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10 Breathtaking Examples Of Government Hypocrisy

by Morris M.
fact checked by Jamie Frater

It’s no secret that our leaders aren’t always perfect—but there’s a difference between screwing up and flagrantly violating international treaties, breaking your own laws, and throwing morality out the window, all in the name of making a quick buck. And boy, do our respective governments sure like some easy money.

10Congress Broke Their Own Insider Trading Laws

Insider Trading

Insider trading is one of those super-immoral practices that only rich guys get to indulge in. Basically, it involves using non-public information (such as an upcoming major law change) to play the market and net yourself an obscene amount of money, something that is very definitely illegal. Unless, that is, you happen to be a member of congress.

In 2010, it was revealed that congress people and their staff had been looking at proposed legislation, then using that information to make a killing on the stock market. In other words, the guys writing the laws had interpreted their solemn and noble duty to mean “become as filthy rich as fast as possible.” This wasn’t just a few bad apples either: The Wall Street Journal identified a minimum of 72 hypocrites breaking trading laws at the same time they were jailing bankers for doing the same darn thing. For those of you who like to bear grudges, the 72 douchebags included House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, aka the very same people whose shutdown just robbed thousands of Federal workers of their paychecks.

9Washington Flouts Its Extradition Treaties


Extradition treaties are important things: They’re what stop you or me from super-murdering our terrible bosses and then moving to Mexico to escape justice. Countries all over the world have them, and their implementation is what ensures no one on Earth is above the law. At least, that’s the idea.

When Putin recently refused Washington’s extradition request for Edward Snowden, Obama threw the presidential equivalent of a hissy fit—despite his own track record in blocking similar requests from other countries. As The Guardian helpfully pointed out, the Obama White House is currently sheltering both a terrorist who murdered 73 Cubans by bombing an airplane, and a genocidal dictator who ordered his troops to open fire on a civilian neighborhood. In both cases, the existence of extradition treaties means Obama is technically breaking his own laws by not complying with them.

But it’s not just the US that gets its kicks illegally sheltering dictators: The UK famously refused to send Chilean mass-murderer Augusto Pinochet to face justice in Spain, despite having pressured its southern neighbor into signing a treaty a decade or so earlier.

8We Arm Our Enemies

drug money 10

At 5:00 AM one morning last August, rockets exploded high over a Damascus suburb, releasing a cloud of deadly gas. Those who breathed it died in agony, their bodies snapped by convulsions as their insides burned and boiled. The gas was sarin—its use an international crime. In the aftermath of the attack, the world went into overdrive, with the US and the UK leading the charge to retaliate against Assad—despite the UK being the country that sold him the gas in the first place.

In 2012, the UK signed off on the sale of four tons of potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride to Syria—vital ingredients for making nerve gas. To be perfectly clear, this happened when the Syrian civil war had already been raging for six months and experts had repeatedly stated that there was a good chance Assad would deploy chemical weapons. Even more stupidly, it happened mere months before Prime Minister David Cameron publicly warned Assad against using nerve gas. So to sum up: The British were lecturing a bloodthirsty tyrant against deploying illegal chemical weapons, while simultaneously supplying him with the means to do just that. Stupid doesn’t even being to cover it.

7We Use Chemical Weapons

Chemical weapons

You may have heard of white phosphorus. It’s a highly flammable substance that burns brightly and can be legally used to illuminate a battlefield or create a smokescreen. However, the minute you bombard enemy troops or civilians it becomes deadly illegal. See, white phosphorus burns like napalm. If it gets on your skin, you can’t put it out. It burns through flesh like it wasn’t even there and can burn down and eradicate the bone beneath, leaving its victims a disfigured, screaming mess. At the same time, it releases a toxic gas that scorches the eyes and throat and damages the lungs. Its use as an offensive weapon is highly criminal, and we deployed it as one during the 2004 siege of Falluja.

By definition, this means we launched a chemical attack on an Iraqi city. An Iraqi city we invaded because the country’s dictatorial ruler was accused of stockpiling chemical weapons. Chemical weapons like the ones we’re now fretting over Assad using, seemingly unaware of any adages about pots calling kettles names. It stinks to high heaven, and everyone’s too busy pretending it never happened to do something useful and make sure it never happens again.

6Washington Illegally Funded A Violent Coup


In July of this year, the Egyptian army staged a violent overthrow of the democratically elected Morsi government and installed a bloodthirsty military junta in his place. It was, without any stretch of the imagination, a coup—one that’s been followed by routine massacres and a brutal human rights clampdown—but thanks to the stupidity of modern politics, you’ll never hear anyone in Washington call it that.

The thing is, US law makes it illegal to give aid to any nation where a coup has taken place. Unfortunately, Obama really, really doesn’t want to cut off aid to Egypt, leading to the strange position where he appears to be both supporting and funding a violent coup while pretending it never happened.

Now, to be fair, the US has strategic interests in Egypt, and the White House has gone so far as to significantly reduce (but not stop) the flow of aid to Egypt. But honestly: When you are the person who makes the laws and you’re still lying your ass off to break them, you’ve officially become an idiot.

5The NSA Hypocrisy


Unless you’ve just discovered this newfangled Internet thing, you’ve probably heard of the NSA. They’ve been illegally spying on everyone for years: monitoring calls, storing emails, and generally ripping away all the freedoms we’ve come to take for granted. And everyone’s reaction to it has been nothing short of a master class in hypocrisy.

For starters, there are the dozens of Democrats who have defended this illegal spying to the hilt, despite being the same exact people who attacked it when Bush was in charge. Then there are the Republicans who came from the reverse: the guys who assured us it was totally necessary that Bush could hear our phone calls, but that it was an attack on freedom when Obama began doing the listening. Finally, as Glenn Greenwald is fond of pointing out, there are the pro-Obama journalists who are falling over themselves to defend a policy that goes completely counter to everything they profess to believe in. In short, this is proof that our lawmakers will trade in stuff like “principle” and “the good of the people” for cheap point scoring.

4Our Governments Encourage Human Rights Abuses

Chemical Attack

One of the most painful things about listening to any elected official wax lyrical about human rights abuses is how utterly selective their moral compass seems to be. For example, if China or Iran implement some draconian new law, we get long speeches about how incompatible their behavior is with our “Western values.” But if one of our friends does it, we don’t hear squat.

Take the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. Back then, Saddam was a guy we could trust to keep Iran in check—so we blindly turned an eye when he deployed everything from nerve gas to anthrax and the bubonic plague against his enemies. When he later deployed sarin against his own citizens, the West backed him all the way—until Bush entered the White House and invaded him for it. But it’s not just in the Middle East where our values seem to disappear: Central Asia gets a whole lot of fawning too. Right now, the British government is pushing for closer links with Uzbekistan, a country where political dissidents are known to have been boiled alive. Its repressive regime keeps one million people as slave laborers for cotton picking and is at least as repressive as Gaddafi’s Libya or modern North Korea, but do we impose sanctions or attempt regime overthrow? Nah, we build universities there, and pay off war criminals with big fat paychecks.

3The Nuclear Double Standard


To even think about the international community’s stance on nuclear weapons is to enter a world of madness and hypocrisy. For starters, there’s the way the US, UK, France, and Israel seemingly take turns lecturing other countries about pursuing nuclear technology, while storing nearly 8,000 high-yield warheads between them—enough to annihilate all life on Earth several times over. Then there’s the illogical way we decide who should and shouldn’t have them. Pretty much everyone is agreed that a nuclear-armed North Korea is a bad thing, but why not a nuclear Pakistan? Ruled by a half-mad military, falling to pieces, known to harbor terrorists, and consistently just one diplomatic incident away from a world-ending war with India, a nuclear Pakistan seems like a worrying idea. Yet the international community has instead cozied up to this unstable nation, all while smashing Iran and North Korea with crippling sanctions. With something as serious as nuclear weapons, you’d like to think we could apply our standards consistently, but that’s apparently beyond our illogical leaders.



The Iran-Contra affair was one of the most absurd, self-defeating, damaging and hypocritical policies ever pursued by any government in the history of ever. A Reagan initiative, it involved first selling arms to Iran—which was at the time under an arms embargo—then hoovering up the profits and using them to illegally fund terrorist groups in Central America. In between, there was lying to congress, bribing officials, violating the Constitution and working with the same Central American drug traffickers we’d sworn to stamp out. It was basically a “how to” in violating your principles and shooting yourself in the foot: America was not only secretly dealing with terrorists, it was secretly dealing with the very same terrorists it had forbidden the rest of the world from dealing with. And for what? The chance to funnel millions of dollars to a bunch of thugs who were openly murdering civilians in Nicaragua. There’s a word for that sort of behavior, and that word is “insane.”

1Murdering Civilians


In a list of “worst war crimes,” murdering civilians should always come right at the very top. It’s the reason we finally turned on Mubarak, the trigger for our indignation towards Assad’s chemical attack, and (in general) the means by which we publicly sort out the bad guys from the not-so-bad guys. And our Western governments are guilty of it to an almost sickening degree.

Take cluster bombs. These little bags of death explode on target, showering hundreds of smaller bombs over a gigantic area. They’re hugely inaccurate, often kill civilians, and frequently don’t explode until years after the conflict is over—usually when some poor kid stumbles across one. Nearly every civilized country has banned their use, and Obama uses them like they’re going out of fashion. In the most famous case, a bomb dropped on a Yemeni village succeeded in killing 14 insurgents, along with 35 women and children. That’s how inaccurate they are—but even they’ve got nothing on drones.

Basically, drones are death sentences for the innocent. They kill 49 civilians for every insurgent and are frequently used to target medical personnel trying to help the wounded. That’s a mega war crime, by the way, so much so that even Obama managed to halt their use—unless you believe recent reports from Pakistan that suggests he did no such thing.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Morris M.

Morris M. is Listverse's official news human, trawling the depths of the media so you don't have to. He avoids Facebook and Twitter like the plague.