There is this constant question about American foreign policy. Why is it that some countries are our allies when they are so horrible? Of course, the claim is always that we support “democracy” and “the rule of law” and “respect for human rights.” But that doesn’t seem to ever be the case. For example, I think that the United Kingdom is a democracy that supports the rule of law and respects human rights. But I don’t think that’s the reason that the UK is our ally. I think we decide whether to have an ally and only afterward do we apply those nice sounding labels on them.
More often, these labels are not used in the affirmative. We don’t generally say that we have an ally because of these things. Instead, we claim that a country is our enemy because they are not a democracy or whatever. And that fact came very much to the fore recently when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died. He was a horrible man — a despot. This is a man who was fine with beheading another for the “crime” of witchcraft. A real class act from a real classy country. But who needs class and, you know, the Enlightenment, when you have huge oil reserves and the biggest military in the world willing to do anything for you?
Last Friday, Glenn Greenwald put together a great compare and contrast, Obama’s Reaction to the Deaths of King Abdullah and Hugo Chávez. As readers of this site know, I’m fairly fond of Chávez. It wasn’t that he was an especially great leader. But he distinguished himself in that he wasn’t totally corrupt and he actually tried to make the resources of his nation work for the good of the people. (Imagine in a US president did that!) And that puts him well ahead of most leaders. That, of course, also put him at odds with the US government. If Chávez had been willing to make deals with US interests that made him and his friends rich at the expense of his people, the US government (and its lapdog media) would have been fine with him — regardless of what else he did.
How do I know? Well, just look at Abdullah. For a good rundown of what a great guy he was, check out Murtaza Hussain’s obituary, Saudi Arabia’s Tyrant King Misremembered as Man of Peace. He was a vile man who not only supported just about every horrible thing the US does, but also did a lot of his own war making. Check out this example of his commitment to peace and democracy:
In Bahrain, Saudi forces intervened to crush a popular uprising which had threatened the rule of the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy, while in Syria Saudi-backed factions have helped turn what was once a popular democratic uprising into a bloody, intractable proxy war between regional rivals which is now a main driver of extremism in the Middle East.
But really, you don’t need to look any further than the 9/11 hijackers. Of the 19 men, 15 were from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden himself was from Saudi Arabia. Any normal country would have to answer for that. If those 15 had instead been from Venezuela, we would have invaded the country. As it was, we helped stage a coup in 2002. It appears that to the US government, “democracy” is just another word for “countries that do as they’re told.” What’s even more frustrating is that the US media were universal in their condemnation of Chávez when he mocked Bush at the United Nations. No mention was ever made of the coup, of course, because that would have been unfair to Bush.
When Chávez died, this was the official response, which is as close to “good riddance” as these things ever get:
At this challenging time of President Hugo Chávez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interests in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.
Translation: unless you idiots in Venezuela elect a pro-corporate government, you won’t have a government committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. It’s really that simple. Meanwhile, Obama had “deep respect” for Abdullah. Most of the statement is about all the great work that he did for peace and the education of his people. No mention is made of the Saudi Arabian government being committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. That’s because it isn’t.
But it doesn’t matter. All this disingenuous nonsense means is that any country that plays nice with the US, allowing our corporations and military access, is fine. And if it doesn’t, then it is terrible. And expect the US to do everything it can to destroy that country. Because it isn’t okay to have oil reserves used to help the poor. There are needy corporations here in America!