The Empire Has No Clothes: A Story of Hypocrisy Revealed
There is an old children's story about a vain Emperor who hires two weavers to make him a grand outfit. The weavers swindle the emperor, claiming that they have made him an outfit of invisible fabric. When the weavers finish, the emperor parades before the court and his people wearing the new outfit. However, the emperor's subjects are too scared to say anything and keep up the pretense that he is wearing a magnificent suit. However, a child in the crowd shatters the illusion by shouting: “The Emperor has no Clothes!” The lesson of this story for communists and revolutionaries living in imperialist states such as the USA is to expose the hypocrisy of the empire – it is not wearing any clothes at all but stands before us in all its hypocritical ugliness. And no better recent example of American hypocrisy is to be found than the recent remarks by President Obama announcing major changes in US-Cuban relations and the controversy over the film, “The Interview.”
After more than 50 years, the United States and Cuba are finally reestablishing diplomatic relations. In a press conference announcing these changes that spoke to the failure of the Cuban embargo, President Obama said the following remarks: “Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades....The United States believes that no Cubans should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they’re exercising a universal right to have their voices heard...” This statement of Obama should be seen for what it is - nothing more than the latest example of American hypocrisy and imperial arrogance on display. Yet as we know, due to the recent release of the CIA report, the United States has willfully engaged in unjustified arrests, beatings and torture found at the occupied base of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
The torture report highlights that the CIA, as part of the “war on terror” (fought you know, because they hate our freedoms) willingly and brazenly engaged in torture: keeping prisoners awake for more than 180 hours in stress positions or shackled, rectal hydration, water-boarding, and threatening to murder family members of families to name a few methods on display. And contrary to the claims of Senator Dianne Feinstein, and other Senators both Democratic and Republican, who condemn the CIA techniques as“a stain on our values and on our history” - not only did they eagerly vote for it, but torture is far from contrary to the values of the United States and the CIA.
Obama goes on about “arrests and beatings” in Cuba, but remains silent on the beatings and mass arrests which occur in the United States. It was the FBI, under Obama, which coordinated a mass crackdown to destroy the Occupy Movement back in 2011. The police in the United States are getting away with murder from Ferguson to New York – the names of Eric Garner and Dontre Hamilton come to mind. And the USA accuses Cuba of arresting people without cause as it maintains a prison population of more than two million, the largest in the world.
Obama in his speech goes on about the failure of the embargo, declaring: “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.” Well, Obama sang a different tune a few weeks ago when he announced sanctions being placed on Venezuela. “We have not and will not remain silent in the face of Venezuelan government actions that violate human rights and fundamental freedoms and deviate from well-established democratic norms.” The US is concerned, after all, with the rights of Venezuelans who have been suppressed and murdered by Socialist President Maduro since February. Never mind that the people of Venezuela have not joined these protests, organized by fascists and other supporters of the old oligarchy. And it turns out that most of the violence has also been instigated by these protesters, such as hanging wire on barricades to use against supporters of the government. Whatever problems Venezuela does have, they are not the ones which concern the United States. They can't stand that the government of Venezuela has made serious and committed steps for more than a decade to provide for the basic social needs of the people and challenged the power of oligarchs and capital.
Following the decision of Sony Pictures to cancel the release of the movie, “The Interview,” a stoner comedy about a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-Un, the leader of North Korea, Obama stated: "I think they made a mistake...We cannot have a society in which some dictators someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States because if somebody is able to intimidate us out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing once they see a documentary that they don't like or news reports that they don't like...That's not who we are. That's not what America is about." Somehow a satirical film about assassinating a living head of state is just “fantasy” and “free expression.” This coming from the United States, a country with an unparalleled record of assassinating heads of state. Yet US politicians, such as Hillary Clinton were not quite so concerned back in 2006 when the British film “Death of a President” was released, depicting the assassination of former President George W. Bush. Clinton said them, "I think it's despicable. I think it's absolutely outrageous. That anyone would even attempt to profit on such a horrible scenario makes me sick.”
This catalog of American hypocrisy could go on and on, but having stated that the “empire has no clothes,” we should then ask what does the nakedness represent? What does the USA actually stand for? What does the United States want from Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea? The blatant displays of American hypocrisy is intrinsic to being an imperial power. Only the United States can bomb countries, launch drone strikes and fund subversion in order to overthrow unfriendly regimes. The United States cannot stand any country which does not follow their dictates or pursues an independent path of development. That is not to be tolerated. For the United States empire, “freedom,” “democracy,” and “human rights” are synonymous with having regimes that are open to business and serve their imperial interests.
And the much touted US “freedom” and “democracy” amounts to little in a country where two million are in prison and cops are allowed to kill with impunity. Don't take the bait of Obama's speeches – the United States was founded as an empire on the values of genocide, slavery, conquest, and racism – and torture, along with naked hypocrisy, is built into that very project.
Doug Enaa Greene is an independent communist historian living in the greater Boston area. He has been published in Socialism and Democracy, LINKS International Journal for Socialist Renewal, MRZine, Kasama, Counterpunch, Socialist Viewpoint and Greenleft Weekly. He was active in Occupy Boston and is a volunteer at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge. He is currently working on a book on the French Communist Louis-Auguste Blanqui.