This piece up at NPR.org manages to focus on the fact that the U.S. supports dictatorship and torture throughout the world, while still lending almost no criticism to such longstanding policies at all.
Like his predecessors, President Obama sometimes has to shake hands with dictators.
During his speech last month about the “Arab spring” protest movements, Obama suggested that America’s interests would come to be better aligned with its values.
But Obama has continued to meet with authoritarian leaders from the Middle East and Africa, while the U.S. still gives aid to dictators in other parts of the globe, as well.
Bilateral relations are often based on military, security and economic needs, not on human-rights records or anti-corruption standards. The U.S. maintains ties with many countries that fall far short of its own standards for representative democracy.
This sort of understates the case a bit. It’s not as if supporting dictatorships around the world is some unfortunate little happenstance of U.S. foreign policy. Rather, it’s the motivation behind it. In order to have policies that are extremely beneficial to Washington and the corporate interests that infest it, the suppression of democracy is imperative. Bahrain’s Sunni minority rule the country, and the Shiite majority need to be repressed if Washington is to continue to be able to host the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which polices the waterways with traffic from oil shipments, and if Washington wants to continue to isolate the region’s one openly defiant state, Iran (with whom Bahrain might align absent aggressive U.S. support of dictatorship and state terror). Uzbekistan, also mentioned in the article, whose President Islam Karimov is a world renowned torturer, is our close friend an ally because a military base there has been critical in supplying our troops in the brutal, unnecessary, and wasteful war in neighboring Afghanistan. Conducting war would be much more difficult if ordinary Uzbeks had a say in policy and rejected Washington’s dictates. This is the honest way of describing what NPR calls “military, security, and economic needs.”
Not to mention, by the way, the characteristic, nationalistic pat on the back that these countries “fall far short” of America’s own “standards for representative democracy.” What kind of representative democracy keeps the facts about the government’s support for terrorizing innocent people all over the world in the dark? Again, the media subservience to political power is difficult to overcome.
Sometimes engagement itself is considered the best way to influence another nation’s policies towards its own people. That has certainly been a point raised during debates over the years about the U.S. maintaining trade relations and other formal ties with China.
“The job of the United States is not to sit by passively and hope that things get better,” says Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “There are dictators we have to deal with that we have to insure do not remain dictators.”
This myth that the U.S. keeps up diplomatic ties with tyrants in order to coax them into democratic transitions is very obviously ludicrous and needs to stop being repeated by the media. When have we ever given incentives to dictators to become democratic? This misses my point above, that U.S. policy relies on the suppression of democracy to get what it wants out of these dictatorships. That’s why it has worked so hard to crush the Arab Spring.
Most of the coverage throughout this Arab Spring on U.S. support for dictatorship has been under the fold, so to speak. Mentioned, but not highlighted. Uttered, but not explained. Then here we actually get a direct focus on this fact of Imperial policy and it’s totally misconstrued, maintaining the usual aversion to critical analysis of state power in America. Unless and until the media begin to tell the truth on this issue, voters will remain entirely ignorant and captivated by issues like Coke vs. Pepsi, and who likes American Idol.