American Model and Multilateralism
250 yıllık tarihi yüzkarası olaylarla dolu olan (ABD'nin) Amerika’nın
rezillikleri saymakla bitmez.
Those of us born and raised in the developing “South”, that is, mainly in the
non-industrialized countries of the Orient, and taught there to sort out
whatever is libertarian, forward-looking and utilitarian in the developing
“North”, that is, the modern and industrialized societies of the world, are now
taken aback by the Western surrender, especially of late, of hard-won values
that we, the so-called ‘Orientals’, tried in good faith and for decades to
remold and rejuvenate for our own orders. Such unexpected retreats on the part
of the self-styled advanced models strike us now with amazement and awe. We also
perceive the reintroduction of arbitrary practices in some Western societies
that we are doing so much to phase out in the East. It is difficult to grasp the
Western desideratum in the initiation of oppressive structures, domestically and
internationally, that we in the East are taking pains to cast out.
Kızılderilileri soykırımla yok ettiler.
Meksika’nın topraklarını gasp ettiler.
İç savaşta birbirlerini yediler.
1945 yılında Japonya’ya iki atom bombası atarak yüz binlerce masum
sivili öldürüp dünya tarihinin en büyük vahşetini yaptılar.
Vietnam’ı kana buladılar.
Afrika’da birçok ülkeye baskınlar yapıp asker-sivil demeden herkesi
Şimdi, haksız yere işgal ettikleri Afganistan ve Irak’ta cellatlık yapmakla meşguller!
Many of us took at face value phrases like “We, the people of the United
States”, or “We, the peoples of the United Nations”, both moving expressions in
the Preambles of the Unites States Constitution and the United Nations Charter
respectively. I was one of the many aspiring youngsters educated at American
colleges and universities. The prevailing portrayal of the American Government
as being “of the people, by the people and for the people” by none other than
‘Honest Abe’, the 16th President of that great nation, at the concluding part of
his legendary Gettysburg Address in 1863, had been early instilled in our minds.
The American people, foremost its youth, take this definition for granted even
today. I personally discovered much after the conclusion of my formal education
that Rutherford B. Hayes, the candidate of corporate interests and the eventual
19th President, came forward, only thirteen years later (in 1876), with the
following contradictory definition: “This is the government of the people, by
the people and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by
corporations, and for the corporations”.
Bringing to mind the controversy over the results of the presidential election
of 2000, Hayes’s Democratic opponent had won a larger popular vote, but the
Republican managers contested the returns, and a special commission awarded the
election to Hayes. The latter’s diametric portrayal of the American Government
is not well publicized. Similarly, even President Lincoln, who had composed the
earlier and popular definition, observed the following just before his death:
“Corporations have been enthroned...An era of corruption in high places will
follow and the money power will endeavour to prolong its reign...until wealth is
aggregated in a few hands...and the Republic is destroyed”.
Neither the average citizen, nor foreign scholars had timely and adequate access
to these new definitions of the American democratic model. In terms of
American past, further penetrating return to the original first-hand documents
and critical interpretations may still be necessary. Past scholarship is
certainly not devoid of such criticism. Some great writers of American history
scrutinized basic political texts and structure from the viewpoints of interests
and conflicts. Throughout most of
the history of that country the forces of progress and conservatism have been
locked in struggle. This encounter may be seen during the crucial years of the
War of Independence, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the economic
crash, the New Deal, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and the wars of
The American manufacturers and plantation owners, who felt oppressed by
metropolitan England and broke with it to emancipate themselves wheedled, as
part of an old story, the lower classes to fight for the rich. The hand that
wrote the Declaration of Independence also wrote advertisements for fugitive
slaves. The American Constitution was produced more than two centuries ago by
fifty-five men, signed by thirty-nine, most of whom were slaveholders, and
adopted in only thirteen states by the votes of less than two-thousand men.
Afterwards, millions of Africans tilled the cotton, rice, sugar-cane and tobacco
for the few “Lords of the Land” and worked as servants for the “Bosses of
the Buildings”. The country was
united only in name. The landlords of the south finally fought the money lords
of the north. The Black men and women were now free to move north, where they
had no job, no roof, and not even the boiled corn they had in the south. The
lords of industry have been in the saddle since then. One short step was
necessary from control of wealth to control of the government.
It is not accidental that the United States started one of the first imperialist
wars. The War of 1898 transferred most of the colonies of the senile Spanish
monarchy into American hands. From the idea of national sovereignty the United
States jumped to imposing a colonial administration on subjugated nations; from
the principles of equality it passed to an apologia of the inequality of nations
and races; from democratic isolationism it moved on to interventionism. When the
Republican-controlled Senate refused to support U.S. participation in the League
of Nations on President Woodrow Wilson’s terms, the domestic debate was less
between isolationism and internationalism than about how American freedom of
action could be better protected. During the terrible depression years after
1929, while millions tramped the streets looking for jobs that did not exist,
the men at the top continued to pay for themselves thousands of dollars per
week. The American dream of a never-ending prosperity had become an exploded
myth. The system of production, in that most acute form of capitalism, had
turned the richest country in the world into a stricken nation. The sequence of
more profits and more accumulation snapped. When it could no longer expand, it
contracted. The New Deal saved the system by eliminating its existing evils,
ignoring the fact that those evils were the product of that very system.
aimed at more than merely making capitalism work; he wanted it to work more
tolerably for the vast majority. The present U.S. Administration targets the
removal of the gains of the 1930s, on the part of the average men and
women, although the New Deal was only a reshuffle of the old deck of cards.
Foreign students of political science (like myself), studying in the United
States in the 1950s, were astounded to read in their textbook
that the southern states in those years had been one-party dictatorships for
decades, with “bosses”,
“machines” and not a hint of opposition allowed even within the party in
originators of the United Nations gave the impression that the U.N. Charter was
to be a guide towards a new international order. During my graduate years in the
United States, I had the privilege if being taught by the very individuals who
wrote the American draft of the Charter. The latter’s Preamble creates indeed
an idealistic vision. In 1945, Virginia Gildersleeve adopted from the U.S.
Constitution the Charter’s opening words: “We the peoples of the United
Nations...” Three years later, Eleanor Roosevelt presented to the General
Assembly the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first magna
carta of humankind. But there was a gap between vision and reality. The
victorious allies who had won the war wanted to rule the post-war peace. The
United States, which had learned some lessons from the League experience,
remained in control, along with four other most powerful countries. Only the
five permanent members enjoyed a veto privilege. The Security Council was
designed to run the U.N. More than half a century after its creation, the U.N.
Charter still remains unchanged, including even its so-called “enemy
clauses”. More realistically, the Preamble might have started as follows:
“We the most powerful Five Nations of the North...”
United States, among the five, dominates the U.N. in a multifaceted way. It is
the only host to a public service international organization that repeatedly
violated its Charter, almost succeeded in bankrupting it deliberately, and
undermined its very existence by ignoring it. No member country used it for its
own purposes and at the same time damaged it as the United States. The conflict
is, not only a matter of inflated bureaucracy, squandering of funds, unpaid
dues, arms control, peacekeeping, world trade or global environment, but a clash
of interests and values. Washington’s policy is to try to make all
international organizations, including the U.N., compliant to its own policies.
Those who chart America’s course, especially since the end of the Cold War, do
so with a clearly defined purpose in mind: to expand the American imperium.
United States has never been comfortable with the constraints of
multilateralism. Washington’s angry reactions were aimed in the past mainly at
the Third World agenda, but now also at some permanent members of the Security
Council. Iraq is not the only case where the U.S. engaged in armed action
without the authorization of the latter body. That country is reluctant to sign
even conventions that protect the global commons.
perusal of the official position of the American Government with respect to the
principal human rights treaties reveals that this country either failed to
sign or ratify some conventions or was on record for serious shortcomings in
terms of compliance with a number of others. It has not signed the Optional
Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women, the first and the second Optional Protocols to the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International
Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of
Their Families, and the treaty banning anti-personnel mines. The U.S.
administrations did not sign core International Labour Organization conventions
that protect basic labour rights. It has signed but not ratified the
International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and
the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
are significant defects in the American record in terms of compliance with a
number of these treaties. American reports either were not forwarded to the
committees on time or some statements in the reports contrasted with the
provisions of the conventions signed. For instance, the first compliance report
to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination was submitted five years later. The U.N. committee responsible
for the assessment of such reports expressed concerns about U.S. failure to live
up to key provisions of the convention and continuing racial discrimination. Not
only the American officials had too limited an understanding of the treaty’s
scope and failed to implement it, legislation with the announced intent of
prohibiting racial discrimination was not so in practice. Only a few days prior
to the 9/11 terrorist attacks the United States abruptly withdrew from an
important U.N. World Conference against racism and related intolerance, held in
Durham, South Africa. Although the official explanation was that the American
Government opposed references to Zionism in draft documents, it was at least as
disturbed over calls for reparations on account of severe racial discrimination
United States dismissed the binding obligations of the Kyoto Protocol and
thrusted the burden of fighting global warming on the rest of the world. It
rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and announced that it will test new
types of nuclear weapons. It withdrew from the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty and
kept developing a space-based missile system.
United States is the only country condemned by the International Court of
Justice for unlawful use of force. The World Court found (1986) that the United
States had financed, equipped, armed, organized and trained the “Contras”
and mined Nicaragua’s major port.
It should be well-known that the United States has been notorious for arbitrary
use of force. Moreover, much
earlier than the 9/11 attacks the reasons given for these operations have been
tales of coverups, distortions, and manipulations of the media.
Following its own order, based on power politics and allowing to act
unilaterally most of the time, the United States has become now the leading
country, against an overwhelming majority, opposing the International Criminal
Court. Although the latter
represents a genuine revolution in the system of modern international law, the
United States sought immunity for its own citizens in a number of ways,
including the passage of the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act (2002),
failing to submit the founding Rome Statute to Congressional approval,
withdrawing its signature from that document, rejecting the authority of
the Court, signing special bilateral agreements exempting its military personnel
from the host country’s jurisdiction, and pursuing a policy empowering the
permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to decide on the fate of a
prosecution referred to the Court by the SC.
these developments, foreign elites watched American leaders, while insisting
that they speak great truths, describing the role of their country in the world
as a Manifest Destiny to help transform the entire globe. Starting almost
immediately after independence, opinion formers in successive generations
explicitly stated that the dominant fact of American history had been expansion
and that Great Power status had been thrust on that country to save the world a
number of times. As the 20th century approached, American chieftains of policy
felt that nothing would satisfy them in the future but free access to all
foreign markets. Prosperity at home through overseas expansion has been the
cornerstone of American diplomacy for many decades. America proclaimed a number
of times its intention to build “a new world order by applying its
domestic values to the world at large”.
Some elements of President Wilson’s 14 Points, which he read at
Versailles, benefited his country alone, and Presidents FDR and Truman aimed to
recast the entire world on the American model. The end of the Cold War produced
an even greater temptation to further the same cause. U.S. leaders representing
both parties agreed that the United States had emerged as the indispensable
nation. The policies of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton reflect a
single-minded determination to extend American ascendancy.
attack on American soil in the morning of 11 September 2001 wounded the people
of that country to the core. It also rocked the world almost as hard as the
United States. But it also created for the new Bush Administration favourable
circumstances to turn the clock back by reducing the prerogatives of the federal
government to the level of the pre-New Deal days and pursue a policy of
expansion abroad that may be described as a continuation of the McKinley era.
Certain selected groups in the United States are now subject to uncurbed
surveillance by various official agencies. Individuals, some of whom are
American citizens, but originally from the Arab countries, the Middle East and
North Africa, even other parts of Asia or from an Islamic environment are pushed
to a new status of Untermenschen. Mostly young Muslim and/or Arab males
were detained allegedly in connection with the 9/11 investigations. The
overwhelming majority, unrelated to any terrorist act, was under custody or in
actions led to two wars, which destroyed two governments, killed Afghan
civilians more than the number of the 9/11 victims, led to appalling tortures in
Iraq on the part of the occupying forces that promised liberation and democracy,
and signalled a new era apparently to be dominated by the following: military
intervention lacking international consent, series of falsehoods as camouflage
for use of force, conquest and subjection, naked assault accompanied by
indiscriminate killing and violence embracing sadism, scandalous war crimes in
disregard of international law, new governments composed of selected individuals
with no roots among the local people, civilian or military decision-makers whose
wanton actions as occupiers bring to mind the Roman proconsuls, representatives
with hands stained in blood, variety of theft from oil to archeological
treasures, a policy of stick and carrot, and ever-growing death.
before 9/11, there were widespread human rights violations in the United States.
But the official policy since then amounts to rejection of the democratic gains
of the American people for the last seven decades and search for U.S. hegemony
over the globe. Granted that the 9/11 attacks were monstrous and destructive,
the White House launched a series of its own attacks at home that may last
longer than any war the American Government may be planning for the future. The
clumsily-titled USA Patriot Act (2001), a law of 342 pages that passed through
the Congress in record time, eliminated the barriers between the law enforcement
and intelligence agencies, empowered the latter to conduct secret searches
in cases not related to terrorism, accepted guilt by association, and gave the
government the opportunity to deny the exercise of free speech.
White House Executive Order (2001) authorized military committees to try swiftly
and secretly certain non-citizen civilians in the United States, with no
presumption of innocence nor protection against forced confessions, and
convict them, including death sentence, by a two-thirds majority with no right
to effective appeal. With the absence of right for the defendants to confront
the evidence, to object to illegally obtained records, or to appeal for a public
trial, this kind of a judicial system where a small group of officers act as
prosecutors, judges, jury, court of appeal and executioners is an unusual
practice that all Third World countries have been endeavouring for some time to
push back to the annals of history. Another Executive Order, which contradicts
the earlier Presidential Records Act, removed the official papers of two past
presidents from the public domain. While the Homeland Security Act (2002) was
made supposedly to ensure that the efforts to defend the country would be
comprehensive and united, not only dozens of agencies charged with security are
now located within one Cabinet department, but also the country seems
danegerously ill-prepared to handle an attack on American soil.
the ill-use of the concepts of patriotism and loyalty, dissent is now
significantly restricted, and members of chosen ethnic, racial or religious
groups are maltreated. Especially the racial minorities are disproportionally
affected by over-incarceration. Although Islam is the religion of some Arab
Americans, most Muslims living in the United States are not Arabs. For instance,
Afro-Americans presently constitute about 40 percent of the Muslims. Some Muslim
Americans, whether Arab or not, are now effectively living under martial law. A
few thousand immigrants, mostly young Arab men, are being interrogated although
there is no evidence of their connection with the 9/11 attacks. And the divide
between aliens and citizens is a thin one.
events abroad now demonstrate that the international actions of the United
States have become the extension of the norms and rules of such domestic
political behaviour. While the climate of fear was a fertile breeding ground for
the weakening of civil liberties and the vilification of minorities, the
campaign against terror intensified the unilateralist tendencies in American
foreign policy. The enduring hunger to control Afghanistan and Iraq was fitted
into the context of the war on terrorism. A new “great game” is underway in
the Middle East and Central Asia. Motivation of direct control through military
presence over most of the world’s oil reserves is accompanied by the desire to
prevent others to rival its global hegemony.
of the two U.N. Security Council resolutions on Afghanistan, both taken between
the terrorist assault on 9/11 and the American intervention (7 October),
authorises the use of force. Neither military response, nor Afghanistan is
mentioned in them. There are of course references to measures to check and
subdue terrorism. The sophisticated aircraft of the U.S. Air Force attacked a
country that does not possess war planes, leaving it to some Afghanis to kill
other Afghanis and promoting, in the process, the Northern Alliance thugs, not
much different from the Taliban, to the status of “freedom fighters”.
However, when hundreds of Afghani prisoners died either by suffocation in the
container trucks used to transport them or by direct execution, the U.S.
soldiers were there to witness the urine, vomit and rotten flesh that remained.
Moreover, hundreds more were executed and shovelled in mass graves in the
presence of American soldiers. In the final analysis, the United States
profited by the 9/11 attacks to gain control over the Caspian and Central Asian
oil and natural gas as well as their export routes through Afghanistan and
oft-repeated arguments for Iraq’s invasion –Saddam’s possession of weapons
of mass destruction and link to Al-Qaeda- were downright false. The war was, not
only for oil, but also for water, roads, trains, buildings, ports, bridges,
phones, and the art treasures. Save a group of Baghdadis who helped American
soldiers to bring down a Saddam statue, the Iraqis did not welcome the
occupation forces in a way the GIs were met with open arms in Paris in
1944. Everything from unilateral action and wanton use of force to torture and
vandalism in museums will leave ugly large footprints for a very long time.
“The empire of good” and “the axis of evil” are all mixed up now. Even
some of the war’s firmest backers suggest that the U.S. position in Iraq is
now a lost cause. The corruption of U.S. leadership, civilian and military,
allowed discipline to degenerate into criminality. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski,
the commander of the MPs, may have asserted that the conditions at the Abu
Ghraib prison were so good that the prisoners would never want to leave, and
some Americans (like Sen. James Inhofe) might think that the incident was blown
out of proportion. The truth, however, is that U.S. occupation unleashed such an
intense anti-Americanism that it now extends, not only to soldiers, but pretty
much everyone associated with the Americans. To pin the crimes on “a few bad
apples” is pseudomorality, and the ultimate responsibility rests with those
who made war in Iraq and denied rights to the captives. This scandalous reality
is the byproduct of the occupation authority seizing thousands of people in
secret, locking them in torture chambers and assuming them to be guilty. The
whole episode is a failure of the American ‘model’. The denials wore off,
and criminality sank in.
the neocons’ star has fallen since the war with Iraq, they have probably not
given up calls for regime changes in Iran, Syria and elsewhere. Just as they
were proven wrong while supposing that the Iraqis would receive American
soldiers with open arms, the expectation that Teheran is just “waiting for
them” is at least an equal betrayal of truth. The neocons miscalculated in
Iraq, and they continue to mismanage it, but it would be unwise to rule them
of the so-called “coalition forces” in Iraq are expected to be withrawn. The
new Spanish Prime Minister announced the pull-out of their troops as soon as
possible. Senior Polish government officials stated that their soldiers would
also leave. Nicaragua already pulled out, and Honduras is expected to withdraw.
British soldiers seem likely to stay symbolizing the Anglo-American
trans-Atlantic bridge and guaranteeing the dominance of the U.S.
military-industrial complex aided by British contractors. The United States owes
the presence of its Australian coalition partner in Iraq to the election
campaign of John Howard, the country’s arch-conservative politician who linked
a small group of Afghani asylum seekers to terrorism. Facing a high probability
of defeat in the election, he appealed to the electorate on race and immigration
issues, sacrificing in the process the two-decades old multiculturalism.
close alliance between the United States and Israel, before and after the war in
Iraq, harmed both American and world interests. The present U.S. Administration
has grown even closer to the most extremist government in Israel’s history.
Post-Rabin Israel, which expects the clock to turn back, is at odds with all its
neighbours and the world. Israel, the only Middle Eastern country possessing
weapons of mass destruction, is waging a war against the Palestinian people with
the knowledge of the American Government. Especially after the invasion of Iraq,
Israel is firmly aligned with the U.S.-British military axis. It is now
increasingly behaving like a rogue state. The assassinations of the Ariel Sharon
government, which appear to be calculated moves, show that the path of
escalation has been deliberately chosen. His administration aims at exploiting
terror politically, not to fight it. The Israeli armed forces systematically
destroyed the structures of Palestinian economic and political life. They
resorted to excessive lethal force against unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and
launched heavy attacks on the official headquarters of President Yasser Arafat.
Some Israeli Cabinet members openly call for ethnic cleansing of the
Palestinians. Their expulsion and/or migration to neighbouring Jordan will dwarf
all previous atrocities since Deir Yassin.
the pretext of security, Israel is also building an “Apartheid Wall”, as
part of its long-term policy of occupation, expulsion and discrimination that
amounts to the destruction of the material basis for the survival of the
Palestinian society. Sizable portions of the latter are imprisoned in walled
ghettos and lost part of their land, water resources and sources of livelihood.
This monstrous project as well is encouraged by the wanton use of force in
international relations, and especially in the Middle East. After more than half
a century, it now seems more obvious than any time before that the U.N. General
Assembly recommendation of Partition (1947) , which never had a legal basis,
cannot be implemented. Its alternative is a single binational state embracing
both Jews and Christian or Muslim Palestinian Arabs. There have been long
periods in the history of that land, for instance the Ottoman centuries, during
which these two communities coexisted peacefully. The binational state option
has been advanced by numerous individuals, Jews and non-Jews, at different
times, including Dr. Judah Magnes, the President of Hebrew University in
Jerusalem, and lately, Libya’s leader Muammar Khaddafi.
authority and the integrity of the United Nations will be further undermined if
its role in Iraq and the Palestine issue does not go beyond
“internationalizing” occupation in both cases. Iraq needs a genuine
worldwide mission that does not reign over its territory, does not claim the
country’s riches, and does not distribute its assets to profiteers.
Peacemaking in Iraq and Palestine should be the most important task of the
United Nations. Much of the responsibility falls on the U.N. General Assembly,
whose resolutions are only legally unbinding recommendations but where the veto
privilege of the United States does not operate. This international body should
not enter Iraq or Palestine as the political arm of the occupiers, but as the
defender of the independence and sovereignty of both. The United Nations should
go into Iraq with a peacekeeping force, preferably composed of Arab contingents,
and with a program of assistance – only after the United States pulls out
completely. An effective way to solve the Iraqi and the Palestinian issues is to
stage a regime change in the United States, not just a replacement of the Chief
Executive in the White House. Judging from the election campaigns, however, even
the Democratic alternative does not go far enough to realize a prompt shift from
occupation to Iraqi sovereignty. The American people are interested in political
leadership that can champion the goals and values of the average citizen.
Otherwise, under the present circumstances, the celebrated philosophical
treatise of Karl Popper on
“open society” will need another volume on the United States as a threat to
- Prof. Dr. Türkkaya Ataöv
Emeritus of International Relations, University of
My first encounter with Lincoln’s address was in our Robert College
(Istanbul) Sophomore textbook: Dudley Miles and Robert C. Pooley, Literature
and Life in America, Chicago, etc., Scott, Foresman and Co., 1943, p.
David C. Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, West Hartford (CO)
& San Francisco (CA), Kamarian Press & Berrett-Koehler Publishers,
1995, p. 58.
Harvey Wasserman, America Born and Reborn, New York, Collier Books,
1983, pp. 89-90.
For instance: Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the
Constitution of the United States, London, Macmillan, 1913; Leo Huberman,
We, The People, New York, Monthly Review Press, 1932. Later: William
Appleman Williams, The Contours of American History, New York, 1966.
Much later: Andrew J. Bacevich, American Empire: the Realities and
Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University
Press, 2002; Kevin Phillips, American Dynasty, New York,
Penguin Group, 2004.
Richard Wright, Twelve Million Black Voices, London, Lindsay Drummont
V.O. Key, Jr., Southern Politics, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1950.
For instance: Senator Byrd in Virginia, “Cotton Ed” Smith in S.
Carolina, Eugene Talmadge in Georgia, Crump in Tennessee, Jim Folsom in
Alabama, W.L. O’Daniel in Texas, and Huey Long in Louisiana.
Francis A. Boyle, “Determining U.S. Responsibility for Contra Operations
Under International Law”, The American Journal of International Law,
81 (1987), pp. 86-93.
Max Hilaire, International Law and the United States Military
Intervention in the Western Hemisphere, The Hague, Kluwer Law
John Quigley, The Ruses for War: American Interventionism Since World War
II, Buffalo, N.Y., Promethues Books, 1992.
Hans Köchler, Global Justice and Global Revenge? International Criminal
Justice at the Crossroads, Wien and New York, Springer-Verlag, 2003.
Henry Kissnger, Diplomacy, New York, etc., Simon & Schuster,
1994, p. 805.
Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 2 vols., Princeton,
N.J., Princeton University Press, 1963.