October 25, 2015
By Stephen Gowans
In a speech delivered in the southern suburbs of Beirut on October 23, 2015, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, a resistance organization rooted in Lebanon’s Shia community, presented a description of US imperialism that largely comports with that of secular leftwing anti-imperialists in the West.
Hezbollah was established in the early 1980s to end Israel’s occupation of Lebanon. With Israel’s withdrawal in 2000, and a subsequent Israeli incursion in 2006 repulsed by Hezbollah fighters, the resistance organization remains on the qui vive against future Israeli aggressions. It is now assisting the Syrian Arab Army in its death struggle against extreme sectarian Sunni Islamists, among them ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra. These al-Qaeda offshoots pose an existential threat to the Shia community in Lebanon, explaining why Hezbollah has chosen to enter the conflict.
The following (in italics) is a distillation of Nasrallah’s remarks .
The United States wants the Middle East to be under its political, military, security, economic and cultural domination.
Washington uses Israel as a tool to promote this agenda.
Israel depends for its existence on the United States. If the financial, economic and military support that Washington grants Tel Aviv stops, Israel will cease to exist.
The victims of Israel are the Palestinians and the Lebanese, both of whom have suffered occupation and massacres at Israel’s hands.
Blame for Israeli actions, then, lies more with Washington, Israel’s master, than with Netanyahu and his terrorist army.
Therefore, Palestinians and Lebanese are the primary victims of the US domination project in the Middle East.
US foreign policy is aimed at plundering the region’s oil, gas and riches. It is driven by the owners of oil and weapons companies, not by human rights organizations.
Indeed, all of Washington’s talk about human rights and democracy is meaningless. The biggest dictatorships in the region are sponsored by the United States. These dictatorships violate human rights and disdain elections (a reference to US allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain).
US allies in the region are nothing but local administrations headed by a king or a president answerable to Washington. The decisions of war, peace, foreign policy and markets are in the hands of their master, the United States.
The punitive aspects of US foreign policy are aimed at anyone who refuses to submit to US domination, which is to say, refuses to become local extensions of the US government (and by implication, of the large oil and weapons companies that dominate it.) He who takes his own decision on the basis of his country’s interests is unacceptable to the United States.
For example, all of Washington’s hostility to Iran is traceable to the latter’s wanting to be a free and independent country that owns and controls its own economy and preserves the dignity of its people. This rejects US hegemony and therefore is unacceptable to Washington.
Washington launches proxy wars against those countries that seek to become independent and strong. The United States is waging a proxy war in the Middle East on everyone who refuses to submit to US domination. The proxies are the extreme sectarian Sunni Islamist jihadists, or takfiris, (including ISIS and the Nusra Front, both progeny of al-Qaeda, and the latter now reframed deceptively by US propagandists as “moderate” rebels.) The real leader and coordinator of the takfiris is the United States, assisted by its regional allies (a reference to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.)
Today, Washington tells us that we will either be slaves of the United States or it will besiege us and send suicide bombers.
The ongoing war is not for the sake of reforms, democracy, human rights, elimination of poverty or countering ignorance, but for subjugating those who reject the United States’ hegemonic ambitions.
Nasrallah calls Israel “an executive tool in implementing US hegemony” in the Middle East. This calls to mind an observation made by the Palestinian scholar Walid Khalidi: “To many Arabs, Israel is the beachhead of US imperialism in the Middle East and its executor,” a not unreasonable understanding given the evidence.
Nasrallah describes US foreign policy as predicated on a universalist model of US leadership that leaves little room for other countries to define and follow their own path. At least one person close to US foreign policy acknowledges that this view is accurate. Ana Montes, who on the eve of 9/11 was the top Cuba analyst at the Pentagon, denounced US foreign policy for having “never respected Cuba’s right to make its own journey towards its own ideals of equality and justice,”  paralleling Nasrallah’s complaint that Washington is unwilling to allow Iran to “be a free and independent country” that owns and controls its economy and preserves the dignity of its people, and that it punishes countries “that seek to become independent and strong.”
Montes struggled unsuccessfully to understand why Washington continued “to dictate how the Cubans should select their leaders, who their leaders cannot be, and what laws are appropriate in their land,” as much as many Syrians must struggle to understand, in Washington’s insistence that their president step aside, why the United States dictates how they should select their leaders and who their leaders cannot be.
“Why,” Montes wondered, “can’t we let Cuba pursue its own internal journey, as the United States has been doing for over two centuries?”
And why can’t Washington let Syria and Iran do the same?
The answer, from Nasrallah’s analysis, is clear. Neither Syria nor Iran, anymore than Cuba, can be allowed to own and control their own economies because this conflicts with the aspirations of the corporate elite that dominates policy-making in the United States.
Troubled by the absence in Washington of “tolerance and understanding for the different ways of others”, Montes followed her conscience. She fed Cuban authorities intelligence on the eavesdropping platforms that US spies had secretly installed in Cuba to help undermine Cuba’s right to make its own journey.
For her efforts to impede an injustice, she was sentenced to almost 25 years in prison for espionage. She has been called “the most important spy you’ve never heard of”  but is also among the most important prisoners of conscience you’ve never heard of, and one Amnesty International, a purported champion of prisoners of conscience, won’t touch. This simply adds to the tally of lapses on the side of US imperialism that the compromised human rights organization has become infamous for, including:
• Criticizing Wikleaks for leaking US secrets; 
• Propagating without evidence the claim that Iran has a nuclear weapons program; 
• Disappearing US sanctions against North Korea—the most comprehensive and longstanding program of economic warfare ever carried out in human history–in a report on the country’s “crumbling health care system.” Instead, Amnesty attributed North Korea’s health care difficulties solely to decisions taken by Pyongyang, roughly equivalent to blaming the death of numberless Iraqi children during the 1990s on Saddam Hussein, and not the US-led sanctions regime; 
• Appointing US State Department official Suzanne Nossel to the post of executive director of Amnesty International USA, a woman who supported the illegal US invasion of Iraq as well as a military option to coerce Iran into relinquishing its right under international law to process uranium for peaceful purposes; 
• Confining its criticism of US military aggressions to the question of whether they are conducted in compliance with the rules of war and not whether they are initiated in violation of international law.  This prioritizes the concept of jus in bello (justice in how a war is conducted) and fails to address altogether the concept of jus ad bellum (the justness of a war), a strategy which spares Amnesty from calling out the most egregious crimes of the United States and its allies, since Washington’s wars, and those of its subalterns, almost invariably fail to meet jus ad bellum standards;
• Calling for an international arms embargo on the Syrian government but not on the rebels who are supplied by the United States and its allies, among which is Saudi Arabia, a human rights abomination. 
While Amnesty was critical of the human rights record of apartheid South Africa, it alone among human rights organizations refused to denounce apartheid itself.  The organization also refused to condemn the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia , even though it was an exercise in imperial predation that denied the rights of many innocent Yugoslavs to life, security of the person and employment. Amnesty excused its inaction on grounds that it is not an antiwar organization, as if war and human rights are not often inextricably bound. But Amnesty’s most egregious service to the propaganda requirements of US foreign policy came in 1991, when the rights group released a report in the run-up to the Gulf War claiming that Iraqi soldiers had thrown Kuwaiti babies from incubators. This was a hoax, perpetrated by the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, orchestrated by the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, which had been hired to launch a propaganda campaign to galvanize public support for a US war on Iraq. When US President George H.W. Bush appeared on television to announce that he was readying for war on Iraq, he had a copy of the Amnesty report in his hands. 
Washington promoted human rights in the 1980s as a cudgel with which to wage a propaganda war against the Soviet Union. It has been used since to extend the war to countries that refuse to submit to Washington’s hegemonic ambitions. Is it not predictable that a Western-based human rights organization, which apparently sees nothing amiss in appointing a former US State Department official to head its US branch, should take center stage in prosecuting this propaganda battle?
The United States and its allies are, according to the preferred narrative—and one largely supported by Amnesty—champions of human rights whose aggressions abroad are aimed at enemies of human rights, and therefore, are valid, and even laudable. The idea that US foreign policy is inspired by human rights, as Nasrallah shows, is complete nonsense. An accurate description of the instrumental role played by human rights in US foreign policy is provided by a senior US State Department official: “The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass (on human rights), whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.” 
The Amnesty-ignored prisoner of conscience Ana Montes remains defiant, despite her decade and a half of incarceration in the highest security women’s prison in the United States. “Prison is one of the last places I would have ever chosen to be in,” Montes says, “but some things in life are worth going to prison for.” 
How pathetically weak-kneed and addled is the imperialist-friendly Amnesty against the honest analysis and courage of Ana Montes; how contemptible is its collusion with imperialism against the defiance of Nasrallah and the countless other opponents of the international dictatorship of the United States and the bankers, billionaire investors, oil companies and weapons manufacturers in whose service it operates and who hold sway over it.
1. “Zeinab Essa, “Sayyed Nasrallah vows from Sayyed Shudadaa Complex: We’re to defeat ‘Israel”, US-Takfiri scheme,” Alahed, October 24, 2015.
2. Montes statement, October 16, 2002, The Centre for Counter-Intelligence and Security Studies, The Ana Belen Montes Case, , Latinamericanstudies.org, Studieshttp://www.latinamericanstudies.org/espionage/montes-articles.pdf
3. Jim Popkin, “Ana Montes did much harm spying for Cuba. Chances are, you haven’t heard of her,” The Washington Post Magazine, April 18, 2013.
4. John F. Burns and Ravi Somaiya, “WikiLeaks founder on the run, trailed by notoriety”, The New York Times, October 23.
5. Joe Emersberger, “Debating Amnesty about Syria and Double Standards”, MRZine, July 6, 2012.
6. Stephen Gowans, “2010 Amnesty International botches blame for North Korea’s crumbling healthcare,” what’s left, July 20, 2010.
8. Daniel Kovalick “Amnesty International and the Human Rights Industry,” counterpunch.org, November 8, 2012.
10. Francis A. Boyle and Dennis Bernstein, “Interview with Francis Boyle. Amnesty on Jenin”, Covert Action Quarterly, Summer, 2002. http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/art.php?aid=4573
11. Alexander Cockburn, “How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids: Those Incubator Babies, Once More?” Counterpunch, April 1-15, 1999. http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/articles/article0005098.html
12. Boyle and Bernstein.
13. Craig Whitlock, “Niger rapidly emerging as a key U.S. partner,” The Washington Post, April 14, 2013.