Donald Trump has freed the world of American pressure over human rights
Yonden Lhatoo suggests we all stand up to the US when it calls us out on human rights, now that a sitting president has confessed to America’s own grim record
Whatever we may say about US President Donald Trump, it’s clear that America’s tweeter-in-chief tells lies to the point of pathological compulsion. He just kills the truth.
But while we take him to task for all those “alternative facts” that he makes up, let’s also give him due credit for a jaw-dropping moment of honesty that hasn’t really been discussed and dissected as much as it should be for its implications.
In a recent interview with the right-wing Fox News Channel, Trump was grilled on his perplexing bromance with Russia’s president and reminded that Vladimir Putin was a “killer”.
Trump’s reply was a doozy: “There are a lot of killers. Got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”
When the host retorted that he did not “know of any government leaders that are killers”, Trump was quick to reference the Iraq war, saying: “Take a look at what we’ve done too. We’ve made a lot of mistakes.” He also slipped in another quick little lie about how he had opposed that war.
Watch: Trump tells Fox News America isn’t so innocent
Let this really sink in. A sitting American president has admitted on camera that his predecessors have blood on their hands. Yes, we around the reasonably informed rest of the world have always known that, but to see the head of the US government publicly admit it is something else.
Granted, Putin’s country has a terrible record of bloodshed, and the man himself is no teddy bear, but a comparison of the two countries’ post-second-world-war track records of imperialism renders him a bad hombre with relatively far less blood on his hands, so to speak.
American civil rights icon Martin Luther King wasn’t exaggerating when he declared back in 1967 that his country was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world”. American historian, philosopher and social critic Noam Chomsky broke it down to: “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.” That was in 1990 – if we add the decades since, we’re talking a whole lot more rope.
US presidents, including John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, were directly responsible for the deaths of more than three million Southeast Asians during the Vietnam war, Nixon in particular for killing half a million Cambodians for no reason.
Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were all warmongers of varying degrees, with the last and least intelligent of them leaving Iraq and Afghanistan in ruins, with half a million or more dead. And let’s not forget Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace laureate with the dubious distinction of keeping American soldiers at war for all eight years of his presidency.
The fact that Trump blurted it out does not mean he will do anything to rectify it. In fact, he has vowed to “finish” Islamic State, and he does have a defence chief nicknamed “Mad Dog” to lead the charge, so expect some more genocidal mayhem, maybe?
The US is in no position to lecture Beijing on the South China Sea, given its patchy record on international law
When the US State Department issues its next report on human rights violations around the world, it doesn’t mean the allegations are Trump-style alternative facts, but the countries being accused now have plenty of ammunition to question America’s moral authority to chastise them, thanks to Trump.
That includes us in Hong Kong, too. Beijing issues its own tit-for-tat annual report on America’s track record, but our local government just takes it on the chin every time we’re lectured or advised on our shortcomings in such matters. We happy, harmless few, unstained by the blood of innocents.
How about we start punching back from now on? Tell the State Department that POTUS said so.
Yonden Lhatoo is a senior editor at the Post