You’re sanctioned! You’re bombed! You’re invaded! The US has plenty of punishments lined up for states which it claims are doing things wrong. But what if the rest of the world held the US to the same standards?
Last Thursday was quite an unusual day. The US didn’t impose new sanctions on anyone. Not unless I missed it while I was lying on my sofa with tendonitis (cured after a day, I’m pleased to say, by my wife’s ‘Two-Pointing’).
At present the US operates active sanctions programs against almost 20 countries: from Belarus to Zimbabwe. And guess what? By and large the reasons the US gives for sanctioning these countries could just as equally be used to sanction the US.
Let’s look at the recently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, some of which came into force on August 6, with others set for November 4. The financial punishments don’t just target Iran. In a particularly nasty, school playground-style bullying tactic they target countries and foreign financial institutions which trade with Iran too. The Islamic Republic is accused of “malign behavior.” Of being a leading, sorry, make that “THE world’s leading state sponsor of terror.”
In fact Tehran’s crime has been to help defeat the terrorism, euphemistically described as “rebel activity,”supported by the US and its regional allies in Syria.
If sanctions are to be imposed for “malign behavior” and being a “sponsor of terror” then it’s the US that should be sanctioned, and not Iran. Moreover, if we followed the US logic, countries and financial institutions trading with America would be hit too. Just imagine the outcry from Washington if Iran had announced the sort of comprehensive measures against companies and banks that do business with the US, that the US has announced against companies and banks that do business with Tehran. But they would be justified, if we followed the State Department’s line of reasoning.
Russia has been subject to US sanctions since 2014. The Kremlin was accused of “annexing” Crimea, and “undermining” the “democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine,” and threatening Ukraine’s “peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”
“You don’t just in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped-up pre-text,”declared Secretary of State John Kerry, without any sense of irony. Because when it comes to invading other countries on “completely trumped-up pretexts” no-one has done it more often in recent decades or more shamelessly than the US and its allies. Iraqi WMDs anyone?
In April it was reported that the US was illegally occupying around 30 percent of Syria – the areas where most of the oil is located. Did the Syrians vote for this, as the Crimeans voted? In the case of the latter, an overwhelming majority of the population chose to return to Russian authority in 2014.
Of course, you don’t hear anyone talk about the US “annexing” Syria – “annexing” is only what “official enemies” do.
Russia has also been sanctioned for “interfering” in the 2016 US Presidential election. Never mind we’ve got no hard evidence of this. But what we do have proof of is massive US meddling in Russia’s presidential election of 1996 (Time magazine even boasted about it on its front cover) and in countless other elections around the world. Being accused of interfering in other countries’ affairs by the US is like being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame, or being lectured on moral rectitude by Count Dracula.
If US standards on “election meddling” were applied to itself, then at least half the countries in the world would be justified in sanctioning the US. A country that most certainly does interfere in US politics is Israel. “Israeli intervention in US elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done,…even to the point where the prime minister of Israel, (Benjamin) Netanyahu, goes directly to Congress, without even informing the president, and speaks to Congress, with overwhelming applause, to try to undermine the president’s policies – what happened with Obama and Netanyahu in 2015,”says Noam Chomsky.
So is the US sanctioning Israel? Au contraire: ‘key US lawmakers’ want to increase the $38bn in military aid it gives to Israel!
The same ‘key US lawmakers’ who, surprise, surprise, are so keen to punish Russia!
The latest US sanctions on Russia, which come into force this week, are in relation to the Skripal case, and what Washington calls (no sniggering at the back) a “violation of international law.” Never mind that, once again, no evidence has yet been produced to show that Russia poisoned Sergei and Yulia. Just imagine if the Kremlin introduced sanctions on the US in response to the unsolved poisoning of two American citizens, who had worked previously for the FSB. What would the US say to that? Worse still, Washington is demanding that Russia proves within 90 days that it is no longer using chemical or biological weapons and will not do so again in the future. How about if someone gave the US this ultimatum? After all, we know that the US has used chemical weapons and possibly biological ones too and still has stockpiles, having missed the 2012 OPCW deadline.
Russia, by contrast, completed the disposal process in 2017.
Moving to Africa, the US has sanctioned Zimbabwe since 2001. All about Robert Mugabe? Well, Comrade Bob has gone now, and guess what? This summer the US extended sanctions ahead of the country‘s presidential elections. It’s clear that Zimbabwe is subject to sanctions because it has the “wrong” foreign policy alignments. Again, imagine if countries sanctioned the US because they didn’t like those with whom they were friendly?
A common reason cited for US sanctions against other countries is that they don’t hold “free and fair elections.” But does the US? The American political system is controlled by big money and powerful interest groups.
The Democrats and Republicans are just two wings of the same pro-war, pro-capital party, one just a little bit more socially liberal than the other to give voters the illusion of choice. For the US to sanction other countries for alleged democratic deficiencies really takes the biscuit when you consider the “choice” on offer to American voters in 2016. Even more hypocritical is when the US cites “human rights” concerns as a reason for punishing a foreign state. This is the country, which after all, is so committed to human rights that it withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council in June.
In fact, some of the worst human rights-abusing states in the world are very close allies of the US, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, and of course Washington doesn’t sanction them, but instead provides them with the military hardware to help them commit those very human rights abuses.
‘Peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.’ Let’s consider those words which the US uses to justify its sanctions on Russia, and think again about what’s been going on in the world these last 30 years. Did the US and its allies care about the ‘sovereignty and territorial integrity’ of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia when they bombed the country for 78 days in 1999, to try and achieve “independence” for Kosovo?
Did the US and its allies care about ‘peace, security and stability’ when they illegally invaded Iraq in 2003, plunging the country into chaos and bloodshed, with the carnage continuing to this day? Did they care about these very noble things when they bombed Libya, a country with the highest living standards in the whole of Africa, back to the Stone Age, in 2011? Or in their attempts to destabilize and Balkanize the Syrian Arab Republic?
The US loves to punish other countries, but it has no legal or moral authority to be the world’s judge, jury and executioner. It’s time it was held accountable to the same standards it demands of others, and where appropriate, subject to the same penalties.
In the words of my fellow OpEd columnist John Wight: “Only when we are living in a world in which sanctions are imposed ‘on’ the United States rather than ‘by’ the United States will we know justice reigns.”