Leaders of 'Rogue Regimes' Have Some Thoughts About Police Brutality in America

Statements by China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and North Korea use U.S. violence against protesters and journalists to point out American hypocrisy on the global stage.


Governments around the world are routinely antagonized by the United States for quashing dissent and democracy. This week they are reveling in the nationwide chaos and global demonstrations prompted by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. These include so-called "rogue regimes"—countries labeled an "axis of evil" by President George W. Bush. They also include nations about which the U.S. Department of State regularly expresses hand-wringing humanitarian concerns. 

Unlike the State Department's more or less strategic castigations (often followed by calls for economic sanctions or military build-ups), recent statements by Iran, China, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, and Turkey seem to have been made in the spirit of tongue-in-cheek reprisal—hitting back with public disparagement while the Great Democracy's hypocrisies are on full display. 

Just five days before Floyd was killed, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a press conference during which he marked the two year anniversary of his campaign "to get Iran to behave like a normal nation." As part of the celebrations, Pompeo announced sanctions against Iran's interior minister for using lethal force on peaceful protesters. That same day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, "The Iranian regime violently suppresses dissent of the Iranian people, including peaceful protests, through physical and psychological abuse." (Mnuchin's department administers economic sanctions.)

Two weeks later, as police and protesters (not to mention journalists) violently clashed in dozens of American cities, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei returned the finger-wagging during a televised address. In America, he said, "they kill people in an open crime, and they do not offer an apology while claiming [to support] human rights…This is nothing new." In fact, "this is what Americans have been doing to the whole world." 

Iran's foreign ministry mimicked the State Department's tactic of criticizing the Iranian government while consoling Iran's citizens: "To the American people," the ministry spokesman said, "the world is standing with you. And to the American officials and police: Stop violence against your people and let them breathe."

Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, performed this reversal literally, tweeting a critical press release by Pompeo in which every "Iran" was replaced (in red ink) by "the U.S." or "America." 

The yearlong protests in Hong Kong (among other disputes) have also made China a favorite target of the Trump administration. In an interview last month with Fox News host Maria Bartiromo, Pompeo delivered a political theory lesson about the Chinese Communist Party: "This is what authoritarian regimes do: They steal information, they deny freedom of expression, they oppress their peoples, and they present risk to people all across the world. Democracies behave completely differently." He ended with a sprightly Orientalist overture: "The next century," he said, must remain "a Western one, modeled on the freedoms that we have here in the United States."

On May 30, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman tweeted: "Freedom loving people around the world must stand with the rule of law and hold to account the Chinese Communist party, which has flagrantly broken its promises to the people of Hong Kong." China's own foreign ministry spokeswoman was ready with a retort: "I can't breathe." Her quip went viral. 

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's leader, accused the U.S. of "double standards," and Zhao Lijian, another foreign ministry spokesperson, said that "racism against ethnic minorities in the U.S. is a chronic disease of American society," seeming to deliberately employ the sort of language used by the State Department to call out China's persecution of Muslim Uighurs. 

Even North Korea couldn't resist: One of Pyongyang's state-run newspapers pointed to the "enraged" demonstrators outside the White House, noting, "This is the reality in the U.S. today. American liberalism and democracy put the cap of leftist on the demonstrators and threaten to unleash even dogs for suppression."

Russia's U.S. embassy issued a fuming statement after a Russian journalist was struck by several rubber bullets while covering the protests in Washington, D.C., despite repeatedly telling police she was a member of the press: "It is impermissible for law enforcement personnel to attack media employees…We remind the U.S. authorities of their international obligations to ensure the safety and unhindered activities of journalists."

The verbal blowback came from the global south as well. Venezuela's autocratic president, Nicolas Maduro, whom the Trump administration is trying to overthrow and arrest, seized on the tumult to turn the tables. In a nationally televised speech, Maduro reprimanded President Donald Trump for setting the military against his own people and proclaimed his solidarity with young and black Americans. He couldn't resist tacking on a simile: "They want to suffocate us as they suffocated this young African American," he said, pointing to his own neck. Cuba's foreign minister said Floyd was "brutally assassinated."

Some of these regimes' remarks are run-of-the-mill opportunism or downright propaganda, as many news analysts have been happy to point out, and the State Department's chastisements of other nations' brutal policies are usually well-founded. No journalist in North Korea, China, or Iran could write this article and get away with it. But more interesting than these truths is the real-time, large-scale illumination of our own government's hypocrisies when it comes to its misbehavior, shed by foreign nations, local journalists, and demonstrators worldwide.

Major newspapers and networks rarely compare State Department pronouncements against other countries to the U.S.'s own long history of foreign invasions, coups, regime changes, and campaigns of economic and military violence. The outrage over the death of George Floyd and the dysfunctional forms of domestic state violence it has revealed and provoked demands some reconsideration of U.S. behavior on the global stage, in addition to the American one.

NEXT: Some of the Charges Stemming From George Floyd's Death Should Trouble Criminal Justice Reformers

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  1. Some of these regimes’ remarks are run-of-the-mill opportunism or downright propaganda, as many news analysts have been happy to point out,

    being intimately familiar with both run-of-the-mill opportunism and downright propaganda.

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    2. Oh, snap!

  2. They have a point. If you want to be the good guys, you gotta be the good guys all the time. You wanna be hard, you gotta live hard.

    1. Pointing out hypocrisy is not Whataboutism.

      The sentiment is a correct one, regardless of who is espousing it.

      Principles over principals and all that.

      1. The inability to recognize degree, context and scope is whataboutism. It’s intellectually lazy and dishonest. As Douglas Murray once said: “I’m less concerned about someone who doesn’t want to let me get married than I am about someone who wants to throw me off a building.”

        1. It’s also not a US problem.

          It’s a state and city issue. Almost exclusively a Democrat one.

      2. Charging an opponent with hypocrisy to discredit their position without directly refuting or disproving their argument is precisely Whatboutism.

        1. I fully agree it’s something worth talking about, as the US, for all its faults has a free press (despite the desires of the media) and is fully capable of self-examination, unlike many of the other regimes listed above.

      3. It’s not hypocrisy. There’s a far cry from the issues we have here (as bad and systemic as they are) from the issues in North Korea where that fat fuck has purges.

  3. So on top of Floyd’s death and all the subsequent deaths and injuries and property damage nationwide, we can heap the loss of a free Hong Kong onto the shoulders of Minneapolis PD’s lack of professional discipline.

    1. Totes.
      Also the thousands of protesters the Iranian regime murdered back in December

  4. Look at all these pots and kettles everywhere.

    1. How else you gonna cook the news?

      1. Careful, Rob Misek might think you meant to say Jews, not news.

  5. Yeah, there all the same, just like late 1930’s U.S.A , Nazi Germany and Stalin’s U.S.S.R. How stupid can you be Shaan ? Please think things through before you post here again.

  6. So because the US doesn’t have a perfect society, it cannot point out that some nations have monstrously evil governments?

    Yeah that makes sense. In bizzaro world maybe.

    1. I hate to be the bearer of bad news John, but sometime around November 2016 we officially entered bizarro world… I think it was the moment I woke up literally laughing my ass off that Hillary lost and then strolled into work to find a workshop of people predicting the actual end of the world. If we extrapolate the data from current trends, we’re not even close to achieving peak-stupid.

  7. Reminds me of an old Soviet joke. American says America has free speech; he can stand outside the nation’s capitol and yell that Reagan (it’s an old joke) is a terrible President. The Russian says Russa too has freedom of speech: he too can stand outside his nations capitol and yell that Reagan is a terrible President.

    The proper response to any of these foreign clowns is to point this out, that the difference is that no one in China is allowed to discuss similar problems with Tibet, the Uighurs, Hong Kong, etc.

    1. Exactly this. Again, America as is a fair amount of Western Democracy, is capable of self-examination. That alone sets us far apart from many other regimes around the globe.

      Every country has a city they make fun of. In America, you make fun of Cleveland. In Russia, we make fun of Cleveland.

  8. Calling out Venezuela specifically, there are sectors of the left-leaning media that have suggested and reported that the government of Venezuela is well supported by the working class and all the violence has been largely created by the unruly protesters and right wing capitalists and agent provocateurs, essentially trying to overturn a fully legitimate and democratically elected government. With that comes the subtext that the protests are therefore… illegitimate.

  9. Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei returned the finger-wagging during a televised address. In America, he said, “they kill people in an open crime, and they do not offer an apology while claiming [to support] human rights…This is nothing new.”

    Yeah, not whataboutism at all. Not an ounce of it.

  10. Libertarians. *sigh*

    No matter how bloodthirsty a regime may be, our Free Minds and Free Markets crowd can never pass up a chance to use totalitarians’ propaganda to bash the US police or military.

    They did this during the Cold War, too. The Soviets would be rolling tanks into Poland and Afghanistan and the main concern of the libertarians would be the US defense budget or the deployment of Pershing missiles in Europe.

    1. You fix what you can. Individual Americans had more chance of influencing the US government than the Soviet government.

      1. Which doesn’t really address his point.
        At all

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  12. Per Reason, somebody who jaywalked is in no position to criticize a mass murderer. I mean, they BOTH broke the law.

  13. It’s like when Castro came to America, got Malcolm X to suck his dick, then went back to Cuba to imprison people for being black.

    It’s theater that convinces nobody except the Useful Idiots who were converted long ago.

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