Given the nature of McCarthyism sweeping the media these days, it is actually quite surprising to think that some brave souls actually have the nerve to speak up against America's foreign policy aspects that hurt people in other parts of the world - and there are many such policies so it is not surprising there are many such people.
Perhaps we need to listen to just two of them.....
Rogue States? America Ought to Know
The Hyperpower Sets Its Own Rules
Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and author of Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's UN. Her forthcoming book is Before & After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Spetember 11th Crisis.
We hear a lot about rogue states these days. You know, the rogue states that refuse to ratify important treaties, the ones who refuse to allow international inspections of their weapons of mass destruction, the ones who ignore U.N. resolutions, who violate human rights with impunity and who refuse to sign on to human rights conventions? You know, those rogue states.
Let's get down to specifics. What would you call a country that produces the highest levels of dangerous chemicals in the world but abandons key negotiations aimed at reversing global warming? How about a country whose leader blithely announces that he is abandoning a quarter-century old arms control treaty, one the whole world understands to be the key to preventing complete nuclear madness? And what about a government that walks out of talks to enforce the biological weapons treaty because it doesn't want international inspectors peeking at its own weapons production facilities? That same country keeps rejecting human rights treaties, even the ones protecting the rights of children.
Sounds pretty roguish, don't you think? Iraq, maybe, or one of those other evil-doers like Iran or North Korea? But oops -- wrong guess. This particular rogue state would be the United States of America.
It's hard for most Americans to think of the United States as a rogue state. We're a democracy, after all. Our elections are free and fair (well, some of the time).
But our foreign policy is far less accountable to democratic ideals, or to the global community than we like to think. The problem isn't isolationism -- we're engaged (at least our military forces and our U.S. manufactured weapons are) all over the world. The problem is unilateralism -- our tendency to act out our unchallenged 'super-power of super-powers' role without concern for what others in the world think.
When the Bush administration came into office last year, unilateralism was suddenly on everybody's radar screen. One of the administration's first acts was to cut off U.S. support to any international family planning institutions that also might provide any separately-funded information to their patients about abortions. Then, what really caught the eye of policymakers and pundits, were Bush's rapid-fire moves to abandon the Kyoto protocol on global warming and the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty.
The United States produces by far the largest amount of greenhouse gases in the world -- the stuff that is destroying the ozone layer and causing dangerous global warming. In 1998, the Clinton administration had already angered most other countries when it refused to sign on to the Kyoto agreement that aimed to roll back greenhouse gas emissions. But international talks had continued, as had efforts to get the United States on board. Until Bush took office. Then, all of a sudden, Kyoto was off Washington's agenda.
In January 2002, the administration rubbed salt into the world's wound, dissing the whole Kyoto process by announcing a separate, unilateral plan. The new plan would, coincidentally, leave current U.S. greenhouse gas levels and the resulting increase in global warming virtually unchanged.
Then came the problem of weapons of mass destruction. In October 1999, the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a long-sought effort at keeping the U.S. and Soviet nuclear genies closer to their bottles. The world was not amused. Many, especially in Europe, were outraged, seeing the rejection as the arrogance of what the French had begun calling the "hyper-power." So when Bush announced, in early 2001, that he planned to unilaterally abrogate the 25-year-old ABM treaty, it wasn't only Moscow that felt betrayed. The ABM treaty had served as the linchpin of strategic arms control for a generation. Bush's claim that it was "irrelevant" in the post-Cold War era fooled no one. The only thing that had become irrelevant -- to the United States -- was international concern about the Pentagon's war drive. Our super-power rival had collapsed more than a decade ago, but the government had no intention of changing its own aggressive behavior.
Only two countries in the world have refused to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child -- Somalia and the United States.
In the summer of 2001, the United States walked out of another international conference, this one on how to enforce the 1972 treaty prohibiting biological weapons. Everybody agreed there needed to be stronger inspections of potential sites where germ weapons could be produced -- what Washington is always accusing Iraq of hiding. But this time it wasn't the Iraqis, it was us -- the U.S. delegation walked out because they refused to accept international inspections of American production facilities which the United States demanded for everyone else.
On the issue of human rights, when it comes to real commitments, backed up by international agreements, Washington falls way behind. Take the Convention on the Rights of the Child. That one should be a no-brainer.
The Convention is, according to UNICEF, "the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history..." The Convention sets norms for what governments should provide for parents and their children -- adequate nutrition, compulsory primary education, adequate health care, safe access to play, art, and culture. Only two countries in the world have refused to sign on -- Somalia and the United States.
Unilateralism didn't begin with the Bush administration. Several years ago, the United States antagonized much of the world, including some of our closest allies, when it refused to sign the convention banning anti-personnel landmines.
For years the world had known that the mines -- cheap, easy to use -- were responsible for far more civilian than military deaths. The campaign to prohibit them, led by civil society organizations and governments such as Canada, was based on the vast suffering of civilians, most often children, in places where low-tech, high-casualty wars were taking place, often outside CNN's camera range.
The world needed a ban -- but still today the United States refuses to sign. Why? Because the Pentagon says it needs those anti-personnel mines to protect U.S. troops. What a heartless message our powerful military is sending around the globe, specifically to the legions of landmine victims, children with missing limbs growing up in the poor, mine-infested countries of the world.
Then there's the International Criminal Court. The United States spent years demanding that the world create such a court to insure that those guilty of genocide or war crimes would be held accountable. When the new court was approved, delegates from 120 countries stood and cheered. Only seven countries voted against -- led by the United States at the head of the rejectionist front. Who were Washington's bedfellows? Those stalwart democracies such as China, Israel, Libya, Iraq.
As it turned out, the United States never had any intention of signing on fearful that it would expose American troops around the world to prosecution outside the U.S. justice system. It just demanded a court for the rest of the world. The world cried foul. Finally, in the last days of his presidency, just hours before the signature deadline, on December 31, 2000, lame-duck President Clinton reluctantly signed the treaty endorsing the court -- but he explicitly rejected ever presenting to the Senate for ratification. For the United States, signing the treaty was just a way of making sure it could keep on calling the shots in future negotiations.
The United States is the strongest country in the world -- economically, militarily, strategically. But that doesn't mean we can ignore the international laws and treaties and U.N. resolutions that we demand others obey.
We're still part of the international community -- we still need the U.N. and international law. We face consequences when we throw our weight around -- being kicked off the U.N. Human Rights Commission last spring was one example. After September 11th most of the world's criticism of our unilateralism and arrogance was silenced. But now we stand in danger of losing the human sympathy that followed those attacks. Haven't we -- and the rest of the world -- had enough of Washington's rogue behavior?
Published: Mar 01 2002
Published on Monday, February 25, 2002 in the Philadelphia Inquirer
Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall, Who is the Biggest Rogue of All?In Its Unilateralist Disregard, U.S. is the Real 'Rogue State'
by Richard B. Du Boff and Edward S. Herman
Most people believe that their own country is virtuous and that only others misbehave enough to qualify as international outlaws. But the United States has elevated this popular sentiment to the level of national policy - by designating certain countries, of its own choosing, as "rogue states." The dictionary defines rogue as "a fierce and dangerous animal, like an elephant, that separates itself from its herd." By this standard, the United States, not the piddling tyrannies named by the State Department, is the world's number one rogue. Since it obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 - cities, not military targets - the United States has bombed 18 countries, and invaded still others, with no declaration of war nor any possibility of retaliation, at least until Sept. 11. In the case of Afghanistan, the United States launched a unilateral war of revenge against a brutal regime of its own creation, although none of the 19 hijackers were Afghan and none of the thousands of "detainees" held in the United States and abroad have been charged with any participation in the crime. Furthermore, the alleged "mastermind," still at large, might well have been turned over to the United States through negotiations - which President Bush rejected outright from the start. All this is defended on the ground that we are "so good" (as the President has said) and always act in the world's interest. But in fact, U.S. actions reflect the power of corporate interests. For example, the United States refused to participate in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development-sponsored talks in Paris in May 2001, on ways to crack down on offshore and other tax and money-laundering havens. For any other nation, this would now be highly embarrassing in the age of Enron, but such a thought would never even occur to U.S. policymakers. Or consider Bush's declaration in March 2001 that the Kyoto Protocol was "dead" - all because it might harm the U.S. economy. Bush separates himself from the global consensus based on his reading of U.S. interests alone - and his stance coincides with that of the oil industry, not with the real interests of the American people. Several U.S. unilateral positions have been geared to the demands of the military-industrial complex, and other parties advocating an aggressive foreign policy. The United States has withdrawn from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, gutting this landmark arms control accord to the dismay of virtually every country in the world. The United States has not ratified the Comprehensive (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty signed by 164 nations; Bush opposes it. This country rejects the Land Mine Treaty, concluded in Ottawa in December 1997 and signed by 122 countries. This country was also the only nation to oppose the U.N. Agreement to Curb the International Flow of Illicit Small Arms in July 2001. The United States rejects an International Criminal Court because our personnel might become subject to its jurisdiction. The United Nations is treated the same way: When the United States can get the Security Council to do what it wants - say, bomb Iraq in 1991 - it goes that route; if not, as with its invasion of Panama in 1989, it simply disregards the United Nations or uses its veto. In Afghanistan, the administration couldn't be bothered with the United Nations or any other international body to deal with what it declared to be a "crime against humanity": It simply bombed. As for the Guantanamo Bay prisoners, classified as "unlawful combatants," South African jurist Richard Goldstone points out that this is "not a term recognized by international law." If prisoners, they are entitled to POW treatment; if simply criminals, "under the U.S. Constitution, they've got even better protection." But for U.S. leaders, international law is for others, not ourselves. Whether an action involves waging war, with the devastation and death that "precision bombing" brings to a chosen country, or expanding environmental controls, the United States is proclaiming, more loudly than ever, that it will "act unilaterally," whatever the cost to others - and sooner or later to its own people. Richard B. Du Boff is a professor emeritus of economics at Bryn Mawr College. Edward S. Herman is a professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.