THE United States has always tried to craft its image to coincide with its imaginary self - as a beacon of hope for humanity.
The manufacture of this self-image must be sustained through its foreign policy that theoretically speaking,aims to promote democracy and justice across the globe.
In reality, the developing world knows all too well that at the height of the Cold War, the US had supported tyrannical regimes in Central and South America, the Middle East, and Africa.
Propping up dictators who murdered millions of innocent lives was justifiable so long as these dictators did not bite the hands that fed them.
Domestically, this self-image must be sustained through its cultural products to imprint itself on a heterogeneous population, to forge them into a coherent body by passing them through not just a social melting pot but an ideological forge.
It is the ideology of American colonialism of the Pilgrim Fathers, the colonialism of the pioneer of the frontier that moves ever westward that underpins the rationalisations and justification for the right of global dominance of Pax Americana today.
The same rhetoric of global dominance is expressed in Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilisations and Who are We as an articulation of the imperial difference with the Islamic world after the fall of the Soviet Union.
There is, in Huntington’s description of ‘Islamic Civilisation’ the recognition of imperial glories but at the same time he voiced the growing Western conceptualisation, since orientalism, of Arab inferiority based on their language, religions, and ways of life.
The invention of the idea of the Middle East, at the turn of the 20th century, added more fuel to the discourse on the region more so when oil became for the industrialised countries what gold was in the 16th century mercantile capitalism.
Ten years after The Clash of Civilisations, Huntington went on to re-map and refresh the colonial difference with Latin America.
It should be noted that he was hesitant to classify Latin America as part of the West.
We can begin to see how refreshing the imperial difference works in tandem with the re-drawing of the colonial difference.
The point here is that the self-image of the US as a ‘city upon a hill’ inspiring the world through the justness of its principles and the power of its example is merely a fiction.
While this self-image is paraded globally, American hypocrisy is so glaring for all to see.
In its treatment of its own African population, US leaders for instance displayed such blatant hypocrisy that it is hard to imagine that human beings could have been so utterly fraudulent.
What is more, while their constitution proclaimed that ‘all men are born equal’ and entitled to ‘life, liberty, and happiness’, these leaders perpetuated a harsh slave-system which crushed mercilessly the most basic rights of its victims.
In fact, many of the authors of the American constitution itself like the much revered Thomas Jefferson were slave-owners with a reputation for abusing their poor slaves.
In a sense, the hypocrisy of the framers of the American constitution and their successors was not surprising at all, given their treatment of the indigenous American Indian population.
They confiscated their lands, usurped their resources, imprisoned them, tortured them, and massacred them while preaching the virtues of Jeffersonian democracy in the land of the free.
Even if we put aside the colonial past and other transgressions, American hypocrisy vis-à-vis human rights in the neocolonial period has not diminished one bit. If anything, it has become more subtle and destructive.
In the name of promoting democracy and human rights, the US committed one of its most shameful deeds in Chile in 1973.
The US through the Central Intelligence Agency and certain United States based multi-national corporations played a central role in bringing down Chile’s popularly-elected president, Salvador Allende.
Allende, a Marxist, had decided to nationalise the country’s copper mines and to gradually free the economy from US control.
His patriotism cost him his life. But the US and its Chilean cronies camouflaged their evil by trying to convince the people that the coup they had organised was necessary to restore law and order.
The example shown here in Latin America constitutes a mere fraction of a long sordid catalogue of American crimes against humanity and democracy.
After the Cold War, the US continue to cause chaos, foment unrest and destabilise governments. This time around they are targeting countries in the Middle East.
Each of this misadventure had and will have an adverse impact upon a multitude of human rights — civil, political, economic, social and cultural.
The United States’ self-image as a beacon of hope for humanity has now turned into a nightmare for most people in the global south, especially in the Middle East.
The writer is director at Center for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia