My family likes to argue and I believe that it is safe to assume, that we are no different from many others.
Through numerous years of experiencing my family’s squabbles, I noticed a key trait that was consistent in all of them. The participants, regardless of who they were (not me of course, I have always been an angel), always considered themselves infallible as they played the role of almighty protector and defender of what is right while they mercilessly poured on the criticism to their adversaries. When the criticism was hurled back where it came from, it was met with staunch resistance regardless of its merit and prompted further attacks.
Upon further examination, it seems no different to the state of affairs in today’s climate of international politics.
Take for example the West’s recent criticisms of Russian actions in the Crimea region. Many journalists, such as Owen Jones and Mehdi Hasan, were quick to demonstrate the glaring hypocrisies when John Kerry stated “You don’t just invade another country on a phoney pretext in order to assert your interests” and when William Hague claimed that “The world cannot say it’s OK to violate the sovereignty of another nation in this way,” almost precisely eleven years after Anglo-American forces entered Iraq on similarly questionable grounds – an assault which both men supported.
On their own accord, you would of course be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees with the substance of these statements in respect to Russia but taken in a wider context of the West’s actions however, these statements are laughable. It is perfectly acceptable to want to play the honourable superhero in the international arena but one must retain their credibility for their words to hold any weight.
Unfortunately, it is by no means an onerous task to point out numerous demonstrations of these duplicitous behaviours in our current political arena with superpowers simply picking and choosing which aspects of international law to abide by.
In an address at the United Nations General Assembly in October of 2014, shortly after Operation Protective Edge, Noam Chomsky was asked what the single most important action the United States can take in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His response was “Well, one important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course, it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask,” followed by demonstrating how the US breached its own Leahy Law when providing arms to Israel, how certain Jewish organisations receive tax-exempt status despite breaching human rights laws and how the US has consistently vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions since 1976 which condemn Israeli settlements which are in clear violation of the agreed 1967 borders.
Although Chomsky’s response provides a certain sense of comedic value, it is also deeply distressing. When countries that are supposed to be the beacon of hope in the face of tyranny show such a nonchalance and lack of respect for their own laws and the very institutions they helped establish, the threat is far greater than politicians seeming untrustworthy or foolish but it is the threat of the de-legitimisation and breakdown of the whole system.
Despite all of that – just as is the case in my family – criticism that comes from others never strikes a chord. For real change in behaviour to occur, our weaknesses must be realised from within.
For that to happen, governments need to look inside their own borders before condemning the actions of their counterparts. More importantly, they need to come to the realisation that those who challenge the establishment from within strengthen the country, its democratic principles and essentially, its longevity. The voices of the whistleblowers, activists, journalists or everyday citizens who force their governments to be held to account must not be considered enemies of the state, but must be recognised for the true patriots that they are.
The recent treatment endured by Edward Snowden and the journalists, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, who helped bring the mass-spying of the National Security Agency to light suggests that we are yet some ways away from that attitude but one can only hope.