An American Contradiction: Democracy for Us, Not for Others (Part 3)


Ad Honoris
May 2014
(Cont. from previous: )

In addition to its hypocritical behavior on democracy and human rights, the United States also claims to support international law while at the same time often breaking it itself. In addition, the U.S. sometimes gives its allies much less criticism (in contrast to less friendly countries) for violating international law and/or U.S. interests. Even though the United States claims to support nuclear nonproliferation, its record in regards to this has been rather mixed. The U.S. tolerated the fact that its staunch ally Israel had nuclear weapons for several decades, while at the same time being much more critical of other countries for building and/or attempting to build nuclear weapons when it didn't serve U.S. interests (Saiedi). When India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, the United States heavily criticized them and placed sanctions on these countries (Wagner). Later on, these sanctions on India and Pakistan were removed after 9/11 due in large part to India's and Pakistan's anti-terrorism cooperation (Wagner). Likewise, the United States put heavy pressure and sanctions on North Korea (with whom it has a hostile relationship) for building and testing nuclear weapons (Chronology). At one point in the 1990s, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton even considered bombing North Korean nuclear facilities before North Korea agreed to cooperate with the U.S. on this issue (Watts). Over the last decade, the U.S. (and its allies in Europe and Israel) also frequently threatened Iran and put heavy sanctions on it due to its nuclear program, despite the fact that it was “never shown to be a weapons program” (Boggs 43). In addition to nuclear non-proliferation, the U.S. also applies double-standards in orders to following international law. For instance, “vehement American protests” got a lawsuit against U.S. President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair (and some of their government officials) at the Hague thrown out in 1999 (Boggs 33). This occurred despite the fact that the plaintiffs had “substantial evidence at their disposal, including a record of sustained aerial attacks on distinctly civilian targets” (Boggs 33). Meanwhile, NATO's main adversary in the Kosovo conflict, Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milosevic, did in fact get tried at the Hague for war crimes, though he died before a verdict was able to be delivered. When the United States decided to finally ratify a treaty banning torture after several years of stalling, the United States defined torture in a different way than it was defined in international law, thus allowing the United States to claim to follow international law while actually simultaneously violating it. Professor Andrew Kolin mentions in his book State Power and Democracy: Before and During the Presidency of George W. Bush that the U.S. left out “the psychological torture methods contained in CIA manuals, reduction of sensory stimuli, self-infliction of pain, and physical disorientation” from its definition of torture (Kolin 1298 of 5216). The United States continued conduct many of these forms of torture after ratifying this treaty, demonstrating yet another time that it does not follow all of the rules and laws that it expects other countries to abide by. The United States also “either formally or informally supported [the] Israeli occupation in the [Palestinian territories]” since 1970 (Boggs 158). Possibly due to the influence of the Israel lobby, the U.S. often turned a blind eye to new Israeli settlements and Israeli military aggression. Likewise, the U.S. “reject[ed] proposals for an international conference tied to the key provisions of [United Nations Security Council (UNSC)] resolution 242” (Boggs 158). The United States has been extremely active in using its UNSC veto power to block many UNSC resolutions which are critical of Israel from passing, while refusing to do the same for other less friendly countries. Interestingly enough, this staunch, often uncritical U.S. support of Israel actually harms U.S. interests by making the Arab and Muslim worlds more hostile to the United States. However, the power of the Israel lobby, among other things, makes many U.S. politicians unwilling to strongly criticize Israel or to take punitive steps (such as cutting aid) towards it. All of these things, however, pale in comparison to the main U.S. violations of international law, which are torture and some U.S. military interventions.