I imagine Vladimir Putin took perverse pleasure at the op-ed that his foreign service wrote, under his name, for The New York Times.
But he was right about two things.
First, that had President Obama attacked Syria without Security Council approval, he would have violated international law.
And second, that the United States needs to get over "American exceptionalism."
In the bellicose part of Obama's speech to the nation on Syria, he said, in Bush-like language: "For nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements; it has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world's a better place because we have borne them."
Was the United States an anchor of global security and an enforcer of international agreements when it overthrew the Mossadegh government in Iran in 1953, or the Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954?
Is the world a better place because the United States helped overthrow Salvador Allende's democratically elected government in Chile in 1973?
Is the world a better place because the United States killed three million people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and because we dropped twenty million gallons of napalm (waging our own version of chemical warfare) on those countries?
Is the world a better place because the United States gave Indonesia the green light to invade East Timor in 1975, an invasion and subsequent occupation that wiped out one-third of the population there?
Is the world a better place because the United States supported brutal governments in El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s, which killed tens of thousands of their own people?
Is the world a better place because George W. Bush waged an illegal war against Iraq and killed between 100,000 and a million civilians?
And what international agreements was the United States enforcing when it tortured people after 9/11?
When he was at the United Nations in September, Obama again invoked American exceptionalism. It is the favorite falsehood of U.S. Presidents -- one we can live without.
I was saddened to read the news that the radical filmmaker, writer, and teacher Saul Landau died on September 9. He wrote for The Progressive over the years, often on Cuba and Fidel Castro, a subject dear to his heart.
But my favorite piece of his that he wrote for us had to do with the Zapatistas. It was called "In the Jungle with Marcos." With vivid writing, he described the harrowing drive he took to get to Subcomandante Marcos's village in Chiapas. Marcos told Landau that he was fully aware of the absurdity of "an army of thousands of indigenous people, poorly armed, badly trained, ill-disciplined, malnourished, poorly equipped," which decided to take on not only the powerful Mexican army but neoliberalism, too. You could tell that Saul liked Marcos.
And I liked Saul. He was dedicated to progressive politics. Plus, he was a bit of a smart-ass, which is fine in my book.
I didn't always agree with him, though. In the winter of 1989, he visited our office in Madison and was talking about the Sandinistas, who were in power in Nicaragua at the time. They had just endured eight years of the horrendous Contra war, funded by Ronald Reagan, and they were facing an election against conservative forces favored by Washington. Landau said that if they lost at the voting booth, they should simply refuse to give up power. That was a little hard line for me. But I admired Saul's stamina, and his willingness to keep using his talents to try to educate the American public about the realities of U.S. foreign policy all the way up to the day he died.
Hey, I'm not going back to jail. The Dane County district attorney decided not to prosecute me on "obstruction," which the capitol police had charged me with while I was covering the arrest of a Raging Granny on August 15. I appreciated your well wishes while that silly charge hung over me.
Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive.