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Obama’s double standard on Syria, Egypt and Israel

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Reading the text of President Obama’s statement yesterday yesterday on the American response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria was almost as depressing as watching Secretary of State’s John Kerry’s remarks the day before.  I find it difficult to believe that men of such intelligence can dumb down their sense of the world to such a degree that it lacks all credibility.  Are they mouthing the platitudes of an empire nation or do they believe their sophistry?

All of us claim the moral high ground when we make arguments against others.  But the moral high ground that Obama and Kerry claim is beyond belief, without a credible foundation and, I believe, without a national or international audience that will assent to it.  That is, to those who refuse to dwell in ignorance of what the United States does around the world.

What else is there to say that hasn’t been said already?  The most obvious comparison between Secretary of State Colin Powell’s justification for the US invasion of Iraq and Kerry’s remarks are telling.  Even Kerry’s denial of the comparison points to the need to analyze with precision what Kerry – and Obama – said and what they didn’t say. Both assert “facts” and veil them.  Both are precise.  Both never quite hit the mark.

Then there is the arrogance of power.  Listen to Obama as he cites his determination to strike Syria and our ability to dictate the time and place:

Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope. But I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.

Our military has positioned assets in the region. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I’m prepared to give that order.

We – the righteous – are prepared to strike when we want, how we want and with the results dictated in advance, of course, from a safe distance, so that our military “assets” are beyond reach.   The Syrians – the Other – are left to calculate time and effect, the danger to them and their neighbors and what might happen in retaliation for our principled behavior and the need to teach the Syrian leadership the lessons of lessons.

Then there is Kerry.  Listening to his moral indignation one wonders at his ability to tolerate the cold blooded murder of as many Egyptians in the last weeks as killed in the chemical weapons attack in Syria:

What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.

“Let me be clear.”  “Undeniable.”  Strong words for a political leaders and a nation where excuses are always at the ready.  As in Egypt, where “strategic considerations” override moral indignation.  As in Israel for decades and even now. The double standards are obvious.

At some point, double standards come home to roost.  It won’t happen in time for the Syrian people.  They are left to listen to Congressional debates, check the calendar and watch the sky for their incoming fate.

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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5 Responses

  1. Blank State on September 1, 2013, 11:00 am

    If you go back to 1981 and do a little digging, you find that Dick Cheney’s manipulation of export laws allowed Saddam to acquire the chemical weaponry that was subsequently used against the Iranians and the Kurds.

    But really, underscoring the hypocricy of so many of our nation’s stances and policies serves no useful purpose anymore, because the hypocricies have become so blatant and so common place they require no such exposure. If you aren’t aware of these double standards by now, its doubtful you care enough to follow world events, or bother to monitor your own government’s actions and policies.

    Watching these pathetic posers such as Kerry, Obama, or Biden assume the posture of outraged protectors of human rights is an affront to my intelligence. I can only feel loathing for what our body politik has become.

  2. American on September 1, 2013, 11:42 am

    So here we go—-the US, as always, ‘lurching ‘ from one pile of sh-t to
    another to prove our might and moral leadership—-when there ‘aint no
    leadership involved—-when the fact is we are led around by the nose by
    political and other special interest and various ideologues in
    administrations into sh-t pots like Syria that so called allies like Saud
    and Israel have instigated for their own interest and want to drag the US in
    to ‘win it ‘ for them.
    Just as bombing any of Assad military weapons depots will give the rebels a
    needed advantage in a war they were losing—-while we claim our bombing is
    just for ‘punishment’ and not intended to aid the rebels in ‘regime change’
    and removing Assad.
    I look forward to the day when we fall on our hypocritical a–s and all our
    politicians lose their starring roles on the world stage and cant do jack
    sh-t except represent their little districts and the morons that elected

  3. bilal a on September 1, 2013, 11:45 am

    Rand P on Vietnam activist Kerry :

    “He’s famous for saying, ‘How can you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?’ I would ask John Kerry, ‘How can you ask a man to be the first one to die for a mistake?'” Paul said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

    Ron P on Syria false flag:

    CAVUTO: But we knew certain — but to be fair, congressman, we knew it’s certainly in the past, Saddam Hussein that used weapons against his own people. But your argument is a good one. So, I guess what I want to advance here is this, that if a dictator using chemical weapons on his own people, is it a litmus test for us to help those people? For Ron Paul, what is?

    PAUL: Well, I think getting to the truth of it, and that’s what we’re not getting to because when Saddam Hussein used the gases, some of the products were bought from us and he was still our ally. So, you can’t ignore that. No, I don’t — I think it’s a false flag, I think really, indeed, and nobody knows if indeed he was slaughtering people by the thousands, you know, with poison gas, you know, that’s a different story, but that’s not the case. As a matter of fact, 100,000 deaths is the case. And it’s not — you know, the implication is that Assad committed a 100,000 killings. There’s a lot of factions. Why don’t we ask, you know, about the al-Qaeda? Why are we on the side of the al-Qaeda right now? So I think the — they want the weapons, the weapons — rebels want the weapons, there’s a bunch of people in al-Qaeda’s part of it, and this is the task for us to drop a couple of bombs, and then send in weapons …

  4. Citizen on September 1, 2013, 11:50 am

    Yep. It’s very clear that that both Obama and Kerry are calculating, and counting on the ignorance of the American public; given our corporate mainstream media, that’s not even much of a gamble. I hate to admit it, but I think they are calculating correctly–I hope I am wrong. That would take some really courageous congress folks to spoil. Rand Paul? Mmmmmm, possibly–he is looking to grandstand again towards being the next POTUS–that might open things up, give an actual chance to saying a congressional NO to Obama.

    • Justpassingby on September 1, 2013, 2:07 pm

      While we still must call these liars out, you are right, people of today are ignorant, they will buy this, the approve for war has been raised during these days. People in america/west are as indoctrinated as in any closed dictatorship these days.

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