American exceptionalism as magical thinking

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Peter Beinart. (photo: By New America Foundation – https://www.flickr.com/photos/newamerica/4679931032/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57023244)
The Biden administration, the International Criminal Court and the dangerous theology of American exceptionalism.

By Peter Beinart | The Beinart Notebook | Mar 8, 2021

“We firmly oppose and are disappointed by the ICC prosecutor’s announcement of an investigation into the Palestinian situation.”
— Ned Price, US State Department spokesperson

A remarkable exchange took place last Wednesday at the State Department. Asked about the International Criminal Court’s decision to launch an investigation into Israeli and Palestinian crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, State Department spokesman Ned Price began dutifully reciting his lines: “We firmly oppose and are disappointed by the ICC prosecutor’s announcement of an investigation into the Palestinian situation. We will continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.”

Price wasn’t making an argument—he never explained why Israeli security necessitates impunity for war crimes, or why the court’s investigation is unfair. He was reading a script. He sounded like a Soviet commissar delivering statistics on the wheat harvest.

Then Matt Lee of the Associated Press asked a jarringly simple question: “Where should the Palestinians go to get accountability?”

As if someone had hit play on a tape recorder, Price discharged additional, pre-approved, snippets of foreign policy-speak—“Of course, the United States is always going to stand up for human rights… you have heard us continue to endorse a two state solution”—none of which answered Lee’s question. It reminded me of a passage from George Orwell: “A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved.”

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