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American Model & Multilaterilsm

 

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American Model and Multilateralism

250 yıllık tarihi yüzkarası olaylarla dolu olan (ABD'nin) Amerika’nın rezillikleri saymakla bitmez.
Kızılderilileri soykırımla yok ettiler.
Meksika’nın topraklarını gasp ettiler.
İç savaşta birbirlerini yediler.
1945 yılında Japonya’ya iki atom bombası atarak yüz binlerce masum sivili öldürüp dünya tarihinin en büyük vahşetini yaptılar.
Vietnam’ı kana buladılar.
Afrika’da birçok ülkeye baskınlar yapıp asker-sivil demeden herkesi katlettiler.
Şimdi, haksız yere işgal ettikleri Afganistan ve Irak’ta cellatlık yapmakla meşguller!

   
Those of us born and raised in the developing “South”, that is, mainly in the non-industrialized countries of the Orient, and taught there to sort out whatever is libertarian, forward-looking and utilitarian in the developing “North”, that is, the modern and industrialized societies of the world, are now taken aback by the Western surrender, especially of late, of hard-won values that we, the so-called ‘Orientals’, tried in good faith and for decades to remold and rejuvenate for our own orders. Such unexpected retreats on the part of the self-styled advanced models strike us now with amazement and awe. We also perceive the reintroduction of arbitrary practices in some Western societies that we are doing so much to phase out in the East. It is difficult to grasp the Western desideratum in the initiation of oppressive structures, domestically and internationally, that we in the East are taking pains to cast out.

Many of us took at face value phrases like “We, the people of the United States”, or “We, the peoples of the United Nations”, both moving expressions in the Preambles of the Unites States Constitution and the United Nations Charter respectively. I was one of the many aspiring youngsters educated at American colleges and universities. The prevailing portrayal of the American Government as being “of the people, by the people and for the people” by none other than ‘Honest Abe’, the 16th President of that great nation, at the concluding part of his legendary Gettysburg Address in 1863, had been early instilled in our minds.[1] The American people, foremost its youth, take this definition for granted even today. I personally discovered much after the conclusion of my formal education that Rutherford B. Hayes, the candidate of corporate interests and the eventual 19th President, came forward, only thirteen years later (in 1876), with the following contradictory definition: “This is the government of the people, by the people and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for the corporations”.[2]  Bringing to mind the controversy over the results of the presidential election of 2000, Hayes’s Democratic opponent had won a larger popular vote, but the Republican managers contested the returns, and a special commission awarded the election to Hayes. The latter’s diametric portrayal of the American Government is not well publicized. Similarly, even President Lincoln, who had composed the earlier and popular definition, observed the following just before his death: “Corporations have been enthroned...An era of corruption in high places will follow and the money power will endeavour to prolong its reign...until wealth is aggregated in a few hands...and the Republic is destroyed”.[3]

Neither the average citizen, nor foreign scholars had timely and adequate access to these new definitions of the American democratic model. In terms of  American past, further penetrating return to the original first-hand documents and  critical interpretations may still be necessary. Past scholarship is certainly not devoid of such criticism. Some great writers of American history scrutinized basic political texts and structure from the viewpoints of interests and conflicts.[4] Throughout most of the history of that country the forces of progress and conservatism have been locked in struggle. This encounter may be seen during the crucial years of the War of Independence, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the economic crash, the New Deal, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and the wars of our times.

The American manufacturers and plantation owners, who felt oppressed by metropolitan England and broke with it to emancipate themselves wheedled, as part of an old story, the lower classes to fight for the rich. The hand that wrote the Declaration of Independence also wrote advertisements for fugitive slaves. The American Constitution was produced more than two centuries ago by fifty-five men, signed by thirty-nine, most of whom were slaveholders, and adopted in only thirteen states by the votes of less than two-thousand men. Afterwards, millions of Africans tilled the cotton, rice, sugar-cane and tobacco for the few “Lords of the Land” and worked as servants for the “Bosses of the Buildings”.[5] The country was united only in name. The landlords of the south finally fought the money lords of the north. The Black men and women were now free to move north, where they had no job, no roof, and not even the boiled corn they had in the south. The lords of industry have been in the saddle since then. One short step was necessary from control of wealth to control of the government.

It is not accidental that the United States started one of the first imperialist wars. The War of 1898 transferred most of the colonies of the senile Spanish monarchy into American hands. From the idea of national sovereignty the United States jumped to imposing a colonial administration on subjugated nations; from the principles of equality it passed to an apologia of the inequality of nations and races; from democratic isolationism it moved on to interventionism. When the Republican-controlled Senate refused to support U.S. participation in the League of Nations on President Woodrow Wilson’s terms, the domestic debate was less between isolationism and internationalism than about how American freedom of action could be better protected. During the terrible depression years after 1929, while millions tramped the streets looking for jobs that did not exist, the men at the top continued to pay for themselves thousands of dollars per week. The American dream of a never-ending prosperity had become an exploded myth. The system of production, in that most acute form of capitalism, had turned the richest country in the world into a stricken nation. The sequence of more profits and more accumulation snapped. When it could no longer expand, it contracted. The New Deal saved the system by eliminating its existing evils, ignoring the fact that those evils were the product of that very system.

FDR aimed at more than merely making capitalism work; he wanted it to work more tolerably for the vast majority. The present U.S. Administration targets the removal of the gains of the 1930s, on the part of  the average men and women, although the New Deal was only a reshuffle of the old deck of cards. Foreign students of political science (like myself), studying in the United States in the 1950s, were astounded to read in their textbook[6] that the southern states in those years had been one-party dictatorships for decades, with “bosses”,[7]  “machines” and not a hint of opposition allowed even within the party in power.

***

The originators of the United Nations gave the impression that the U.N. Charter was to be a guide towards a new international order. During my graduate years in the United States, I had the privilege if being taught by the very individuals who wrote the American draft of the Charter. The latter’s Preamble creates indeed an idealistic vision. In 1945, Virginia Gildersleeve adopted from the U.S. Constitution the Charter’s opening words: “We the peoples of the United Nations...” Three years later, Eleanor Roosevelt presented to the General Assembly the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first magna carta of humankind. But there was a gap between vision and reality. The victorious allies who had won the war wanted to rule the post-war peace. The United States, which had learned some lessons from the League experience, remained in control, along with four other most powerful countries. Only the five permanent members enjoyed a veto privilege. The Security Council was designed to run the U.N. More than half a century after its creation, the U.N. Charter still remains unchanged, including even its so-called “enemy clauses”. More realistically, the Preamble might have started as follows: “We the most powerful Five Nations of the North...”

The United States, among the five, dominates the U.N. in a multifaceted way. It is the only host to a public service international organization that repeatedly violated its Charter, almost succeeded in bankrupting it deliberately, and undermined its very existence by ignoring it. No member country used it for its own purposes and at the same time damaged it as the United States. The conflict is, not only a matter of inflated bureaucracy, squandering of funds, unpaid dues, arms control, peacekeeping, world trade or global environment, but a clash of interests and values. Washington’s policy is to try to make all international organizations, including the U.N., compliant to its own policies. Those who chart America’s course, especially since the end of the Cold War, do so with a clearly defined purpose in mind: to expand the American imperium.        

The United States has never been comfortable with the constraints of multilateralism. Washington’s angry reactions were aimed in the past mainly at the Third World agenda, but now also at some permanent members of the Security Council. Iraq is not the only case where the U.S. engaged in armed action without the authorization of the latter body. That country is reluctant to sign even conventions that protect the global commons.

A perusal of the official position of the American Government with respect to the principal human rights treaties reveals  that this country either failed to sign or ratify some conventions or was on record for serious shortcomings in terms of compliance with a number of others. It has not signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of  Discrimination against Women, the first and the second Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and the treaty banning anti-personnel mines. The U.S. administrations did not sign core International Labour Organization conventions that protect basic labour rights. It has signed but not ratified the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

There are significant defects in the American record in terms of compliance with a number of these treaties. American reports either were not forwarded to the committees on time or some statements in the reports contrasted with the provisions of the conventions signed. For instance, the first compliance report to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was submitted five years later. The U.N. committee responsible for the assessment of such reports expressed concerns about U.S. failure to live up to key provisions of the convention and continuing racial discrimination. Not only the American officials had too limited an understanding of the treaty’s scope and failed to implement it, legislation with the announced intent of prohibiting racial discrimination was not so in practice. Only a few days prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks the United States abruptly withdrew from an important U.N. World Conference against racism and related intolerance, held in Durham, South Africa. Although the official explanation was that the American Government opposed references to Zionism in draft documents, it was at least as disturbed over calls for reparations on account of severe racial discrimination at home.

The United States dismissed the binding obligations of the Kyoto Protocol and thrusted the burden of fighting global warming on the rest of the world. It rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and announced that it will test new types of nuclear weapons. It withdrew from the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty and kept developing a space-based missile system.

***

The United States is the only country condemned by the International Court of Justice for unlawful use of force. The World Court found (1986) that the United States had financed, equipped, armed, organized and trained the “Contras” and mined Nicaragua’s major port.[8] It should be well-known that the United States has been notorious for arbitrary use of force.[9] Moreover, much earlier than the 9/11 attacks the reasons given for these operations have been tales of coverups, distortions, and manipulations of the media.[10] Following its own order, based on power politics and allowing to act unilaterally most of the time, the United States has become now the leading country, against an overwhelming majority, opposing the International Criminal Court.[11] Although the latter represents a genuine revolution in the system of modern international law, the United States sought immunity for its own citizens in a number of ways, including the passage of the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (2002), failing to submit the founding Rome Statute to Congressional approval, withdrawing its signature from that document,  rejecting the authority of the Court, signing special bilateral agreements exempting its military personnel from the host country’s jurisdiction, and pursuing a policy empowering the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to decide on the fate of a prosecution referred to the Court by the SC.

Throughout these developments, foreign elites watched American leaders, while insisting that they speak great truths, describing the role of their country in the world as a Manifest Destiny to help transform the entire globe. Starting almost immediately after independence, opinion formers in successive generations explicitly stated that the dominant fact of American history had been expansion and that Great Power status had been thrust on that country to save the world a number of times. As the 20th century approached, American chieftains of policy felt that nothing would satisfy them in the future but free access to all foreign markets. Prosperity at home through overseas expansion has been the cornerstone of American diplomacy for many decades. America proclaimed a number of times its intention to build  “a new world order by applying its  domestic values to the world at large”.[12] Some elements of  President Wilson’s 14 Points, which he read at Versailles, benefited his country alone, and Presidents FDR and Truman aimed to recast the entire world on the American model. The end of the Cold War produced an even greater temptation to further the same cause. U.S. leaders representing both parties agreed that the United States had emerged as the indispensable nation. The policies of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton reflect a single-minded determination to extend American ascendancy.

***

The attack on American soil in the morning of 11 September 2001 wounded the people of that country to the core. It also rocked the world almost as hard as the United States. But it also created for the new Bush Administration favourable circumstances to turn the clock back by reducing the prerogatives of the federal government to the level of the pre-New Deal days and pursue a policy of expansion abroad that may be described as a continuation of the McKinley era. Certain selected groups in the United States are now subject to uncurbed surveillance by various official agencies. Individuals, some of whom are American citizens, but originally from the Arab countries, the Middle East and North Africa, even other parts of Asia or from an Islamic environment are pushed to a new status of  Untermenschen. Mostly young Muslim and/or Arab males were detained allegedly in connection with the 9/11 investigations. The overwhelming majority, unrelated to any terrorist act, was under custody or in prison.

American actions led to two wars, which destroyed two governments, killed Afghan civilians more than the number of the 9/11 victims, led to appalling tortures in Iraq on the part of the occupying forces that promised liberation and democracy, and signalled a new era apparently to be dominated by the following: military intervention lacking international consent, series of falsehoods as camouflage for use of force, conquest and subjection, naked assault accompanied by indiscriminate killing and violence embracing sadism, scandalous war crimes in disregard of international law, new governments composed of selected individuals with no roots among the local people, civilian or military decision-makers whose wanton actions as occupiers bring to mind the Roman proconsuls, representatives with hands stained in blood, variety of theft from oil to archeological treasures, a policy of stick and carrot, and ever-growing death.

Even before 9/11, there were widespread human rights violations in the United States. But the official policy since then amounts to rejection of the democratic gains of the American people for the last seven decades and search for U.S. hegemony over the globe. Granted that the 9/11 attacks were monstrous and destructive, the White House launched a series of its own attacks at home that may last longer than any war the American Government may be planning for the future. The clumsily-titled USA Patriot Act (2001), a law of 342 pages that passed through the Congress in record time, eliminated the barriers between the law enforcement and intelligence agencies, empowered the latter to conduct secret searches  in cases not related to terrorism, accepted guilt by association, and gave the government the opportunity to deny the exercise of free speech.

A White House Executive Order (2001) authorized military committees to try swiftly and secretly certain non-citizen civilians in the United States, with no presumption of innocence  nor protection against forced confessions, and convict them, including death sentence, by a two-thirds majority with no right to effective appeal. With the absence of right for the defendants to confront the evidence, to object to illegally obtained records, or to appeal for a public trial, this kind of a judicial system where a small group of officers act as prosecutors, judges, jury, court of appeal and executioners is an unusual practice that all Third World countries have been endeavouring for some time to push back to the annals of history. Another Executive Order, which contradicts the earlier Presidential Records Act, removed the official papers of two past presidents from the public domain. While the Homeland Security Act (2002) was made supposedly to ensure that the efforts to defend the country would be comprehensive and united, not only dozens of agencies charged with security are now located within one Cabinet department, but also the country seems danegerously ill-prepared to handle an attack on American soil.

Through the ill-use of the concepts of patriotism and loyalty, dissent is now significantly restricted, and members of chosen ethnic, racial or religious groups are maltreated. Especially the racial minorities are disproportionally affected by over-incarceration. Although Islam is the religion of some Arab Americans, most Muslims living in the United States are not Arabs. For instance, Afro-Americans presently constitute about 40 percent of the Muslims. Some Muslim Americans, whether Arab or not, are now effectively living under martial law. A few thousand immigrants, mostly young Arab men, are being interrogated although there is no evidence of their connection with the 9/11 attacks. And the divide between aliens and citizens is a thin one.

***

Some events abroad now demonstrate that the international actions of the United States have become the extension of the norms and rules of such domestic political behaviour. While the climate of fear was a fertile breeding ground for the weakening of civil liberties and the vilification of minorities, the campaign against terror intensified the unilateralist tendencies in American foreign policy. The enduring hunger to control Afghanistan and Iraq was fitted into the context of the war on terrorism. A new “great game” is underway in the Middle East and Central Asia. Motivation of direct control through military presence over most of the world’s oil reserves is accompanied by the desire to prevent others to rival its global hegemony.

Neither of the two U.N. Security Council resolutions on Afghanistan, both taken between the terrorist assault on 9/11 and the American intervention (7 October), authorises the use of force. Neither military response, nor Afghanistan is mentioned in them. There are of course references to measures to check and subdue terrorism. The sophisticated aircraft of the U.S. Air Force attacked a country that does not possess war planes, leaving it to some Afghanis to kill other Afghanis and promoting, in the process, the Northern Alliance thugs, not much different from the Taliban, to the status of “freedom fighters”. However, when hundreds of Afghani prisoners died either by suffocation in the container trucks used to transport them or by direct execution, the U.S. soldiers were there to witness the urine, vomit and rotten flesh that remained. Moreover, hundreds more were executed and shovelled in mass graves in the presence of American soldiers. In the final analysis,  the United States profited by the 9/11 attacks to gain control over the Caspian and Central Asian oil and natural gas as well as their export routes through Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The oft-repeated arguments for Iraq’s invasion –Saddam’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and link to Al-Qaeda- were downright false. The war was, not only for oil, but also for water, roads, trains, buildings, ports, bridges, phones, and the art treasures. Save a group of Baghdadis who helped American soldiers to bring down a Saddam statue, the Iraqis did not welcome the occupation forces  in a way the GIs were met with open arms in Paris in 1944. Everything from unilateral action and wanton use of force to torture and vandalism in museums will leave ugly large footprints for a very long time. “The empire of good” and “the axis of evil” are all mixed up now. Even some of the war’s firmest backers suggest that the U.S. position in Iraq is now a lost cause. The corruption of U.S. leadership, civilian and military, allowed discipline to degenerate into criminality. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the commander of the MPs, may have asserted that the conditions at the Abu Ghraib prison were so good that the prisoners would never want to leave, and some Americans (like Sen. James Inhofe) might think that the incident was blown out of proportion. The truth, however, is that U.S. occupation unleashed such an intense anti-Americanism that it now extends, not only to soldiers, but pretty much everyone associated with the Americans. To pin the crimes on “a few bad apples” is pseudomorality, and the ultimate responsibility rests with those who made war in Iraq and denied rights to the captives. This scandalous reality is the byproduct of the occupation authority seizing thousands of people in secret, locking them in torture chambers and assuming them to be guilty. The whole episode is a failure of the American ‘model’. The denials wore off, and criminality sank in.

Although the neocons’ star has fallen since the war with Iraq, they have probably not given up calls for regime changes in Iran, Syria and elsewhere. Just as they were proven wrong while supposing that the Iraqis would receive American soldiers with open arms, the expectation that Teheran is just “waiting for them” is at least an equal betrayal of truth. The neocons miscalculated in Iraq, and they continue to mismanage it, but it would be unwise to rule them out. 

Some of the so-called “coalition forces” in Iraq are expected to be withrawn. The new Spanish Prime Minister announced the pull-out of their troops as soon as possible. Senior Polish government officials stated that their soldiers would also leave. Nicaragua already pulled out, and Honduras is expected to withdraw. British soldiers seem likely to stay symbolizing the Anglo-American trans-Atlantic bridge and guaranteeing the dominance of  the U.S. military-industrial complex aided by British contractors. The United States owes the presence of its Australian coalition partner in Iraq to the election campaign of John Howard, the country’s arch-conservative politician who linked a small group of Afghani asylum seekers to terrorism. Facing a high probability of defeat in the election, he appealed to the electorate on race and immigration issues, sacrificing in the process the two-decades old multiculturalism.

The close alliance between the United States and Israel, before and after the war in Iraq, harmed both American and world interests. The present U.S. Administration has grown even closer to the most extremist government in Israel’s history. Post-Rabin Israel, which expects the clock to turn back, is at odds with all its neighbours and the world. Israel, the only Middle Eastern country possessing weapons of mass destruction, is waging a war against the Palestinian people with the knowledge of the American Government. Especially after the invasion of Iraq, Israel is firmly aligned with the U.S.-British military axis. It is now increasingly behaving like a rogue state. The assassinations of the Ariel Sharon government, which appear to be calculated moves, show that the path of escalation has been deliberately chosen. His administration aims at exploiting terror politically, not to fight it. The Israeli armed forces systematically destroyed the structures of Palestinian economic and political life. They resorted to excessive lethal force against unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and launched heavy attacks on the official headquarters of President Yasser Arafat. Some Israeli Cabinet members openly call for ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Their expulsion and/or migration to neighbouring Jordan will dwarf all previous atrocities since Deir Yassin.

Under the pretext of security, Israel is also building an “Apartheid Wall”, as part of its long-term policy of occupation, expulsion and discrimination that amounts to the destruction of the material basis for the survival of the Palestinian society. Sizable portions of the latter are imprisoned in walled ghettos and lost part of their land, water resources and sources of livelihood. This monstrous project as well is encouraged by the wanton use of force  in international relations, and especially in the Middle East. After more than half a century, it now seems more obvious than any time before that the U.N. General Assembly recommendation of Partition (1947) , which never had a legal basis, cannot be implemented. Its alternative is a single binational state embracing both Jews and Christian or Muslim Palestinian Arabs. There have been long periods in the history of that land, for instance the Ottoman centuries, during which these two communities coexisted peacefully. The binational state option has been advanced by numerous individuals, Jews and non-Jews, at different times, including Dr. Judah Magnes, the President of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and lately, Libya’s leader Muammar Khaddafi.               

 ***

The authority and the integrity of the United Nations will be further undermined if its role in Iraq and the Palestine issue does not go beyond “internationalizing” occupation in both cases. Iraq needs a genuine worldwide mission that does not reign over its territory, does not claim the country’s riches, and does not distribute its assets to profiteers. Peacemaking in Iraq and Palestine should be the most important task of the United Nations. Much of the responsibility falls on the U.N. General Assembly, whose resolutions are only legally unbinding recommendations but where the veto privilege of the United States does not operate. This international body should not enter Iraq or Palestine as the political arm of the occupiers, but as the defender of the independence and sovereignty of both. The United Nations should go into Iraq with a peacekeeping force, preferably composed of Arab contingents, and with a program of assistance – only after the United States pulls out completely. An effective way to solve the Iraqi and the Palestinian issues is to stage a regime change in the United States, not just a replacement of the Chief Executive in the White House. Judging from the election campaigns, however, even the Democratic alternative does not go far enough to realize a prompt shift from occupation to Iraqi sovereignty. The American people are interested in political leadership that can champion the goals and values of the average citizen. Otherwise, under the present circumstances, the celebrated philosophical treatise of Karl Popper[13] on “open society” will need another volume on the United States as a threat to it.             
Prof. Dr. Türkkaya Ataöv
Professor Emeritus of International Relations, University of Ankara
IPO

References

[1] My first encounter with Lincoln’s address was in our Robert College (Istanbul) Sophomore textbook: Dudley Miles and Robert C. Pooley, Literature and Life in America, Chicago, etc., Scott, Foresman and Co., 1943, p. 117.
[2] David C. Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, West Hartford (CO) & San Francisco (CA), Kamarian Press & Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1995, p. 58.
[3] Harvey Wasserman, America Born and Reborn, New York, Collier Books, 1983, pp. 89-90.
[4] For instance: Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, London, Macmillan, 1913; Leo Huberman, We, The People, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1932. Later: William Appleman Williams, The Contours of American History, New York, 1966.  Much later: Andrew J. Bacevich, American Empire: the Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 2002; Kevin Phillips, American Dynasty, New York, Penguin Group, 2004.
[5] Richard Wright, Twelve Million Black Voices, London, Lindsay Drummont Limited, 1947.
[6] V.O. Key, Jr., Southern Politics, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1950.
[7] For instance: Senator Byrd in Virginia, “Cotton Ed” Smith in S. Carolina, Eugene Talmadge in Georgia, Crump in Tennessee, Jim Folsom in Alabama, W.L. O’Daniel in Texas, and Huey Long in Louisiana.
[8] Francis A. Boyle, “Determining U.S. Responsibility for Contra Operations Under International Law”, The American Journal of International Law, 81 (1987), pp. 86-93.
[9] Max Hilaire, International Law and the United States Military Intervention in the Western Hemisphere, The Hague, Kluwer Law International, 1997.
[10] John Quigley, The Ruses for War: American Interventionism Since World War II, Buffalo, N.Y., Promethues Books, 1992.
[11] Hans Köchler, Global Justice and Global Revenge? International Criminal Justice at the Crossroads, Wien and New York, Springer-Verlag, 2003.
[12] Henry Kissnger, Diplomacy, New York, etc., Simon & Schuster, 1994, p. 805.
[13] Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 2 vols., Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1963.

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