Thursday, June 23, 2011

What if the US were Sanctioned?

This week the European Union is announcing new sanctions against individuals associated with the Syrian government as well as three Iranians who have been accused of helping President Assad's crackdown on demonstrations. According to an EU diplomat, "This sends a clear message to the government of Iran that its provision of equipment and technical advice to help the Syrian regime quash protests is unacceptable. Iran's actions are in stark contrast to the will of the Syrian people and are another example of its blatant hypocrisy in claiming to support freedom in the Arab world."

Are you kidding me? Western support, including equipment and technical advice, has enabled nearly every crackdown by brutal dictators throughout the Middle East for decades. British and American weapons have recently been used against peaceful demonstrators in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. France even pledged police support for Ben Ali's suppression of Tunisians. And of course US military aid to Israel is regularly used to terrorize Palestinians. So the blatant hypocrisy of the EU is far worse.

The news made me so angry that I decided to tweak the below article published yesterday in The Daily Telegraph, merely changing the names of the countries involved to turn this story on its head. In my articulation, the Arab League sanctions America. And frighteningly, with only a handful of cosmetic edits to the original, my version almost makes sense. Indeed the Syrian foreign minister sounds a lot like Donald Rumsfeld when you think about it. Only the continuance of Western friendly royal dictators in the Gulf makes my scenario unlikely. But by changing the agents of sanctions the article becomes a strong condemnation of Western complicity in the violent suppression of pro-democracy movements throughout the Middle East.

That is, until the Syrian foreign minister responds to the situation by saying "No one outside can impose on us their point of view." In the original article this is an expression of postcolonial defiance, but in my version it is redundant. America is the global hegemon. The US Secretary of State sounds ridiculous when these words are put into her mouth. And suddenly we are reminded that viable sanctions against the US are still impossible to even imagine, let alone implement. We have yet to realize a consistent international system of justice that holds Western powers equally accountable for crimes against people worldwide. And until that happens, we in the West have no moral right to sanction anybody.

Syria Pushes the Arab League to Take New Sanctions on the United States over Middle Eastern Aid

By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels
The Daily Telegraph
22 June 2011

New travel bans and asset freezes against 22 individuals and "entities" linked to repression in the Middle East will be announced at a summit of Arab League leaders on Friday.

Included on a list of seven people directly linked to President Saleh's repression are three Americans included after a campaign by Syria to highlight Washington's aid to the Yemeni dictator.

"This sends a clear message to the US government that its provision of equipment and technical advice to help the Yemeni regime quash protests is unacceptable," said an Arab League diplomat.

"America's actions are in stark contrast to the will of the Yemeni people and are another example of its blatant hypocrisy in claiming to support freedom in the Arab world."

Syria, with the backing of Lebanon, has accused the US and Europe of "providing military equipment and support to help the regimes suppress protests throughout the Middle East".

The increased Arab League sanctions will take the number of people and companies hit by asset freezes to 45, including Mr. Cheney (the former Vice President of the US) himself and members of his family and inner circle.

Many hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands more have been arrested after the Bahraini, Egyptian, Libyan, Tunisian and Yemeni regimes sent troops and tanks to crush revolts in cities across the Middle East over the last few months.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, on Wednesday described Arab League sanctions as an act of "war" against her country.

"No one outside can impose on us their point of view," she said.

"The world is not only the Middle East. We will forget that Syria or Lebanon exists on the map. Syria is behind Iran's oil price hike that today is hitting the livelihood of Americans, which is equivalent to war."

Mrs. Clinton denied that Yemen had received any assistance from the US or Britain, its close regional ally, or from American militant drones and described protesters as terrorist.

"I cannot hide the fact that some of the practices that we have seen in the killings of security personnel gives an indication that these acts were carried out by al-Qaeda," she said.

Lebanese officials held discussions with police yesterday over allegations that pro-democracy protesters in Lebanon have been intimidated by Washington.

General Security said it had been made aware of claims that the American embassy has had photographs taken of protesters involved in Lebanon rallies for the Resistance and that the images have been shown to demonstrators' families in America in an attempt to threaten them with material support for terrorism.

"We are looking into these reports and discussing them with the police. We urge anyone who's been the subject of any intimidation to report it to the police," said a spokesman.

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