America’s double standards - Brian Cloughley - Friday, February 25, 2011

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Interesting things happen to countries that are allied to the United States, and you can never tell what Washington’s reaction is going to be when there is a drama that is usually predictable to most observers of international affairs except those in the White House, the Congress and the CIA.

Decades of US support for Egypt’s vile dictator, Mubarak, has ended with Washington dropping its erstwhile collaborator and sending a message to every ally of the United States: be very careful when US leaders support you, because when the music stops, so will they. Dictators should remember that when someone gets behind them, it makes it easier for them to be stabbed in the back. And Washington was directly behind Mubarak.

After a lot of White House hand-wringing there was public hand-washing and lots of official propaganda leaks to the media with the line that ‘We always knew he was a baddie but went along with him in the best interests of his country and Middle East peace.’ Claptrap.

Mubarak was corrupt to his bootstraps; he ruled Egypt in a more oppressive fashion than any pharaoh – and without their style and dignity. But for almost thirty years he was loyal to the US and, of vital importance for his survival and prosperity, totally supportive of America’s bizarre Israel policy. The fact that Palestinians, his fellow Arabs, are victims of measured genocide by the apartheid Israeli state, energetically encouraged by Washington, mattered nothing to Mubarak, whose only interests were staying in power and stealing money.

But loyalty is not a two-way street, so far as the US is concerned. “My friend, right or wrong” simply doesn’t apply, and when a dodgy dictator becomes embarrassing the White House hands are washed and the unfortunate potentate is poured away with the suds.

The international picture of US credibility is dismal and becoming more wretched day by day. And the message from Washington continues to be: Don’t do as I do – do as I say.

Take, for example, the shooting by a US citizen of two Pakistanis in Lahore on January 27. The American stated he thought he was going to be robbed by two motorcycle-borne men who he said were armed. He killed them both. His name may or may not be Raymond Davis, but that’s the one we’ll use.

There was a statement by no less a person than the President of the United States that Mr Davis is a diplomat, which he demonstrably is not. But the president’s lie is irrelevant, because even if he WAS a diplomat – even if he had been the US ambassador – his status wouldn’t make killing people legal.

The US reiterates that “We continue to stress that the US diplomat has diplomatic immunity and should be released” – after killing two people. What outrageous insolence. Small wonder that so much of the world regards Washington’s arrogance with anger and contempt.

Then there’s the killing of a bystander by an American in a car speeding to the aid of Davis. After the smashing to death of this innocent citizen, the car drove off and the driver was spirited out of Pakistan in a New York Heartbeat. Nobody could claim that this is support of justice by the country that preaches democracy and the rule of law so self-righteously around the world. Why was this American killer not subject to law? Might it be because the US considers that Pakistan doesn’t matter?

What would have happened if a citizen of Pakistan attached to the Pakistan consulate in New York had shot dead two Americans in Manhattan? He would have been whipped off to the cells before you could say “diplomatic immunity”. And if a car driven by another Pakistani, on his way to help the killer, had killed a bystander, do you think that Pakistan would have flown the driver illegally out of America in order to avoid justice?

Pakistan is a democracy, if a shaky one, with an independent and occasionally erratic judiciary. It needs all the domestic and international support that can be given if its institutions are to survive. So it is not only arrogant for Washington to demand noisily that Pakistan should surrender a person charged with murder: it is grossly irresponsible. It also plays straight into the hands of Islamic extremists, who are having a ball about this debacle, which has been so badly handled by Washington’s political apparatchiks (as distinct from the competent professional diplomats to whose advice so little attention is paid). World media are taking a good kick at America about the fiasco – which could have been handled so easily – and the propaganda disaster can’t be measured.

US abandonment of the dictator Mubarak, after thirty years of total support, is supposed to be justified because his country wasn’t a democracy. Yet when a creaking but optimistic democracy like Pakistan exercises its rights as a sovereign country and arrests an American who has undoubtedly killed two people, there are screams of hysterical protest from the bunch of humbugs in Washington.

Little wonder international trust for the US has plummeted. A modicum of moderation and consistency, along with a bit of give and take in Washington’s dealings with the rest of the world would be appropriate. But don’t imagine that this will ever happen.

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