Ethics Hero: Glenn Greenwald

I’m not exactly a fan of lawyer/muckraker/journalist Glenn Greenwald, but I’m getting there. Greenwald certainly has an ideological agenda, and it informs both his choice of topics and the slant of his reporting. However, in an age where the mainstream journalism establishment has made the tragic decision to be largely  a propaganda organization for its one favored political party, and has willfully misinformed the American public in pursuit of that party’s interests, primarily power, Greenwald stands out for his non-partisan approach, his consistent standards, his integrity, and most of all of late, his refusal to participate in counter-factual condemnations of President Trump for conduct that the news media has either shrugged away or tolerated in the past from other Presidents.

Greewald’s latest broadside against the hypocrisy comes in gloriously unrestrained The Intercept piece about the attacks on President Trump for his attitude toward the , Trump’s Amoral Saudi Statement Is a Pure Expression of Decades-Old “U.S. Values” and Foreign Policy Orthodoxies.

The title is true beyond question; I pointed out the same fact here, writing in part regarding the Khashoggi murder and the New York Times editorial calling the Trump administration’s policy response “a guide to how they might increase their standing in the eyes of the American president as well as how far they can go in crushing domestic critics without raising American ire”:

The question of how far the U.S. should go in pursuing its own interests while excusing unethical or immoral acts by foreign governments is an enduring one the stretches at least back to the United States alliance with Stalin in World War II. Outside of the fact that [ the Khashoggi murder] involves a journalist, however, the Trump “guide,” even stated in deliberately pejorative terms, seems to me to vary not one bit from the standards used by previous administrations, including the Obama Administration. China…Cuba…Iran…and yes, the Saudis, who have overseen state-sanctioned brutality and human rights outrages affecting whole classes of people, not just one journalist, for a long as anyone can remember.

Trump’s “new blueprint,” it seems to me, varies from the old blueprint not one bit. Whether the old blue-print is necessary or defensive is another issue.

Well, that was comparatively nothin’ from me as an ethics rebuke, a pea-shooter compared to Greenwald’s  tour-de force. His conclusion is uncompromising and irrefutable:

None of this recent, ugly history…justifies what Trump did on Tuesday. But what it does do is give the lie to the flamboyant claims that Trump has somehow vandalized and degraded U.S. values and U.S. foreign policy rather than what he actually did: upheld their core tenets and explained them to the public with great candor and clarity.

This episode also exposes one of the great scams of the Trump era. The very same people who have devoted their careers to supporting despotism, empowering tyranny, cheering on atrocities, and justifying U.S. imperialism are masquerading as the exact opposite of what they are in order to pave their path back to power where they can continue to pursue all of the destructive and amoral policies they now so grotesquely pretend to oppose.

Anyone who objects to exposure of this deceit – anyone who invokes empty clichés such as “whataboutism” or “hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue” in order to enable this scam to go undetected – has no business staking moral claim to any values of truth or freedom. People who demand that this deceit go unnoticed are revealing themselves as what they are: purely situational opponents of tyranny and murder who pretend to hold such values only when doing so undermines their domestic political opponents and enables their political allies to be restored to power where they can continue the same policies of murder, tyranny-support and atrocity-enabling that they have spent decades defending.

If you want to denounce Trump’s indifference to Saudi atrocities on moral, ethical or geo-political grounds – and I find them objectionable on all of those grounds – by all means do so. But pretending that he’s done something that is at odds with U.S. values or the actions of prior leaders or prevailing foreign policy orthodoxies is not just deceitful but destructive.

It ensures that these very same policies will endure: by dishonestly pretending that they are unique to Trump, rather than the hallmarks of the same people now being applauded because they are denouncing Trump’s actions in such a blatantly false voice, all to mask the fact that they did the same, and worse, when they commanded the levers of American power.

Wonderful. Truth.

Read the whole ugly, embarrassing, accurate thing, as Greenwald systematically and mercilessly exposes the” pompous denunciations pretending that Trump’s posture was a deviation from, a grievous violation of, long-standing U.S. values and foreign policy rather than what it actually and obviously is: a perfect example – perhaps stated a little more bluntly and candidly than usual – of how the U.S. has conducted itself in the world since at least the end of World War II.”

Among the mere sampling—for there is far, far more—of previous American policies of at least as much brutal utilitarian motivation as the Trump stance with the Saudis, Greenwald reminds us of these, beginning with this preface:

“To believe – or pretend to believe – that it is Mr. Trump who pioneered the view that the U.S. is willing and eager to sanction murder and savagery by the regimes with which it is most closely aligned as long as such barbarism serves U.S interests signifies a historical ignorance and/or a willingness to lie to one’s own readers so profound that no human language is capable of expressing the depths of those delusions….So extensive is the active, constant and enthusiastic support by the U.S. for the world’s worst monsters and atrocities that comprehensively citing them all, in order to prove the ahistorical deceit of yesterday’s reaction to Trump’s statement, would require a multi-volume book, not a mere article. But the examples are so vivid and clear that citing just a few will suffice to make the point indisputable.”

  • “In April of this year, Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, the dictator of Guatemala during the 1980s, died. The New York Times obituary, noting that he had been convicted of genocide for “trying to exterminate the Ixil ethnic group, a Mayan Indian community whose villages were wiped out by his forces,” explained that “in the panoply of commanders who turned much of Central America into a killing field in the 1980s, General Ríos Montt was one of the most murderous.” The obituary added: “In his first five months in power, according to Amnesty International, soldiers killed more than 10,000 peasants.”

“The genocide-committing General Rios Montt was a favorite of President Ronald Reagan, one of the closest figures the U.S. has to a secular saint, after whom many monuments and national institutions are still named. Reagan not only armed and funded Rios Montt but heaped praise on him far more gushing than anything Trump or Jared Kushner has said about the Saudi Crown Prince.”

  • “Trump’s emphasis yesterday on the Saudis’ value in opposing Iran provoked particular anger. That anger is extremely odd given that the iconic and notorious photograph of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein took place in 1983, when Rumsfeld was dispatched to Baghdad to provide arms and other weapons to the Iraqi regime in order to help them fight Iran.

“This trip, Al Jazeera noted when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, all happened while “Iraq was at war with Iran and was using chemical weapons. Human rights abuses were practised on large sections of the Iraqi population.” The U.S. nonetheless “renewed the hand of friendship [with Saddam] through the special envoy Rumsfeld” because “Washington wanted Iraq’s friendship to stymie Iran” – exactly the rationale cited yesterday by Trump for continuing friendly relations with Riyadh (The Saudis “have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran,” said Trump).”

  • “[T]he Saudis themselves…have long been committing atrocities on par with and far worse than the Khashoggi killing both within their borders and outside, and their partnership with U.S. Presidents has only flourished. As the Saudis beheaded dissidents and created the planet’s worst humanitarian crisis by slaughtering Yemeni civilians without mercy or restraint, President Obama not only authorized the sale of a record amount of weapons to Saudi tyrants, but also cut short his visit to India, the world’s largest democracy, where he was delivering lectures about the paramount importance of human rights and civic freedoms, in order to travel to Riyadh to meet with top U.S. leaders from both political parties to pay homage to the murderous Saudi King who had just died…”

There is more…

  • “In 2012, Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa came to Washington – fresh off of massacring his own citizens seeking greater freedoms – and, in the words of Foreign Policy, “he left with hands full of gifts from the U.S. State Department, which announced new arms sales to Bahrain today.”

“How did the Obama administration justify all of this? By invoking exactly the same rationale Trump cited yesterday for his ongoing support of the Saudis: that although the U.S. did not approve of such upsetting violence, its “national security interests” compelled its ongoing support”…

And, of course, Egypt, a particularly long-standing source of anger for Greenwald:

  • “In 2011, Americans gathered around their TV sets to cheer the inspiring Egyptian protesters gathering in Tahir Square to demand the ouster of the brutal Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak. Most TV announcers neglected to remind excited American viewers that Mubarak had managed to remain in power for so long because their own government had propped him up with weapons, money and intelligence. As Mona Eltahawy put it in the New York Times last year: “Five American administrations, Democratic and Republican, supported the Mubarak regime.”

“But in case anyone was confused about the U.S. posture toward this incomparably heinous Egyptian dictator, Hillary Clinton stepped forward to remind everyone of how U.S. officials have long viewed such tyrants. When asked in an interview about how her own State Department had documented Egypt’s record of severe, relentless human rights abuses and whether this might affect her friendship with its rulers, Secretary Clinton gushed: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.”

His is a precise and perfectly argued brief proving the dishonest, divisive and unconscionable effort by the media and the Left, ongoing since the 2016 election, to craft a unique framework for viewing and treating the Presidency of Donald Trump, one designed to create anger, warp public perception, and to undermine American institutions. The concept is that whatever this President does is monstrous simply because he is doing it. This is the equivalent of bigotry, and applied against an elected President of the United States, is the definition of sedition. All Ethics Alarms, and now Greenwald, is demanding are consistent standards, and accurate public information to support them.

14 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Glenn Greenwald

  1. Happy Anniversary!

    I have been working on a translation of “Sic transit gloria mundi.”

    (But I do not understand its connection with your meeting with the Dole’s at the restaurant.)

    Here is my translation:

    “Gloria got sick Monday on the bus”.

    I dunno. Maybe I need a better dictionary?

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