William Boardman / Reader Supported News – 2019-01-17 22:35:00
US Adopts Christian Ideology to Guide Foreign Policy
William Boardman / Reader Supported News
This trip is especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian, coming so soon after the Coptic Church’s Christmas celebrations. This is an important time.
We’re all children of Abraham: Christians, Muslims, Jews. In my office, I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and The Truth.
And it’s the truth, lower-case “t,” that I’m here to talk about today. It is a truth that isn’t often spoken in this part of the world, but because I’m a military man by training, I’ll be very blunt and direct today: America is a force for good in the Middle East.
We need to acknowledge that truth, because if we don’t, we make bad choices â€“ now and in the future. [emphasis added]
— US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, January 10, 2019
(January 16, 2019) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to the American University in Cairo early this year to deliver what may be the clearest statement of foreign policy principles that will come from this administration. Pompeo’s speech began (see above) with his acknowledgement that he views the world through a pair of self-reinforcing ideologies: Christian evangelism and American Salvationism.
The 3,600-word speech has little overall coherence as Pompeo meanderingly applies his muscular Christian Americanism (he never suggests his view is shared by the president or anyone else) to a self-serving selection of issues.
What follows are highlights from the speech in the order they appear, with whatever commentary seems helpful. Pompeo has this to say about the Arab Spring that started in early 2011 and spread across the Middle East:
These lands witnessed convulsions from Tunis to Tehran as old systems crumbled and new ones struggled to emerge. That’s happened here [in Egypt], too. And at this critical moment, America, your long-time friend, was absent too much. Why? Because our leaders gravely misread our history, and your historical moment.
The preposterous dishonesty of this telegraphic summary of a complex nexus of only semi-related events tells you all you need to know about the sophistication and nuance of analysis at work at the top of the US government. Pompeo conflates developments in countries as varied and far apart as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, and Iran (even though Iran isn’t Arab).
The US absence from Tunisia and Morocco was more or less beneficial to both countries. The US was hardly absent from Bahrain, where the US naval base benefited from the monarchy’s heavy-handed crushing of protest. The US was excessively involved in Libya, which hasn’t recovered yet from our support.
Pompeo’s soft-pedaling of Egypt (“That’s happened here, too”) is particularly revelatory, not only because he’s being polite to his host country, but even more so because he’s shoving a whole lot of ugly history down the Orwellian memory hole.
Egypt, remember, went from one of the uglier, US-supported military dictatorships (happy to do our torture for us) to a constitutional democracy that chose Mohamed Morsi for President. When Morsi turned out to be too Islamist for the Egyptian military (and the US), he was overthrown in a military coup and replaced with a proper military-imposed democracy that elected a general to re-establish the current police state that isn’t quite as bad as the one before.
See? America brings progress!
But Egypt raises issues — democracy, freedom of speech, rule of law â€“ whose absence in Egypt’s police state are of no great concern to Pompeo. That’s probably why he offers no explanation of what he means by “our leaders gravely misread our history, and your historical moment.”
That’s because he raised the whole Arab Spring nuisance (without naming it, of course) for quite another purpose: to attack President Obama, who also gave a foreign policy speech (5800 words) at the American University back in June 2009, one that was far more thoughtful and actually coherent, regardless of what Pompeo said in his sleazy way without naming his boss’s predecessor:
He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology. He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East.
These are demonstrably false statements. Obama did not use the word “ideology” or the right-wing buzz phrase “radical Islamist terrorism,” which only the credulous and uninformed would believe. Nor did Obama say 9/11 led the US “to abandon its ideals,” though that would be more true than not, what with torturing innocents, bombing civilians, and invading two countries that had not attacked us.
What Obama actually said of 9/11 was that “in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals” — which is precisely true. But Pompeo’s attack on Obama garnered him headlines, with few in the media making the effort to point out that Pompeo was lying by attacking words that were never said. Maybe that’s because Pompeo does that a lot. Even so, it’s not honorable journalism.
Pompeo fulminates at length about ISIS, Iran, “Hizballah,” and Bashar Assad without actually making any cogent or fully accurate point. He asserts that ” . . . our desire for peace at any cost led us to strike a deal with Iran . . . ” even though we were already at peace with Iran.
He ignores the reality that the nuclear agreement with Iran has stopped Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and that this is confirmed by Iran’s cooperation with international inspectors. He also ignores the other parties to the deal — Russia, China, France, UK, Germany, and the European Union — all of whom continue to support the deal despite the US pulling out (which has not yet taken effect).
Pompeo and his cronies are the only ones claiming the deal is a failure, but those claims are false, disingenuous, dishonest, and supported by no evidence whatsoever. For all his name-calling on Iran, Pompeo offers no specifics, only loose allegations with no factual support.
Pompeo reaches this conclusion about his quartet of bad actors:
So today, what did we learn from all of this? We learned that when America retreats, chaos often follows. When we neglect our friends, resentment builds. And when we partner with enemies, they advance.
This must be mere demagoguery. If Pompeo believes it, he’s delusional. Where has America retreated? Not from Iraq, not from Syria (yet), not from any of our myriad bases surrounding Iran and elsewhere across the Middle East, and certainly not from Afghanistan (Pompeo never mentions Afghanistan).
There was chaos in Libya because we intervened, there’s chaos in Syria and Gaza, there’s chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s chaos in Yemen. Most of that chaos is at least partly due to US involvement (except Gaza, where the US supports Israel’s crimes against humanity).
When Pompeo says, “when we partner with enemies, they advance,” he might be onto something. He probably means Iran, but Iran hasn’t “advanced” and hasn’t invaded anyone in centuries (even though the US prompted Iraq to invade Iran).
No, what Pompeo unwittingly reveals most obviously is that when the US partners with Saudi Arabia, the Saudis advance by propagating radical Islamist extremism across the globe, by making war on Yemen with our blessing and in violation of international law, and by threatening various of their neighbors including Iran and Qatar.
Saudi Arabia is an autocratic, repressive state in which human rights and freedoms exist at the fringes when they exist at all. The other Arab states (as well as Turkey) are similarly autocratic, violent, and anti-democratic. Or as Pompeo calls them, our friends.
Pompeo’s speech has a long passage designed to show how brilliantly the US has changed in the past two years, virtually bringing a new Eden to the Middle East. None of it is credible or reality-based, but it does have its share of hilariously absurd assertions:
America has always been, and always will be, a liberating force, not an occupying power . . . . And when the mission is over, when the job is complete, America leaves . . . .
Life is returning to normal for millions of Iraqis and Syrians . . .
Whatever Pompeo may think “normal” means, life is not likely to return to normal for Iraqis or Syrians any time soon, even if “normal” doesn’t mean living under a stable dictatorship. When the mission, as Pompeo argues, is fighting terrorism, then the mission is never over. And America does not have a pattern of leaving anywhere.
America has combat forces in 165 countries these days, give or take a few. America hasn’t left Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan, never mind South Korea, Japan, Germany, Britain, Italy, and lord knows where else. The reality is that America, for its entire existence, has been an occupying power on the American continent.
All this may seem just too obvious for words, but remember this is a rebuttal of what the American Secretary of State — third in line for succession to the presidency — is telling the world what he claims to be the truth. And it’s not even close. And it gets worse.
Pompeo spends the last third of his speech rambling through all the reasons the United States will remain at war for the foreseeable future. His argument goes something like this, and I paraphrase: Iran, Iran, Iran in Yemen, Hizballah, Iran, Iran, Libya, Iran, rockets in Lebanon, Iran, Iran. He never mentions human rights. Anywhere.
Pompeo’s hypocrisy shines most brightly when he talks about Yemen. He doesn’t mention Saudi killing of civilians or other war crimes, or Yemeni cholera epidemics, or Yemeni starvation, or any of the other horrors perpetrated on the poorest nation in the region. Instead, he claims the US has provided “robust humanitarian aid” and supported peace talks (albeit almost invisibly).
Despite decades of American efforts to de-stabilize Yemen, Pompeo boasts: “And in Yemen, we will continue to work for a lasting peace.” This is a criminal war of endless atrocity that Pompeo fully embraces because: Iran (no evidence needed).
But he’s too petty to give credit for the war where it’s deserved, since that would mean praising Obama. Pompeo is happy to take the credit for continuing the work no matter who gets slaughtered, hopefully Iran:
America will not retreat until the terror fight is over . . . . For our part, airstrikes in the region will continue as targets arise . . . .
The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against the Iranian regime’s aggressive adventurism . . . . First, it’s never easy to recognize truth. But when we see it, we must speak it . . . one thing we’ve never been is an empire-builder or an oppressor.
That pretty much sums up the ideology of a self-defined ideologue. America has never been an oppressor. America has never been an empire builder. America always was, is, and will be a force for good, no matter who has to suffer for it.
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
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