The list of Russian violations of international treaties and human rights in the past two and a half decades is astounding in its lawlessness. The two Chechen Wars from 1994–1996 and from 1999–2009 resulted in an incredible number of civilian casualties, so many so that some have called it a genocide. Human rights groups estimate approximately 80,000 people were killed in the Chechnya region from 1994–1996 alone.
The 2008 Russo-Georgian War was engineered by the Putin regime to gain control over the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and deter Georgia from looking toward joining NATO. The 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion into Eastern Ukraine to support the Donbass republics was also in flagrant violation of international law, as well as the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. All of these actions by the Russian military are violations of both international law and state ethics, which the U.S. has been quick to decry. However, these protests bely a simple and glaring fact. The U.S. has also violated international law and committed human rights abuses — such as the horrors at Guantanamo Bay and the 2003 invasion of Iraq — and is at this very moment facilitating war crimes by supporting the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians. Taking these facts into account, the U.S. has little ground to stand on when criticizing other states for their actions on the international stage.
The U.S. support of the Saudi campaign in Yemen deserves close examination. The Saudi intervention in Yemen began in March 2015 when the Houthis — Shia militants with some Iranian support — were poised to take control of the entire country. Fearing being entirely surrounded by Iranian allies and proxies, since both the Iraqi and Syrian governments are largely beholden to Iran, the Saudis launched an air campaign and then limited ground incursion to restore the anti-Houthi Yemeni government to power. While this makes strategic sense, the resulting airstrikes have killed thousands of civilians and targeted many non-military sites such as hospitals and residential homes, causing extensive loss of innocent lives. The U.S. has, however, facilitated these atrocities rather than tried to prevent them, adopting a hypocritical international policy. From day one, the U.S. government has provided logistical and intelligence support, as well as supplied arms to the Saudi military and has failed to speak out against the huge amount of civilian casualties and even cast doubt on reports detailing Saudi war crimes in Yemen.
Recent years are full of examples like this, such as the 2014 Gaza conflict, in which Israel effectively massacred civilians with little American criticism despite the international uproar over Israel’s actions during the war. Why does the U.S. allow things like this to happen? It is often for strategic purposes. The U.S. has turned a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s atrocities in Yemen because of the government’s strained alliance with the kingdom and attempted rapprochement with Iran. The U.S. would rather ignore the Saudi massacres than risk further straining the relationship between the two countries. American support of Israel in the face of Israel’s persistent human rights violations has long been axiomatic to U.S. foreign policy due to the strong ties and strategic alliance between the countries.
A patriot might respond to all the evidence of America’s perpetration and support of violations of human rights and international law by saying that these actions are necessary to protect American interests and the security of American allies abroad. The 2003 invasion of Iraq is a prime example of how American actions have in fact destabilized the Middle East and caused chaos and death rather than promote security. The more recent atrocities mentioned above also served no purpose other than to kill innocents in the name of strategic goals — the destruction of Hamas or the Houthis — that are simply not achieved. The U.S. must change its policies, it must stop supporting and arming allies committing war crimes, and it must stop violating other countries’ sovereignty in the name of the greater good. The United Nations was founded on the principles of fundamental human rights the pursuit of peace. Even though the U.S. was central in the U.N.’s founding, its subsequent actions have made a mockery of these lofty ideals.