AL JAZEERA COLUMN: U.S. Double Standard: Gaddafi Bad, Karimov Good

The US shows its hypocrisy by accusing “tyrants” of human rights abuses while not owning up to supporting dictators.

“After four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of deadly conflict, the Libyan people can now celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise,” President Obama said last week. The capture and death of Moammar Gaddafi prompted him and other U.S. officials to congratulate the Libyan people on their liberation from a despot accused of terrible violations of human rights, including the 1996 massacre of more than 1200 prison inmates.

The kudos were as much for the U.S. itself as Libya’s victorious Transitional National Council. After all, the United States played a decisive role in Gaddafi’s death. First President Obama put together the NATO coalition that served as the Benghazi-based rebels’ loaner air force. When the bombing campaign was announced in February, Gaddafi’s suppression of the human rights of protesting rebels was front and center: “The United States also strongly supports the universal rights of the Libyan people,” Obama said at that time. “That includes the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. They are not negotiable. They must be respected in every country. And they cannot be denied through violence or suppression.” (No word on how police firing rubber bullets at unarmed, peaceful protesters at the Occupy movement in Oakland, California fits into that.)

And in the end, it was a Hellfire missile fired by a Predator drone plane controlled by the American CIA—in conjunction with an attack by a French fighter jet—that destroyed the convoy of cars Gaddafi and his entourage used to try to escape the siege of Sirte, driving him into the famous drainage pipe and into the hands of his tormentors and executioners.

American officials and media reports were right about Gaddafi’s human rights record: It was atrocious. They cautioned the incoming TNC to make human rights a priority: “The Libyan authorities should also continue living up to their commitments to respect human rights, begin a national reconciliation process, secure weapons and dangerous materials, and bring together armed groups under a unified civilian leadership,” Obama said. (No word on how Gaddafi’s execution fits in to that.)

Yet the very same week the United States was cozying up to another long-time dictator—one whose style, brutal treatment of prisoners, and notorious massacre of political dissidents is highly reminiscent of the deposed Libyan tyrant.

Like a business that maintains two sets of records, one for the tax inspector and the other containing the truth, the United States has two different foreign policies. Its constitution, laws and treaty obligations prohibit torture, assassinations, and holding prisoners without trial. In reality there are secret prisons like Guantánamo. Similarly, there are two sets of ethical standards in America’s dealing with other countries. Enemies are held to the strictest standards. Allies get a pass. This double standard is the number-one cause of anti-Americanism in the world.

In yet another display that exposes American foreign policy on human rights as hypocritical and self-serving, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Uzbekistan to establish closer ties to the Central Asian republic’s president for life, Islam Karimov. Even as her State Department was ballyhooing the bloody conclusion of Gaddafi’s 42-year reign as a victory for freedom and decency, the former First Lady was engaged in the cynical Cold War-style of one of the worst human rights abusers in the world.

Read the full article at Al Jazeera English.


  • I can’t even read this piece. One of the reasons I gave up on Americans is because there is no end to the hypocrisy we accept with respect to our own actions. I don’t have energy trying to expose such hypocrisies anymore because Americans simply do not care.

    Case in point: I remember in the early nineties reading about the torture and assassinations the US funded, backed and participated in during the 1970s in South America, primarily Chile. Back then it was impossible to convince Americans their government participated in such actions. The response was, “you have no facts to prove it. You just hate America. We would never do such things!”. Then came Iraq and Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and worse, and Wikileaks proving coverups of outright murder of women and children. I thought “NOW those Americans will see the truth! The facts are unavoidable!”. The response? “Eh, who cares? Those are evil people anyone so they deserve it. If we are torturing, it must be for a good reason. What, do you hate America?”.

    After that, I no longer cared. Most Americans aren’t worth the dog shit on the sidewalk. They’re unprincipled, hypocritical and downright ignorant. Their only values are having more, more, and more. Accepting responsibility for one’s own actions and one’s country’s actions can’t be allowed to stand in the way of consumerism.

    • @exkiodexian, I don’t blame you for being cynical. I get that way myself, and I could easily see myself simply stopping caring. Hell, I know no one would notice if I simply stopped putting out cartoons and columns and books and disappeared. For the time being, for whatever reason–stupid pigheadedness, no doubt–I persist.

  • the link takes you to a different article. and ex, obviously not all americans are like that. just go to your local occupy encampment. 🙂

  • “and ex, obviously not all americans are like that. just go to your local occupy encampment.”

    You mean the gatherings where people are protesting their right to become better indentured servants? Thanks, but no thanks.

  • I’m not suggesting you quit Ted. If you make a living from social/political commentary, you really have no choice. As I don’t derive my income from such activities I have the luxury of accepting the truth.

  • alex_the_tired
    November 1, 2011 10:39 AM

    I’d like to bring up Family Guy. Yes, in all seriousness. Sunday’s episode was about Glenn Quagmire’s sister being physically and emotionally abused by her boyfriend. The regulars have an intervention which fails because the sister is too far into denial about her relationship. Then the question is raised to Joe, the cop, “Can’t you arrest her?” Joe replies that without a complaint, the cops can’t do anything until it’s too late.

    And three of the main characters decide that they’ll have to murder the boyfriend.

    OWS — to use a line from the show — is still telling us that the reason its finger is in a split is because it fell down the stairs. The 1%, using the police, are still beating up on the 99%. The city took the generators away, so what does the 99% do? Well, golly gee, just like a battered woman, they cheerfully come up with a fix. “What? My boyfriend broke my arm? Well, I did contradict him in public. I’ll just learn to tie my shoes with one hand until these bones knit.”

    The 1%’s thugs took away your generators. So put a big, fearful, glassy smile on your stupid faces and switch to pedal-power! That’ll show ’em! And when they shut down the kitchens? (Rodent infestation and health-code violations will most likely be the excuses used.) Why, smile some more, dab on some foundation to hide those bruises, and talk about how you’re all going to use photosynthesis to feed yourselves.

    The OWS needs to accept that the cops who “agree with them” are not their friends. It’s a standard cop technique. The cops sound friendly because that’s the easiest way to control you. Unless the cop is on your side of the orange netting, he is not on your side. He is the opponent, and he’s playing you, because when the order comes down to mace you, he will do it.

  • alex_the_tired
    November 1, 2011 1:02 PM

    Whoops! In the first-paragraph question, substitute “him” for “her.”

  • god, you people are pathetic. don’t you realize ted hates people like you? all you do is bitch and moan about how everybody else is doing it wrong. and yet, you sit there at your computer doing nothing. but bitch and moan. if you know better, then get the fuck off your asses and do it better!

  • alex_the_tired
    November 1, 2011 5:51 PM


    This was covered already.

    OWS has started with defective concepts. They believe that non-violence will achieve their goal. That is impossible. Period. Full stop. All the movements I am aware of that actually changed anything fall into the following group:

    Movement X inconvenienced those in power, either by direct disruption of the powerful’s enjoyment of their wealth and power, or by so irritating those of the middle- and lower-classes that those two classes turned on the upper-level. I know of no exception to this general case.

    OWS is not inconveniencing the 1%. The 1% still go to fine restaurants, still vacation in wonderful places, still send their children to exclusive pre-schools, still throw lavish weddings paid for with gutted pension funds. So use the creativity that the OWS has to disrupt those aspects of the society that the 1% still requires. Come up with the OWS equivalent of a No-Fly List. Use social media to make those people’s lives misery.

    Or, if the 1%ers are too hard to access, annoy the hell out of the people one degree of separation from them: old college friends, relatives, etc. Let them know that the reason they’re being treated like pariahs is because of their frat brother, son, etc.

    But sitting in a park freezing your ass off while the cops mace you for not resisting? We call those “chumps” where I come from.

    • Just so. Disruption is key. Which is why winter is good. It will force Gen Y-led OWS movement into the 1%’s space, leading to confrontation. The authorities, who know only violence, will have no choice but to reveal their true nature.