“Exceptional” indeed

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IF THE United States, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared this week in an address at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, is not provoking conflict with capitalist China, it has an odd way of showing it.

As the US spokesperson on global affairs — which from Afghanistan to Zanzibar the US thinks are ITS affairs whatever the local inhabitants may think — Clinton herself has repeatedly criticized China for censoring the Internet, suppressing criticism of the government and its policies, and imprisoning dissenters.

The criticism is not without basis, and should have included the fact that China is also the world’s leading exponent of the death penalty — except that the criticism isn’t sincerely in the interest of human rights, the US itself being a major beneficiary of China’s economic policies, which includes opening the country to foreign investments and its markets to US multinationals.

The US plays the human rights card to make China even more pliable than it already is to US and Western economic penetration. Along that line, while lecturing them on human rights, the US has also been pressuring the Chinese to, among other supposedly “constructive” initiatives, revalue its currency to make its products more expensive so US corporations can compete with Chinese companies.

Clinton declared in her Annapolis address that “China is not the Soviet Union.” But as it disengages from Iraq, the US government has been ringing the alarm bells over China’s supposedly growing military might in almost the same way that during the Reagan administration from 1980 to 1988, the US government exaggerated Soviet military prowess to justify defense spending at the expense of social services and to frighten the entire planet into uniting against the USSR.

To validate the claim that China is a military threat to the whole of Asia and the entire planet — despite the assessment by experts including its own that China’s military capacity is way behind that of the US — last year it promised military support to the Philippines, historically its most reliable and docile client-state, in the (extremely remote) event that China attacks the Philippines over the Spratlys dispute. In a blatant attempt to militarize the dispute, it loudly announced increased levels of aid to the Philippine military even as US troops marked their tenth year of “rotational” presence on Philippine soil via the Visiting Forces Agreement.

The Clinton statement glossed over what the US is actually doing in Asia, where, Clinton also said, the US is “not on the brink of a new Cold War.” Which indeed it isn’t, what it’s on the brink of being the reestablishment of its formerly huge military presence in an Asia it fears would otherwise be dominated by China unless it redeployed its troops in the Philippines, established bases in Australia, and upgraded military ties with Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia among other countries.

The purpose, of course, is to remake the world in its own image, the better to have access to the planet’s resources and markets. And who with better right? After all, as Clinton declared in the same address, the US, because of its military power and “core values,” is still “exceptional” despite rampant talk of its decline.

Just how exceptional the US is and what some of those core values could be is easily demonstrated through the right numbers. The US, for example, has so many men and women in prison — about two million mostly African American and Hispanic people, or some 25 percent of the total prisoner population of the world — it’s still building even more prisons.

There are more guns — 200 million — in the hands of some 60 million private individuals in the US than anywhere else, which annually exact a toll of about 30,000 gun-related deaths, of which more than half are from suicide, and about a third from homicide. In recent years, the number of school shootings has also so increased they have been described as of “epidemic proportions. “

What core values could Clinton have been thinking of, meanwhile? Perhaps respect for gender, ethnic, religious and racial differences? And yet the US is home still to the most vicious forms of racism, a perversion hideously alive and well in the US, where it is often punctuated by violence.

The February 26 murder in the US state of Florida of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old unarmed African American male, who was shot by George Zimmerman, a 28-year old, mostly white, Hispanic American, is a recent case. Martin was most probably the victim of racial profiling, which among the white majority including the police tags individuals as potential criminals, terrorists, etc., on the basis of race. In 2011 some 500,000 mostly colored people, say human rights groups, were stopped and frisked by police all over the US on mere suspicion, and in violation of their rights.

The US chapter of the International League of People’s Struggle claims that other killings of mostly African Americans and Hispanics have been encouraged by the impunity, or exemption from punishment — the very same impunity that prevails in the killing of journalists and other people in countries like the Philippines — of the killers of Martin and other people of color.

Despite his shooting of Martin, Zimmerman had not been arrested as of April 11, and US activists fear that it might have encouraged such other acts of racial violence as the shooting death of three people in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by two white men last April 6.

But what’s even worse, says an ILPS statement demanding justice for Martin, is that “police around the U.S. are waging what amounts to a war against people of color. Armed police invade Black and Latino communities in the brutal manner that US soldiers invade villages in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“Muslim communities have also become the targets of police and federal terror as the US state concocts phony terror plots to justify its imperialist wars in oil-rich parts of the world. Secret police and federal agents infiltrate mosques and Muslim, Arab, African and South Asian communities to frame and entrap young people and justify their bloated national security expenditures. Anti-Islamic bigotry led to the March 25 beating to death of Shamia Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi mother who was found dying in her home with a note calling her a ‘terrorist’ beside her body.

“Police violence and spying are also on the rise against political protest. People taking part in the popular Occupy Wall Street and allied Occupy movements across the United States have been beaten, pepper-sprayed and arrested by police protecting the interests of the bankers and corporate tycoons.”

What emerges from these and other accounts of violence, hate crimes and racism in the US is a society in deep crisis that’s hardly a model for replication in other countries, or the justification for the US’ lording it over the planet and presuming to lecture other countries on human rights and “constructive” behavior. But Clinton’s statement about US military power at least is true: that power does exist, and is the sole basis for its unworthy and self-serving hegemony over much of the world including the Philippines.

(BusinessWorld)

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