American Exceptionalism: How Dare You Do What We Do!

Last week Egypt and the United Arab Emirates made air strikes against Islamist militias in Libya who were threatening the airport in Tripoli, apparently at the behest of the Libyan government. The reaction of the United States and other governments is breathtakingly hypocritical:

The diplomatic angst issuing from Washington around the United Arab Emirates and Egypt bombing of weapons depots belonging to the Qatar-backed fundamentalist militia of Misrata holds many delicious ironies:

1. According to the BBC, “the US, France, Germany, Italy and the UK issued a joint statement denouncing “outside interference” in Libya.” Seriously, guys? Except for Germany, these are the NATO countries that intervened in Libya in the first place, in large part at the insistence of an Arab League led by Egypt and the UAE! It is true that the UAE and Egypt don’t have a UN Security Council Resolution, which authorized NATO involvement (I supported the then no fly zone on those grounds). But the newly elected Libyan House of Representatives has openly called for international intervention against Libya’s out-of-control militias and it is entirely possible that the Libyan government asked, behind the scenes for these air strikes. In any case, “outside interference” isn’t the issue!

2. The US is said to have been “caught off guard” by the air strikes. But the US bombed Tripoli in 1986 without coordinating with most of its Middle East allies. Or then there was that sudden invasion of Iraq for no good reason in 2003. The US is always catching the Middle East off guard.

This is the only thing that “American exceptionalism” could possibly mean. We continually condemn other countries for doing exactly the same thing that we do as a matter of routine. Thus our hypocritical blathering about Russia invading the Ukraine and violated their sacred national sovereignty (Russia is wrong to do so, but so are we when we do it — and we do it a lot).

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  • Our hobby is bombing brown people. The last white people we bombed were the Germans. Why? Because they wanted to dominate the world. Bullshit! That’s our job!

    George Carlin

  • Childermass

    With respect to Mr. Carlin, the Serbs are white.

  • Yes, but they talk funny.

  • busterggi

    Serbs are brown. Anyone the US bombs becomes brown by default.

  • To be fair, Carlin made the comment before we bombed Serbia.

  • eric

    It just goes to show just how realpolitik the whole situation is. The western powers don’t give two hoots about suppressing islamic fundamentalist groups when those groups are attacking an autocrat we don’t like (and who opposes us). And the UAE/Egypt vs. Qatar matchup is IMO also fairly clearly about who is going to be the big players in the region…they don’t give two hoots about the ideology of Libyian rebels either.

  • Serbs may be white but they are Slavs so it does not count anyway. Just ask any racial theorist from the 1930s.

  • dingojack

    Any information on who writes for ‘Informed Comment’*?

    Or then there was that sudden invasion of Iraq for no good reason in 2003. The US is always catching the Middle East off guard.” [/Comic Sans]

    Evidently this ‘informed’ commentator thinks that Iraqis are too poor (or perhaps too stupid) to own a TV.**



    * When the name of your website is source of eye-rolling irony, it doesn’t bode well

    * and that Iraq isn’t really a country with diplomats and stuff, just a rag-tag collection of desert-nomad ‘rag-heads’ riding around on camels, or something. @@

  • @dingojack

    You can read about that blogger here:

    The most interesting part of that biography (to me, at least):

    Being in Evanston, Juan in 1972 encountered the Baha’i religion, which has a temple in nearby Wilmette, and embraced it. The Baha’is said they believed in the unity of the world religions, the elimination of racism, the equality of women and men, and world peace — values that resonated with Juan’s own interests and convictions.

    He continued, however, with his studies of Buddhism and Sufi Islam, and was always a fish out of water in the often cult-like and anti-intellectual Baha’i community. Individual Baha’is and families were often very kind to him, and he is grateful to them and respects their beliefs. But it ultimately wasn’t for him. It gradually became apparent that most Baha’is do not actually believe in the equality of women and men, excluding women from their elective highest body, the Universal House of Justice, and holding that women have a different function in society than men. Then it gradually became apparent that whatever they privately believed about racism, they were unwilling to take a political stand, as quietists, against Apartheid. Then it became clear that they are no more religious pluralists than Roman Catholics or Muslims, admitting partial truth in other traditions, but insisting that only in their own tradition is the fullness of the contemporary truth manifest. Then it became clear that the Baha’i authorities were not exactly pacifists. The top leadership has a secret cult-like belief in a Baha’i theocracy that will rule the world, rather on the same model as the theory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that Muslim clergy should replace civil governments globally. Cole gradually lost his enthusiasm for the community and the administration. When he married outside it in 1982, he stopped going to services because his non-Baha’i wife was excluded. He was also increasingly disturbed by the censorship practices imposed on Baha’i writers by the religion’s administration, and refused to submit to them.

    (When email lists came along in the 1990s and he was active in Baha’i discussions of the religion’s history and policies, in which he retained an academic interest, and some hopes of reform, and he came to be hated by the fundamentalist leadership. In 1996 they had a high official call him at home and threaten him with being declared a “covenant-breaker,” i.e. a heretic, because of his critical email postings. Baha’is shun “covenant-breakers” and shun people who are in contact with them. Cole was astonished at the narrow-minded and coercive tactics of the administration, and declined to remain in the community. He angrily resigned. He is now not interested in organized religion as a personal matter. Cole was all along an American liberal, and had thought the Baha’is were on his side, which he discovered to be an error, at least with regard to the secretive and duplicitous leadership. His political and social philosophy is rooted in American traditions going back to the Transcendentalists and going forward to Martin Luther King, Michael Harrington, and other progressives, and all along has been.)

  • lpetrich

    As to the Ukraine, that reminds me of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. The CIA had trained some refugees from Fidel Castro’s regime, starting in the late 1950’s, but the planners of the invasion wanted that operation to seem like it was free from Yanqui gringo imperialists, that it was an invasion of Cuban patriots who wanted to take back their country. It was a flop, and to his credit, JFK, the head Yanqui gringo himself, owned up to it.

    In the present-day Ukraine, Russia is maintaining the same pretense, that it’s an uprising by Ukrainian ethnic Russians against ethnic Ukrainians who are treating them as second-class citizens. But that pretense is also falling apart.