“He who does not learn from history is condemned to repeat it.”
The war is, for the most part, over. Iraq has been liberated, the country is in a shambles but Halliburton is on hand to rebuild. Most of the troops are back home or on their way. With apparently overwhelming public support, why were those Pesky demonstrators out there? All across the U.S., in Europe, in India, pretty much everywhere. After all, isn’t Saddam Hussein the most evil man on earth, a blight on the planet? Well, yes he is, as are Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, Manuel Noriega. All bad bad men, with one thing in common- 20 years ago we (the U.S.) armed, trained and financed them. Manuel Noriega was a well paid CIA man, “our man in Panama” as it were. Heavily involved with cocaine trafficking, he was convicted and imprisoned in ’89 after a closed door trial, leaving a cloud over the CIA of apparent involvement of drug smuggling and involvement in the crack epidemic in our inner cities. Osama bin Laden first surfaced in Afghanistan in 1979 with the U.S. armed trained and financed Mujahideen, a violent group of Islamic fundamentalists. They overthrew the Soviet supported government in Kabul and replaced it with a number of successive theocracies notorious for their human rights abuses and treatment of women and girls. They evolved into the Taliban. The green jacket bin Laden has been seen in since 9/11 is a U.S. military issue from the days of his partnership with the U.S. when he was fighting against the other “Great Satan”, the Soviet Union.
The current situation brings us to the 50 year mark of excessive intervention that has resulted in massive bloodshed throughout the third world.
In 1953, the elected president of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, decided to nationalize his country’s oil supply, for the usual reasons, infrastructure, health care, and education. This, of course, outraged the U.S. and Great Britain who of course thought the oil was theirs. After a short time it was. They instilled the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who lived a life of indulgence for the next 25 years. The SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police which had close ties to the CIA, any perceived threat or demonstrations for democracy were met with imprisonment, torture and sometimes death. Under the guidance of the CIA, leftists were the primary target for SAVAK and in 1979 when the Islamists swept to power under the Ayatolla Khomeini, there was little the Shah or SAVAK could do about it. They fled to the U.S.
In ’54 another elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, decided it would be a good idea to nationalize some of the unused land in Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in the world, the land though not being used, was claimed by United Fruit a U.S. owned company that was under the control of U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. And, you guessed it, the elected president had to flee. Guatemala has been run by a military dictatorship. Over a hundred thousand poor and indigenous people have been killed and our bananas are cheap.
In the Congo in 1960 the U.S. had a problem, there was a new political leader on the rise, and he was concerned about poverty and justice in his country. They had just come out of the racist and colonial yoke. The CIA got on it. The next year Patrice Lumumba was dead and the U.S. had another dictator in Mobutu.
Indonesia in ’65 was probably an exciting place to be, colorful, politically lively, a strong left and an equally strong right and a charismatic if somewhat bizarre president Sukarno was leading a fledgling democracy. Indonesia, even then, was a major oil producer. Of course the U.S. government was concerned and the CIA was quite active, a little too active, they planted a story of an eminent communist takeover and gave the right wing military a list of “communists” that they wanted dead. The military and Suharto dictatorship exceeded the list by between half a million to a million in one of the worst massacres of the 20th century. (Sukarno having been kicked out of the presidency in the U.S. plan and sponsored coup).
Ten years later the Indonesia story takes another turn. East Timor, the newly independent former Portuguese colony is under threat from Indonesia. The U.S. gives a green light for a takeover to Indonesia, giving them U.S. weapons and their blessing in a state visit [Ford and Kissinger] as their plane is leaving the tarmac the Indonesian military makes its move invading the poor island made up of very poor Aboriginal people. The Indonesian military being very cruel, over time killed about 200 thousand of the island’s 800 thousand inhabitants.
A few years ago this story took another turn. In a vote East Timor declared its own independence. The Indonesians violently retreated off the island, burning and looting as they went. The U.S. and Australian military were present to make sure their former ally in crime left an interesting twist to this is that prior to the U.S. and Australian assistance to kick out the Indonesian occupiers, in a short article in an Australian newspaper it was announced that oil and natural gas was found off shore in East Timor territorial waters.
From ’68 to ’73 according to William Shawcross, a war reporter and author of “Sideshow”, about the bombing of Cambodia the U.S. routinely and indiscriminately bombed poor villages up and down the borders of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The numbers of non combatants killed are unknown because there was no census but it is likely to be very high.
Another tragic atrocity that few Americans know about but resulted from direct and violent interference in another third world democracy. In 1970 Chile elected its first socialist president Salvador Allende. A medical doctor, Allende’s first act as president was to make it mandatory that all school children should be given milk during the school day as he noticed a certain vitamin deficiency among some of the poor children which impacted their learning. About a third of the country lived in severe poverty and his ambition was to rectify this and pay for the usual, infrastructure, health care, schools. Chiles major natural resource is copper and Allende offered the main U.S. owned copper company, Kennecott, the current [at the time] market price for the value of the copper mines at the time, they said no and involved the U.S. government, chief among them Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. In short, the U.S. enacted an embargo, boycotts and in the end when nothing worked out to their satisfaction a coup was orchestrated out of Washington. Salvador Allende was assassinated on 9/11/73. The U.S. supported the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship in which over 3,200 were murdered by Pinochet’s henchmen. Many that were murdered were women and about 25,000 more were imprisoned and tortured, all civilian leftists.
These examples of U.S. conduct and foreign policy over the past half century are just a partial glimpse of the whole story. Our conduct throughout the third world up to this point has been very anti-democratic. Another aspect to this is a national election that took place in Bolivia about five years ago in which only 5% of the electorate voted, the reason for this being the people had no influence in their own country. The IMF and World Bank had taken control of the nation’s financing cutting funding for education, health care and infrastructure, privatizing everything possible, bringing foreign investors in so they could attempt to profit off the backs of the poor.
This has been a long war on the poor of the world. A change in attitude and conduct is needed. A change in which mutual respect, mutual benefit and compassion are paramount.
Almost all of the aforementioned occurrences were preceded at home by declaration that they were being carried out for “Democracy’s” or “freedom’s” sake, none of which was true.
I’m proud to be an American but many of our political leaders should be ashamed of themselves. Whether it were Nixon and Kissinger or are Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld – they should do the right thing not the avaricious thing.
The current situation in Liberia may provide an opportunity to do this.
The writer contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Michigan, USA.