF, received a Ph.D in Social Psychology from Copenhagen University in collaboration with Glasgow and Dar es Salaam Universities.

Common to almost all of those interventions is that they were carried out from a high moral position, often with altruistic undertones. The USA perceives itself as a force of good directed by God himself against the evils of the world.

The US armed forces intervene from principles of a ‘freedom’ agenda. However, actions taken by the USA are often in direct contradiction to what it dictates others to do.

The USA urges nations to adhere to the Universal Human Rights Principles, while the CIA snatches terror suspects in foreign countries and submits them to torture in secret places or as they did in the prison in Abu Ghraib in Iraq, where the US military and CIA hired mercenaries from such countries as South Africa and Serbia to carry out their dirty work.

Normally such outright conflict between declared policies, built on humanitarian and democratic values on one hand and on the other hand actions which violate these very same values would be met with disrespect and criticism. However, this is not the case when the offender is the USA. Europeans and allies usually meet such American behavior with silence and at best with understanding and support. There is a general acceptance among Western allies that the USA is in its good right to do whatever, it considers best for the USA, even when the implication is that the behavior in question conflicts with internationally agreed-upon conventions.

This is referred to as American Exceptionalism.

Why does shifting American governments believe that it is not be obliged to follow international conventions, sometimes even ratified by its government, as in the case of the International Human Rights Convention and the Geneva Convention?

Why does the US government believe that international commitments are less relevant to it than to other countries?

Curiously, and to mislead the public, the official USA has invented a particular vocabulary to conceal its crimes. The bigotry practiced by the Americans in international diplomacy, is also obvious in the use of new terms for old misdeeds. Thus torture is referred to as ‘enhanced interrogation’, and preventive wars are called ‘anticipatory self-defense’.

The USA always undertakes military interventions with missionary passion. Death to innocent civilians – also named as ‘collateral damage’ – is presented as a contribution to a better future for the targeted population by way of introducing it to the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

The two major American parties seldom differ about the need to carry out wars far from home – such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, and lately a proxy war in Ukraine. A facade of divine justice conceals crimes committed in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ in search of markets for transnational corporations.

This hypocritical presentation of itself, at home as well as abroad, inhibits an understanding of itself as a people and as a nation. The result is a citizenry characterized by an absence of self-awareness and even ignorance about global issues. Therefore, there is widespread consensus in the USA and in the Western World that internationally agreed upon rules and behavioral norms should be adhered to by all, except by the USA.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was signed by 140 countries in November 1989 and came into force the following year. As of June 2023, it was ratified by 196 countries, except the USA.

It was hailed as an essential step forward for the protection and survival of children, especially for children in countries with poor legislation to protect them from trafficking and promotion of their rights to education and better health for survival. Nations that ratify this convention are bound to it by international law.

Why does the USA not commit itself to acting in the best interest of its children, while all other nations in the world prioritize the development of their children above other national objectives?

The answer has been provided by an insider of the US armed forces: The USA believes that prioritizing the protection and survival of children could bring at risk its imperial power and its capacity on the battlefield. This was the conclusion made by a Lieutenant Colonel of the US Army War College.

In a study undertaken at Stanford University in 1999 on “Emerging non-traditional security Issues (ENSI) for the New Millennium”, he demonstrates with exact figures the adverse implications for the armed forces if the US Government should ratify several international conventions and protocols, among them the CRC. The military combat preparedness and capability would be severely reduced should the USA ratify the CRC and its associated protocols.

Most Americans are ignorant about the non-compliance of their government to the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Despite this, the State Department sponsors annually an evaluation and ranking of each country in the world on their involvement in child trafficking.

Thus when I was the head of UNICEF’s office in a Central African country, the US Ambassador to that country would each year take contact with my office to obtain information about its compliance with various elements of the Child Rights Convention. Non-compliance could have the effect that the USA would blacklist the country, while discouraging American companies from making investments there. I understood that the emphasis on children’s rights was not based on ethics, but merely to avoid embarrassing the US and its Transnational Corporations from association with a country that did not meet international norms.

The second example to illustrate American exceptionalism is taken from the international agreement that bans antipersonnel landmines, usually referred to as the Ottawa Convention, which declares the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction. More than one hundred million anti-personnel land mines are presently scattered around the world, affecting more than 60 countries. Land mines kill or maim an average of 70 people every day or on an annual basis 25000 individuals, many of them children.

During a visit to Cambodia in 2004 I was able to observe the sad impact of land mines and other types of ordinance on its population. Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined areas in the world; some estimates run as high as ten million mines, which is more than one landmine for every two persons. Cambodia is also littered with other kinds of un-exploded ordinance left over from half a million tons of bombs dropped on Cambodia by the United States in the late 60s and early 70s.

At the time of my visit to Cambodia, the president of the USA stated that “The United States will not join the Ottawa Convention because its terms would have required us to give up a needed military capability”. The US has abstained on each annual pro-ban UNGA resolution since 1997.

At the end of the Second World War, American lawyers and judges played a significant role in prosecuting persons responsible for the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. However, today we observe that the USA does not want to subject itself to laws, which apply to nationals of other countries.

As a permanent member of the security council of the UN, the USA took part in the preparation of the Rome Statute, which constitutes the foundation for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC seeks to address problems of impunity for crimes committed during wars.

To make it absolutely clear that the USA under no circumstances would allow an international court to judge American nationals, the USA passed the American Service-Members’ Protection Act in 2002. It aims at preventing cooperation with the ICC.

The Bush administration struck bilateral agreements with dozens of countries obliging them not to hand over U.S. personnel to the ICC. This law authorizes the president of the United States “to use all means necessary and appropriate,” including military force, to liberate a U.S. official, soldier, or contractor “who is being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of, or at the request of the International Criminal Court”.

Why should the crimes of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney rate less than those put to justice at the Nuremberg trials? Henry Kissinger, now 100 years of age, was one of the key culprits together with Robert S. McNamara in the Vietnam War. The International War Crimes Tribunal established in Stockholm, in 1967, at the initiative of the British philosopher Bertrand Russel established enough evidence to prove the American government guilty of war crimes.

In 2021 the ICC was forced to deprioritize its investigations into crimes committed by US forces and the CIA in Afghanistan, following pressure from the USA. The ICC had solid proof that torture had been applied with the full authorization of the head of the CIA.

The head of the CIA had obtained such authorization after approval by Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as well as Attorney General John Ashcroft. Impunity was given priority to these US nationals because it served the imperial interests of the USA.

The hypocrisy of the US is obvious: It says one thing but does quite another.

Washington has been claiming to defend “human rights” all day long. But when international institutions try to investigate its crimes against humanity, it shamelessly undermines fairness and justice by slapping sanctions and threats of aggression.

Only a bloodthirsty country behaves like this, accustomed to killing and trampling upon human rights in other countries, with no remorse over its war crimes, as long as wars are kept far away from the shores of the USA and as long as the Americans can continue the pursuit of freedom to shop and consume. It even tries hard to cover up the truth and shield criminals.

How could such a country as USA call itself a ‘lighthouse for democracy’ and human rights’? – asks Kristian Labjerg.


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