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I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.
– Barack Obama, 2015.
From birth, Americans are expected to believe in the notion of U.S. superiority over other peoples in other nations.
The daily school ritual of pledging allegiance to the flag and playing the national anthem at sporting events—whether the Super Bowl or a neighborhood swim meet—is a given. Americans are taught that they are intellectually, socially, economically, and morally superior to any other people on earth. We believe that we place a higher value on life than others do.
Most Americans are unaware of the amount of human suffering the U.S. government has inflicted on others throughout the world, especially post 9/11. We are incessantly told it is our duty to support the troops and our leaders who invade, bomb or otherwise intervene in other nations. The motives offered might be to stop genocide, to take down a maniacal despot, or to spread democracy and American values. Our government purportedly acts with reluctance as well as with compassion, respect for others, and good intent. We are told that the troops keep us safe and help spread the American way of life to a needy world. Why? It is because we are “exceptional.”
September 11, 2001
We are told the United States was brutally attacked by Al-Qaeda on 9/11. That it happened in real time, on our soil, live in our living rooms, made it seem even worse. But the real horror lay in the loss of the 2,977 victims.
Our response to this abhorrent crime should have been that of a just, democratic society, acting on the rule of law. Instead, it was completely out of proportion, becoming barbaric and grotesque. Yet our response was justified by those who believe that an American life is more valuable than the lives of all others.
As noted, 9/11 was a criminal act, not a state-sponsored act of war. The United States, however, responded as though it had been an act of war. On October 7, 2001 the United States invaded Afghanistan, violating the UN Charter’s principle of sovereign equality. Justification provided to the world was that Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national and not an Afghan, masterminded 9/11 and was living there in the mountains. The ruling Taliban government offered to extradite bin Laden but needed proof of his guilt, as is customary in extradition cases. George Bush ignored the Taliban’s request and instead invaded one of the poorest countries in the world.
From October 2001 to the present, an estimated 31,000 civilians have been killed, and approximately 29,900 have suffered war-related injuries. To this day, Americans occupy the country and continue to kill and wound Afghan civilians, with no end in sight. It is now the longest war in U.S. history. Bin Laden, whose alleged involvement in the crime was used as justification for the invasion, has been dead for years. I would challenge any American to explain why our troops are still there.
Finally, I would ask whether the 69,000-and-counting Afghan casualties of war, along with a near 18-year occupation of a sovereign country, were just and appropriate responses to 9/11. Or might this response instead be grossly disproportionate, planned and executed by an aggressive cabal of American leaders exceptional only in the way they inflict violence on others?
In September 2002, the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), consisting of 12 members selected by the Bush administration, was formed to meet in the White House on a regular basis. The group was described by SourceWatch (a website published by the Center for Media and Democracy), as “the marketing arm of the White House whose purpose was to sell the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the public.” Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, yet this group was assembled to create a justification that did not exist for a war they wanted to start. They decided on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). There weren’t any. And mushroom clouds. There weren’t any.
According to French academic Dominique Reynié, between January 3 and April 12, 2003, about 36 million people across the world took part in nearly 3,000 anti-war protests. On February 15 alone, in more than 800 cities, millions filled the streets to protest the invasion of Iraq before it happened. The Guinness Book of World Records estimated that between 12 and 14 million people from major cities and small towns on every continent came out to voice their dissent. An event like this was unprecedented in world history. Protests within the United States took place in more than 225 communities, but received little media attention.
They ignored the United Nations as well, and by doing so violated international law. All members of the Security Council but the United States and Great Britain rejected the call for war with Iraq. The UN Charter requires a unanimous vote of the Security Council for any war to be sanctioned. On September 16, 2004, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan declared that the Iraq invasion “was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”
A lone voice for sanity in the media in the run-up to the Iraq war was Phil Donahue. On his final show, weeks before the invasion, his guest was retired Marine General, Anthony Zinni, a former commandant of the Marine Corps and leader of the Central Command, preceding the better-known Tommy Franks. Zinni was in charge of the no-fly zone in Iraq for a time and spoke Farsi. His familiarity with, experience in, and knowledge of the Middle East, particularly Iraq, was extensive. He stated unequivocally that Saddam Hussein was contained and no threat to his neighbors, much less to the United States. Donahue’s show, though the most popular on the network at the time, was cancelled by MSNBC, which deemed the show and Zinni’s remarks unpatriotic. As it turns out, Zinni was correct, though it mattered little to the “exceptional” leaders who ordered the invasion.
On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. A study done by researchers in Canada, the United States and Baghdad, with the cooperation of the Iraqi Ministry of Health, found that as of December 2017, nearly 500,000 civilians had died from war-related causes. Thousands upon thousands of homes were bombed into rubble, killing members of families and leaving the survivors homeless. The UN reported in 2014 that more than 4.4 million Iraqis were internally displaced, forced to live in refugee camps or neighboring countries.
Let us not forget that this war was created out of thin air by WHIG, marketed and sold to the American public and the world. It was a fraud from the very beginning and never could have been sold to anyone had the 9/11 event not occurred. All the credit for this merciless barbarity needs to be bestowed on our exceptional leaders, George W. Bush and Richard Cheney.
The Syrian “civil war” began in March 2011 in conjunction with the Arab Spring. The protest started out peacefully but then became violent. It was alleged that Bashar al-Assad used brutal methods to put down the uprising. That being said, the uninvited intervention by the United States violated Syria’s sovereign equality in violation of Article 2 of the UN Charter.
In 2012, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan convened a group in Geneva to bring a ceasefire to the hostilities in Syria. The talks ended abruptly when the Obama administration demanded that Assad and his elected staff step down before any ceasefire agreement could be reached. What right did the United States have to make such a demand? The violence continued. Then in late 2012, the CIA launched an operation code-named Timber Sycamore, with the goal of toppling Assad’s regime through the continuous military training and financial support of all types of radical militants.
The estimated civilian death toll in the war in Syria through March 2018 varies from 353,593 to 498,593. Out of a population of approximately 26 million, an estimated 6 million have been internally displaced and 13 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.
It can be argued that the majority of these casualties of war can be directly attributed to a combination of Obama’s intransigence in 2011 and the CIA’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia in arming, funding, and training the radical militant groups in Syria. Their interference has led to one of the most serious humanitarian crises of this century. It was also another savage, disproportionate act of violence that had nothing to do with 9/11.
In March 2011, U.S.-led NATO forces began bombing Libya and continued bombing for seven months. The country, once one of the richest in Africa was, for all intents and purposes, destroyed. At present Libya is lawless, run by radical militants. Hillary Clinton is largely responsible, her role outlined in the “Libya Tick Tock” e-mail, made public by Julian Assange. In this e-mail, “A step-by-step guide to destroy Libya,” the Clinton team listed in chronological order all of the steps she took in order to prove that she was the architect of the U.S. bombing in Libya. It was to be a “brag sheet” to strengthen her foreign policy credentials in the upcoming election debates in 2016.
Estimates of the death toll in Libya range from 10,000 to 50,000. The National Transitional Council puts the dead at 30,000 and the wounded at 50,000. In addition, Libya’s Great Man-Made River, an underground pipeline that supplied water to Libya and other countries in Africa was destroyed by NATO planes, a violation of the UN Charter.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the intervention in Libya was another fraud. On September 14, 2016, the British Parliament issued a scathing report. Assessing the evidence, they wrote that the “UK strategy was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence.” In less polite rhetoric, the bombing of Libya was based on deception and lies.
Once again, our exceptional leaders destroyed a sovereign country and the hopes of its citizens. It was another barbaric, out-of-proportion overkill that never would have happened without 9/11, yet Libya had nothing to do with 9/11.
Could the arrogance of Hillary Clinton and her willingness to destroy Libya just to impress voters be the reason the exceptional Donald Trump is now America’s president? Who knows?
As for Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient dramatically expanded both the air wars via drones and the special operations forces around the globe. In 2016 U.S. forces could be found in 70 percent of the countries in the world—138 nations—a staggering 130 percent increase in special-ops incursions since the days of the Bush administration. In his last year as president, according to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs on seven different countries.
The biggest threat
In polls conducted by Gallup worldwide that began in 2013 and have continued every year since, the United States came in first hands down when participants were asked: “Which country is the greatest threat to world peace? “
If an outsider asked me what my country stands for, it would be hard to come up with an answer. I might start with how we break our word, threaten other countries, force regime change, impose sanctions, arm the world, launch drone strikes, bomb countries, invade countries, destroy homes and families, and go from there.
Is America “exceptional” in how it inflicts violence and death upon countless innocent people around the world? And is it fair to call American leaders “exceptional” bullies?
Is there any doubt?
Geoffrey O’Neill is a former Marine officer, Vietnam veteran, former business owner, and unexceptional American citizen who believes in the right of all people to live in peace and with dignity.
A longer version of this article can be read here.