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US doesn’t have much democracy clout left in the world, and everybody knows it

Yesterday's DemocracyNow! featured a clip of the Syrian cultural attaché in Washington, Roua Shurbaji, defending her country's assault on the city of Homs, where government forces have killed hundreds of people this week in the most violent crackdown on the pro-democracy movement since it began almost a year ago. Shurbaji echoed other Syrian government officials, who have alluded to the hypocrisy of the United States' stern criticism of its regime's handling of the uprising. 

The Syrian government acknowledged legitimate demands of the people [in Homs]; there are a lot of reforms going on…So there's a political process ongoing in Syria. But at the same time, these demands and this people's movement has been hijacked [by] armed groups and terrorists. And no country in the world, even the US, would tolerate such incidents on its ground because the responsibility of the government is first and foremost to ensure the security and the safety of the people and to maintain law and order in the country.

After years of torturing and kidnapping suspects, running secret prisons, pursuing legally questionable and murderous wars, and aggressively attacking sovereign nations in covert wars, the United States has very little solid ground left on which to stand when it wants to preach democratic values to the rest of the world. And the rest of the world, predictably, has taken notice.

In emails from Assad leaked by the hacker group Lulzfinancial, a top adviser gives the embattled leader advice on how to deal with pesky US interference: throw their own actions back in their faces, he says.

It is hugely important and worth mentioning that 'mistakes' have been done in the beginning of the crises because we did not have a well-organized 'police force.' … It's worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by policemen, police dogs and beatingsSyria doesn't have a policy to torture people, unlike the USA, where there are courses and schools that specialize in teaching policemen and officers how to torture.

The Syrian cultural attaché seems to have been given some form of the above advice before sitting down for the above interview. The United States would never tolerate the kind of rebellion Syria is witnessing on its own turf, she argued. This is hard to dispute, given the draconian police response the occupy movement has received nationwide, as the Syrian political advisor knows well.

But more importantly, Shurbaji struck at the heart of what largely defines our post-9/11  political nightmare: the notion that the government's primary role is to "defend the homeland." We have heard this ad nauseam from politicians in the United States, including notably from Presidents Bush and Obama. But it is precisely false. In fact, the primary responsibility of the President, Congress and the Supreme Court is to defend the Constitution of the United States, against threats both foreign and domestic. 

The US is suddenly facing a backlash, as its own rhetoric is getting thrown back in its face. The mask is slipping, and predictably, with disastrous consequences, the world's despots have taken notice.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.