Saturday, September 28, 2013

Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic' American media

Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic' American media

Pulitzer Prize winner explains how to fix journalism, saying press should 'fire 90% of editors and promote ones you can't control'l

Seymour Hersh exposed the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. Photograph: Wally McNamee/Corbis
Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.

It doesn't take much to fire up Hersh, the investigative journalist who has been the nemesis of US presidents since the 1960s and who was once described by the Republican party as "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist".

He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.

Don't even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends "so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would" – or the death of Osama bin Laden. "Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true," he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011.

Hersh is writing a book about national security and has devoted a chapter to the bin Laden killing. He says a recent report put out by an "independent" Pakistani commission about life in the Abottabad compound in which Bin Laden was holed up would not stand up to scrutiny. "The Pakistanis put out a report, don't get me going on it. Let's put it this way, it was done with considerable American input. It's a bullshit report," he says hinting of revelations to come in his book.

The Obama administration lies systematically, he claims, yet none of the leviathans of American media, the TV networks or big print titles, challenge him.

"It's pathetic, they are more than obsequious, they are afraid to pick on this guy [Obama]," he declares in an interview with the Guardian.

"It used to be when you were in a situation when something very dramatic happened, the president and the minions around the president had control of the narrative, you would pretty much know they would do the best they could to tell the story straight. Now that doesn't happen any more. Now they take advantage of something like that and they work out how to re-elect the president.

He isn't even sure if the recent revelations about the depth and breadth of surveillance by the National Security Agency will have a lasting effect.

Snowden changed the debate on surveillance
He is certain that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden "changed the whole nature of the debate" about surveillance. Hersh says he and other journalists had written about surveillance, but Snowden was significant because he provided documentary evidence – although he is sceptical about whether the revelations will change the US government's policy.

"Duncan Campbell [the British investigative journalist who broke the Zircon cover-up story], James Bamford [US journalist] and Julian Assange and me and the New Yorker, we've all written the notion there's constant surveillance, but he [Snowden] produced a document and that changed the whole nature of the debate, it's real now," Hersh says.

"Editors love documents. Chicken-shit editors who wouldn't touch stories like that, they love documents, so he changed the whole ball game," he adds, before qualifying his remarks.

"But I don't know if it's going to mean anything in the long [run] because the polls I see in America – the president can still say to voters 'al-Qaida, al-Qaida' and the public will vote two to one for this kind of surveillance, which is so idiotic," he says.

Holding court to a packed audience at City University in London's summer school on investigative journalism, 76-year-old Hersh is on full throttle, a whirlwind of amazing stories of how journalism used to be; how he exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, how he got the Abu Ghraib pictures of American soldiers brutalising Iraqi prisoners, and what he thinks of Edward Snowden.

Hope of redemption
Despite his concern about the timidity of journalism he believes the trade still offers hope of redemption.

"I have this sort of heuristic view that journalism, we possibly offer hope because the world is clearly run by total nincompoops more than ever … Not that journalism is always wonderful, it's not, but at least we offer some way out, some integrity."

His story of how he uncovered the My Lai atrocity is one of old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism and doggedness. Back in 1969, he got a tip about a 26-year-old platoon leader, William Calley, who had been charged by the army with alleged mass murder.

Instead of picking up the phone to a press officer, he got into his car and started looking for him in the army camp of Fort Benning in Georgia, where he heard he had been detained. From door to door he searched the vast compound, sometimes blagging his way, marching up to the reception, slamming his fist on the table and shouting: "Sergeant, I want Calley out now."

Eventually his efforts paid off with his first story appearing in the St Louis Post-Despatch, which was then syndicated across America and eventually earned him the Pulitzer Prize. "I did five stories. I charged $100 for the first, by the end the [New York] Times were paying $5,000."

He was hired by the New York Times to follow up the Watergate scandal and ended up hounding Nixon over Cambodia. Almost 30 years later, Hersh made global headlines all over again with his exposure of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Put in the hours
For students of journalism his message is put the miles and the hours in. He knew about Abu Ghraib five months before he could write about it, having been tipped off by a senior Iraqi army officer who risked his own life by coming out of Baghdad to Damascus to tell him how prisoners had been writing to their families asking them to come and kill them because they had been "despoiled".

"I went five months looking for a document, because without a document, there's nothing there, it doesn't go anywhere."

Hersh returns to US president Barack Obama. He has said before that the confidence of the US press to challenge the US government collapsed post 9/11, but he is adamant that Obama is worse than Bush.

"Do you think Obama's been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What's going on [with journalists]?" he asks.

He says investigative journalism in the US is being killed by the crisis of confidence, lack of resources and a misguided notion of what the job entails.

"Too much of it seems to me is looking for prizes. It's journalism looking for the Pulitzer Prize," he adds. "It's a packaged journalism, so you pick a target like – I don't mean to diminish because anyone who does it works hard – but are railway crossings safe and stuff like that, that's a serious issue but there are other issues too.

"Like killing people, how does [Obama] get away with the drone programme, why aren't we doing more? How does he justify it? What's the intelligence? Why don't we find out how good or bad this policy is? Why do newspapers constantly cite the two or three groups that monitor drone killings. Why don't we do our own work?

"Our job is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here's a debate' our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who's right and who's wrong about issues. That doesn't happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardises, it raises risks. There are some people – the New York Times still has investigative journalists but they do much more of carrying water for the president than I ever thought they would … it's like you don't dare be an outsider any more."

He says in some ways President George Bush's administration was easier to write about. "The Bush era, I felt it was much easier to be critical than it is [of] Obama. Much more difficult in the Obama era," he said.

Asked what the solution is Hersh warms to his theme that most editors are pusillanimous and should be fired.

"I'll tell you the solution, get rid of 90% of the editors that now exist and start promoting editors that you can't control," he says. I saw it in the New York Times, I see people who get promoted are the ones on the desk who are more amenable to the publisher and what the senior editors want and the trouble makers don't get promoted. Start promoting better people who look you in the eye and say 'I don't care what you say'.

Nor does he understand why the Washington Post held back on the Snowden files until it learned the Guardian was about to publish.

If Hersh was in charge of US Media Inc, his scorched earth policy wouldn't stop with newspapers.

"I would close down the news bureaus of the networks and let's start all over, tabula rasa. The majors, NBCs, ABCs, they won't like this – just do something different, do something that gets people mad at you, that's what we're supposed to be doing," he says.

Hersh is currently on a break from reporting, working on a book which undoubtedly will make for uncomfortable reading for both Bush and Obama.

"The republic's in trouble, we lie about everything, lying has become the staple." And he implores journalists to do something about it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Obama can invade any country for US energy needs

Morales: Obama can invade any country for US energy needs

Published time: September 27, 2013 17:40
Bolivia's President Evo Morales (Reuters//David Mercado)
Download video (8.3 MB)
In his dramatic speech in New York, Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the UN to be moved out of the US and for Barack Obama to be tried for crimes against humanity. Speaking to RT, Morales explained his controversial proposals.
In his most controversial demand, Morales said that Obama should face an international trial with human rights watchdogs among the judges. The Bolivian president accused his US counterpart of instigating conflicts in the Middle East to make the region more volatile and to increase the US’s grip on the natural resources it abounds in. He gave Libya as an example of a country where “they arranged for the president to be killed, and they usurped Libya’s oil.” 
“Now they are funding the rebels that fight against presidents who don’t support capitalism or imperialism,” Morales told Eva Golinger of RT’s Spanish sister channel, Actualidad. “And where a coup d’état is impossible, they seek to divide the people in order to weaken the nation – a provocation designed to trigger an intervention by peacekeeping forces, NATO, the UN Security Council. But the intervention itself is meant to get hold of oil resources and gain geopolitical control, rather than enforce respect for human rights.”
The US also operates in the same imperialist way outside the Middle East, Morales argued. At the General Assembly Obama said that the US “is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure these core interests” in the Middle East. Among the core interests, he mentioned “the free flow of energy from the region to the world.” Morales said that Obama’s statement should make any country possessing natural resources worried. 
“I think that statement poses a threat to all countries that have energy sources, especially gas and oil,”Morales said. “But mostly those countries that sell gas and oil to the US. It is a direct threat. I am planning to meet with President Maduro and analyze the issue. I understand that this is a direct threat to Venezuela, because in order to secure his country’s energy needs, Obama can invade any country.”
Washington’s relations with Latin America deteriorated this summer, following the grounding of Evo Morales’s plane in Vienna. President Morales was on his way home from Moscow when several EU countries closed their airspace to his jet, on the suspicion that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden – wanted in the US on espionage charges – was on board. Bolivia laid the blame for the plane’s grounding on the US. 
Relations with the US were further aggravated after Latin American countries learned they were being extensively spied upon by the NSA.  
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff devoted her UN General Assembly speech to condemning the US surveillance, calling NSA practices a “breach of international law.” 
And Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro skipped his appearance at the UN altogether, citing plans for“provocations” against him.
Maduro’s decision to break his UN General Assembly appointment came after Venezuela’s foreign minister, Elias Jaua, told the media that the US had denied a plane carrying President Maduro entrance into its airspace. The plane was on the way to China and Washington later allowed it to pass, arguing that the delay was caused by an improperly-filed overflight request from Venezuela. 
Morales said he did not believe the incident was coincidental, but was indicative of the US’s discrimination against Latin American diplomats.  
“I talked about this with the media before, after Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera was not allowed on board an American Airlines flight to the US. Other Bolivian ministers had to go through a similar ordeal; they were also asked to take off their jackets and shoes. This is what happened to ministers, the official representatives of their country. I got a US visa allowing me to stay for six to seven days, which is the short period of time absolutely necessary for me to participate in the General Assembly session. Blackmail over visas, violations of the ministers’ rights, air piracy – all of that raises security concerns.”
What could prevent all this, according to Morales, is moving the UN headquarters out from the US to a politically neutral country. Or if that is unachievable, the Bolivian president wants at least the venue for the annual meeting to rotate among various countries. 
“The venue could be different every year, in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and so on. As for European countries, the UN headquarters could be moved, for example, to Switzerland – a neutral state that can guarantee security.  I’ve visited it a number of times to attend events related to human rights and indigenous population rights. In Switzerland, the president can just go outside and take a stroll with his wife, unconcerned about security threats. I found it surprising. Another option could be Austria, also a neutral country, according to its Constitution. The UN has several offices there. Brazil and Argentina are viable options as well. I believe that if it’s impossible to move the UN headquarters to a different country, the summit should be held in a different venue every year, but not in the United States, where we don’t feel safe.”

How the US is enabling Syriastan By Pepe Escobar

How the US is enabling Syriastan
By Pepe Escobar 

My latest on Asia Times: How the Friends of Kerry/Bandar Bush/Bibi/al-Zawahiri are laying down the law in Syria. These are the facts on the ground as the chemical weapons deal is clinched at the UN.

If any extra evidence was needed to shatter the myth of a "revolution" struggling for a future "democratic" Syria, the big news of the week cleared any remaining doubts. 

Eleven, 13 or 14 "rebel" brigades (depending on the source) have ditched the "moderate", US-propped Syrian National Council (SNC) and the not-exactly Free Syrian Army (FSA). The leaders of the bunch are the demented jihadis of Jabhat al-Nusra - but it includes other nasties such as the Tawhid brigades and the Tajammu Fastaqim Kama Ummirat in Aleppo, some of them until recently part of the collapsing FSA. 

The jihadis practically ordered the myriad "moderates" to submit, "unify in a clear Islamic frame", and pledge allegiance to a future Syria with Sharia law as "the sole source of legislation". 

One Ayman al-Zawahiri must be having a ball in his comfortable, drone-proof hideout somewhere in the Waziristans. Not only because his call for a multinational jihad - a la Afghanistan in the 1980s - is working; but also because the US-run SNC has been exposed for the toothless rodent that it really is. 

And facts on the ground keep corroborating it. The al-Qaeda-propped Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took over a town near the Bab al-Salam border crossing with Turkey that was held by the FSA because the FSA was accused of fighting for "democracy" and close ties with the West. Wrong; the FSA wants those ties but under a Muslim Brotherhood-controlled regime. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - of which Jabhat al-Nusra is the main Syrian component - wants a Talibanized Syriastan. 

The hardcore jihadi gangs in Syria may number as much as 10,000 fighters; but they do account for arguably 90% of the heavy fighting, because they are the only ones with battleground experience (including Iraqis who fought the Americans and Chechens who fought the Russians). 

In parallel, and not by accident, ever since Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, was put in charge by Saudi King Abdullah to run the Syria jihad, taking no prisoners, the "moderate" Qatar-aligned Muslim Brotherhood SNC has been progressively sidelined. 

Off with those peaceniks' heads 
Yet as far as train wrecks go, nothing equals the Obama administration's excuse for a "strategy", which theoretically boils down to weaponizing and extensively training the weakest link - selected FSA gangs infiltrated with CIA assets - and "vetting" weapons falling into the hands of jihadis. As if the CIA had reliable local intel on the myriad jihadi Gulf-based funding and logistical sources. 

The SNC, the FSA and the exile so-called "Supreme Military Command" led by the grandiloquent General Salim Idriss are now no more than a joke. This whole thing happened while SNC leader al-Jerba was at the UN General Assembly in New York - where he met with Secretary of State John "Assad is like Hitler" Kerry. Kerry did not talk about weapons but about more "aid" and future negotiations at the perennially postponed Geneva II conference. Al-Jerba was furious. And to top if off, some is his FSA gangs openly embraced al-Qaeda. 

Why? Follow the money. This is how it works, in a nutshell. At least half of the FSA "brigades" are mercenaries - they are financed from abroad. They fight where their masters - who weaponize and pay them - tell them to fight. The "Supreme Command" controls, at best, something like 20% of the brigades. And these people don't even live in Syria; they are based on the Turkish or Jordanian side of the border. 

The mercenary jihadis, on the other hand, are on the ground full-time. They are the real fighting force, receive their salaries on time, and their families are well taken care of. 

So for all practical purposes it's now a war between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and a bunch of jihadis. Of course this will NOT be explained by supine corporate media to Western public opinion. 

Now imagine these beheading, liver-devouring Sharia groupies willing to go to the Geneva II conference to negotiate a ceasefire with the Syrian government and a possible peace deal with the NATO-House of Saud axis. Obviously it's not going to happen - as Bandar Bush himself telegraphed Russian President Vladimir Putin in person in Moscow. 

Worse, from Washington's point of view, there's no way to justify why no meaningful negotiations can take place. Even puzzled infidels with half a brain across the Beltway will be able to make a connection between hordes of Syrian "rebels" embracing al-Qaeda immediately after al-Shabaab's attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi. 

It goes without saying that Baghdad is freaking out with these developments. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is ramping up car bombing and suicide bombing in Iraq itself - because the "apostate" Shi'ite-led al-Maliki government is as much a target as the secular Bashar al-Assad. It's hard to believe that only five months ago I was writing about the advent of the Islamic Emirate of Syriastan. Now it's clear how "invisible" al-Zawahiri and wily Bandar Bush have appropriated Washington's "strategy" to really get what they want. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 

He may be reached at 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rouhani surfs the new WAVE

Rouhani surfs the new WAVE
By Pepe Escobar

He came. He listened. And he surfed.

"I listened carefully to the statement made by President Obama today at the General Assembly... [I'm] hoping that they will refrain from following the short-sighted interests of warmongering pressure groups and we can arrive at a framework to managing our differences."

Then he outlined what has always been the official Iranian position: "Talks can happen; equal footing and mutual respect
should govern the talks."

Then he addressed the expectation (actually, the world's): "Of course, we expect to hear a consistent voice from Washington. The dominant voice in recent years has been for a military option."

But now he had another idea. So he sets the stage for the punch line: It's WAVE time. WAVE as in World Against Violence and Extremism. Not in Farsi, lost in translation; in English.

"I propose as a starting step... I invite all states... to undertake a new effort to guide the world in this direction ... we should start thinking about a coalition for peace all across the globe instead of the ineffective coalitions for war."

So the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has just invited the whole planet to join the WAVE. How come no "coalition of the willing" leader ever thought about that?

Talk about a rockin' entrance on the world stage (Here's the full Rouhani speech, in English, which deserves careful reading). Rouhani was measured and composed - but forceful enough to debunk the "imaginary Iranian threat propaganda", stress the horrible effects of sanctions, and still remain hopeful that the 34-year Wall of Mistrust between Washington and Tehran can be torn down.

Obama, to his credit, had tried hard not to be upstaged. It took no less than 60 years for an American president to finally admit Washington had a hand in overthrowing the democratically elected Mossadegh government in 1953 (although the ghost-written formulation in his speech was extremely sloppy).

Obama officially recognized the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's fatwa against nuclear weapons (imagine the George W Bush administration doing it). And he said on the record that Washington is not seeking regime change in Tehran - thus speeding up former vice president Dick Cheney's next heart attack. Obama even mentioned the key words "mutual respect".

As for the cinematic coup de grace - the "casual" meeting or handshake in the corridors of the UN - it could never have happened so soon. Both Rouhani and Obama are under enormous pressure from hawks on both sides, and so far there's nothing substantial on the table.

Yet even while trying to send all the right signals to Tehran, Obama simply could not resist the urge: "I believe America is exceptional, in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all."

The corollary: he kept plugging for a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the bombing of Damascus if anything goes wrong with the Syrian chemical weapons disarmament. And this for the "interests of all" - as in Israel and the House of Saud.

The overwhelming majority of the real world, though, is busy reminding the US president that America is not exceptional at all, from Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions in the case of secrets whistle-blower Edward Snowden and the Syria tragedy to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who in a stinging speechqualified NSA spying as an "affront". It's not by accident that all the original four BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India and China, have been spied to kingdom come.

Will WAVE drown the hawks?
After the UN catharsis, the stage is now set for the real heavy work to start this Thursday, when US Secretary of State John "Assad is like Hitler" Kerry meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in the cadre of the multilateral P-5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany).

The key points of the road map ahead are clear. Total clarification of details regarding Iran's rightful peaceful nuclear program should proceed with dismantling of sanctions. Washington's nasty financial blockade of Iran's oil sales is not working; no one, from China to India and beyond, will stop buying Iranian energy because the US says so. And Iran should also be reinstated in the global bank exchange mechanism.

Here, Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, makes an extremely important point. Timing - by a series of circumstances - may be perfect, but the window of opportunity is not going to last very long.

It all comes back to the same drama; will Obama and his team have enough balls to stare down the Israel lobby, the House of Saud, the neo-cons and assorted armchair warmongers across the Beltway? If not, the War Party victory will mirror the anti-Rouhani hardline victory in Tehran - with devastating consequences.

So yes, the stakes could not have been higher. What the world needs now, is WAVE after WAVE after WAVE.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

An African American Perspective on U.S. Exceptionalism

An African American Perspective on U.S. Exceptionalism

by BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka
Russian leader Vladimir Putin caused great consternation when he countered President Obama’s assertions of American “exceptionalism” in the pages of the New York Times. But the crimes of the United States are no secret to those who have been “invaded, enslaved, murdered, subjected to systematic racist dehumanization and colonized” by America.

An African American Perspective on U.S. Exceptionalism
by BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka
The only thing exceptional about the U.S. is its moral hypocrisy.”
In his recent op-ed in the New York Times, Vladimir Putin raised hackles among the talking-heads across the U.S. when he questioned the wisdom of President Obama’s evocation of the narcissistic idea of “American exceptionalism.” After all, the exceptionalism of the U.S. has never been a subject for reasoned discussion or debate in the media or elsewhere. Everyone knows that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world and, therefore, has special privileges and responsibilities! Those privileges and responsibilities include not bothering with international law or processes when the government decides that the “world” (meaning itself and a few European nations and a couple of their client states) will take responsibility to enforce global order according to its own interpretations, values and needs.
The fact that many in the U.S. believe that those interpretations, values and needs are neutral, impartial representations of the global community at large is on full display every night on cable news channels, where state propagandists posing as journalists and the coterie of paid ex-military and U.S. intelligence consultants make impassioned arguments in favor of the U.S. waging war on Syria as a “punishment” for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
But for many of us, the story of American exceptionalism is an alien story, a children’s fairy tale spun from the fertile imagination of revisionist historians, a tale wherein indigenous people were sidekicks to lone rangers, the African slave trade was an unfortunate aberration that was corrected by Lincoln, children did not work in factories, women were not slaves to men, socialists and communists were not harassed and jailed, U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were not placed in concentration camps and Dr. King would have approved of Barack Obama’s warmongering.
In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting.”
It is that story which informs the thinking of President Obama when he declares that “for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security” i.e. the provider of an indispensable safety net without which transcontinental chaos would have ensued. In his version of exceptionalism, there was no CIA overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran in 1953; the brutal war in Vietnam was a war to free the Vietnamese people from communism; there is an explanation for why the U.S. gave its support to the Apartheid government in South Africa; the coup in Chile was an internal event that did not involve the CIA, and the millions of people who died in Iraq were worth the price to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
Aurora Levins Morales quotes feminist psychologist Judith Herman as she describes the way in which perpetrators seek to control the disclosures and discourses of abuse:
“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no-one listens… After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it on herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on.”
For African Americans experiencing depression-level economic conditions, our sons being murdered by agents of the state at a rate of one every 28 hours, our children locked away for life without the possibility of parole and more than a million of our sons and daughters entombed in the dungeons of this nation’s prisons, we did not need Vladimir Putin to remind us of the fiction of “America’s” commitment to values and social practices that make it “exceptional” in the community of nations. That reminder was also not necessary for our indigenous brothers and sisters who still struggle for sovereignty, dignity and self-determination in the aftermath of their American holocaust and America’s God-given manifest destiny.
Van Jones, the one-time black progressive who has since sold his integrity to the Democratic Party and CNN, recently joined Newt Gingrich during their new show to castigate Putin for having the audacity to suggest that the U.S. was not exceptional. Attempting his best effort at sincerity, Van offered that no other country in the world could have made the progress toward closing the gap between its stated values and social practices as the United States. Of course Van knows better – he has not forgotten our history of oppression, nor is he unaware of the contemporary crisis facing black working class and poor people. He has simply decided to deny the existence of those realities.
We know and understand that the ideological foundation of U.S. exceptionalism and the equally odious notion of “humanitarian intervention” is just another manifestation of white supremacy.”
However, for the rest of us who have been invaded, enslaved, murdered, subjected to systematic racist dehumanization and colonized, we have not forgotten or denied those realities despite the best efforts by the perpetrators of our ongoing oppression to compel us to forget and just move on.
In fact we have done the hard work of reconstructing our own stories and clearing our eyes in order to see the world unencumbered by distorted myths and narratives that marginalize our experiences.
As a result, we don’t harbor any illusions about America and its real intentions when it professes humanitarian concerns. We know and understand that the ideological foundation of U.S. exceptionalism and the equally odious notion of “humanitarian intervention” is just another manifestation of white supremacy.
From our experiences and analyses, we can see that the assumptions of Euro-American racial and cultural superiority are so normalized, and social practices and structures so deeply inculcated in the collective consciousness of Americans of all races, nationalities, gender and class, that the cultural and institutional processes and expressions of white supremacy have been rendered largely invisible.
That is why so many Americans, despite their reservations related to Syria, still ultimately support the idea that the U.S. government has the right to contravene international law in order to uphold international law, to kill at will, to decide what nation has the right to sovereignty and to determine that the value of lives of human beings in Syria are worth more than the lives of the more than 2,000 murdered by the Egyptian military, or the 1,400 Palestinians murdered by the government of Israel a couple of years ago.
But as obvious as these moral contradictions are to most of the peoples of the world, it took the questioning of U.S. exceptionalism by the President of Russia to cause people in the U.S. to finally give some thought to an idea that they had taken for granted as self-evident.
What many people around the world understand is that exploding the dangerous myth of American exceptionalism is absolutely critical if the global community ever hopes to collectively solve the existential challenges that we face on the planet today. We can only hope that after a decade of war and a capitalist economic crisis, people in the U.S. will come to understand this and recognize that their interests and those of their elite are not the same, and that the U.S. must participate in the community of nations and peoples as equals.
The popular opposition to Obama’s proposal to wage war on Syria is encouraging because the world can no long afford for the people of the U.S. to continue to allow the country’s elites to impose their will over the rest of humanity. If people in the U.S. have moved closer to that realization as a result of this latest Syrian misadventure, that would be truly exceptional.
Ajamu Baraka is a long-time human rights activist, writer and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity Movements in the United States. He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C.