Moral hypocrisy on full display

The US government is outraged, just outraged, that the Myanmar military government has engaged in torture and is demanding that those responsible be prosecuted.

The U.S. State Department expressed outrage and demanded an investigation on Friday after The Associated Press reported that Myanmar’s military has been torturing detainees in a systemic way across the country.

The United Nations’ top expert on human rights in Myanmar also called for strong international pressure on the military. And lawmakers in Washington urged Congress to act in the wake of AP’s investigation, which was based on interviews with 28 people, including women and children, imprisoned and released since the military took control of the government in February.

“We are outraged and disturbed by ongoing reports of the Burmese military regime’s use of ‘systematic torture’ across the country,” the State Department said, using Myanmar’s other name, Burma. “Reports of torture in Burma must be credibly investigated and those responsible for such abuses must be held accountable.”

AP’s report, which included photographic evidence, sketches and letters from prisoners, along with testimony from three recently defected military officials, provides the most comprehensive look since the takeover into a highly secretive detention system that has held more than 9,000 people. The AP identified a dozen interrogation centers in use across Myanmar, in addition to prisons and police lockups, based on interviews and satellite imagery.

Is it asking for too much for one, just one, reporter, from any of the mainstream media outlets in the US to ask the US government what it has done about prosecuting those in the highest levels of the US government who created a system that was torturing detainees all over the world in secret detention sites and why those responsible for such abuses are never held accountable, as is being demanded of the Myanmar military? The US government goes to great lengths to try to keep the details of its torture practices secret.

This willful blindness is all the more blatant when on the very same day as the US expresses outrage at the Myanmar government’s torture practices, a Guantanamo detainee detailed his own torture at the hands of the US government in a US military tribunal, though we have had many such testimonies before including the scandalous behavior at Abu Ghraib.

It was the first time any of the so-called high-value detainees held at the US base in Cuba have been able to testify about what the US has euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation” but has been widely condemned as torture. “I thought I was going to die,” he said.

Khan spoke of being suspended naked from a ceiling beam for long periods, doused repeatedly with ice water to keep him awake for days. He described having his head held under water to the point of near drowning, only to have water poured into his nose and mouth when the interrogators let him up. He was beaten, given forced enemas, sexually assaulted and starved in overseas prisons whose locations were not disclosed.

A jury of eight military officers sentenced him to 26 years in prison.

The US media is well trained. It knows that there are some taboos and one of those is pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of the US government condemning other countries for actions when it has been doing far worse for far longer and on a far greater scale. The illusion that the US sets the standard for moral behavior must never be questioned and the way to do that is to never refer to its past actions.

As George Orwell wrote in 1984, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” By quickly sweeping its past abuses into the memory hole, the media enables the US to keep getting reborn as a moral exemplar, however atrocious its behavior.


  1. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Yeah, it is pretty hilarious given that we had a very public debate about torture during the Bush administration.

  2. beholder says

    The World Socialist Web Site offered a possible explanation. [Source]:

    The Obama administration hailed Myanmar as a budding democracy when the junta released Suu Kyi, held sham elections and shifted its orientation away from Beijing and toward Washington. Even as Suu Kyi functioned as an apologist for the military’s murderous assault on the Muslim Rohingya minority, US criticisms were limited. Now, however, as the junta has increasingly relied on Beijing’s support, Biden is once again cynically posturing on “human rights.”

    (emphasis added)

    This appears to be bound up in U.S. warmongering and increasing aggression towards China.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    The question worth asking is this: is anyone outside the US buying this bullshit? It seems to me this kind of “hypocrisy” is aimed squarely at the dolts within the US’s own borders who think they live in the greatest country in the world. Nobody outside the US believes it for a second -- we all know that the US is the most dangerous country in the world by most sane measures. It’s just that (a) there’s nothing we can do about it because the US has ALL the guns and (b) demonstrably nobody in the US gives a monkey’s what anyone from outside the US thinks. Why would they? See point (a).

  4. Holms says

    Sonof, Australia’s leadership seems to buy whatever bullshit USA’s leaders ever sell. The current evangelical goons are just the latest entry to our sorry tradition of becoming USA’s willing lapdog.

  5. springa73 says

    Well, I don’t think that the condemnation of Myanmar’s government is unjustified -- they did have a military coup and a violent crackdown on opponents -- it’s just that the USA has no moral authority to condemn it. That would need to be done by other governments and organizations with better records.

  6. says

    The Myanmar junta should do a video of some guy lipsynching to Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama’s “we tortured some folks but its not who we are…” speech.

  7. jrkrideau says

    A jury of eight military officers sentenced him to 26 years in prison.

    A Canadian, Omar Kahdr, pleaded guilty to some trumped up charges to avoid this ” jury of eight military officers ” who reportedly would have given the same type of sentence.

    Of course under UN conventions he would have been considered a “child solder” and treated as an abused child.

    Apparently the USA has not ratified this convention.

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