Trump accidentally lifts the lid on what really motivates US treatment of other countries

Donald Trump saluting US troops

As The Canary has previously argued, Washington’s treatment of other countries is rarely based on concerns for human rights and/or democracy, but rather on the extent to which their governments serve US economic and geostrategic interests. And now, Donald Trump has all but admitted that this is the case.

Pro-US dictators welcome

During a speech at the New York Economic Club on 12 November, Trump said that he is open to meeting with any foreign leader if doing so is “good for the United States.” “Dictators, it’s OK. Come on in,” he added.

The comments came the day before he was set to meet with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has come under criticism for alleged war crimes, human rights violations, and authoritarianism. According to some reports, Erdoğan has imprisoned tens of thousands of political opponents, all while expanding his own powers via a controversial referendum.

Washington often invokes the language of human rights and democracy when justifying its treatment of other nations. But as Trump’s relationship with Erdoğan’s Turkey illustrates, it is often all too willing to engage with dictatorships that trample over human rights so long as they kowtow to US interests. And this is by no means the only example of Washington’s hypocritical treatment of other nations. In fact, examples around the world abound.

The Middle East

In the Middle East, for example, one of Washington’s major allies is the brutal Saudi dictatorship. This absolute monarchy practices Medieval-style punishments including public beheadings, forced amputations, eye-gouging, and even crucifixion. It also has one of the worst records in the world for freedoms for women, who until recently weren’t even allowed to drive cars. In recent years, meanwhile, it has been waging a brutal war in Yemen that has involved multiple acts of state terror. The UN has consistently called this the ‘worst humanitarian crisis in the world’.

In spite of all the above, Washington has nonetheless provided Saudi Arabia with generous support, including the sale of weapons that have been used throughout the course of the war on Yemen.

Iran, on the other hand, has been singled out for isolation, hostility, and threats of “regime change“. This includes sanctions that have had a devastating effect on the country’s civilian population. Iran is also surrounded by scores of US military bases on all sides. Though Iran’s human rights and democratic credentials are far from perfect, Noam Chomsky has pointed out that “in comparison with Saudi Arabia, Iran looks like a civil rights paradise.” But while Saudi Arabia has been doing Washington’s bidding by offering it favorable access to its large petroleum reserves, Iran has been less cooperative with its own oil.

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Latin America

Another flagrant example of the US government’s hypocrisy is Latin America. The narco-dictatorship of Honduras, for example, has one of the worst human rights records in the region. State security forces have been accused of routinely commit acts such as extra-judicial killings with near-complete impunity. The last election, meanwhile, was won by current president Juan Orlando Hernández in a poll that even the pro-Washington Organization of American States denounced as fraudulent. Nonetheless, Honduras receives generous funding from the US. The reason is simple: Hernández’s government has kept open the Soto Cano US military base and imposed neoliberal economic reforms ever since the US-backed coup against the democratically-elected progressive government of Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

The comparison with the treatment meted out to the left-of-centre government in Venezuela, meanwhile, is revealing on several levels. Ever since the late Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998, Venezuela has been singled out via a sustained isolation and destabilization campaign from Washington and its internal allies. Opponents claim their hostility is based on (highly exaggerated or questionable) accusations of human rights violations, electoral irregularities, and state involvement in drug-trafficking. Similar (and far more credible) accusations have been completely overlooked in Honduras (and elsewhere), which again perfectly demonstrates Washington’s extreme hypocrisy and venality in how it treats other countries.

A long history of hypocrisy

In a strange way, Trump’s comments should be welcomed. Because they constitute a belated admission of what has long been at the heart of US foreign policy – since long before Trump became president. Washington’s treatment of other countries has scarcely been about human rights, humanitarianism, or a country’s democratic credentials. Rather, treatment has largely been based on whether or not foreign governments have been obedient to US geostrategic interests, enacted neoliberal economic policies, and opened their borders to domination and exploitation by multinational corporations. And this has included and continues to include some of the most brutal dictatorships and human rights violators going.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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