[News] In Praise of "Whataboutism"

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 9 18:50:48 EST 2022


 *In Praise of "Whataboutism"*
<https://www.blackagendareport.com/praise-whataboutism>
Margaret Kimberley, <https://www.blackagendareport.com/author/Margaret
Kimberley, BAR Executive Editor and Senior Columnist>

09 Mar 2022

[image: In Praise of "Whataboutism"]
<https://www.blackagendareport.com/sites/default/files/2022-03/redfish.jpg>
Image: redfish

*The word "whataboutism" is used to silence and insult opponents of U.S.
imperialism. It should be embraced as a means of revealing what is too
often kept hidden.*

Anyone who speaks out against imperialism, capitalism, or racism with
concrete examples of the terrible harm they do, can expect to be charged
with the dreaded term “whataboutism.” Like clockwork, the act of revealing
American crimes will result in an accusation that is used to silence
dissent.

When war propaganda prevails regarding Ukraine or any other place where the
hegemon is doing its dirty work, it is reasonable to ask probing questions.
Why are the deaths of 14,000 people killed by Ukraine's civil war swept
under the rug? Why is it forbidden to ask about the U.S. destruction of
Libya? But once having asked a good question, one will be told that raising
the topic is proof of the whataboutism sin.

The word whataboutism is in the dictionary
<https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whataboutism> and is defined
as, “the act or practice of responding to an accusation of wrongdoing by
claiming that an offense committed by another is similar or worse.” That
meaning is accurate and also completely defensible.

The charge is meant to censor the speaker, excuse U.S. actions, and defend
its human rights violations. The denials and apologies are exactly why
whataboutism should be defended. It is terrible when lies and crimes are
not countered with verifiable information exposing them.

The term has gained popularity in part because there is so much hypocrisy
to point out and there are so many adherents to American exceptionalism who
defend what they should condemn. When the International Criminal Court (ICC)
<https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=2022-prosecutor-statement-referrals-ukraine>
announced that it would begin investigating “the Situation in Ukraine”
corporate media and their political partners gloated and pointed fingers at
Russia. They didn’t point out that the U.S., like Russia, is not a
signatory of the Treaty of Rome which brought the ICC into existence. Not
only is the U.S. not a member state, but in 2002 Congress passed the American
Service Members Protection Act
<https://2001-2009.state.gov/t/pm/rls/othr/misc/23425.htm>, popularly known
as the Hague Invasion Act. It gives the U.S. the right to extract any
American held at the court in the Hague. The removal part isn’t even
necessary because the act prohibits the extradition of Americans to the ICC.

The chest thumping about the investigation into Ukraine should surely be
followed by a discussion of U.S. hostility to the ICC. It is a clear
example of when and how whataboutism should be practiced. Not mentioning
the U.S. relationship or rather lack of relationship with the ICC would be
an indication of agreement with exceptionalist doctrine.

If Vladimir Putin is described as a war criminal, thug, dictator, and a
modern day Hitler, it is appropriate and indeed necessary to ask about
American presidents. For brevity’s sake consider only those American
presidents who served since 2001. U.S. invasions and interventions in
western Asia, North Africa, central Asia and the Horn of Africa have
displaced more than 37 million people
<https://watson.brown.edu/research/2020/Post-9/11DisplacementStudy> since
the “war on terror” began. Why shouldn’t George W. Bush, Barack Obama,
Donald Trump and Joe Biden be called war criminals too? Silence in the face
of their criminality gives license and approval to U.S. aggressions.

American exceptionalism is an illness which infects most of the population
of this country. Unfortunately most people need little prompting to defend
their nation’s misdeeds. George W. Bush is now thought of as a kindly old
man who paints pictures of puppies. There is little inclination to
acknowledge the one million dead from the Iraq invasion. Doing so would
create great discomfort.

Every news story about migrants attempting a perilous crossing from North
Africa to Europe should mention the destruction of Libya which took place
under the direction of Barack Obama. But Obama is the first Black
president, and he is still considered a model of rectitude, a man who
brought hope and change. Pointing out his responsibility for an ongoing
humanitarian crisis is too much for people propagandized into believing in
his goodness and the nation’s.

Even Donald Trump, who is ordinarily disparaged and reviled, is not called
out for continuing his predecessors’ wars or for killing at least 40,000
<https://cepr.net/report/economic-sanctions-as-collective-punishment-the-case-of-venezuela/>Venezuelans
through his sanctions regime. Trump derangement syndrome doesn’t extend to
his crimes against people of the global south. The power of the white
supremacist exceptionalist myth has a very strong hold.

That myth can’t be rooted out and destroyed unless inconvenient facts are
brought to light. If the clueless and compromised want to shout,
“Whataboutism!” at the top of their lungs by all means they should do so.
Although the targets of their scorn should not feel the need to justify
themselves. In fact they should proudly own the word, and double down on
providing whatever information is causing cognitive dissonance.

The world needs to know about America’s crimes and those of its allies too.
When the same European nations that turn away African and Middle Eastern
refugees announce that they will accept any and all Ukrainians
surely whataboutism is in order. When Biden presumes to lecture Russia, his
decision to steal $7 billion in Afghanistan’s assets should be brought to
light. Afghans are in such a desperate state that many of them resort
to selling
their kidneys
<https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/28/desperate-afghans-resort-to-selling-kidneys-to-feed-families>
in order to feed themselves.

The crisis in Ukraine is just the latest example of an opportunity to point
out the wrongs committed by the U.S. and its partners. No one should shrink
from doing so, not even when whataboutism is used as a pejorative instead
of as the badge of honor that it is.

*Margaret Kimberley’is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the
Presidents
<http://steerforth.com/titles/prejudential/written+by-margaret+kimberley>.
Her work can also be found at patreon.com/margaretkimberley
<https://www.patreon.com/margaretkimberley>and on Twitter @freedomrideblog.
Ms. Kimberley can be reached via email at
Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.*
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