Shall we begin with Fatou Bensouda? Granted, she isn’t exactly a household name, though perhaps she ought to be. Ms. Bensouda is the chief prosecutor with the International Criminal Court. By executive order, in April of 2019, her U.S. visa and those of her staff were revoked; their assets frozen.
Their offense? They dared to propose an investigation into U.S. military war crimes in Afghanistan. Oopsie, the prosecutor mistook the U.S. as a country like any other within its international jurisdiction. Trump’s executive order was intended to remind them who calls the shots.
Never mind that there are some 126 countries signed onto the ICC. You need to feel the goods. America’s moral fabric is not woven of the same off-the-rack filament as others. The U.S. is extraordinary, exceptional, some would even say divine.
Above all, the U.S. can police itself, thank you very much. Our recent violent uprisings are proof enough! What was the tab in Minneapolis again — $55 million in damage?
At a time when social fragmentation, widespread despair, and unchecked environmental degradation would bring the worthiest of contenders to their knees, America whips out its crutches and doubles down on its exceptionalism.
Michelle Alexander, writing for the New York Times, underscores the tragic irony of such hubris. “Donald Trump would not be the president and George Floyd would not be dead if, after the Civil War, our nation had committed itself to reparations, reconciliation, and atonement for the land and people that colonizers stole, sold, and plundered.”
But even the smell of its dirty laundry is not exceptional – for most every Western nation pillaged and plundered. If America is truly exceptional, then step forward Uncle Sam and defrock yourself as the globe’s moral model.
Recently, we severed ties with the World Health Organization. America has steadfastly refused to sign onto the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. We all know (along with Greta Thunberg) which digit Trump pointed toward the Paris Climate Agreement. He threatens to exit the World Trade Organization. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
Recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council called the White House to say that 600 organizations and 60 countries had placed a formal letter request that the council investigate U.S. policing practices. The Trump administration hung up the phone. Of course, they need not have answered the call; the U.S. withdrew from that body as well.
No apologies or contrition on the menu today. America’s underbelly will not be exposed. And although U.S. exceptionalism has a history and did not commence with its current self-acknowledged exceptional leader, Trump’s opening salvo on inauguration day would have garnered the attention of the Reichstag, “we will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
At least Barak Obama had the temerity to confess that American exceptionalism was really no different from British exceptionalism or Greek exceptionalism or anyone’s brand of navel gazing for that matter.
And Trump has delivered on those “interests” in spades. Or has he?
His stance has had a chilling effect on global grassroots trends (does anyone remember the Peace Corps?) toward cooperation under the banner of shared recognition of human dignity and environmental health. In a very real sense, he is disassembling common standards and giving a green light for each to create their own, again. We begin with America First; we then must endorse China First, and how about a Myanmar First, a North Korea First, and down the slippery slope toward a Syria First.
Yet that nosy, busybody court, the ICC, is actually investigating war crimes and genocide against those very countries. The “kangaroo court” as Mike Pompeo calls it. If America can’t be held accountable, why should anyone? The U.S. has further debunked its own exceptionalism by having 30 percent of global COVID-19 deaths with just 4.25 percent of the world’s population. U.S. narrow-mindedness is indeed exceptional. The cruel family secret is that America’s “winners” depend upon a packed conveyor belt of duped “losers.”
Have I overlooked the bigger picture? Pope Pius XII declared that, “Into the hands of America, God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.” But isn’t God, as well, entitled to a few regrets every now and then?
After years of globetrotting, Todd J. Broadman finds himself writing from his perch on the Palouse and loving the view. His policy briefs can be found at US Resist News: https://www.usresistnews.org/