A Tale of Two Foreign Policies February 26, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Angola, Cuba, Imperialism, Latin America, South Africa.
Tags: angola, apartheid, Colombia atrocities, Colombia Civil War, Colombia civilian deaths, counterinsurgency, Cuba, farc, fidel castro, foreign policy, imperialism, jorge gaitan, matt peppe, nelson mandela, roger hollander, School of the Americas, South Africa, U.S. imperialism, w.t. whitney
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Roger’s note: here are two articles that appeared in the same online edition of http://www.counterpunch.org. They coincidentally make an excellent comparison of the foreign policies of a Goliath nation (the United States of America) and a tiny David (Cuba).
US foreign policy is characterized by overpowering military strength and aggression, and an overwhelming concern for protecting its corporate interests that is only matched by its lack of concern for human rights. Cuba, on the other hand, has shown an abiding concern for justice and human needs (cf. its sending doctors around the world).
Colombia and South Africa are only two nations among many, but the contrast in the actions of the United States and Cuba towards them can be seen as a microcosm with respect to overall foreign policy strategies. It is notable that the first foreign visit made by Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison was to Cuba to thank Castro and the Cuban people. As well, it hardly needs to be mentioned that with respect to a capacity to act for human good, the United States is the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world whereas Cuba, in addition to being a third world country historically repressed by Spain and the US, has suffered for over 50 years under the US economic blockade.
Fidel Castro and Apartheid
The Cuban Role
Until the fall of the Portuguese dictatorship in 1974, apartheid in South Africa was secure. There was no substantial resistance anywhere in southern Africa. Pretoria’s neighbors comprised a buffer zone that protected the racist regime: Namibia, their immediate neighbor which they had occupied for 60 years; white-ruled Rhodesia; and the Portuguese-ruled colonies of Angola and Mozambique. The rebels who fought against minority rule in each of these countries, operating without any safe haven to organize and train, were powerless to challenge the status quo. South Africa’s buffer would have remained intact for the foreseeable future, solidifying apartheid and preventing any significant opposition, but for one man: Fidel Castro.
In October of 1975, South Africa invaded Angola at the behest of the U.S. government to overthrow the left-wing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in the soon-to-be independent country. Without Cuban assistance, the apartheid army would have easily cruised into Luanda, crushed the MPLA, and installed a puppet government friendly to the apartheid regime.
Cuba’s intervention in Angola managed to change the course of that country and reverberate throughout Africa. By ensuring independence from the white supremacists, Angola was able to preserve its own revolution and maintain its role as a base for armed resistance groups fighting for liberation in nearby countries.
In the American version of Cold War history, Cuba was carrying out aggression and acting as proxies of the Soviet Union. Were it not for one persistent and meticulous scholar, we might never have known that these are nothing more than dishonest fabrications. In his monumental books Conflicting Missions and Visions of Freedom, historian Piero Gleijeses uses thousands of documents from Cuban military archives, as well as U.S. and South African archives, to recount a dramatic, historical confrontation between tiny Cuba and Washington and its ally apartheid South Africa. Gleijeses is the only foreign scholar to have gained access to the closed Cuban archives. He obtained thousands of pages of documents, and made them available to the Wilson Center Digital Archive, which has posted the invaluable collection online.
Gleijeses’s research made possible a look behind the curtain at one of the most remarkable acts of internationalism of the century. “Internationalism – the duty to help others – was at the core of the Cuban revolution,” Gleijeses writes. “For Castro’s followers, and they were legion, this was not rhetoric… By 1975, approximately 1,000 Cuban aid workers had gone to a dozen African countries, South Yemen, and North Vietnam. In 1976-77, technical assistance was extended to Jamaica and Guyana in the Western Hemisphere; to Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia in Africa; and to Laos in Asia. The CIA noted: ‘The Cuban technicians are primarily involved in rural development and educational and public health projects – areas in which Cuba has accumulated expertise and has experienced success at home.’” 
The fight against apartheid, for the liberation of people who suffered for centuries under colonialism and racial subjugation, was truly a David versus Goliath conflict. In addition to having a strong military itself and being armed with nuclear weapons, South Africa enjoyed the diplomatic support of the United States, the world’s largest superpower. In this context, Cuba’s intervention – a poor Caribbean island under relentless attack from an unrivaled hegemon against a racist juggernaut backed by the world’s leading imperial powers – is even more remarkable.
Explaining how the significance of Cuba’s role in Angola is “without precedent,” Gleijeses writes: “No other Third World country has projected its military power beyond its immediate neighborhood.” He notes that while the Soviet Union later sent aid and weapons, they never would have become involved unless Castro had taken the lead (which he did in spite of Russian opposition). “The engine was Cuba. It was the Cubans who pushed the Soviets to help Angola. It was they who stood guard in Angola for many long years, thousands of miles from home, to prevent the South Africans from overthrowing the MPLA government.” 
White Elitism Has Suffered an Irreversible Blow
It had become clear that the left-wing People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the largest and most widely-supported of three warring groups, would prevail and gain control of the country. Afraid of having a government staunchly opposed to white domination so close to home, South Africa rushed to prevent self-determination for the Angolans. They were aided by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who believed the threat of black liberation in Africa, which would lead to local control of their own resources at the expense of foreign investors, could still be contained.
South Africa launched an invasion to topple the MPLA and install the guerilla Jonas Savimbi, leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the smallest and least popular of the three groups, as a puppet dictator in Angola. Savimbi, a collaborator with the Portuguese dictatorship before Angolan independence, was known for his ruthlessness, terrorism, and hunger for power. An avowed anti-communist who had already aligned with South Africa, Savimbi would have made the perfect Angolan facade for apartheid control.
Agostinho Neto, the President of Angola, appealed to Cuba to send troops to ward of the apartheid army’s invasion. On November 4, Castro agreed. Several days later the first Cuban special forces troops boarded planes for Angola, where they would launch Operation Carlota.
As the South African troops advanced inside Angola, they made remarkably easy gains through scarcely defended villages that put up little – if any – resistance. But by November 9, Cuban Special Forces had arrived and went immediately to the battlefield. In the Battle of Quifangondo, the Angolans, supported by Cuban troops, made a decisive stand. They turned back the apartheid army and prevented their easy march to Luanda, where that same day the Portuguese military left Angola and Neto declared independence.
Throughout November, the Cubans prevented further South African advances towards the Angolan capital. On November 25, the Cuban troops laid a trap for the racist army in the Battle of Ebo. As the South African Defence Force (SADF) tried to cross a bridge, Cubans hidden along the banks of the river attacked. They destroyed seven armored cars and killed upwards of 90 enemy soldiers.
Cuban troops kept pouring into Angola throughout the rest of the year. As many as 4,000 had arrived by the end of 1975, roughly the same number as South African invaders. Unable to penetrate deeper into Angolan territory, and facing a barrage of negative criticism after international media discovered SADF troops, rather than mercenaries, were behind the invasion, the South African advance ended.
The impact of the Cuban victory resonated far beyond the battlefield. More important than the strategic gain, the victory of black Cuban and Angolan troops against the whites of the South African racist army shattered the illusion of white invincibility.
A South African military analyst described the meaning of his country’s defeat: “The reality is that they have won, are winning, and are not White; and that psychological edge, that advantage the White man has enjoyed and exploited over 300 years of colonialism and empire, is slipping away. White elitism has suffered an irreversible blow in Angola, and Whites who have been there know it.” 
American officials claimed that the Soviets masterminded the operation with Cubans acting as their proxies. They couldn’t fathom Castro acting on its own, rather than as Moscow’s puppet. Such claims were repeated for years. American politicians went as far as falsely accusing Cuban troops of being mercenaries. But the record makes clear that these were in reality nothing more than slanderous lies.
The Americans were furious. “Kissinger’s response to Castro’s intervention was to throw mercenaries and weapons at the problem,” Gleijeses writes.  The Secretary of State was afraid that after their successful intervention in Angola, Cuba would put the rest of the racist regimes in the region in jeopardy. “We can’t say Rhodesia is not a danger because it is a bad case. If the Cubans are involved there, Namibia is next and after that South Africa, itself… If the Cubans move, I recommend we act vigorously. We can’t permit another move without suffering a great loss.” 
Support and Solidarity with Revolutionary Movements
Though South Africa had lost the battle, it by no means had surrendered the war. The apartheid regime still had designs on toppling the Angolan revolution and using it for its own ends. “It would be the centerpiece of the Constellation of Southern African States that they sought to create,” writes Gleijeses. “The concept had first emerged under Prime Minister Vorster, but it was PW Botha who had given it ‘a substance previously lacking.’ The constellation, the generals hoped, would stretch beyond South Africa, its Bantustans, Lesotho, Malawi, Botswana, and Swaziland, to embrace Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Zaire, and a nominally independent Namibia. The black members of the constellation would be anticommunist, tolerant of apartheid, and eager to persecute the ANC (the African National Congress in South Africa) and SWAPO (the South West Africa People’s Organization in Namibia).” 
Cuba was aware of this. “In Southern Africa Angola today, more so than a year ago, is the bastion of the fight against the racists and the unquestionable revolutionary vanguard. Imperialism knows this,” wrote Jorge Risquet, head of the Cuban Civilian Mission in Angola to President Neto. “Imperialism has to know what Angola does for Zimbabwe, what Angola does for Namibia, what Angola does for South Africa. Angola, bravely, lends real support to the movements of Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa. In concrete terms, nothing less than training in its territory 20,000 combatants from those three countries oppressed by the racists.” 
With the omnipresent threat against Angola, Cuba maintained a large contingent of around 30,000 troops at the behest of the MPLA to prevent another invasion. In a letter to the political bureau of the MPLA after Neto’s death, Fidel wrote of the sacrifice Cuba was willing to make.
“Cuba cannot keep indefinitely carrying out a military cooperation effort of the magnitude it currently is in Angola, which limits our possibilities of support and solidarity with the revolutionary movement in other parts of the world and defense of our own country,” Fidel wrote. But he made clear that Cuba had no plans to abandon Angola: “I want to assure you, above all, that in these bitter and difficult circumstances, Cuba will be unconditionally at your side.” 
Meanwhile, South African aggression was relentless. In 1983, the SADF bombed Angolan towns and pushed nearly 90 miles into Angolan territory. When the UN moved to condemn the invasion, the United States made sure the censure would not include sanctions, as they had done for more than a decade.
The apartheid regime used Washington’s diplomatic shield to keep its dreams of a Constellation of Southern African States alive. The International Court of Justice had decisively rejected the continued presence of South Africa in Namibia in a 1971 Advisory Opinion as “illegal.” The court declared that “South Africa is under obligation to withdraw its administration from Namibia immediately and thus put an end to its occupation of the territory.” Seven years later, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 435 reiterating its objective of “the withdrawal of South Africa’s illegal administration from Namibia and the transfer of power to the people of Namibia.”
Washington’s support enabled South Africa to ignore the ICJ and UN Security Council. The apartheid government, understanding that free elections would mean a SWAPO victory, refused to comply. “The South Africans took advantage of U.S. goodwill to further their foreign policy aims,” Gleijeses writes. 
In 1978, a South African massacre against a refugee camp in Cassinga killed more than 600 Namibians. The U.S. opposed sanctions in the Security Council. President Carter took the excuses of the apartheid regime at face value: “They’ve claimed to have withdrawn and have not left any South African troops in Angola. So we hope it’s just a transient strike in retaliation, and we hope it’s all over.” Even after Angolans foiled an attack by South African commandos against Gulf Oil pipelines inside Angola in 1985, which would have killed U.S. citizens, the U.S. government continued protecting their racist allies.
The Whole World is Against Apartheid
As international opinion turned, Castro sensed that apartheid in South Africa would not be able to last much longer. Despite the growing cost to Cuba of maintaining about 30,000 troops in Angola, Castro was confident that he would be able to wait out the inevitable downfall of the racist regime.
“Today they are totally on the defensive in the political arena, in the international arena, they have a very serious economic crisis,” Castro said in a conversation with Angolan President José Eduardo Dos Santos in 1985. “I can’t say how this is going to end, what the end result of it all will be; but in my opinion, South Africa won’t recover from this crisis.” Castro said that the situation facing South Africa did not occur by chance, but that it was a result of the collective action of the people in many parts of Southern Africa fighting for their independence. “All these factors, common struggles, common sacrifices, have contributed to create this crisis for apartheid, that wasn’t created in one day, it was created over many years,” Castro said. 
Nevertheless, the apartheid government kept up its relentless fight for survival. Throughout the 1980s, Angola was subjected to various incursions and invasions by South Africa. At the same time, the Angolan Armed Forces (FAPLA) fought against former Portuguese collaborator Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA army, who was backed by South Africa and the United States. Savimbi sought to roll back MPLA rule and form an alliance with the apartheid regime.
The confrontations climaxed in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in late 1987. After a forward offensive to attack UNITA stalled, Angolan and Cuban troops managed to defend the town. They then turned to the Southwest where they attempted to drive the SADF out of the country once and for all. As the Cubans asserted supremacy with their air force, they were able to take the lead on the battlefield.
With the military confrontation raging, talks started between Angola, Cuba and South Africa, with the United States moderating, in London in early 1988. In instructions to the Cuban delegation, Castro reflected on the South Africans and American mindset.
“The fact they have accepted this meeting in London at such a high level shows that they are looking for a way out because they have seen our advance and are saying, ‘How is it that Cuba has converted itself into the liquidator of Apartheid and the liberator of Africa?’ That’s what is worrying the Americans, they’re going to say: ‘They’re going to defeat South Africa!” Castro said. 
Castro also told his delegation that the goal was not to pursue a war or military victory, but to achieve negotiations over SADF from Angola and implementation of Resolution 435, which would grant independence to Namibia. “They should know that we are not playing games, that our position is serious and that our objective is peace,” he said. 
The Cuban Commander-in-Chief’s instructions to his negotiating team show that he fully understood that Cuba stood firmly on the right side of history.
The negotiations would continue throughout the year and lead to the New York agreements in December 1988, which Gleijeses says “led to the independence of Namibia and the withdrawal of the Cuban troops from Angola.” 
This was the beginning of the end of apartheid.
“By the time Namibia became independent, in March 1990, apartheid was in its death throes,” Gleijeses writes. “A month earlier, Frederick de Klerk, who had replaced the ailing PW Botha as South Africa’s president, legalized the ANC and the South African Communist Party, and he freed Nelson Mandela. The apartheid government engaged in protracted and difficult negotiations that led in April 1994 to the first elections in the country’s history based on universal franchise.” 
The Contribution of the Cuban Internationalists
No one was more grateful for Cuba’s role in the defeat of apartheid and the liberation of blacks in Africa than Nelson Mandela. In July 1991, during a visit to Cuba to mark the 38th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, Mandela spoke of his gratitude for the Cuban role in Southern Africa.
“The Cuban people hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Africa. The Cuban internationalists have made a contribution to African independence, freedom and justice, unparalleled for its principled and selfless character,” Mandela said. “We in Africa are used to being victims of countries wanting to carve up our territory or subvert our sovereignty. It is unparalleled in African history to have another people rise to the defence of one of us.”
Many years later, after the passing of Nelson Mandela, Castro would wonder why after so many years the enablers of apartheid still could not admit the truth.
“Why try to hide the fact that the apartheid regime, which made the people of Africa suffer so much and incensed the vast majority of all the nations in the world,”Castro wrote, “was the fruit of European colonialism and was converted into a nuclear power by the United States and Israel, which Cuba, a country who supported the Portuguese colonies in Africa that fought for their independence, condemned openly?”
Since the success of the Cuban revolution of 1959, American policy has always been reflexive opposition to anything Cuba did. Shortly after Mandela’s funeral, Gleijeses wrote an open letter to President Obama that described the actual course of events in Africa during the Cold War: “While Cubans were fighting for the liberation of the people of South Africa, successive American governments did everything they could to stop them.”
Gleijeses wrote that Obama must have noticed the reception of Cuban President Raúl Castro in South Africa, and implored him to reconsider the disconnect between the two countries. “Perhaps, Mr. President, what you saw in South Africa may inspire you to bridge the chasm and understand that in the quarrel between Cuba and the United States the United States is not the victim,” he wrote.
But Obama has not been able to learn this lesson. On December 17, when he announced a change in the U.S.’s Cuban policy, Obama claimed that the current policy “has been rooted in the best of intentions.” This is a gross misrepresentation that suppresses the policy of unrelenting economic war, which has caused unimaginable pain and suffering to millions of Cubans; a covert terrorist campaign against the island carried out first directly by the U.S. government then later sanctioned and outsourced to reactionary terrorists provided safe haven in the United States; and collaboration with the apartheid regime to punish Cuba for helping fight for the liberation of black Africa.
American officials would, no doubt, prefer that Cuba’s heroic role in defeating apartheid and the U.S.’s shameful role in enabling it be relegated to the ash heap of history. But the historical and documentary record speaks for itself, despite Washington’s attempts to bury it. Like Castro, one has to wonder: why keep hiding the truth?
 Gleijeses, Piero. Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 (Envisioning Cuba). The University of North Carolina Press, 2002.http://www.amazon.com/Conflicting-Missions-Washington-1959-1976-Envisioning-ebook/dp/B004P1JTGG/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1423430995&sr=8-1&keywords=conflicting+missions
 “NSC Meeting, 4/7/1976” of the National Security Adviser’s NSC Meeting File at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library. (pg. 21)http://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/document/0312/1552402.pdf
 Jorge Risquet to Agostinho Neto,” February, 1978, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archives of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117933 (pg. 8-9)
 “Fidel Castro to Political Bureau of the MPLA,” September 15, 1979, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of the Cuban Armed Forces. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117946 (pg. 2-3)
 Memorandum of Conversation between Fidel Castro and José Eduardo dos Santos,” October 25, 1985, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archives of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118021 (pg. 31-33)
 Instructions to the Cuban Delegation for the London Meeting, ‘Indicaciones concretas del Comandante en Jefe que guiarán la actuación de la delegación cubana a las conversaciones de Luanda y las negociaciones de Londres (22-4-88)’
http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118133.pdf (pg. 11)
 Instructions to the Cuban Delegation for the London Meeting, ‘Indicaciones concretas del Comandante en Jefe que guiarán la actuación de la delegación cubana a las conversaciones de Luanda y las negociaciones de Londres (23-4-88)’,” April 23, 1988, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of the Cuban Armed Forces. Obtained and contributed to CWIHP by Piero Gleijeses and included in CWIHP e-Dossier No. 44. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/118134 (pg. 5)
Colombia is seemingly a “no-go” zone for most U. S. media and even for many critics of U.S. overseas misadventures. Yet the United States was in the thick of things in Colombia while hundreds of thousands were being killed, millions were forced off land, and political repression was the rule.
Bogota university professor and historian Renán Vega Cantor has authored a study of U.S. involvement in Colombia. He records words and deeds delineating U.S. intervention there over the past century. The impact of Vega’s historical report, released on February 11, stems from a detailing of facts. Communicating them to English-language readers will perhaps stir some to learn more and to act.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government have been at war for half a century. Vega’s study appears within the context of negotiations in Cuba to end that conflict. Negotiators on both sides agreed in August, 2014 to form a “Historical Commission on Conflict and its Victims” to enhance discussions on victims of conflict. The Commission explored “multiple causes” of the conflict, “the principal factors and conditions facilitating or contributing to its persistence,” and consequences. Commission members sought “clarification of the truth” and establishment of responsibilities. On February 11 the Commission released an 809 – page report offering a diversity of wide-ranging conclusions. Vega was one of 12 analysts contributing individual studies to the report.
Having looked into “links between imperialist meddling and both counterinsurgency and state terrorism,” he claims the United States “is no mere outside influence, but is a direct actor in the conflict owing to prolonged involvement.” And, “U. S. actions exist in a framework of a relationship of subordination. … [T]he block in power had an active role in reproducing subordination, because, (Vega quotes Colombia Internacional, vol 65), ‘there existed for more than 100 years a pact among the national elites for whom subordination led to economic and political gains.’” As a result, “Not only in the international sphere, but in the domestic one too, the United States, generally, has the last word.”
In 1903, after 50 years of minor interventions, the United States secured Panama’s independence from Colombia as a prelude to building its canal there. As a sop to wounded Colombian feelings and to secure oil- extraction rights, the United States paid $25 million to Colombia under the Urrutia-Thompson Treaty of 1921. Colombia that year sent 72 percent of its exports to the United States, thanks mostly to U.S. banana and oil producers and U.S. lenders.
Vega highlights Colombia’s “native” brand of counterinsurgency. Under the flag of anti-communism, the Colombian Army violently suppressed striking oil, dock and railroad workers. On December 6, 1929 at the behest of the U.S. United Fruit Company, that Army murdered well over 1000 striking banana workers near Santa Marta. According to Minister of War Ignacio Rengifo, whom Vega quotes, Colombia faced a “new and terrible danger … The ominous seed of communism is being sprinkled on Colombian beaches [which] now begin to germinate in our soil and produce fruits of decomposition and revolt.” Having investigated those events, Representative Jorge Eliécer Gaitán told Colombia’s Congress in 1929 that, “It was a question of resolving a problem of wages by means of bullets from government machine gunners, because the workers were Colombian and the Company was American. [After all,] the government has murderous shrapnel for Colombians and a trembling knee on the ground before American gold.”
From the late 1930’s on, Gaitán and the left wing of the Liberal Party were leading mobilizations for agrarian and labor rights. With the advent of Conservative Party rule in 1946, repression with anti-communist overtones led to thousands of killings. By then U.S. military missions and instructors were operating in Colombia. U.S. military units no longer needed specific permission to enter Colombia. Colombia and other Latin American nations in 1947 signed the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, a military security agreement. Then on April 9, 1948, Gaitán was assassinated.
Colombian cities erupted in destruction and chaos. Within two weeks, 3000 died. Prompted by U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Colombian government blamed communists for Gaitán’s killing. Marshall was in Bogota that day presiding over a hemisphere-wide meeting at which, for cold war purposes, the Pan-American Union became the Organization of American States. Over the next ten years, war between the Colombian Army and peasant insurgents took nearly 200,000 lives. Most insurgents were affiliated with the Liberal Party but were labelled as communists.
The two nations signed a military assistance agreement in 1952 in response to an alleged “communist conspiracy.” Colombia was the only Latin American nation to send troops to the Korean War. Returning home, “Korea Battalion” veterans attacked insurgents and strikers. Colombia established its “School of Lancers” in 1955, modeled on and facilitated by the U.S. Army Ranger School. That year, with U.S. advisers on hand, Colombian troops used napalm in an unsuccessful effort to eradicate peasant insurgents in Tolima department. In 1959 U.S. military advisers secured President Alberto Lleras Camargo’s approval for a helicopter-equipped, 1500 – person counter-insurgency unit. A “secret CIA team” visited military detachments and inspected security archives to expand counterinsurgency and psychological warfare capabilities.
Yet rural uprisings continued, and, increasingly, insurgents were identifying themselves as communist. In response U.S. General William Yarborough and a U.S. Special Forces team visited four Colombian army brigades in 1962. They were there “to evaluate the ‘effectiveness of counterinsurgency operations’” and plan U.S. assistance. The U.S. army soon stepped up training and technical assistance, and provided new equipment, especially helicopters. Significantly, the Yarborough report, in a “Secret Supplement,” proposed that the “Colombian state organize paramilitary groups in order to ‘execute paramilitary activities like sabotage and/or terrorism against known partisans of communism. [The report emphasized that,] The United States must support this.’” It recommended new “interrogation techniques for ‘softening up’ prisoners.”
The FARC did not yet exist. In 1964, however, the Colombian army sent 16,000 Colombian troops into small-farmer communities in the Marquetalia region of southern Tolima. The U.S. government provided $500,000, and U.S. advisers were on hand as soldiers descended upon a relative handful of rebels. They escaped and within weeks established themselves as the FARC.
Continuing, Vega details:
* The subsequent flow of U.S. equipment and funding to the Colombian military
* Training of 10,446 Colombian soldiers – torture techniques included – at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas between 1946 and 2004 (5239 between 1999 and 2012).
* S. launching of Colombia’s FBI-like police and intelligence agency known as the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) in 1960
* Military and police assistance costing $10.7 billion between 1999 and 2007 under U.S. Plan Colombia. Its implementation caused the FARC in 2002 to end peace negotiations with the government.
* Use of the U.S. “drug war” as a new pretext for military aid, beginning with the Reagan administration
* Collusion between CIA teams and Colombian drug lords
* Deployment of U.S. soldiers and military contractors in Colombia
* Impunity for U.S. personnel accused of civilian killings and anti-women violence
* Establishment of seven U.S. military bases in Colombia in 2009
* S. use of Colombian personnel to train security forces in U.S. client states throughout the world
*High – technology intelligence equipment supplied for targeting FARC detachments and leaders, often with direct U.S. participation
The U. S. protégée DAS monitored opposition politicians, journalists, unionists and government officials, including Supreme Court justices. Adverse publicity led to its dissolution in 2011. The DAS had used paramilitaries to murder many of those under surveillance. Vega says U.S. embassy officials identified civilians for DAS targeting.
Vega reports on the 5000 or so civilians whom soldiers killed and then dressed in FARC uniforms to make them look like casualties of war. The scandal of the so-called “false positives” broke in 2008. It came about in part because extra U.S. funding was available to military units demonstrating effectiveness. The way to do that was to exhibit a high number of FARC casualties.
Vega quotes from the U.S. Institute of Policy Studies: “Everything indicates that support from the CIA or U.S. Special Forces to paramilitaries was the tool allowing them to be consolidated like never before.” He cites a “quantitative study” of municipalities showing that proximity to military bases receiving U.S. military assistance was associated with increased numbers of paramilitary attacks against civilians. From the bases, paramilitaries secured armaments, logistics, and intelligence, plus access to “helicopters or airplanes acquired from the United States.”
Having reported on what happened between the United States and Colombia, Vega then drew conclusions. Their essentials appear below in translation:
“During much of the twentieth century, Colombian governments and dominant classes continued a strategic alliance with the United States that was mutually beneficial to both sides …”
“A native counterinsurgency exists in Colombia nurtured on anti-communism that preceded the advent of the counterinsurgency doctrine. Anti-communism was renewed and integrated with the latter for the sake of U.S. geo-political interests during the cold war.”
“U. S. interference in the social and armed conflict in our country has been constant and direct since the end of the 1940’s …”
“Successive U.S. governments of the last seven decades are directly responsible for the perpetuation of armed conflict in Colombia. They have promoted counterinsurgency in all its manifestations and stimulated and trained the armed forces in their methods of torture and elimination of those seen as internal enemies …”
“The Yarborough mission of 1962 was directly responsible for the consolidation of paramilitarism in Colombia … “
“The United States has contributed to militarization of Colombian society through financing and support of the Colombian state and its armed forces …”
“The United States shares direct responsibility for thousands of assassinations committed by the armed forces and paramilitaries … It sponsored military brigades dedicated to that type of crime and backed private groups of assassins.”
“Direct U. S. control of DAS from the time of its formation to its recent dissolution makes that country responsible in part for the numerous crimes committed by that security organism against the population, [especially] unionists and social leaders …”
“In promoting the so-called drug war, the United States in a direct way participated in the destruction of the small-farmer and indigenous economy all over Colombia …”
“By virtue of agreements between the United States and Colombia, privatization of war promoted by Plan Colombia and the new counterinsurgency encourages utilization of mercenaries in our country’s internal war. They commit crimes … with full impunity. This encourages the “culture of impunity” characterizing the Colombian armed forces.”
“Since the late 1940’s state terrorism in Colombia has been promoted not only through military and financial support from the United States but also by our own dominant classes intent upon preserving their power and wealth and rejecting basic economic and social reforms of a re-distributive nature.”
“Some firms based on U. S. capital, like Chiquita Brands, having financed and sponsored paramilitary groups, are directly responsibility for hundreds of crimes …”
Reflections from a northern vantage point are in order. First, it’s not clear that the U. S. government, a force for war in Colombia, will accept a peace settlement reflecting FARC ideas of peace with social justice. Surely the time is now for fair-minded North Americans to pay attention to and get involved with solidarity efforts on behalf of the peace process and justice itself in Colombia. Secondly, while the thrust of Professor Vega’s study should be understandable by one and all, appreciation of the Colombian conflict as struggle between social classes will help with a full understanding and with movement toward action.
W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.
Source: http://www.rebelion.org/docs/195465.pdf (The author translated.)
Winston Churchill: the Imperial Monster February 25, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, History, Imperialism, Kenya, Racism, South Africa, War.
Tags: british empire, british imperialism, dresden firebombing, gandhi, history, imperialism, kenya, mau mau, michael dickinson, racism, roger hollander, winston churchill, world war II
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Roger’s note: This week, a low life scum by the name of John McCain, presiding over a Senate committee, referred to peace activists who had come to make a citizen’s arrest on war criminal Henry Kissinger, as — well, low life scum. I have always had a strong distaste for people in positions of power and authority, of whatever nationality, who are liars, racists, warmongers, etc. This goes as well for dead “heroes” who happened to be on the winning side, the side that writes history. My obsessive antipathy towards Winston Churchill began when I read about the fire bombing of Dresden toward the end of World War II, ordered by Churchill to terrorize and punish the the residents of this city that had great cultural heritage but zero strategic importance from a military point of view. This incineration of almost an entire population compares to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it was the inspiration for the celebrated novel, “Slaughterhouse Five,” written by an American soldier who survived the Dresden bombing, Kurt Vonnegut. If you didn’t already know that Churchill, who is considered by most to have been a noble statesman and warrior, was a disgusting racist pig, you will after reading this.
Fear-Monger, War Criminal, Racist
This week Britain is commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. Millions of people worldwide watched his state funeral on television in 1965, and thousands of people lined the streets of London to pay their last respects as his cortege slowly passed. But I somehow doubt that President Obama will be adding his own warm words of remembrance for the iconic British wartime leader.
After all, his own paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was one of 150.000 rebellious Kikuyu “blackamoors” forced into detention camps during Churchill’s postwar premiership, when the British governnment began its brutal campaign to suppress the alleged “Mau Mau” uprising in Kenya, in order to protect the privileges of the white settler population at the expense of the indigenous people. About 11,000 Kenyans were killed and 81,000 detained during the British government’s campaign to protect its imperialist heritage.
Suspected Mau Mau insurgents were subject to electric shock, whippings, burning and mutilation in order to crush the local drive for independence. Obama’s grandfather was imprisoned without trial for two years and tortured for resisting Churchill’s empire. He never truly recovered from the ordeal.
Africa was quite a playground for young Winston. Born into the privileged British elite in in 1847, educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, brought up believing the simple story that the superior white man was conquering the primitive, dark-skinned natives, and bringing them the benefits of civilisation, he set off as soon as he could to take his part in “a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples,” whose violence was explained by a “strong aboriginal propensity to kill”.
In Sudan, he bragged that he personally shot at least three “savages”.
In South Africa, where “it was great fun galloping about,” he defended British built concentration camps for white Boers, saying they produced “the minimum of suffering”. The death toll was almost 28,000.
When at least 115,000 black Africans were likewise swept into British camps, where 14,000 died, he wrote only of his “irritation that Kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men”.
(On his attitude to other races, Churchill’s doctor, Lord Moran, once said: “Winston thinks only of the colour of their skin.”
Churchill found himself in other British dominions besides Africa. As a young officer in the Swat valley, now part of Pakistan, Churchill one day experienced a fleeting revelation. The local population, he wrote in a letter, was fighting back because of “the presence of British troops in lands the local people considered their own,” – just as Britain would if she were invaded.
This idle thought was soon dismissed however , and he gladly took part in raids that laid waste to whole valleys, destroying houses and burning crops, believing the “natives” to be helpless children who will “willingly, naturally, gratefully include themselves within the golden circle of an ancient crown”.
But rebels had to be crushed with extreme force. As Colonial Secretary in the 1920s, Churchill unleashed the notorious Black and Tan thugs on Ireland’s Catholic civilians, making a hypocritical mockery of his comment:
“Indeed it is evident that Christianity, however degraded and distorted by cruelty and intolerance, must always exert a modifying influence on men’s passions, and protect them from the more violent forms of fanatical fever, as we are protected from smallpox by vaccination.”
His fear-mongering views on Islam sound strangely familiar:
“But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since, its votaries have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness.”
“On the subject of India,” said the British Secretary of State to India: “Winston is not quite sane… I didn’t see much difference between his outlook and Hitler’s.”
When Mahatma Gandhi launched his campaign of peaceful resistance against British rule in India, Churchill raged that Gandhi:
“ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back. Gandhi-ism and everything it stands for will have to be grappled with and crushed.”
In 1931 he sneered: “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer of the type well-known in the East, now posing as a fakir, striding half naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor.”
As Gandhi’s support increased, Churcill announced:
“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
In 1943 a famine broke out in Bengal, caused by the imperial policies of the British. In reply to the Secretary of State for India’s telegram requesting food stock to relieve the famine, Churchill wittily replied:
“If food is scarce, why isn’t Gandhi dead yet?”
Up to 3 million people starved to death. Asked in 1944 to explain his refusal to send food aid, Churchill jeered:
“Relief would do no good. Indians breed like rabbits and will outstrip any available food supply.”
Churchill statue in London. Photo: Getty Images.
Just after World War I, approximately one quarter of the world’s land and population fell within the spheres of British influence. The Empire had increased in size with the addition of territories taken from its vanquished enemies.
As British Colonial Secretary, Churchill’s power in the Middle East was immense. He “created Jordan with a stroke of a pen one Sunday afternoon”, allegedly drawing the expansive boundary map after a generous lunch. The huge zigzag in Jordan’s eastern border with Saudi Arabia has been called “Winston’s Hiccup” or “Churchill’s Sneeze”.
He is the man who invented Iraq, another arbitrary patch of desert, which was awarded to a throneless Hashemite prince; Faisal, whose brother Abdullah was given control of Jordan. Sons of King Hussein, Faisal and Abdullah had been war buddies of Churchill’s pal, the famous “T.E. Lawrence of Arabia”.
But the lines drawn in the sand by British imperialism, locking together conflicting peoples behind arbitrary borders were far from stable,and large numbers of Jordanians, Iraqis, Kurds and Palestinians were denied anything resembling real democracy.
In 1920 Churchill advocated the use of chemical weapons on the “uncooperative Arabs” involved in the Iraqi revolution against British rule.
“I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas,” he declared. “I am strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes. It would spread a lively terror.”
As Colonial Secretary, it was Churchill who offered the Jews their free ticket to the ‘Promised Land’ of ‘Israel’, although he thought they should not “take it for granted that the local population will be cleared out to suit their convenience.” He dismissed the Palestinians already living in the country as “barbaric hoards who ate little but camel dung.”
Addressing the Peel Commission (1937) on why Britain was justified in deciding the fate of Palestine, Churchill clearly displayed his white supremacist ideology to justify one of the most brutal genocides and mass displacements of people in history, based on his belief that “the Aryan stock is bound to triumph”:
“I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”
In fact, many of the views Churchill held were virtually Nazi. Apart from his support of hierarchical racism, as Home Minister he had advocated euthanasia and sterilisation of the handicapped.
In 1927, after a visit to Rome, he applauded the budding fascist dictator, Mussolini:
“What a man! I have lost my heart!… Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world… If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely from the beginning of your victorious struggle against the bestial appetites and passion of Leninism.”
(“The Bestial Appetites and Passions of Leninism”, eh? Where can I get a copy?)
But years later, in his written account of the Second World War (Vol. 111), fickle-hearted Winston applauded the downfall of his erstwhile hero:
“Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder.”
Britain’s American allies saw to that in Hiroshima and Nagasaki when they dropped their atomic bombs and killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Churchill had ordered the saturation bombing of Dresden, where, on February 13 1945, more than 500,000 German civilians and refugees, mostly women and children, were slaughtered in one day by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Force (USAAF), who dropped over 700,000 phosphorus bombs on the city.
Prime Minister Churchill had said earlier:
“I do not want suggestions as to how we can disable the economy and the machinery of war, what I want are suggestions as to how we can roast the German refugees on their escape from Breslau.”
In Dresden he got his wish. Those who perished in the centre of the city could not be traced, as the temperature in the area reached 1600 degree Centigrade. Dresden’s citizens barely had time to reach their shelters and many who sought refuge underground suffocated as oxygen was pulled from the air to feed the flames. Others perished in a blast of white heat strong enough to melt human flesh.
Instead of being charged with being responsible for ordering one of the most horrific war crimes of recent history, in which up to half a million people died screaming in his firestorms, Churchill emerged from the war as a hero. An unwavering supporter of the British monarchy throughout his life, he was made a knight of the Order of the Garter, Britain’s highest order of knighthoods, by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
“The monarchy is so extraordinarily useful. When Britain wins a battle she shouts, “God save the Queen”; when she loses, she votes down the prime minister,” he once said.
Shortly after the Second World War was won, however, Churchill’s Conservative government was voted down by a Britain tired of battle, austerity, and hungry for change.
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it,” said Churchill, and to a certain extent he succeeded. exte habit of dictating in the nude to his male secretaries. y and conscriptioneople were massacred ‘Winnie’ became Britain’s great national icon, with his trade-mark cigar and V-sign, remembered for leading Britain through her finest hour (we won’t mention his eccentric habit of pacing about the office in the nude while dictating to secretaries!) The fat cigar clamped in his mouth a symbol of cocky British defiance, Churchill was genial courageous Big Brother figure, revered by the media. His stirring wartime speech:
“We shall fight them on the beaches! We shall never surrender!” makes no mention of “We shall bomb them in their cities! We shall make them suffer!”
Churchill’s brutality and brutishness have been ignored, but he never reckoned on the invention of the internet, or its power to allow authors to question his view of history and expose the cruelty and racism of the man.
When George W Bush moved out of the White House he left a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval office. He’d used it to inspire him on his ‘war against terrorism’. Barack Obama had it removed. I wonder if he found the bust offensive? Was it out of respect for the pain and distress his Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, suffered on Churchill’s orders ?
Removing a bust is a fairly simple matter, but toppling a statue is quite another. In Westminster Square in front of Parliament in London there are several statues of deceased politicians and dignitaries, one of which I find particularly distasteful. Hands clasped behind back, the jodphur-clad figure striding purposely forward is that of Jan Christian Smuts. racist forefather of the Apartheid system in South Africa.
As for Churchill, who, as Home Secretary, said:
‘I propose that 100,000 degenerate Britons should be forcibly sterilized and others put in labour camps to halt the decline of the British race.’
His hulking toadish statue stands tall on a granite plinth, clutching a walking stick, his unblinking bulldog gaze on the Houses of Parliament where he reigned twice as a Conservative Prime Minister.
If I were Prime Minister of Great Britain, one of the first things on my list would be the removal of memorials to facist-minded racist imperialists. The statues of Smuts and Churchill in Parliament Square would be the first to come down.
Michael Dickinson can be contacted at email@example.com
Venezuela: a Coup in Real Time February 2, 2015Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America, Venezuela.
Tags: chavismo, eva golinger, hugo chavea, imperialism, Latin America, nicolas maduro, Venezuela, venezuela coup, venezuela economy
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Roger’s note: For those with eyes to see, the U.S. government’s foreign policy these days consists of transparently blatant regime change toward those countries that do not fall into line with (or, via setting bad socialist examples, are in direct opposition to) American geopolitical interests. Nevertheless, an opaque smoke screen is effectively thrown over the machinations of the State Department, the CIA, the NSA, USAID and god knows what other agencies that infiltrate to support the most reactionary and sometimes neo-fascist elements, by the mainstream media. We see this happening most clearly today in the Ukraine and in Venezuela.
The Monroe Doctrine is alive and well, only these days we don’t send the marines, we send the spooks and agents provocateur. Post WWII has seen illegal interventions in Guatemala, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama, Grenada, Honduras, Argentina … well, virtually the entire southern hemisphere.
The Same Old Dirty Tactics
There is a coup underway in Venezuela. The pieces are all falling into place like a bad CIA movie. At every turn a new traitor is revealed, a betrayal is born, full of promises to reveal the smoking gun that will justify the unjustifiable. Infiltrations are rampant, rumors spread like wildfire, and the panic mentality threatens to overcome logic. Headlines scream danger, crisis and imminent demise, while the usual suspects declare covert war on a people whose only crime is being gatekeeper to the largest pot of black gold in the world.
This week, as the New York Times showcased an editorial degrading and ridiculing Venezuelan President Maduro, labeling him “erratic and despotic” (“Mr. Maduro in his Labyrinth”, NYT January 26, 2015), another newspaper across the Atlantic headlined a hack piece accusing the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, and the most powerful political figure in the country after Maduro, of being a narcotics kingpin (“The head of security of the number two Chavista defects to the U.S. and accuses him of drug trafficking”, ABC, January 27, 2015). The accusations stem from a former Venezuelan presidential guard officer, Leasmy Salazar, who served under President Chavez and was recruited by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), now becoming the new “golden child” in Washington’s war on Venezuela.
Two days later, the New York Times ran a front-page piece shaming the Venezuelan economy and oil industry, and predicting its downfall (“Oil Cash Waning, Venezuelan Shelves Lie Bare”, Jan. 29, 2015, NYT). Blaring omissions from the article include mention of the hundreds of tons of food and other consumer products that have been hoarded or sold as contraband by private distributors and businesses in order to create shortages, panic, discontent with the government and justify outrageous price hikes. Further, multiple ongoing measures taken by the government to overcome the economic difficulties were barely mentioned and completed disregarded.
Simultaneously, an absurdly sensationalist and misleading headline ran in several U.S. papers, in print and online, linking Venezuela to nuclear weapons and a plan to bomb New York City (“U.S. Scientist Jailed for Trying to Help Venezuela Build Bombs”, Jan. 30, 2015, NPR). While the headline leads readers to believe Venezuela was directly involved in a terrorist plan against the U.S., the actual text of the article makes clear that no Venezuelans were involved at all. The whole charade was an entrapment set up by the FBI, whose officers posed as Venezuelan officials to capture a disgruntled nuclear physicist who once worked at Los Alamos and had no Venezuela connection.
That same day, State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki condemned the alleged “criminalization of political dissent” in Venezuela, when asked by a reporter about fugitive Venezuelan general Antonio Rivero’s arrival in New York to plea for support from the United Nations Working Committee on Arbitrary Detention. Rivero fled an arrest warrant in Venezuela after his involvement in violent anti-government protests that lead to the deaths of over 40 people, mainly government supporters and state security forces, last February. His arrival in the U.S. coincided with Salazar’s, evidencing a coordinated effort to debilitate Venezuela’s Armed Forces by publicly showcasing two high profile military officers – both former Chavez loyalists – that have been turned against their government and are actively seeking foreign intervention against their own country.
These examples are just a snapshot of increasing, systematic negative and distorted coverage of Venezuelan affairs in U.S. media, painting an exaggeratedly dismal picture of the country’s current situation and portraying the government as incompetent, dictatorial and criminal. While this type of coordinated media campaign against Venezuela is not new – media consistently portrayed former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, elected president four times by overwhelming majorities, as a tyrannical dictator destroying the country – it is clearly intensifying at a rapid, and concerning, pace.
The New York Times has a shameful history when it comes to Venezuela. The Editorial Board blissfully applauded the violent coup d’etat in April 2002 that ousted President Chavez and resulted in the death of over 100 civilians. When Chavez was returned to power by his millions of supporters and loyal Armed Forces two days later, the Times didn’t recant it’s previous blunder, rather it arrogantly implored Chavez to “govern responsibly”, claiming he had brought the coup on himself. But the fact that the Times has now begun a persistent, direct campaign against the Venezuelan government with one-sided, distorted and clearly aggressive articles – editorials, blogs, opinion, and news – indicates that Washington has placed Venezuela on the regime change fast track.
The timing of Leamsy Salazar’s arrival in Washington as an alleged DEA collaborator, and his public exposure, is not coincidental. This February marks one year since anti-government protests violently tried to force President Maduro’s resignation, and opposition groups are currently trying to gain momentum to reignite demonstrations. The leaders of the protests, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, have both been lauded by The New York Times and other ‘respected’ outlets as “freedom fighters”, “true democrats”, and as the Times recently referred to Machado, “an inspiring challenger”. Even President Obama called for Lopez’s release from prison (he was detained and is on trial for his role in the violent uprisings) during a speech last September at an event in the United Nations. These influential voices willfully omit Lopez’s and Machado’s involvement and leadership of violent, undemocratic and even criminal acts. Both were involved in the 2002 coup against Chavez. Both have illegally received foreign funding for political activities slated to overthrow their government, and both led the lethal protests against Maduro last year, publicly calling for his ouster through illegal means.
The utilization of a figure such as Salazar who was known to anyone close to Chavez as one of his loyal guards, as a force to discredit and attack the government and its leaders is an old-school intelligence tactic, and a very effective one. Infiltrate, recruit, and neutralize the adversary from within or by one of its own – a painful, shocking betrayal that creates distrust and fear amongst the ranks. While no evidence has surfaced to back Salazar’s outrageous claims against Diosdado Cabello, the headline makes for a sensational story and another mark against Venezuela in public opinion. It also caused a stir within the Venezuelan military and may result in further betrayals from officers who could support a coup against the government. Salazar’s unsubstantiated allegations also aim at neutralizing one of Venezuela’s most powerful political figures, and attempt to create internal divisions, intrigue and distrust.
The most effective tactics the FBI used against the Black Panther Party and other radical movements for change in the United States were infiltration, coercion and psychological warfare. By inserting agents into these organizations, or recruiting from within, that were able to gain access and trust at the highest levels, the FBI was able to destroy these movements from the inside, breaking them down psychologically and neutralizing them politically. These clandestine tactics and strategies are thoroughly documented and evidenced in FBI and other US government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and published in in Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall’s excellent book, “Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement” (South End Press, 1990).
Venezuela is suffering from the sudden and dramatic plummet in oil prices. The country’s oil-dependent economy has severely contracted and the government is taking measures to reorganize the budget and guarantee access to basic services and goods, but people are still experiencing difficulties. Unlike the dismal portrayal in The New York Times, Venezuelans are not starving, homeless or suffering from mass unemployment, as countries such as Greece and Spain have experienced under austerity policies. Despite certain shortages – some caused by currency controls and others by intentional hoarding, sabotage or contraband – 95% of Venezuelans consume three meals per day, an amount that has doubled since the 1990s. The unemployment rate is under 6% and housing is subsidized by the state.
Nevertheless, making Venezuela’s economy scream is without a doubt a rapidly intensifying strategy executed by foreign interests and their Venezuelan counterparts, and it’s very effective. As shortages continue and access to dollars becomes increasingly difficult, chaos and panic ensue. This social discontent is capitalized on by U.S. agencies and anti-government forces in Venezuela pushing for regime change. A very similar strategy was used in Chile to overthrow socialist President Salvador Allende. First the economy was destroyed, then mass discontent grew and the military moved to oust Allende, backed by Washington at every stage. Lest we forget the result: a brutal dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet that tortured, assassinated, disappeared and forced into exile tens of thousands of people. Not exactly a model to replicate.
This year President Obama approved a special State Department fund of $5 million to support anti-government groups in Venezuela. Additionally, the congressionally-funded National Endowment for Democracy is financing Venezuelan opposition groups with over $1.2 million and aiding efforts to undermine Maduro’s government. There is little doubt that millions more for regime change in Venezuela are being funneled through other channels that are not subject to public scrutiny.
President Maduro has denounced these ongoing attacks against his government and has directly called on President Obama to cease efforts to harm Venezuela. Recently, all 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations, members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), publicly expressed support for Maduro and condemned ongoing U.S. interference in Venezuela. Latin America firmly rejects any attempts to erode democracy in the region and will not stand for another US-backed coup. It’s time Washington listen to the hemisphere and stop employing the same dirty tactics against its neighbors.
Celebrating the Genocide of Native Americans November 26, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, First Nations, Genocide, History, Imperialism, Racism.
Tags: concept pictures, Dartwill Aquila, decay, environment, face, genocide, gilbert mercier, good complicit Americans, history, holocaust, howard zinn, hubris, imperial fascism, imperialism, indispensable, NAE, native americans, people's history, pilgrims, racism, roger hollander, slavery, superiority, thanksgiving, U.S. imperialism
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Roger’s note: my holiday gift to you. Happy Thanksgiving!
The sad reality about the United States of America is that in a matter of a few hundreds years it managed to rewrite its own history into a mythological fantasy. The concepts of liberty, freedom and free enterprise in the “land of the free, home of the brave” are a mere spin. The US was founded and became prosperous based on two original sins: firstly, on the mass murder of Native Americans and theft of their land by European colonialists; secondly, on slavery. This grim reality is far removed from the fairytale version of a nation that views itself in its collective consciousness as a virtuous universal agent for good and progress. The most recent version of this mythology was expressed by Ronald Reagan when he said that “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”
In rewriting its own history about Thanksgiving, white America tells a Disney-like fairytale about the English pilgrims and their struggle to survive in a new and harsh environment. The pilgrims found help from the friendly and extremely generous Native-American tribe, the Wampanoag Indians, in 1621. Unfortunately for Native Americans, the European settlers’ gratitude was short-lived. By 1637, Massachusetts governor John Winthrop ordered the massacre of thousands of Pequot Indian men, women and children. This event marked the start of a Native-American genocide that would take slightly more than 200 years to complete, and of course to achieve its ultimate goal, which was to take the land from Native Americans and systematically plunder their resources. The genocide begun in 1637 marks the beginning of the conquest of the entire continent until most Native Americans were exterminated, a few were assimilated into white society, and the rest were put in reservations to dwindle and die.
When Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas in 1492, on his quest for gold and silver, the Native population, which he erroneously called Indians, numbered an estimated 15 million who lived north of current day Mexico. It was, by all considerations, a thriving civilization. Three hundred and fifty years later, the Native American population north of Mexico would be reduced to less than a million. This genocide was brought upon the Natives by systematic mass murder and also by disease, notably smallpox, spread by the European colonists.
Columbus and his successors proto-capitalist propensity for greed was foreign to Native Americans. They viewed the land as tribal collective ownership, not as a property that could be owned by individuals. “Columbus and his successors were not coming to an empty wilderness, but into a world which, in some places, was as densely populated as Europe, and where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations between men, women, children and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps in any other places in the world.” wrote Howard Zinn in his masterful A People’s History of the United States.
In many ways, the US’ celebration of Thanksgiving is analogous to setting aside a day in Germany to celebrate the Holocaust. Thanksgiving is the American Holocaust. The original crimes of genocide and slavery are not limited to US early history but have found an extension in the policies of modern-day US. The systematic assault on other nations and cultures still goes on under various pretenses or outright lies. United States wars of empire are going on today more than ever before. These wars have left millions of people dead across the world in the course of American history, and they are still fought for the same reasons behind the Native American genocide and slavery: namely, to expand the wealth of the US elite.
Defenders of Thanksgiving will say that whatever the original murky meaning of the holiday, it has become a rare chance to spend time with family and show appreciation for what one has. For most Americans today, however, it is hard to be thankful. As matter of fact, unless you belong to the 2 percent who represent the US ruling class you should not be thankful at all. How can you be appreciative for what you have if you have lost your house to foreclosure, don’t have a job and can’t feed your family? How can you be appreciative if you are a homeless veteran? How can you be appreciative when you are poor or sick in a society without social justice? On this Thanksgiving day, rich celebrities and politicians will make a parody of what should be real charity by feeding countless poor and homeless. This will ease their conscience, at least for a while. Charity, however, should not be a substitute for social justice. Just to ruin some people’s appetites before they attack that golden turkey: keep in mind that today we are celebrating a genocide.
Gilbert Mercier is the Editor in Chief of News Junkie Post.
Imperial Evil Dressed in Indispensable Bullshit
Most people hearing of a superior race with the right to rule over other races have no problem recognizing the face of evil. Most people. Those who identify with the superior race are often blinded by the glow of their delusions of superiority. They cozy up in the warmth of the glow.
Instead of a race, a nation can be regarded as superior, with the right to rule over other nations. There’s no significant difference between a superior Aryan race with a right to conquer the world, and an indispensable nation with a right to rule the world. That is to say, there is no significant difference between the ideology of Nazi Germany and present day USA.
Leading Americans spit the venom of exceptionality from their stars-and-striped tongues all the time.
“If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation.” Madeleine Albright
“The United States is exceptional, and will always be the one indispensable nation in world affairs.” Barack Obama
“One indispensable nation”! Logically that means that all the other nations are dispensable. Read between the lines and it says that you had better do what the indispensable nation demands or find out what dispensable means.
Empires have always, without exception, considered themselves superior to all other peoples and nations. Always. The NAE (North Atlantic Empire/USA) is no different. Unfortunately, those who identify themselves as members of the superior NAE fail to see the implications and consequences of this “indispensable” superiority. The future will judge them on the same scales as those used to weigh the good German citizens under Hitler’s regime. The good Americans, like the good Germans, like the good subjects of every empire that cast its formidable, but temporary, shadow upon the earth, will plead both innocents and ignorance when their world lies in shatters and contempt flows down upon them from former victims of their imperial hubris. Their pleas will serve to intensify the contempt. When leaders speak openly of being exceptional, indispensable and superior, all lack of resistance qualifies as an admission of complicity in the crimes of the leaders, particularly those who stipulate the conditions, “You’re either with us or against us.”
“Pebbles, dust and sand,
the remains of greatness in history’s hand.”
31 Years After the U.S. Invasion of Grenada October 21, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Grenada, History, Imperialism, Latin America.
Tags: grenada, grenada invasion, history, imperialism, Latin America, maurice bishop, mickey z, roger hollander, ronald reagan
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Roger’s note: Having failed for decades to dislodge the thorn in its side known as Fidel Castro’s Cuba, the United States in 1983 invaded a tiny island in the Caribbean which had had the audacity to form a socialist government. Following the usual paradigm for Latin America intervention (otherwise known as “send in the Marines!”), including the slaughter of civilians, it was little challenge for the United States brave army to defeat the defenders of a nation of barely one hundred thousand inhabitants.
As I’m sure everyone knows, we’re fast approaching the 31st anniversary of a truly momentous American victory — a crucial military operation that not only warmed Ronald Raygun’s cold, cold heart but was also deemed film-worthy by the former mayor of Carmel, California.
Yes, of course, I’m talking about the Oct. 25, 1983, “liberation” of Grenada.
In March 1979, socialist leader Maurice Bishop took over Grenada in a bloodless coup. Once deemed “a lovely piece of real estate” by U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, Grenada is a small East Caribbean island of some 133 square miles and 110,000 inhabitants. At the time of the U.S. invasion, half of Grenada’s nationals lived in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn.
The United States worked to destabilize the Bishop regime but, in early October 1983, he was ultimately deposed and later murdered by a group even more to the “Left” than he. That’s when America decided to risk awakening this sleeping Caribbean giant by launching a preemptive military strike.
After adding the obligatory statements about Soviet and Cuban designs on the island, the Great Communicator sent roughly 8,000 U.S. soldiers in to lead an operation called “Urgent Fury.” The fighting was over in a week. Casualties included 135 Americans killed or wounded along 84 Cubans and some 400 Grenadians dead.
“Forced on Us”
“The American media rarely mentioned Grenadian casualties of U.S. aggression,” explains Ramsey Clark. “It barely reported the mental hospital destroyed by a Navy jet, leaving more than 20 dead.” (Sound familiar?)
Raygun declared that the invasion was “forced on us by events that have no precedent in the eastern Caribbean,” leaving the United States with “no choice but to act strongly and decisively.” (Sound familiar?)
By a vote of 108 to 9, the United Nations General Assembly condemned the invasion as a “flagrant violation of international law.” (Sound familiar?)
A Wall Street Journal headline blared: U.S. INVADES GRENADA IN WARNING TO RUSSIA AND CUBA ABOUT EXPANSION IN THE CARIBBEAN. It was also a warning to potential critics.”The invasion was already under way, so even if we opposed it, there was nothing any of us could do,” Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neil said at the time. “I had some serious reservations, and I’m sure my Democratic colleagues did as well, but I’d be damned if I was going to voice any criticism while our boys were out there.” (Sound familiar?)
Let’s not forget the “Grenada 17.” Amnesty International’s UK media director, Lesley Warner, wrote in 2003 that these 17 prisoners were “initially held without charge in cages, before being tried before an unfair, ad-hoc tribunal. They were denied access to legal counsel and to documents needed for their defense. After sentencing, the Grenada 17 were held in tiny cells with lights left permanently on.” (Sound familiar?)
“Stepping on a Flea”
In October 1983, Raygun stopped short of donning a flight suit, but did make a speech on the fourth day of the invasion, which, according to William Blum, “succeeded in giving jingoism a bad name.”
“The president managed to link the invasion of Grenada with the shooting down of a Korean airliner by the Soviet Union, the killing of U.S. soldiers in Lebanon, and the taking of American hostages in Iran,” says Blum.
“Clearly, the invasion symbolized an end to this string of humiliations for the United States. Even Vietnam was being avenged,” Blum adds. “To commemorate the American Renaissance, some 7,000 U.S. servicemen were designated heroes of the republic and decorated with medals. (Many had done no more than sit on ships near the island.) American had regained its manhood, by stepping on a flea.”
It’s all so familiar, but when will we learn?
Bolivians Demand Justice for 2003 Gas War Massacre October 21, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America.
Tags: benjamin dangl, Bolivia, bolivia gas war, Bolivia Massacre, el alto bolivia, Evo Morales, foreign policy, imperialism, Latin America, roger hollander, sanchez de berzain, Sánchez de Lozada
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Roger’s note: I never cease to be outraged when I think of U.S. foreign policy and actions towards Latin America, of which I have been a life-long student and aficionado. The U.S. government has never met a pro-American dictator or repressive president it didn’t like, from Tierra del Fuego to Havana, Cuba (which is not to exclude the rest of the world). It is particularly offensive that, once the people have overthrown these traitors, the United States becomes an asylum for them. Almost without exception, its geopolitical objectives trump human rights, values and decency. God Bless America.
by BENJAMIN DANGL
Thousands of people marched in El Alto, Bolivia on Friday, October 17th to demand justice for the 2003 massacre of over 60 people during the country’s Gas War under the Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (Goni) administration. Sanchez de Lozada is currently living freely in the US, and marchers demanded he and others in his government be brought to Bolivia to be tried for ordering the violence. October marks the anniversary of that assault on the city, and people mobilized on Friday to remember and to demand justice.
“Today we’re marching to remember on the 11th anniversary of the Gas War, which was aimed at getting rid of the neoliberal government of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada,” El Alto neighborhood council member Daniel Cama said while marching down the streets of the city. “We demand justice, and we demand the extradition of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and [former Defense Minister] Carlos Sanchez de Berzain, because they were the ones that led the massacre against the people of El Alto. This violence left many widows, orphans and injured people that are still demanding justice. Today we are marching to celebrate and remember the dead who fought for our natural resources.”
Bolivia’s Gas War is largely credited for ushering in a period of progressive change marked by policies led by President Evo Morales, who was re-elected on October 12th for a third term in office. The “Martyrs of the Gas War” are often recalled as the protagonists that led to the nationalization of sectors of Bolivia’s gas industry, a move which has generated funding for many popular social programs the Morales’ administration has developed to alleviate poverty. (For more information, see this article on the ten year anniversary of the Gas War and this article on the case against Goni.)
On Friday, thousands of El Alto residents marched from different points in the city, converging for a rally in the city center, where social movement leaders and victims of the Gas War spoke to a large crowd. Cheers regularly broke out, including the angry cry, “We Want Goni’s Head!” Many activists in the Gas War itself were present, such as the prominent participation by the city’s Fejuve neighborhood organizations. In a march meant to remember those days of repression and struggle, many veterans of the conflict marched down the same streets, and under the same bridges, where the army led their attack.
There was a notable absence of politicians at the day’s events, something many speakers at the rally commented on. Various marchers explained that the Morales government was moving forward with nationalization plans and progressive policies fought for in the streets of the Gas War. However, activists also complained that the Morales administration has not supported the working class city of El Alto with sufficient public projects and infrastructure.
“We’re marching for those brothers and sisters who died or were injured in the Gas War,” explained El Alto resident Genoveve Rodriguez. “As time has passed not even the government remembers this conflict, and they haven’t created enough public projects to help out the city of El Alto.”
The following photos are of the October 17th march, including the vast participation of the neighborhood councils and family members of Gas War victims, as well as the rally which ended the day’s mobilization with speeches and music.
El Alto’s Fejuve neighborhood organizations, key participants in the Gas War, led the march.
Family members of Gas War victims rallied for justice in El Alto.
A cross in downtown El Alto reads “11 Years of Impunity.”
A Bolivian hip-hop group was among many bands performing at the rally following the march.
A commemorative mural in El Alto depicting the Gas War.
All photos by Benjamin Dangl
Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Dangl is currently a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Twitter: https://twitter.com/bendangl
WHAT ‘DEMOCRACY’ REALLY MEANS IN U.S. AND NEW YORK TIMES JARGON: LATIN AMERICA EDITION October 19, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America, Media, Venezuela.
Tags: Bolivia, democracy, dictatorships, egypt coup, Evo Morales, foreign policy, glenn greenwald, Hugo Chavez, imperialism, journalism, Media, new york times, roger hollander, Venezuela, venezuela coup
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Roger’s note: I read the New York Times (it is the most right wing site I go to online; and, when asked how I keep up with the “other side,” I reply that one absorbs it by osmosis), there is often good reporting and feature articles; but on U.S. foreign policy, the Times is as Neanderthal as Bush/Obama/Clintons.
One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition – a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:
With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.
Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger . . . because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. “business leader.” The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.”
More amazingly still, the Times editors told their readers that Chávez’s “removal was a purely Venezuelan affair,” even though it was quickly and predictably revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a central role. Eleven years later, upon Chávez’s death, the Times editors admitted that “the Bush administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez” [the paper forgot to mention that it, too, blessed (and misled its readers about) that coup]. The editors then also acknowledged the rather significant facts that Chávez’s “redistributionist policies brought better living conditions to millions of poor Venezuelans” and “there is no denying his popularity among Venezuela’s impoverished majority.”
If you think The New York Times editorial page has learned any lessons from that debacle, you’d be mistaken. Today they published an editorialexpressing grave concern about the state of democracy in Latin America generally and Bolivia specifically. The proximate cause of this concern? The overwhelming election victory of Bolivian President Evo Morales (pictured above), who, as The Guardian put it, “is widely popular at home for a pragmatic economic stewardship that spread Bolivia’s natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses.”
The Times editors nonetheless see Morales’ election to a third term not as a vindication of democracy but as a threat to it, linking his election victory to the way in which “the strength of democratic values in the region has been undermined in past years by coups and electoral irregularities.” Even as they admit that “it is easy to see why many Bolivians would want to see Mr. Morales, the country’s first president with indigenous roots, remain at the helm” – because “during his tenure, the economy of the country, one of the least developed in the hemisphere, grew at a healthy rate, the level of inequality shrank and the number of people living in poverty dropped significantly” – they nonetheless chide Bolivia’s neighbors for endorsing his ongoing rule: “it is troubling that the stronger democracies in Latin America seem happy to condone it.”
The Editors depict their concern as grounded in the lengthy tenure of Morales as well as the democratically elected leaders of Ecuador and Venezuela: “perhaps the most disquieting trend is that protégés of Mr. Chávez seem inclined to emulate his reluctance to cede power.” But the real reason the NYT so vehemently dislikes these elected leaders and ironically views them as threats to “democracy” becomes crystal clear toward the end of the editorial (emphasis added):
This regional dynamic has been dismal for Washington’s influence in the region. In Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, the new generation of caudillos [sic] have staked out anti-American policies and limited the scope of engagement on development, military cooperation and drug enforcement efforts. This has damaged the prospects for trade and security cooperation.
You can’t get much more blatant than that. The democratically elected leaders of these sovereign countries fail to submit to U.S. dictates, impede American imperialism, and subvert U.S. industry’s neoliberal designs on the region’s resources. Therefore, despite how popular they are with their own citizens and how much they’ve improved the lives of millions of their nations’ long-oppressed and impoverished minorities, they are depicted as grave threats to “democracy.”
It is, of course, true that democratically elected leaders are capable of authoritarian measures. It is, for instance, democratically elected U.S. leaders who imprison people without charges for years, build secret domestic spying systems, and even assert the power to assassinate their own citizens without due process. Elections are no guarantee against tyranny. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of each of these leaders with regard to domestic measures and civic freedoms, as there is for virtually every government on the planet.
But the very idea that the U.S. government and its media allies are motivated by those flaws is nothing short of laughable. Many of the U.S. government’s closest allies are the world’s worst regimes, beginning with the uniquely oppressive Saudi kingdom (which just yesterday sentenced a popular Shiite dissident to death) and the brutal military coup regime in Egypt, which, as my colleague Murtaza Hussain reports today, gets more popular in Washington as it becomes even more oppressive. And, of course, the U.S. supports Israel in every way imaginable even as its Secretary of State expressly recognizes the “apartheid” nature of its policy path.
Just as the NYT did with the Venezuelan coup regime of 2002, the U.S. government hails the Egyptian coup regime as saviors of democracy. That’s because “democracy” in U.S. discourse means: “serving U.S. interests” and “obeying U.S. dictates,” regardless how how the leaders gain and maintain power. Conversely, “tyranny” means “opposing the U.S. agenda” and “refusing U.S. commands,” no matter how fair and free the elections are that empower the government. The most tyrannical regimes are celebrated as long as they remain subservient, while the most popular and democratic governments are condemned as despots to the extent that they exercise independence.
To see how true that is, just imagine the orgies of denunciation that would rain down if a U.S. adversary (say, Iran, or Venezuela) rather than a key U.S. ally like Saudi Arabia had just sentenced a popular dissident to death. Instead, the NYT just weeks ago uncritically quotes an Emirates ambassador lauding Saudi Arabia as one of the region’s “moderate” allies because of its service to the U.S. bombing campaign in Syria. Meanwhile, the very popular, democratically elected leader of Bolivia is a grave menace to democratic values – because he’s “dismal for Washington’s influence in the region.”
Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Email the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Lynch Law: The Root of US imperialism April 3, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, History, Human Rights, Imperialism, Race, Racism, Torture, War.
Tags: danny haiphong, history, ho chi minh, imperialism, jim crow, kill list, KKK, lynch law, lynching, ndaa, Race, racism, roger hollander, slavery, solitary confinement, torture, white power
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Roger’s note: there are strong words. Back in the late 1960s those of us protesting the US aggression in Vietnam were criticized for using the word “fascist” to characterize the U.S. government. It seemed to many then, as it may seem to many now, that the use of such language was going overboard. I disagreed then, and I disagree now. And believe me, friends, in terms of the kinds of governmental actions that can be described as fascist, we have come a long way since then.
Domestic U.S. lynch has morphed into imperialist terrorism. “Washington uses a nexus of intelligence and military institutions to lynch the world’s people of their lives and resources.”
by Danny Haiphong; http://www.blackagendareport.com, April 1, 2014
“The prospect of being lynched by Obama’s ‘kill list’ or detained under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is just a ‘terrorist’ label away from any American the US government finds a threat to its ‘national security.’”
The political and economic foundation of the United States is built on the corpses of legal lynching, or “lynch law.” Without the genocide and enslavement of Black and indigenous peoples, the US capitalist class could not have amassed its profits, wealth, or power. Following the passage of the 13th Amendment that supposedly ended Black chattel slavery at the close of the Civil War, the US capitalist class moved quickly to reorganize the capitalist economy so newly “freed” Blacks would remain enslaved. Convict-leasing, sharecropping, and legalized segregation ensured Black exploitation and white power. These brutal forms of exploitation were kept intact by white terrorism in the form of lynching.
Thousands of Black people were lynched by white supremacists from the end of the Civil War until 1968. Ho Chi Minh, the first revolutionary president of socialist Vietnam, worked in the US in the mid-1920s and examined the horrors of lynching. He described the gruesome details of white vigilantes torturing and killing Black people with impunity. Local law enforcement officials protected white lynch mobs like the KKK and Black Legion and often participated in lynching alongside their white counterparts. ‘Uncle Ho’ states in his work Lyching (1924) that “the principal culprits [of lynching] were never troubled, for the simple reason that they were always incited . . . then protected by the politicians, financiers, and authorities . . . “ It wasn’t until Black people organized themselves to defend and arm their communities that white mobs were forced to curtail their racist murder sprees.
“80,000 mostly Black prisoners are caged in solitary confinement, which by definition is torture and illegal under international law.”
The so-called end of “Jim Crow” racism only changed the form in which Black people would be lynched by the US racist order. The US capitalist class responded to the force of the Black liberation movement by institutionalizing “lynch law” into its criminal injustice system. Today, some form of law enforcement murders a Black person in this country every 28 hours. Nearly half of the estimated 3 million US prisoners are Black and nearly all are “people of color.” 80,000 mostly Black prisoners are caged in solitary confinement, which by definition is torture and illegal under international law. Numerous states in the US have “Stand your ground” laws that allow white supremacists to murder Black people with impunity. Sound familiar? And President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief of US imperialism, is too concerned with pathologizing Black America than forwarding substantive policies that address “lynch law” on behalf of his most loyal constituency.
In this period of heightened exploitation for the oppressed in general and Black America in particular, the propertied classes are becoming increasingly paranoid about the potential for popular unrest. “Lynch law” is becoming the law of the land for the entire populace. A homeless man in Albuquerque, New Mexico was shot dead by local police for being homeless on March 16th. More US citizens have been murdered by US law enforcement in the last decade than have died in the US invasion of Iraq over the same period. The surveillance US imperialism had to conduct in secret on radical dissent in the past has expanded to the entire population through a massive surveillance state of federal intelligence agencies, private contractors, and US multinational corporations. The prospect of being lynched by Obama’s “kill list” or detained under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is just a “terrorist” label away from any American the US government finds a threat to its “national security.”
“More US citizens have been murdered by US law enforcement in the last decade than have died in the US invasion of Iraq over the same period.”
“Lynch law” is also a global tactic for US imperialism to maintain its global domination. Washington uses a nexus of intelligence and military institutions to lynch the world’s people of their lives and resources. This can be examined in specific instances like the thousands of people in the Middle East and Africa murdered by Obama Administration drone strikes or the NATO bombing of Libya that killed tens of thousands and nearly exterminated the Black Libyan population. The CIA has overthrown over 50 foreign governments since the end of World War II. These are just a few important examples of how Washington and its masters, the capitalist class, must lynch the majority of the world’s people to obtain their wealth and power.
The increasing violence, suffering, and social death imposed on oppressed people by US imperialist “lynch law” exposes the bankruptcy of the liberal wing of the capitalist class. Propped up by the corporate media like MSNBC, this self-proclaimed “left” actively participates in bi-partisan lynching in all of its forms to further their careers with the liberal imperialist Democratic Party and the untouchable fascist Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama. Any movement that depends on this corporate brand of leftism to bring about the end of US lynch law is destined to fail. A people’s movement for complete justice will have to be led by the struggle of Black America’s oppressed majority and all communities suffering from US fascist rule. We must spend each day building a movement that empowers oppressed people to demand the power to collectively determine their own destiny. This movement is far from victory’s reach, but each day we fail to act, another exploited human being is lynched by the US imperialist system.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and case manager. You can contact Danny at: email@example.com.
Towards another coup in Venezuela? February 19, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Imperialism, Latin America, Venezuela.
Tags: belen fernandez, capriles, emiliana duarte, Hugo Chavez, imperialism, nicolas maduro, regime change, roger hollander, Venezuela, venezuela media, venezuela opposition, venezuela protests
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Roger’s note: here is more on the volatile situation in Venezuela that you are not likely to find in the mainstream media. If you have the time to invest in reading an excellent analysis of recent pre and post Chavez Venezuela, go to the link for this article, which I am not posting here due to its length: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/venezuela-archives-35/4694-sabaneta-to-miraflores-afterlives-of-hugo-chavez-in-venezuela.
Protests are initiated by ultra-right factions of the opposition in the hope of an eventual systemic overhaul.
Last updated: 19 Feb 2014 08:50
Five days after violent anti-government incitement in Venezuela led to the deaths of three people, the US State Department issued a press statement declaring: “The allegations [by President Nicolas Maduro] that the United States is helping to organise protestors… is baseless and false. We support human rights and fundamental freedoms – including freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly – in Venezuela as we do in countries around the world.”
Of course, US commitment to such freedoms is called into question by its own operating procedures, which have included police beatings of peaceful protesters and the incarceration and torture of whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
|Inside Story – Making choices after Chavez|
Maduro might – meanwhile – be forgiven for associating the US with efforts to overthrow the Venezuelan government given said country’s intimate involvement in the 2002 coup d’etat against Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez – not to mention its general history of fomenting opposition to less-than-obsequious Latin American regimes.
George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor at Drexel University and the author of “We Created Chavez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution”, remarked to me yesterday that, although “there’s no reason to think that the US is directly involved in organising or calling these protests… we need to bear in mind that [it] continues to fund the very same opposition groups that have participated in violent, anti-democratic actions before and that continue to do so”.
The great cake famine
The opposition cites insecurity, food shortages, and inflation as factors driving the protests.
However, pinning the blame for all of Venezuela’s ills on chavismo – the left-wing political ideology developed by Chavez and continued by Maduro – is transparently disingenuous. Or rather, it would be transparently disingenuous if the dominant international media were not intent on parroting opposition propaganda.
In 2010, for example, the New York Times horrified the world with the news that Venezuela under Chavez was deadlier than Iraq. As noted in Richard Gott’s Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, “much of the violence stemmed from the police itself (the highest crime rates were registered in the states of Miranda, Tachira and Zulia, where opposition governors ruled and controlled the local police forces)”.
Since such details complicate the vilification of Chavez and company, they’re often deemed unworthy of reporting. So is the fact that Honduras – neoliberal lap dog of the US – happens to be far deadlier than Venezuela, Iraq, and every other nation on earth.
As for the issue of food shortages, it’s instructive to take a look at a recent episode of Al Jazeera’s The Stream featuring an appearance by elite right-wing Caracas blogger Emiliana Duarte. Asked to elaborate on the circumstances of daily existence in Venezuela, Duarte launches into a sob story about having to visit 10 different supermarkets the previous year during a quest to bake a cake.
In addition to highlighting the sort of absurd hysterics that typify the Venezuelan opposition, the cake-baking anecdote constitutes less than persuasive evidence of the supposedly brutal tyranny under which Duarte and her socioeconomic cohorts are forced to reside.
Perpetual opposition ruckus about the government’s alleged control of the media – which is said to be thwarting proper transmission of the protests – meanwhile – fails to account for the fact that the vast majority of Venezuelan media is privately owned. In 2012, the BBC noted that a mere 4.58 percent of television and radio channels belonged to the state.
Regarding Maduro’s decision to indefinitely block the far-right Colombian news channel NTN24 from transmitting in Venezuela, Ciccariello-Maher commented that, “while we should be very concerned any time a media outlet is blocked, however briefly, we should also remember that the private media is far from neutral” and that “this is a government that has seen a coup d’etat led by the private media”.
|The doom-and-gloom squawking of the elite in response to the effective anti-polarisation campaign of the chavistas has merely been a natural reaction to a perceived threat against formerly entrenched positions of arbitrary privilege.|
Indeed, the narrative spun by anti-Chavez outlets during the 2002 coup wasinstrumental to its initial success.
Polarisation by whom?
On the occasion of Chavez’s last landslide victory in 2012, Keane Bhatt listed some aspects of the man’s legacy thus far in a blog post for the North American Congress on Latin America: “[In the pre-Chavez years of] 1980 to 1998, Venezuela’s per capita GDP declined by 14 percent, whereas since 2004, after the Chavez administration gained control over the nation’s oil revenues, the country’s GDP growth per person has averaged 2.5 percent each year.
At the same time, income inequality was reduced to the lowest in Latin America, and a combination of widely shared growth and government programmes cut poverty in half and reduced absolute poverty by 70 percent – and that’s before accounting for vastly expanded access to health, education, and housing.”
Such improvements might be of more interest to the majority of Venezuelans than, say, Duarte’s cake saga. Although Chavez is relentlessly cast in the mainstream media as a “polarising” figure, the fact is that the late president laboured to reduce the already existing polarisation of Venezuelan society by reducing the income gap and offering the poor masses some acknowledgement as human beings.
The doom-and-gloom squawking of the elite in response to the effective anti-polarisation campaign of thechavistas has merely been a natural reaction to a perceived threat against formerly entrenched positions of arbitrary privilege.
As for the current opposition efforts against Maduro, it’s not difficult to see that US support for regime change in Venezuela is itself quite polarising – both domestically and continentally.
While the Mercosur member states – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela – havecondemned the violent “attempts to destabilise [Venezuela’s] democratic order”, US Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned “this senseless violence” and exhorted the Maduro government “to provide the political space necessary for meaningful dialogue with the Venezuelan people”.
To be sure, it’s more convenient to blame Maduro for the phenomenon of “senseless violence” than to ponder, say, the practice of assassinating civilians with US drones. That the anti-chavista crowd is cast in the role of “the Venezuelan people” also raises the question of what the millions of people who support the government qualify as.
Initiated by ultra-right factions of the opposition, this bout of violence was far from “senseless”; it did, after all, have a point. And that point, as usual, was to agitate on behalf of an eventual systemic overhaul and the deliverance of Venezuela into the imperial embrace.
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin Magazine.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.