As the United States finds itself overwhelmed with protests and riots raging across the nation, its unsolicited past advice in places like Hong Kong and Iraq under similar circumstances is coming home to roost, with a vengeance.
Just yesterday Washington DC was the cock of the walk, sufficiently drunk on power to scold foreign governments for the way they were manhandling protesters at home. In one particularly audacious moment, it even dispatched officials to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in a display of solidarity with protesters then rallying against the government, which eventually fell.
Today, history has been flipped on its head as the US finds itself attempting to restore law and order following the videotaped killing of a black man at the hands of a white police officer. As this tinderbox moment threatens to blow, Washington would like nothing more than for foreign governments around the world to just shut up and mind their own business. Of course, that is unlikely to happen, since not even nationwide riots have curbed America’s appetite for lecturing others.
Consider Washington’s stance on China, for example, which has been grappling with its own protests in the territory of Hong Kong long before the world knew the name George Floyd. Beijing has just announced it would move ahead with legislation to fight “terrorism and foreign interference” in the city state. Ironically, days later Trump said he would rank Antifa, the leftist group many blame for much of the violence that has rocked America, as a terrorist organization. So probably not the best time to lecture Beijing, right? Think again.
With an alarming lack of self-awareness, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus tweeted that “Freedom loving people…must stand with the rule of law and hold to account the Chinese Communist Party, which has flagrantly broken its promises to the people of Hong Kong.” To which her Chinese counterpart shot back, “I can’t breathe,” a rallying slogan used by protesters following the deaths of black men Eric Garner and George Floyd.
US meddling in Hong Kong, however, has not been limited simply to tweets. Last year, reminiscent of events in Kiev, a US diplomat met Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, the leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, as anti-government protests were heating up. It is almost frightening to imagine what the reaction from Washington would be if it had been discovered that Chinese officials were secretly meeting with members of Antifa, for example, at the height of protests in the US.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has also been on the receiving end of gratuitous lecturing from the US, didn’t miss the opportunity to take a swipe at America in its moment of crisis.
Javad Zarif, Iran Foreign Minister certainly grinned when he hit ‘send’ on the message: “Some don’t think #BlackLivesMatter. To those of us who do: it is long overdue for the entire world to wage war against racism.”
Below that message was included an edited version of a previous message from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had accused Iran of “squandering its citizens’ resources.”
Perhaps the most condescending advice that Washington has ever given to a foreign state, however, came in April 2003 from then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as Baghdad was suffering lawlessness and looting following the illicit US invasion of Iraq.
“While no one condones looting…one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression and people who have had members of their family killed by that regime,” Rumsfeld remarked, with off-the-chart arrogance. “And I don’t think there’s anyone … (who wouldn’t) accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom.”
Rumsfeld’s shockingly cynical comment, which revealed to what extent Washington would go to control the political situation in a foreign land, resonates with significance today. Would Rumsfeld and others so blithely suggest, as he did in Iraq, that the looters running wild on the streets of America today are justified in their behavior because they have had “members of their family killed by that regime,” and that this is just “part of the price” of achieving freedom? It seems altogether unlikely.
Today, there are some very disruptive forces at work in the United States who would agree with Rumsfeld as just a few minutes on Twitter proves. This reveals the split personality currently infecting the nation, where the progressive left sees racism and white supremacism behind every incident and is increasingly willing to destroy the country in its pursuit of justice. The other half of the country, made up of conservatives and pro-Trump MAGA types, view those efforts as part of some sort of socialist plot to completely remake America along Marxist lines.
Those are incredibly daunting challenges that will ultimately come down to the American people themselves to sort out. Nobody else will be able to perform that task for them. As the US undertakes that monumental chore, it would do well to consider the similar challenges that await other nations, challenges which the American people cannot begin to understand. With any hope, this tumultuous period in America’s history will make its people less willing to interfere in the upheavals of other countries. Its survival as a viable state may very well depend on it.
By Robert Bridge