"Coup-operation, the American way"
Posted: Tuesday, May 7, 2002
By Doreen Miller
Columnist (United States)
"You're either with us or against us," as uttered by U.S. President Bush, when viewed in light of the CIA's extensive "Coups 'R Us" history of governmental overthrows, belies its singular reference to his war on terrorism and unwittingly reveals a deeper, prevailing U.S. attitude towards other nations in general, and towards democratically elected leaders of foreign countries in particular. It seems the only form of government the U.S. recognizes and is willing to support is that which unequivocally bows to the supremacy of U.S. economic and political interests.
How else does one rationally explain the apparent hypocrisy between the U.S. "pro-democracy" rhetoric and its covertly sanctioned, CIA- directed attempt to oust Venezuela's democratically elected President Hugo Chavez? How does the United States, with a straight face, justify backing repressive, military dictatorships such as that of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, or, in the not-so-distant past, rebel leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein who then permutate into dangerous renegades and dictators by their own "USA-made-possible" might?
From its inception in 1947, the CIA has had to answer to nobody but the president under the terms of the National Security Act, leaving the door wide open for many questionable and terribly undemocratic, clandestine operations. Throughout its 55-year history, the CIA has been responsible for political meddling, disinformation campaigns, the assassinations of democratically elected leaders, and military coups in more than three dozen countries, leaving a trail of dirty, blood-tinged fingerprints in, but not limited to: Haiti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Brazil, Indonesia, Greece, Congo (Zaire), Bolivia, Uruguay, Australia, Angola, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, the Honduras, El Salvador, and Colombia.
The U.S. Congress passed laws in 1974, 1975, and again in 1986 after the disclosure of CIA involvement in the Iran/Contra scandal, for the purpose of assuring greater accountability of this governmental arm. However, these reforms have proven themselves to be but superficial, ineffective window dressing against a powerful backdrop of CIA cunning, control, deception and stealth.
The initial years of the CIA proved to be busy ones, indeed, as it participated in corrupting the democratic election process in Italy by buying up votes, broadcasting propaganda, lies and half-truths, and beating up opposition leaders in order to successfully keep the communists from winning. Another of its very first missions involved securing U.S. interests in Greece against the threat of the "dreaded" Communist Party. That was accomplished by backing and placing into power notorious, anti-communist Greek leaders who were known for their own shocking baggage of deplorable human rights abuses.
Contrary to what one might expect, the high and mighty United States, model of democracy, fares no better than its more ignominious counterparts when it comes to upholding human rights around the world. In fact, it has a long, and not-so-proud history of using violence, extortion, and murder to install any kind of regime, including brutal dictatorships, if it serves to protect its economic and corporate interests, most especially its inalienable right to pursue the exploration and extraction of oil and gas worldwide. The United States thinks nothing of being involved in the overthrow of legitimate, democratically elected leaders that fail to toe the arbitrarily drawn, U.S.-defined line.
In 1953, the CIA toppled, in its first military coup, the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran after he had defiantly threatened to nationalize British oil. He was summarily replaced with a dictator whose secret police is said to have rivaled the brutality of the Nazi Gestapo.
If the democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacob Arbenz had
been paying close attention to the lesson of Iran, he never would have made the foolhardy attempt in 1954 to nationalize the Rockefeller-owned United Fruit Company, in which the CIA director, Allen Dulles, personally owned stock. Arbenz, too, suffered the same fate as Mossadegh, and was replaced, in a CIA-led military coup, by a series of blood-thirsty dictators who would kill more than 100,000 Guatemalans over the course of the next 40 years.
Have you ever wondered how the United States convinced Cambodia to join its efforts in the Vietnam War? Quite simply, the CIA dethroned Prince Sihanouk, who was highly popular for keeping his country out of the war, and replaced him with their personal marionette, Lon Nol, who immediately complied with U.S. interests by throwing Cambodian troops into battle. This created a chain reaction within opposition groups in Cambodia, resulting in a bloody chaos that opened the path to the rise in power of the Khmer Rouge, a ruthless faction that would claim the lives of millions of innocent people.
The 1973 CIA-led military coup and subsequent assassination of the democratically elected socialist leader Salvador Allende in Chile was triggered when Allende nationalized American-owned firms in the hopes of providing better conditions for his own people. He was replaced by General Augusto Pinochet who tortured and murdered thousands of his countrymen and women in a crackdown on labor leaders, unions and the political left. Once again, much blood was shed and countless lives lost for the ultimate purpose of preserving U.S. corporate interests and sovereignty.
Within the past few weeks, sophomoric attempts by the Bush Administration to ward off accusations of its involvement in Venezuela's failed military coup d'état pale in comparison to the plethora of implicative fingerprints left at and all along the trails leading up to and away from the scene of the crime. Those who lived through the Chilean coup of 1973 can corroborate key elements and tactics used by the CIA that were replayed in Venezuela: the use of civilians to create an atmosphere of chaos, a false picture of an elected leader turned "dictator," the complicity of media controlled by the wealthy, self-serving elite, and the use of the military to incite a coup.
Prior to this bungled coup, the situation in Venezuela was akin to leaving an open bottle of wine in the same room with a known alcoholic (the CIA) and expecting him to resist the irresistible. Chavez, elected by an overwhelming majority in the last election, had been openly critical of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. He not only set about trying to correct the incredible maldistribution of wealth in his country where 80 percent live in poverty, but aggressively criticized the "poisonous" IMF policies of "plunder and exploitation" in Third World countries. To bolster the sagging Venezuelan economy, Chavez levied taxes on the rich, redistributed idle land of the wealthy to the landless, and cut the production of and imposed tariffs on oil to raise its price, much to the dismay of the insatiable, "we have a right to cheap oil" United States.
What actually sealed his temporary fate was his attempt to break free of U.S. domination by resisting privatization of publicly owned enterprises, or as Colin Powell put it, "distorting the democratic free-market advocated by the U.S." Hitting the nail directly on the head, Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, might as well be talking about the U.S. relationship to the rest of the world when he explains the role of Latin America as being a subservient one whose function it is to "provide raw materials, cheap labor and markets to the 'colossus of the North.' " In other words, autonomous, independent development within foreign countries is simply not tolerated by the U.S.
As the weeks progress, more information will undoubtedly continue to be brought to light revealing the extent of U.S. involvement in this abominable assault on freedom and democracy. To date, ties have been made between coup leaders and Otto Reich, who was directly involved in the Iran/Contra scandal; Elliot Abrams, known for his role in the 1973 coup in Chile as well as his sponsorship of death squads in Argentina, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala; and John Negroponte, who was duly informed at the beginning of this year of the impending action against Chavez.
British news reporters are currently investigating leads of alleged coup-operative and logistical support from U.S. Naval ships in the area at that time. Financial backing is being traced to the National Endowment for Democracy, an arm of the CIA used for covert operations abroad, which within this past year suspiciously quadrupled its assistance for various Venezuelan groups, including $154,377 given directly to Venezuelan labor union leader Carlos Ortega who worked closely with "King-for-a-Day," Pedro Carmona.
The fact that several coup leaders and their families have found safe asylum in the welcoming arms of the United States flies in the face of U.S.-agreed-to commitments set forth by the Inter-American Democratic Charter whose provisions mandate its members defend democracy against this very type of military overthrow. The United States also dishonored this agreement not only by its immediate endorsement (within hours!) of the illegitimate and highly undemocratic military regime of Carmona, but also by its attempts to stifle criticisms of this new order by other members of the Organization of the American States. So as not to waste a moment in conveying legitimacy on the new government, U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro was seen welcoming and congratulating Carmona the very next day, all "smiles and embraces in an obvious state of satisfaction," as reported by Venezuelan newspapers.
What the coup leaders hadn't counted on was the sheer determination of the Venezuelan people to rise up and defend their democracy against a dangerous, fascist attitude - covertly and unscrupulously played out by the United States over the years in numerous countries around the world - that ignores and would contemptuously trample on the will of the majority for the benefit of big business and the wealthy few.
Chavez's ultimate crime was that of being an independent thinker whose, some might argue "misguided," measures undertaken in trying to revise flawed, inequitable domestic policies had somehow become "unacceptable" to Washington. Translated that means, he dared to place the interests of his own impoverished people over and above the corporate, money-making interests of the United States.
There is much to be said of the truth in the words of Christian Perenti, a professor at the New College of California, when he describes Venezuela as "the truest democracy in the world today" as it struggles "to reform capitalism into a more egalitarian, healthier system." It seems to me that the United States has a lesson to learn from its failed coup in Venezuela about the true meaning and practice of democracy in respecting and upholding the rights and will of the people.
U.S.A., A trip down memory lane