America’s Coup Machine: Destroying Democracy Since 1953 April 13, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in History, Imperialism, Latin America, Ukraine.
Tags: cia, cia coup, coup d'etat, harold pinter, history, imperialism, neo-nazi, nicolas j.s. davies, raul capote, roger hollander, svoboda, ukraine, ukraine coup, william blum, Yanukovich
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Roger’s note: this shameful report on how the United States government, via its military, the CIA, aided and abetted by the MIC and the corporate mainstream media, exports death and misery around the globe, comes as no big surprise to anyone who has taken the time to investigate and understand. It is a useful compilation of its dirty work since the end of World War II, but of course it didn’t all begin there; in a sense it all began with Columbus, and in modern history U.S. imperial adventures took off with the Spanish American War, 1898, under President McKinley. It also gives us a truer picture of the U.S. role of the coup in the Ukraine.
Soon after the 2004 U.S. coup to depose President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti, I heard Aristide’s lawyer Ira Kurzban speaking in Miami. He began his talk with a riddle: “Why has there never been a coup in Washington D.C.?” The answer: “Because there is no U.S. Embassy in Washington D.C.” This introduction was greeted with wild applause by a mostly Haitian-American audience who understood it only too well.
Ukraine’s former security chief, Aleksandr Yakimenko, has reported that the coup-plotters who overthrew the elected government in Ukraine, “basically lived in the (U.S.) Embassy. They were there every day.” We also know from a leaked Russian intercept that they were in close contact with Ambassador Pyatt and the senior U.S. official in charge of the coup, former Dick Cheney aide Victoria Nuland, officially the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. And we can assume that many of their days in the Embassy were spent in strategy and training sessions with their individual CIA case officers.
To place the coup in Ukraine in historical context, this is at least the 80th time the United States has organized a coup or a failed coup in a foreign country since 1953. That was when President Eisenhower discovered in Iran that the CIA could overthrow elected governments who refused to sacrifice the future of their people to Western commercial and geopolitical interests. Most U.S. coups have led to severe repression, disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture, corruption, extreme poverty and inequality, and prolonged setbacks for the democratic aspirations of people in the countries affected. The plutocratic and ultra-conservative nature of the forces the U.S. has brought to power in Ukraine make it unlikely to be an exception.
Noam Chomsky calls William Blum’s classic, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, “Far and away the best book on the topic.” If you’re looking for historical context for what you are reading or watching on TV about the coup in Ukraine, Killing Hope will provide it. The title has never been more apt as we watch the hopes of people from all regions of Ukraine being sacrificed on the same altar as those of people in Iran (1953); Guatemala(1954); Thailand (1957); Laos (1958-60); the Congo (1960); Turkey (1960, 1971 & 1980); Ecuador (1961 & 1963); South Vietnam (1963); Brazil (1964); the Dominican Republic (1963); Argentina (1963); Honduras (1963 & 2009); Iraq (1963 & 2003); Bolivia (1964, 1971 & 1980); Indonesia (1965); Ghana (1966); Greece (1967); Panama (1968 & 1989); Cambodia (1970); Chile (1973); Bangladesh (1975); Pakistan (1977); Grenada (1983); Mauritania (1984); Guinea (1984); Burkina Faso (1987); Paraguay (1989); Haiti (1991 & 2004); Russia (1993); Uganda (1996);and Libya (2011). This list does not include a roughly equal number of failed coups, nor coups in Africa and elsewhere in which a U.S. role is suspected but unproven.
The disquieting reality of the world we live in is that American efforts to destroy democracy, even as it pretends to champion it, have left the world less peaceful, less just and less hopeful. When Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, at the height of the genocidal American war on Iraq, he devoted much of his acceptance speech to an analysis of this dichotomy. He said of the U.S., “It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis… Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be, but it is also very clever.”
The basic framework of U.S. coups has hardly evolved since 1953. The main variables between coups in different places and times have been the scale and openness of the U.S. role and the level of violence used. There is a strong correlation between the extent of U.S. involvement and the level of violence. At one extreme, the U.S. war on Iraq was a form of regime change that involved hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and killed hundreds of thousands of people. On the other hand, the U.S. role in General Suharto’s coup in Indonesia in 1965 remained covert even as he killed almost as many people. Only long after the fact didU.S. officials take credit for their role in Suharto’s campaign of mass murder, and it will be some time before they brag publicly about their roles in Ukraine.
But as Harold Pinter explained, the U.S. has always preferred “low-intensity conflict” to full-scale invasions and occupations. The CIA and U.S. special forces use proxies and covert operations to overthrow governments and suppress movements that challenge America’s insatiable quest for global power. A coup is the climax of such operations, and it is usually only when these “low-intensity” methods fail that a country becomes a target for direct U.S. military aggression. Iraq only became a target for U.S. invasion and occupation after a failed CIA coup in June 1996. The U.S. attacked Panama in 1989 only after five CIA coup attempts failed to remove General Noriega from power. After long careers as CIA agents, both Hussein and Noriega had exceptional knowledge of U.S. operations and methods that enabled them to resist regime change by anything less than overwhelming U.S. military force.
But most U.S. coups follow a model that has hardly changed between 1953 and the latest coup in Ukraine in 2014. This model has three stages:
1) Creating and strengthening opposition forces
In the early stages of a U.S. plan for regime change, there is little difference between the methods used to achieve it at the ballot box or by an anti-constitutional coup. Many of these tools and methods were developed to install right-wing governments in occupied countries in Europe and Asia after World War II. They include forming and funding conservative political parties, student groups, trade unions and media outlets, and running well-oiled propaganda campaigns both in the country being targeted and in regional, international and U.S. media.
Post-WWII Italy is a case in point. At the end of the war, the U.S. used the American Federation of Labor’s agents in France and Italy to funnel money through non-communist trade unions to conservative candidates and political parties. But socialists and communists won a plurality of votes in the 1946 election in Italy, and then joined forces to form the Popular Democratic Front for the next election in 1948. The U.S. worked with the Catholic Church, conducted a massive propaganda campaign using Italian-American celebrities like Frank Sinatra, and printed 10 million letters for Italian-Americans to mail to their relatives in Italy. The U.S. threatened a total cut-off of aid to the war-ravaged country, where allied bombing had killed 50,000 civilians and left much of the country in ruins.
The FDP was reduced from a combined 40% of the votes in 1946 to 31% in 1948, leaving Italy in the hands of increasingly corrupt U.S.-backed coalitions led by the Christian Democrats for the next 46 years. Italy was saved from an imaginary communist dictatorship, but more importantly from an independent democratic socialist program committed to workers’ rights and to protecting small and medium-sized Italian businesses against competition from U.S. multinationals.
The U.S. employed similar tactics in Chile in the 1960s to prevent the election of Salvador Allende. He came within 3% of winning the presidency in 1958, so the Kennedy administration sent a team of 100 State Department and CIA officers to Chile in what one of them later called a “blatant and almost obscene” effort to subvert the next election in 1964. The CIA provided more than half the Christian Democrats’ campaign funds and launched a multimedia propaganda campaign on film, TV, radio, newspapers, posters and flyers. This classic “red scare” campaign, dominated by images of firing squads and Soviet tanks, was designed mainly to terrify women. The CIA produced 20 radio spots per day that were broadcast on at least 45 stations, as well as dozens of fabricated daily “news” broadcasts. Thousands of posters depicted children with hammers and sickles stamped on their foreheads. The Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei defeated Allende by 17%, with a huge majority among women.
But despite the U.S. propaganda campaign, Allende was finally elected in 1970. When he consolidated his position in Congressional elections in 1973 despite a virtual U.S. economic embargo and an ever-escalating destabilization campaign, his fate was sealed, at the hands of the CIA and the U.S.-backed military, led by General Pinochet.
In Ukraine, the U.S. has worked since independence in 1991 to promote pro-Western parties and candidates, climaxing in the “Orange Revolution” in 2004. But the Western-backed governments of Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko became just as corrupt and unpopular as previous ones, and former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich was elected President in 2010.
The U.S. employed all its traditional tactics leading up to the coup in 2014. The U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has partially taken over the CIA’s role in grooming opposition candidates, parties and political movements, with an annual budget of $100 million to spend in countries around the world. The NED made no secret of targeting Ukraine as a top priority, funding 65 projects there, more than in any other country. The NED’s neoconservative president, Carl Gershman, called Ukraine “the biggest prize” in a Washington Post op-ed in September 2013, as the U.S. operation there prepared to move into its next phase.
2) Violent street demonstrations
In November 2013, the European Union presented President Yanukovich with a 1,500 page “free trade agreement,” similar to NAFTA or the TPP, but which withheld actual EU membership from Ukraine. The agreement would have opened Ukraine’s borders to Western exports and investment without a reciprocal opening of the EU’s borders. Ukraine, a major producer of cheese and poultry, would have been allowed to export only 5% of its cheese and 1% of its poultry to the EU. Meanwhile Western firms could have used Ukraine as a gateway to flood Russia with cheap products from Asia. This would have forced Russia to close its borders to Ukraine, shattering the industrial economy of Eastern Ukraine.
Understandably, and for perfectly sound reasons as a Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich rejected the EU agreement. This was the signal for pro-Western and right-wing groups in Kiev to take to the street. In the West, we tend to interpret street demonstrations as representing surges of populism and democracy. But we should distinguish left-wing demonstrations against right-wing governments from the kind of violent right-wing demonstrations that have always been part of U.S. regime change strategy.
In Tehran in 1953, the CIA spent a million dollars to hire gangsters and “extremely competent professional organizers”, as the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt called them, to stage increasingly violent demonstrations, until loyal and rebel army units were fighting in the streets of Tehran and at least 300 people were killed. The CIA spent millions more to bribe members of parliament and other influential Iranians. Mossadegh was forced to resign, and the Shah restored Western ownership of the oil industry. BP divided the spoils with American firms, until the Shah was overthrown 26 years later by the Iranian Revolution and the oil industry was re-nationalized. This pattern of short-term success followed by eventual independence from U.S. interests is a common result of CIA coups, most notably in Latin America, where they have led many of our closest neighbors to become increasingly committed to political and economic independence from the United States.
In Haiti in 2004, 200 U.S. special forces trained 600 FRAPH militiamen and other anti-Lavalas forces at a training camp across the border in the Dominican Republic. These forces then invaded northern Haiti and gradually spread violence and chaos across the country to set the stage for the overthrow of President Aristide.
In Ukraine, street protests turned violent in January 2014 as the neo-NaziSvoboda Party and the Right Sector militia took charge of the crowds in the streets. The Right Sector militia only appeared in Ukraine in the past 6 months, although it incorporated existing extreme-right groups and gangs. It is partly funded by Ukrainian exiles in the U.S. and Europe, and may be a creation of the CIA. After Right Sector seized government buildings, parliament outlawed the protests and the police reoccupied part of Independence Square, killing two protesters.
On February 7th, the Russians published an intercepted phone call betweenAssistant Secretary of State Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. The intercept revealed that U.S. officials were preparing to seize the moment for a coup in Ukraine. The transcript reads like a page from a John Le Carre novel: “I think we’re in play… we could land jelly-side up on this one if we move fast.” Their main concern was to marginalize heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who had become the popular face of the “revolution” and was favored by the European Union, and to ensure that U.S. favorite Arseniy Yatsenyuk ended up in the Prime Minister’s office.
On the night of February 17th, Right Sector announced a march from Independence Square to the parliament building on the 18th. This ignited several days of escalating violence in which the death toll rose to 110 people killed, including protesters, government supporters and 16 police officers. More than a thousand people were wounded. Vyacheslav Veremyi, a well-known reporter for a pro-government newspaper, was dragged out of a taxi near Independence Square and shot to death in front of a crowd of onlookers. Right Sector broke into an armory near Lviv and seized military weapons, and there is evidence of both sides using snipers to fire from buildings in Kiev at protesters and police in the streets and the square below. Former security chief Yakimenko believes that snipers firing from the Philharmonic building were U.S.-paid foreign mercenaries, like the snipers from the former Yugoslavia who earn up to $2,000 per day shooting soldiers in Syria.
As violence raged in the streets, the government and opposition parties held emergency meetings and reached two truce agreements, one on the night of February 19th and another on the 21st, brokered by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Poland. But Right Sector rejected both truces and called for the “people’s revolution” to continue until Yanukovich resigned and the government was completely removed from power.
3) The coup d’etat.
The creation and grooming of opposition forces and the spread of violence in the streets are deliberate strategies to create a state of emergency as a pretext for removing an elected or constitutional government and seizing power. Once the coup leaders have been trained and prepared by their CIA case officers, U.S. officials have laid their plans and street violence has broken down law and order and the functioning of state institutions, all that remains is to strike decisively at the right moment to remove the government and install the coup leaders in its place. In Iran, faced with hundreds of people being killed in the streets, Mohammad Mosaddegh resigned to end the bloodshed. In Chile, General Pinochet launched air strikes on the presidential palace. In Haiti in 2004, U.S. forces landed to remove President Aristide and occupy the country.
In Ukraine, Vitaly Klitschko announced that parliament would open impeachment proceedings against Yanukovich, but, later that day, lacking the 338 votes required for impeachment, a smaller number of members simply approved a declaration that Yanukovich “withdrew from his duties in an unconstitutional manner,” and appointed Oleksandr Turchynov of the opposition Fatherland Party as Acting President. Right Sector seized control of government buildings and patrolled the streets. Yanukovich refused to resign, calling this an illegal coup d’etat. The coup leaders vowed to prosecute him for the deaths of protesters, but he escaped to Russia. Arseniy Yatsenyuk was appointed Prime Minister on February 27th, exactly as Nuland and Pyatt had planned.
The main thing that distinguishes the U.S. coup in Ukraine from the majority of previous U.S. coups was the minimal role played by the Ukrainian military. Since 1953, most U.S. coups have involved using local senior military officers to deliver the final blow to remove the elected or ruling leader. The officers have then been rewarded with presidencies, dictatorships or other senior positions in new U.S.-backed regimes. The U.S. military cultivates military-to-military relationships to identify and groom future coup leaders, and President Obama’s expansion of U.S. special forces operations to 134 countries around the world suggests that this process is ongoing and expanding, not contracting.
But the neutral or pro-Russian position of the Ukrainian military since it was separated from the Soviet Red Army in 1991 made it an impractical tool for an anti-Russian coup. So Nuland and Pyatt’s signal innovation in Ukraine was to use the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party and Right Sector as a strike force to unleash escalating violence and seize power. This also required managing Svoboda and Right Sector’s uneasy alliance with Fatherland and UDAR, the two pro-Western opposition parties who won 40% between them in the 2012 parliamentary election.
Historically, about half of all U.S. coups have failed, and success is never guaranteed. But few Americans have ended up dead or destitute in the wake of a failed coup. It is always the people of the target country who pay the price in violence, chaos, poverty and instability, while U.S. coup leaders like Nuland and Pyatt often get a second – or 3rd or 4th or 5th – bite at the apple, and will keep rising through the ranks of the State Department and the CIA. Direct U.S. military intervention in Ukraine was not an option before the coup, but now the coup itself may destabilize the country and plunge it into economic collapse, regional disintegration or conflict with Russia, creating new and unpredictable conditions in which NATO intervention could become feasible.
Russia has proposed a reasonable solution to the crisis. To resolve the tensions between Eastern and Western Ukraine over their respective political and economic links with Russia and the West, the Russians have proposed a federal system in which both Eastern and Western Ukraine would have much greater autonomy. This would be more stable that the present system in which each tries to dominate the other with the support of their external allies, turning Ukraine and all its people into pawns of Western-NATO expansion and Russia’s efforts to limit it. The Russian proposal includes a binding commitment that Ukraine would remain neutral and not join NATO. A few weeks ago, Obama and Kerry seemed to be ready to take this off-ramp from the crisis. The delay in agreeing to Russia’s seemingly reasonable proposal may be only an effort to save face, or it may mean that theneocons who engineered the coupare still dictating policy in Washington and that Obama and Kerry may be ready to risk a further escalation of the crisis.
The U.S. coup machine has also been at work in Venezuela, where it already failed once in 2002. Raul Capote, a former Cuban double agent who worked with the CIA in Cuba and Venezuela, recently described its long-term project to build right-wing opposition movements among upper- and middle-class students in Venezuelan universities, which are now bearing fruit in increasingly violent street protests and vigilantism. Thirty-six people have been killed, including six police officers and at least 5 opposition protesters. The protests began exactly a month after municipal elections in December, in which the government won the popular vote by almost 10%, far more than the 1.5% margin in the presidential election last April. As in Chile in 1973, electoral success by an elected government is often the cue for the CIA to step up its efforts, moving beyond propaganda and right-wing politics to violence in the streets, and the popularity of the Venezuelan government seems to have provoked precisely that reaction.
Another feature of U.S. coups is the role of the Western media in publicizing official cover stories and suppressing factual journalism. This role has also been consistent since 1953, but it has evolved as corporate media have consolidated their monopoly power. By their very nature, coups are secret operations and U.S. media are prohibited from revealing “national security” secrets about them, such as the names of CIA officers involved. By only reporting official cover stories, they become unwitting co conspirators in the critical propaganda component of these operations. But the U.S. corporate media have turned vice into virtue, relishing their role in the demonization of America’s chosen enemies and cheerleading U.S. efforts to do them in. They brush U.S. responsibility for violence and chaos under the carpet, and sympathetically present U.S. policy as a well-meaning effort to respond to the irrational and dangerous behavior of others.
This is far more than is required by strict observance of secrecy laws, and it reveals a great deal about the nature of the media environment we live in. The Western media as it exists today under near-monopoly corporate ownership is a more sophisticated and total propaganda system than early 20th century propagandists ever dreamed of. As media corporations profit from Western geopolitical and commercial expansion, the propaganda function that supports that expansion is an integrated part of their business model, not something exceptional they do under duress from the state. But to expect factual journalism about U.S. coups from such firms is to misunderstand who and what they are.
Recent studies have found that people gain a better grasp of current affairs from John Stewart’s Daily Show on Comedy Central than from watching “news” networks. People who watch no “news” at all have more knowledge of international affairs than people who watch MSNBC or Fox News. A previous survey conducted 3 months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq found that 52% of Americans believed that U.S. forces in Iraq had found clear evidence of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Among Republicans who said they were following “news on Iraq very closely”, the figure was 78%, compared with only 68% among Republicans at large.
If the role of the corporate media was to provide factual journalism, these studies would be a terrible indictment of their performance. But once we acknowledge their actual role as the propaganda arm of an expansionist political and economic system, then we can understand that promoting the myths and misinformation that sustain it are a central part of what they do. In that light, they are doing a brilliant job on Ukraine as they did on Iraq, suppressing any mention of the U.S. role in the coup and pivoting swiftly away from the unfolding crisis in post-coup Ukraine to focus entirely on attacking President Putin for reclaiming Crimea. On the other hand, if you’re looking for factual journalism about the U.S. coup machine, you should probably turn off your TV and keep reading reliable sources like Alternet,Consortium News and Venezuela Analysis.
Tags: archbishop romero, Arizona, arizona law, arizona racism, DAVID A. SYLVESTER, economic refugees, El Salvador, Free Trade, guatemala, harold pinter, Immigration, imperialism, jan brewer, Latin America, Mexico, migrants, migration, NAFTA, neoliberalism, nicaragua, Race, racial profiling, racism, refuges, ronald reagan, seth minkoff, U.S. imperialism, undocumented
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April 30, 2010
Undocumented migrants have a right to work here because they deserve economic reparations for failed U.S. economic policies and disastrous military interventions.
We hardly need another symptom of the spiritual and social bankruptcy of the system, but this new Arizona law targeting and criminalizing undocumented migrants is a good example. You might know that Gov. Jan Brewer signed last week a new law that broadens police power to stop anyone at anytime for virtually any reason simply for looking suspiciously like an undocumented immigrant. It is supposed to take effect in August, but this is unlikely since it is probably unconstitutional and will face a barrage of court challenges.
This Saturday, May Day, the traditional day for workers rights, more than 70 cities are planning protests against the law, and boycotts against Arizona are spontaneously spreading — as they should. Mexican taxi cab drivers are apparently refusing to pick up anyone from Arizona, and the Mexican government has issued a travel advisory warning Mexicans of the danger of traveling through Arizona. In California, pressure is growing to join the boycott.
In the midst of this uproar, few are asking one simple question: Why? Why do so many Mexicans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans enter the U.S. by the most dangerous and expensive route possible? Just imagine yourself in their shoes: You leave your family and neighborhood to make a dangerous trip, including a difficult trek for three nights across barren deserts, pay as much as $7,000 person to put yourself in the hands of an unofficial guide of questionable character. On the way, you are prey to exploitation, robbery and especially if you are a woman, to rape. Then you arrive to live in crowded apartments, hopefully with some family members or people you know, but under constant fear of arrest and deportation. If you’re lucky, you get the brass ring you’ve been reaching for: casual work cleaning homes, gardening or working odd jobs in construction for $8 to $10 an hour. If you’re unlucky, you might stand on street corners for hours waiting without work, vulnerable to the temptations of drugs and alcohol to numb despair.
Sound like a bargain? Now, consider that, in spite of this, you decide scrape together another $7,000 to bring the next family member. How can this make any sense? It does if you take a close look at what has happened to the economies and social fabric of the countries below the U.S. border. Most U.S. citizens have little idea of the devastation wrought by NAFTA in Mexico and by the murderous civil wars that Reagan Administration funded and supported during the 1980s has done to El Salvador and Guatemala.
This is the reality that none of the opponents of this “illegal” immigration want to face. And it is a reality that even the advocates of change have not fully articulated. In essence, the neoliberal economic policies of the so-called Washington consensus, including NAFTA, have plunged Mexico into an economic crisis in the countryside. More than 2 million agricultural workers have been forced off their land and have moved into urban areas that can’t absorb them. The undocumented workers from El Salvador and Guatemala, the two other main sources of migration into the U.S., are fleeing dysfunctional and oppressive social and economic systems maintained by U.S. military power and funding since Ronald Reagan and CIA director William Casey turned these small countries into demonstration projects for Cold War power. As a result of these interventions, the U.S. has blocked democratic social change in these countries, sustained the exploitative legacy of the conquista and kept the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of rich, uncontrolled oligarchies.
In other words, Arizona is facing “blowback,” the natural consequences of failed U.S. policies trumpeted by the Arizona-style conservatives. These undocumented workers are economic refugees fleeing from broken economic systems — and they have every right to work here to earn the living that they cannot earn in their home countries. It’s a form of economic reparations. And the situation would be considered ironic if it wasn’t so tragic: The more the economic policies fail, the more the poor of these countries are impoverished and the more they seek to survive in el Norte, the more the supposedly anti-government, free-market fundamentalists want to put the government squarely on the backs of and into the lives of individuals through increasingly repressive measures.
It isn’t just some kooky left-wing thinking to blame Washington’s policies for a large part of the problem. This is widely known among the academic researchers. I spoke with Marc Rosenblum and Miryam Hazan, two staff policy analysts at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. who have studied the issues. “NAFTA has supported a low-wage development model, and with Mexico’s implementation, you haven’t seen integrated development,” Rosenblum said. “Almost everybody will agree it has increased migration.”
The basic problem is that Mexican tariffs were lowered under NAFTA so that inexpensive corn and other agricultural products from U.S. agribusiness flooded Mexico and drove out up to 2.3 million small and medium-sized farmers. The idea was that they would move to the cities and provide the labor for new, more advanced industries to export. As Hazan describes it, the idea was to “modernize” the Mexican countryside.
The only problem is that such a plan depended on Mexico’s GDP growing at 6 percent to 7 percent — almost two-thirds of the rate of China’s growth. In fact, Mexico’s growth has stagnated under NAFTA at half the expected rate. Besides, it isn’t clear what these “new advanced industries” were supposed to be, except for the sweatshops and maquilladora along the U.S. border. Cheap labor is not what economists would call “a competitive advantage,” because there’s always another country with even cheaper labor to exploit.
Hazan has found that each year, Mexico adds 1 million new workers to its labor force — but only creates half a million jobs. This means that every year, half a million Mexicans must either enter what she calls “the informal economy” of low-wage work without benefits, the criminal and black market economy, or leave the country.
In fact, the criminal economy of the drug cartels, estimated at 2 percent of Mexico’s GDP, has become the new export-oriented industry. Again, for all the complaining about the Mexican drug traffickers, few people are wondering what kind of society has developed we’ve developed in the U.S. that generates such an incessant and growing demand for narcotics. Without the U.S. demand, the narcotraffickers would be largely out of business.
In El Salvador, there’s a separate problem stemming from the violence of the Reagan wars of the 1980s — and now compounded by the recent deportation of U.S. gang members back to El Salvador. Originally, they entered the U.S. as children with their undocumented parents, learned their gang skills in the U.S. and then once arrested, were deported back to El Salvador. As a result there’s been an explosion of gang violence in El Salvador.
Every week, I hear of new reports from Salvadoran friends: Six bodies showed up on the streets overnight in one small town, a man with an expensive car is kidnapped and killed, a schoolteacher threatened with a gun by a disgruntled parent of one of his students. During a visit three years ago, the student leader of the National University suddenly disappeared without explanation, and the newspapers were reporting a wave of killings of poor drug dealers in the slums as “social cleansing.” In addition, the phenomenon of femicide, the rape and murder of women, is not just a problem in Juarez or the border towns but has become a new problem throughout the countries. At one point, gang members had apparently infiltrated the telephone companies in El Salvador, found out who had been making calls to the U.S., then called those U.S. cell phone numbers with a simple message: Send us $500 within 24 hours or we’ll kill your family.
Guatemala is hardly any safer. A friend of mine who was a journalist in Guatemala City had to leave with his family after a government official took him aside and played for him tape recordings of his cell phone conversations with his sources — when he was inside his own home! Assassinations of the community leaders opposing destructive mining operations are common. At another point, a well-known TV reporter was gunned down in broad daylight in the capital.
From my experience, when I asked about this violence, many people there said it was difficult to know exactly what to blame: the economic crisis, the unresolved conflicts of the civil wars, the habit of violence from the wars or the lure of fast money in the drug trade, the unraveling of families as the more and more parents head north into the U.S. to work. All of it is connected to U.S. policies and actions, particularly the 1980s wars.
“There’s no question that the civil wars were a big source of initial migration of Central America into the U.S.” Rosenblum told me. The problem has become worse in El Salvador, he said, because besides the violence, it has embraced the neoliberal economic policies of corporate development that has led to highly unequal growth among the rich and poor.
These economic and social problems are precisely why the U.S. will never solve the problem by enforcement, no matter what kind of walls we build or border patrol we fund. The “push” out of these countries has become much greater than the “pull” of a better economy and growing social networks of migrants now living in the U.S.
The Arizona law shows how much enforcement alone sacrifices basic moral values. The law itself is chilling to read. In the tradition of the double-standard legal system pioneered during the war on terror under Bush, it broadens police powers and makes enforcement much more stringent for non-citizens than for citizens. It requires all immigrants to carry documents, such as driver’s license, to prove their immigration status whenever asked by police with a “reasonable suspicion” about their status. If you are undocumented, you can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined (between $500 on the first offense up to $2,500) jailed for six months under mandatory sentencing. Courts are prohibited from suspending or reducing sentences. It also turns citizens into vigilantes: anyone can sue a government for failing to enforce this law. It prohibits picking up day laborers on streets to hire, transporting anyone in your car without documents if you do so “recklessly disregarding” their immigration status. And it expands the powers of police to pose as workers when they investigate employers who might be hiring the undocumented workers.
Where’s the Tea Party when you need it? Isn’t there supposed to be a revolt brewing in this country in favor of a “constitutionally limited government”? And isn’t this the free market at work, with workers responding to the market signals of wages to meet the demand for labor where there is a lack of supply? Oh, I forgot: Free markets and limited government are good — unless they interfere with U.S. dominance and privilege.
It’s easy to slip into bitter rhetoric, but the hypocrisy of the debate has its own spiritual significance. The U.S. seems to be afflicted by a strange blindness that prevents it from understanding the full dimensions of the problem it has created. I think this blindness is a natural spiritual consequence of the idolization of power and wealth. In my opinion, one of the best analyses of this was in the Nobel Prize speech of British playwright Harold Pinter. He spoke about the relationship of truth and lies in art, and then connected this to the relationship of truth and lies to political power.
To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.
Then he focused how lies played a part in the brutality of the U.S. government’s treatment of Central America:
I spoke earlier about ‘a tapestry of lies’ which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a ‘totalitarian dungeon’. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.
Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.
Pinter pointed out that at the time the U.S. maintained 702 military bases in 132 countries and said:
The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.
This hypnosis isn’t just of the rest of the world; we’ve hypnotized ourselves so that we fail to understand the consequences of our actions. We’ve become like the violent drunk who trashes a motel room at night, then wakes up in the morning and demands to know who made such a mess.
In my brief search of the Web this week, I found only one person who had the courage to say aloud an obvious truth. Seth Minkoff of Somerville, Mass., a lone letter-writer to The Boston Globe of Somerville explained eloquently why the immigrants have a moral right to be here:
What goes unmentioned, however, is that some of us also feel that the fundamental aim of this law — enforcement of federal immigration regulations — is immoral.
A great many undocumented immigrants come here from countries that the United States has systematically devastated for generations by overthrowing democracy (as in Guatemala), sponsoring dictatorship and state terror (Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti), and invading and annexing territory (Mexico). Actions such as these have helped the United States to control a grossly outsized share of world resources.
Until the US share of world resources is proportional to its population, so-called illegal immigrants will have a moral claim second to none on the rights of US citizenship. Arizona’s new law, like the federal laws it seeks to enforce, is an assault on people’s basic right to feed and clothe their families – in other words, on their right to access their fair share of the planet’s wealth, the patrimony of humanity.
What a complete F$%KING MORON. Does that moral right include stealing, bank robbery, perhaps rape and why not murder too.
Shame on you Minkoff, go take your nonsense to Cuba or talk to Chavez and see how you make out.
This letter sounds like it was written from some fatuous far left wing Chomskyan elitist nutty northeast college professor.
Seth, Harold Pinter’s got your back.
It would be helpful if more people had his back as well. But some of the opposition to the Arizona law is disappointing. For instance, U.S. Catholic bishops couched their opposition entirely in terms of pragmatics. Salt Lake City Bishop John Wester called the law “draconian,” as if problem is only its severity, not its inherent nature. He worried that the law could “possibly” lead to racial profiling when racial profiling is almost unavoidable in spite of hypocritical language to the contrary in the law. He worried about how immigrants might be “perceived and treated” and the impact on U.S. citizens who are unfairly targeted.
This statement should have been much stronger in the light of Roman Catholic tradition. Basic Catholic teachings evaluate the moral value of actions and distinguish between morally good and evil choices. Actions are “intrinsically evil” if they are “hostile to life itself.” The examples of these actions include the obvious, such as homicide and genocide but also include:
whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit;
whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit and not as free responsible persons;
all these and the like are a disgrace and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator (Encyclical Letter of John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor IV, italics mine).
By this Catholic standard, the Arizona law is not only badly designed and unconstitutional but quite possibly an intrinsic evil. One can argue that the law is also an attempt to stop human smuggling and trafficking in women and children, but if this was its aim, it would have been designed differently. As written, it subjects immigrants to the torture of insecurity and offends their human dignity with arbitrary imprisonment and deportation.
In the end, the crisis can be solved until we face the spiritual roots of the lies, the violence and the self-righteous myths we tell ourselves. We need to understand and address the real nature of the problem if we want to solve it. I’ve always remembered the words of a friend of mine as we participated in a memorial service for Monseñor Oscar Romero in San Salvador: “We have to start telling ourselves the truth.”
Voices of Resistance Sing On January 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Peace.
Tags: Africa, amy goodman, bernice johnson reagon, cia, denis moynihan, eartha kitt, fbi, folk music, Guantanamo, harold pinter, harry belafonte, howard zinn, Iraq, joan baez, lady bird, miriam makeba, music, nobel peace, Obama, odetta, pete seeger, povertym, resistance, roger hollander, rosa parks, sncc, South Africa, stokely carmichael, tutu, us policy
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Dec 31, 2008, www.truthdig.com
By Amy Goodman
Strong voices for peace have left us this year, people who used their art for social change, often at a high personal price.
Odetta was a legendary folk singer of the civil rights movement.
Considered the “Queen of American Folk Music,” Odetta introduced audiences worldwide to African-American folk, blues and gospel music.
New Year’s Eve was her birthday. She would have been 78. When Rosa Parks was asked which songs meant the most to her, she replied, “All of the songs Odetta sings.”
Odetta sang “Oh, Freedom,” an African-American slave spiritual, at the 1963 March on Washington. Early on, she attracted the interest of Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger. Her voice, her talent with the guitar and the natural style in which she maintained her hair—later to be dubbed “afro”—set her as an icon of the civil rights movement. She told an interviewer in 2003:
“When I first started, I would sing these prison songs … it got to a point where doing the music actually healed me … it was music from those who went before. The music gave them strength, and the music gave us strength to carry it on.”
She inspired Bernice Johnson Reagon, an early member of the SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) Freedom Singers. She had been suspended from college in Albany, Ga., for civil rights protests, then went on to Spelman College, where historian Howard Zinn and his wife, Roz, took her to folk music concerts by Joan Baez and Odetta.
Reagon recalls the first time she heard Odetta:
“In Georgia, where I grew up in the country, the roads were built by chain-gang labor. I knew the sound, because as the men worked, they sang. But I never thought I’d hear it coming from a concert stage … when she sang prison songs or work songs. … She was just what I needed to begin my life as a freedom fighter and as a Freedom Singer.”
Reagon later went on to found the women’s a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Another great liberation singer we lost this year was Miriam Makeba of South Africa, known as “Mama Afrika.” She sang against apartheid, then went into exile for decades. Belafonte helped her, too, gain recognition.
In 1968, she married SNCC-leader-turned-Black-Panther Stokely Carmichael, for which she was blacklisted in the U.S. until the 1980s.
Soon after her death, I asked the Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu about Makeba. The South African archbishop smiled: “Her singing, her voice, helped many people to know a little bit more about the vicious apartheid system. She was just a tremendous human being, a great loss to us and to Africa.”
Also blacklisted in 1968 was singer and actress Eartha Kitt, who died at age 81 on Christmas Day. In 1968, she was invited to a celebrity luncheon at the White House by Lady Bird Johnson, who asked Kitt about urban poverty. Kitt replied: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. They rebel in the street. They don’t want to go to school because they’re going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam.” The first lady reportedly burst into tears. For years afterward, Kitt performed almost exclusively overseas and was investigated by the FBI and CIA.
Born out of the Deep South and South Africa, these women’s voices sang out, from concert halls to protest rallies. Another voice we just lost sang out from the written page. Harold Pinter died on Christmas Eve in London. Though too sick to travel to Stockholm to collect his Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, he sent a video address: “The majority of politicians … are interested not in truth but in power. … To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance. … What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies.” Pinter was referring to U.S. policy from Guantanamo to Iraq.
As these icons are laid to rest, their voices continue to inspire millions. Barack Obama will soon take the reins of the most powerful nation on Earth, promising change. But it will now take the actions of those millions, heeding these echoes of the past and transforming them into their own voices, to effect real change.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.
© 2008 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate