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COLUMN: U.S. takes selfish stance in relations throughout world

By Michael Schwartz

Daily Bruin (U. California-Los Angeles)


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COLUMN: U.S. takes selfish stance in relations throughout world

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(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES -- I was reading the Los Angeles Times a couple of weeks ago and came across an article about Colin Powell's new approach to foreign policy. According to the article, Powell's approach has been dubbed "unilateralism" or "exceptionalism."

The premise of the new doctrine is that the United States can do whatever it wants because our sophisticated democracy makes us morally and politically superior to the rest of the world and exempts us from international norms and treaties. We need to be given a pass on standards we hold for others such as testing nuclear weapons or preemptive military strikes. It's basically a doctrine that says, "Because it's the United States, whatever we do is okay."

That day the Times also ran articles detailing our support for South Korea's dictator during the 1960s and CIA support for the coup that brought Chilean dictator General Pinochet to power in 1973. Pinochet was responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of people during his reign of terror.

Historian Howard Zinn once said that nationalism is "a set of beliefs taught to each generation in which the Motherland or the Fatherland is an object of veneration and becomes a burning cause for which one becomes willing to kill the children of other Motherlands or Fatherlands."

It's obvious that Colin Powell doesn't care about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi human beings who have died at the hands of U.S. bombs. In response to a question concerning the number of Iraqis killed in the war, the good general replied, "It's really not a number I'm terribly interested in." This wouldn't surprise George Orwell, who once said, "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."

In 1996 an Amnesty International report documented that "throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or 'disappeared,' at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame."

It was once said "a terrorist is someone who has a bomb but doesn't have an air force." It is easy to forget the horror and destruction that is caused by war now that the media portrays war like a video game. The number of countries that have been bombed by the United States is incredible.

The list just since 1945 is as follows: China 1945-46, Korea and China 1950-53 (Korean War), Guatemala 1954, Indonesia 1958, Cuba 1959-1961, Guatemala 1960, Congo 1964, Peru 1965, Laos 1964-73, Vietnam 1961-73, Cambodia 1969-70, Guatemala 1967-69, Grenada 1983, Lebanon 1983-1984, Libya 1986, El Salvador 1980s, Nicaragua 1980s, Iran 1987, Panama 1989, Iraq 1991-2001, Kuwait 1991, Somalia 1993, Bosnia 1994-1995, Sudan 1998, Afghanistan 1998, Yugoslavia 1999.

You should ask yourself why it is that we do this. Is it really to "promote democracy and peace?" I don't think so. The United States is willing to kill millions of people to protect its economic interests around the world. It's as simple as that. Was the gulf war about "democracy," or was it about oil?

Even the politicians sometimes tell the truth about what our goals are. In 1948, George Kennan, who was the director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department said:

"We have 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population ... In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will allow us to maintain this position of disparity."

Today the disproportion of wealth is even higher and we still do everything we can do to maintain this "position of disparity." I would like to give a few examples of how the United States completely violates international laws and what that means for the people who are victimized.

First of all let's look at Nicaragua. Under siege by the United States and its Contra proxy army for several years, Nicaragua filed suit in 1984 in the World Court (International Court of Justice), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, located in The Hague, Netherlands, for relief from the constant onslaught.

The Court ruled in 1986 that the United States was in violation of international law for a host of reasons, stated that Washington "is under a duty immediately to cease and to refrain from all such acts (of hostility)" and "is under an obligation to make reparation to the Republic of Nicaragua for all injury."

Washington did not slow down its hostile acts against Nicaragua, nor did it ever pay a penny in reparation. Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state under Reagan, was instrumental in rewriting history, even as it was happening. He was indispensable to putting the best possible face on the atrocities being committed daily by the Contras in Nicaragua and other Washington allies in Central America. "When history is written," he declared, "the Contras will be folk heroes." (L.A. Weekly March 9-15, 1990).

More recently, let's look at the bombing of Sudan in Africa. The El-Shifa pharmaceutical plant had raised Sudanese medicinal self-sufficiency from less than 5 percent to more than 50 percent, while producing about 90 percent of the drugs used to treat the most deadly illnesses in this desperately poor country.

But on Aug. 20, 1998, the United States saw fit to send more than a dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles screaming into the plant, in an instant depriving the people of Sudan of their achievement. Washington claimed that the plant was producing chemical weapons.

But the United States was never able to prove any of its assertions, while every piece of evidence and every expert testimony that surfaced categorically contradicted the claim about chemical weapons ("The Missiles of August", The New Yorker, Oct. 12, 1998.). We will never know how many people will now die due to lack of medicine.

Madeline Albright showed this lack of empathy for human beings in an interview on "60 Minutes."

"We have heard that a half million children have died," said "60 Minutes" reporter Lesley Stahl, speaking of U.S. sanctions against Iraq. "I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And -- and you know, is the price worth it?" Her guest, in May 1996, U.N. Ambassador Albright, said, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."

Millions of human beings have been killed in the name of the United States. Why? To secure economic domination over the rest of the world. Think about that when the next time our president tells us it's time to bomb yet another country in our name. Think about that the next time Mr. Powell talks about our moral superiority.

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