In an excellent new essay titled “We’re Not the Good Guys — Why Is American Aggression Missing in Action?”, Tom Engelhardt criticizes the way western media outlets consistently describe the behavior of disobedient nations like Iran as “aggressions”, but never use that label for the (generally antecedent and far more egregious) aggressions of the United States.
“When it comes to Washington’s never-ending war on terror, I think I can say with reasonable confidence that, in the past, the present, and the future, the one phrase you’re not likely to find in such media coverage will be ‘American aggression,’” Engelhardt writes. He then asks a very fair question:
“So here’s the strange thing, on a planet on which, in 2017, U.S. Special Operations forces deployed to 149 countries, or approximately 75% of all nations; on which the U.S. has perhaps 800 military garrisons outside its own territory; on which the U.S. Navy patrols most of its oceans and seas; on which U.S. unmanned aerial drones conduct assassination strikes across a surprising range of countries; and on which the U.S. has been fighting wars, as well as more minor conflicts, for years on end from Afghanistan to Libya, Syria to Yemen, Iraq to Niger in a century in which it chose to launch full-scale invasions of two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), is it truly reasonable never to identify the U.S. as an ‘aggressor’ anywhere?”
In other words, does it really make sense for any nation to be able to take over the world and then look up with Bambi-eyed innocence saying “I was attacked! Completely out of the blue!” whenever any government pushes back on this? If you ask the empire’s narrative makers, the answer is a resounding yes.
This important discrepancy is as close as we’ll ever get to an honest admission from the political/media class that they consider empire-building and endless war to be normal, and any opposition to it freakish. All nations are meant to submit to America’s use of military and economic force upon them, and if they don’t, that’s “aggression”. The official position of the political/media class is that the US is a normal nation with the same rights and status as any other, but the unofficial position is that this is an empire, and nations will either obey or be destroyed.
It’s a machine with the same values as Napoleon or Hitler or Genghis Khan or any other imperialist conqueror from ages past; the only difference is that it pretends not to be the thing that it is. The US markets itself as an upholder of rules-based liberal democratic values, even though it consistently flouts international law, wages imperialist wars of aggression, imprisons journalists, crushes dissent and uses propaganda just as much as any totalitarian regime. The only difference is that it does so in a way that enables its supporters to pretend that that’s not what’s actually happening.
Forget the “war on terror”. If US foreign policy were honest it would unite all its war propaganda sloganeering under a single banner: the War on Disobedience…..