The gap between professed values and actual policy is especially evident in the Middle East. U.S. officials routinely excoriate Syria and Iran, not only for their external behavior, but for manifestations of domestic abuse and repression. Some of those criticisms are valid. Both Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Iran’s clerical government are guilty of serious international misconduct and human‐rights violations. But the credibility of Washington’s expressions of outrage is vitiated when those same officials remain silent, or even excuse, equally serious—and in some cases, more egregious—abuses that the United States and its allies commit.
Following the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons in early April, President Trump painted Assad as an exceptionally vile enemy. He immediately issued a tweet describing the Syrian leader as “an animal” who gassed his own people. In his subsequent address to the American people announcing punitive air and missile strikes, Trump charged that the incident confirmed “a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime. The evil and despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.” The president also blasted Russia and Iran for their longstanding sponsorship of Assad. “To Iran and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?”
TAC’s Daniel Larison provided an apt response to that question. “Trump should know the answer, since he just hosted one of the chief architects of the war on Yemen that the U.S. has backed to the hilt for the last three years. Britain welcomed the Saudi crown prince earlier on, and France just hosted him in the last few days. All three have been arming and supporting the Saudis and their allies in Yemen no matter how many atrocities they commit.”
Indeed, the United States has been an outright accomplice in those atrocities, which among other tragic effects, has led to a cholera epidemic in Yemen. The U.S. military refuels Saudi coalition warplanes and provides intelligence to assist them in their attacks on Yemen—attacks that have exhibited total indifference about civilian casualties. A recent revelation implicates Washington in even more atrocious conduct. Evidence has emerged that Saudi forces have employed white phosphorous munitions, and that the United States supplied those foul weapons that inflict horrible burns on their victims. For U.S. leaders to criticize Syria for using chemical weapons in light of such behavior may reach a new level of hypocrisy.