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Commentary Last Updated: Mar 6th, 2008 - 01:21:12

A Mecca of hypocrisy, a Vatican of double standards
By William Blum
Online Journal Guest Writer

Mar 6, 2008, 00:56

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On February 21, following a demonstration against the United States role in Kosovo's declaration of independence, rioters in the Serbian capital of Belgrade broke into the US Embassy and set fire to an office. The attack was called "intolerable" by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, [1] and the American Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, said he would ask the UN Security Council to issue a unanimous statement "expressing the council's outrage, condemning the attack, and also reminding the Serb government of its responsibility to protect diplomatic facilities."[2]

This is, of course, standard language for such situations. But what the media and American officials don't remind us of is that in May 1999, during the US/NATO bombing of Serbia, then part of Yugoslavia, the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was hit by a US missile, causing considerable damage and killing three embassy employees. The official Washington story on this -- then, and still now -- is that it was a mistake. But this is almost certainly a lie. According to a joint investigation of The Observer of London and the Politiken newspaper in Denmark, the embassy was bombed because it was being used to transmit electronic communications for the Yugoslav army after the army's regular system was made inoperable by the bombing. The Observer was told that the embassy bombing was deliberate by "senior military and intelligence sources in Europe and the US" as well as being "confirmed in detail by three other NATO officers -- a flight controller operating in Naples, an intelligence officer monitoring Yugoslav radio traffic from Macedonia and a senior [NATO] headquarters officer in Brussels." [3]

Moreover, the New York Time reported at the time that the bombing had destroyed the embassy's intelligence-gathering nerve center, and two of the three Chinese killed were intelligence officers. "The highly sensitive nature of the parts of the embassy that were bombed suggests why the Chinese . . . insist the bombing was no accident. . . . 'That's exactly why they don't buy our explanation'," said a Pentagon official. [4] There were as well several other good reasons not to buy the story. [5]

In April 1986, after the French government refused the use of its air space to US warplanes headed for a bombing raid on Libya, the planes were forced to take another, longer route. When they reached Libya they bombed so close to the French embassy that the building was damaged and all communication links knocked out. [6]

And in April 2003, the US Ambassador to Russia was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry due to the fact that the residential quarter of Baghdad, where the Russian embassy was located, was bombed several times by the United States during its invasion of Iraq. [6] There had been reports that Saddam Hussein was hiding in the embassy. [7]

So, we can perhaps chalk up the State Department's affirmations about the inviolability of embassies as yet another example of US foreign policy hypocrisy. But I think that there is some satisfaction in that American foreign policy officials, as morally damaged as they must be, are not all so stupid that they don't know they're swimming in a sea of hypocrisy. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2004 that "The State Department plans to delay the release of a human rights report that was due out today, partly because of sensitivities over the prison abuse scandal in Iraq, U.S. officials said. One official . . . said the release of the report, which describes actions taken by the U.S. government to encourage respect for human rights by other nations, could 'make us look hypocritical'." [8]

And last year the Washington Post informed us that Chester Crocker, former Assistant Secretary of State and current member of the State Department's Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion, noted that "we have to be able to cope with the argument that the U.S. is inconsistent and hypocritical in its promotion of democracy around the world. That may be true."[9]


[1] Washington Post, February 22, 2008

[2] Associated Press, February 21, 2008

[3] The Observer October 17 and November 28, 1999

[4] New York Times, June 25, 1999

[5] see note 7

[6] Associated Press, April 15, 1986, "France Confirms It Denied U.S. Jets Air Space, Says Embassy Damaged"

[7] Interfax news agency (Moscow), April 2, 2003

[8] CBS News, April 9, 2003

[9] Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2004

William Blum is the author of "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2," "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower," "West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir" and "Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire."

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