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America’s “Secret Wars” in Over 100 Countries Around the World: Empire Under Obama, Part 3

America’s “Secret Wars” in Over 100 Countries Around the World: Empire Under Obama, Part 3

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at The Hampton Institute

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Part 1: Political Language and the ‘Mafia Principles’ of International Relations

Part 2: Barack Obama’s Global Terror Campaign

Obama’s global terror campaign is not only dependent upon his drone assassination program, but increasingly it has come to rely upon the deployment of Special Operations forces in countries all over the world, reportedly between 70 and 120 countries at any one time. As Obama has sought to draw down the large-scale ground invasions of countries (as Bush pursued in Afghanistan and Iraq), he has escalated the world of ‘covert warfare,’ largely outside the oversight of Congress and the public. One of the most important agencies in this global “secret war” is the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC for short.

JSOC was established in 1980 following the failed rescue of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran as “an obscure and secretive corner of the military’s hierarchy,” noted the Atlantic. It experienced a “rapid expansion” under the Bush administration, and since Obama came to power, “appears to be playing an increasingly prominent role in national security” and “counterterrorism,” in areas which were “traditionally covered by the CIA.”[1] One of the most important differences between these covert warfare operations being conducted by JSOC instead of the CIA is that the CIA has to report to Congress, whereas JSOC only reports its most important activities to the President’s National Security Council.[2]

During the Bush administration, JSOC “reported directly” to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (of the New Yorker), who explained that, “It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on.” He added: “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.”[3]

In 2005, Dick Cheney referred to U.S. Special Forces as “the silent professionals” representing “the kind of force we want to build for the future… a force that is lighter, more adaptable, more agile, and more lethal in action.” And without a hint of irony, Cheney stated: “None of us wants to turn over the future of mankind to tiny groups of fanatics committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large-scale terror.”[4] Not unless those “fanatics” happen to be wearing U.S. military uniforms, of course, in which case “committing indiscriminate murder and plotting large-scale terror” is not an issue.

The commander of JSOC during the Bush administration – when it served as Cheney’s “executive assassination ring” – was General Stanley McChrystal, whom Obama appointed as the top military commander in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, JSOC began to play a much larger role in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.[5] In early 2009, the new head of JSOC, Vice Admiral William H. McRaven ordered a two-week ‘halt’ to Special Operations missions inside Afghanistan, after several JSOC raids in previous months killed several women and children, adding to the growing “outrage” within Afghanistan about civilian deaths caused by US raids and airstrikes, which contributed to a surge in civilian deaths over 2008.[6]

JSOC has also been involved in running a “secret war” inside of Pakistan, beginning in 2006 but accelerating rapidly under the Obama administration. The “secret war” was waged in cooperation with the CIA and the infamous private military contractor, Blackwater, made infamous for its massacre of Iraqi civilians, after which it was banned from operating in the country.[7]

Blackwater’s founder, Erik Prince, was recruited as a CIA asset in 2004, and in subsequent years acquired over $1.5 billion in contracts from the Pentagon and CIA, and included among its leadership several former top-level CIA officials. Blackwater, which primarily hires former Special Forces soldiers, has largely functioned “as an overseas Praetorian guard for the CIA and State Department officials,” who were also “helping to craft, fund, and execute operations,” including “assembling hit teams,” all outside of any Congressional or public oversight (since it was technically a private corporation).[8]

The CIA hired Blackwater to aid in a secret assassination program which was hidden from Congress for seven years.[9] These operations would be overseen by the CIA or Special Forces personnel.[10] Blackwater has also been contracted to arm drones at secret bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Obama’s assassination program, overseen by the CIA.[11] The lines dividing the military, the CIA and Blackwater had become “blurred,” as one former CIA official commented, “It became a very brotherly relationship… There was a feeling that Blackwater eventually become an extension of the agency.”[12]

The “secret war” in Pakistan may have begun under Bush, but it had rapidly expanded in the following years of the Obama administration. Wikileaks cables confirmed the operation of JSOC forces inside of Pakistan, with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani telling the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson (who would later be appointed as ambassador to Egypt), that, “I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”[13]

Within the first five months of Obama’s presidency in 2009, he authorized “a massive expansion of clandestine military and intelligence operations worldwide,” granting the Pentagon’s regional combatant commanders “significant new authority” over such covert operations.[14] The directive came from General Petraeus, commander of CENTCOM, authorizing Special Forces soldiers to be sent into “both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.” The deployment of highly trained killers into dozens of countries was to become “systemic and long term,” designed to “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” enemies of the State, beyond the rule of law, no trial or pretenses of accountability. They also “prepare the environment” for larger attacks that the U.S. or NATO countries may have planned. Unlike with the CIA, these operations do not report to Congress, or even need “the President’s approval.” But for the big operations, they get the approval of the National Security Council (NSC), which includes the president, as well as most other major cabinet heads, of the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, etc.[15]

The new orders gave regional commanders – such as Petraeus who headed CENTCOM, or General Ward of the newly-created Africa Command (AFRICOM) – authority over special operations forces in the area of their command, institutionalizing the authority to send trained killers into dozens of countries around the world to conduct secret operations with no oversight whatsoever; and this new ‘authority’ is given to multiple top military officials, who have risen to the top of an institution with absolutely no ‘democratic’ pretenses. Regardless of who is president, this “authority” remains institutionalized in the “combatant commands.”[16]

The combatant commands include: AFRICOM over Africa (est. 2007), CENTCOM over the Middle East and Central Asia (est. 1983), EUCOM over Europe (est. 1947), NORTHCOM over North America (est. 2002), PACOM over the Pacific rim and Asia (est. 1947), SOUTHCOM over Central and South America and the Caribbean (est. 1963), SOCOM as Special Operations Command (est. 1987), STRATCOM as Strategic Command over military operations to do with outer space, intelligence, and weapons (est. 1992), and TRANSCOM handling all transportation for the Department of Defense. The State Department was given “oversight” to clear the operations from each embassy,[17] just to make sure everyone was ‘in the loop,’ unlike during the Bush years when it was run out of Cheney’s office without telling anyone else.

In 2010, it was reported by the Washington Post that the U.S. has expanded the operations of its Special Forces around the world, from being deployed in roughly 60 countries under Bush to about 75 countries in 2010 under Obama, operating in notable spots such as the Philippines and Colombia, as well as Yemen, across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. The global deployment of Special Forces – alongside the CIA’s global drone warfare program – were two facets of Obama’s “national security doctrine of global engagement and domestic values,” in the words of the Washington Post, though the article was unclear on which aspect of waging “secret wars” in 75 countries constituted Obama’s “values.” Commanders for Special Operations forces have become “a far more regular presence at the White House” under Obama than George Bush, with one such commander commenting, “We have a lot more access… They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.” Such Special Operations forces deployments “go beyond unilateral strikes and include the training of local counterterrorism forces and joint operations with them.”[18]

So not only are U.S. forces conducting secret wars within dozens of countries around the world, but they are training the domestic military forces of many of these countries to undertake secret wars internally, and in the interests of the United States Mafia empire.

One military official even “set up a network” of private military corporations that hired former Special Forces and CIA operations to gather intelligence and conduct secret operations in foreign countries to support “lethal action”: publicly subsidized, privatized ‘accountability.’ Such a network was “generally considered illegal” and was “improperly financed.”[19] When the news of these networks emerged, the Pentagon said it shut them down and opened a “criminal investigation.” Turns out, they found nothing “criminal,” because two months later, the operations were continuing and had “become an important source of intelligence.” The networks of covert-ops corporations were being “managed” by Lockheed Martin, one of the largest military contractors in the world, while being “supervised” by the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command.[20]

Admiral Eric T. Olson had been the head of Special Operations Command from 2007 to 2011, and in that year, Olson led a successful initiative – endorsed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates – to encourage the promotion of top special operations officials to higher positions in the whole military command structure. The “trend” was to continue under the following Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who previously headed the CIA from 2009 to 2011.[21] When Olson left his position as head of Special Operations Command, he was replaced with Admiral William McRaven, who served as the head of JSOC from 2008 to 2011, having followed Stanley McChrystal.

By January of 2012, Obama was continuing with seeking to move further away from large-scale ground wars such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and refocus on “a smaller, more agile force across Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.” Surrounded by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in full uniforms adorned with medals, along with other top Pentagon officials, President Obama delivered a rare press briefing at the Pentagon where he said that, “our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority.” The priorities in this strategy would be “financing for defense and offense in cyberspace, for Special Operations forces and for the broad area of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.”[22]

In February of 2012, Admiral William H. McRaven, the head of the Special Operations Command, was “pushing for a larger role for his elite units who have traditionally operated in the dark corners of American foreign policy,” advocating a plan that “would give him more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed,” notably with expansions in mind for Asia, Africa and Latin America. McRaven stated that, “It’s not really about Socom [Special Operations Command] running the global war on terrorism… I don’t think we’re ready to do that. What it’s about is how do I better support” the major regional military command structures.[23]

In the previous decade, roughly 80% of US Special Operations forces were deployed in the Middle East, but McRaven wanted them to spread to other regions, as well as to be able to “quickly move his units to potential hot spots without going through the standard Pentagon process governing overseas deployments.” The Special Operations Command numbered around 66,000 people, double the number since 2001, and its budget had reached $10.5 billion, from $4.2 billion in 2001.[24]

In March of 2012, a Special Forces commander, Admiral William H. McRaven, developed plans to expand special operations units, making them “the force of choice” against “emerging threats” over the following decade. McRaven’s Special Operations Command oversees more than 60,000 military personnel and civilians, saying in a draft paper circulated at the Pentagon that: “We are in a generational struggle… For the foreseeable future, the United States will have to deal with various manifestations of inflamed violent extremism. In order to conduct sustained operations around the globe, our special operations must adapt.” McRaven stated that Special Forces were operating in over 71 countries around the world.[25]

The expansion of global special forces operations was largely in reaction to the increasingly difficult challenge of positioning large military forces around the world, and carrying out large scale wars and occupations, for which there is very little public support at home or abroad. In 2013, the Special Operations Command had forces operating in 92 different countries around the world, with one Congressional critic accusing McRaven of engaging in “empire building.”[26] The expanded presence of these operations is a major factor contributing to “destabilization” around the world, especially in major war zones like Pakistan.[27]

In 2013, McRaven’s Special Operations Command gained new authorities and an expanded budget, with McRaven testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee that, “On any day of the year you will find special operations forces [in] somewhere between 70 and 90 countries around the world.”[28] In 2012, it was reported that such forces would be operating in 120 different countries by the end of the year.[29]

In December of 2012, it was announced that the U.S. was sending 4,000 soldiers to 35 different African countries as “part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists and give the U.S. a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the U.S. military emerge,” operating under the Pentagon’s newest regional command, AFRICOM, established in 2007.[30]

By September of 2013, the U.S. military had been involved in various activities in Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia, among others, constructing bases, undertaking “security cooperation engagements, training exercises, advisory deployments, special operations missions, and a growing logistics network.”[31]

In short, Obama’s global ‘war of terror’ has expanded to roughly 100 countries around the world, winding down the large-scale military invasions and occupations such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq, and increasing the “small-scale” warfare operations of Special Forces, beyond the rule of law, outside Congressional and public oversight, conducting “snatch and grab” operations, training domestic repressive military forces in nations largely run by dictatorships to undertake their own operations on behalf of the ‘Global Godfather.’

Make no mistake: this is global warfare. Imagine for a moment the international outcry that would result from news of China or Russia conducting secret warfare operations in roughly 100 countries around the world. But when America does it, there’s barely a mention, save for the passing comments in the New York Times or the Washington Post portraying an unprecedented global campaign of terror as representative of Obama’s “values.” Well, indeed it is representative of Obama’s values, by virtue of the fact that he doesn’t have any.

Indeed, America has long been the Global Godfather applying the ‘Mafia Principles’ of international relations, lock-in-step with its Western lackey organized crime ‘Capo’ states such as Great Britain and France. Yet, under Obama, the president who had won public relations industry awards for his well-managed presidential advertising campaign promising “hope” and “change,” the empire has found itself waging war in roughly one hundred nations, conducting an unprecedented global terror campaign, increasing its abuses of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity, all under the aegis of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack Obama.

Whether the president is Clinton, Bush, or Obama, the Empire of Terror wages on its global campaign of domination and subjugation, to the detriment of all humanity, save those interests that sit atop the constructed global hierarchy. It is in the interests of the ruling elite that America protects and projects its global imperial designs. It is in the interests of all humanity, then, that the Empire be opposed – and ultimately, deconstructed – no matter who sits in office, no matter who holds the title of the ‘high priest of hypocrisy’ (aka: President of the United States). It is the Empire that rules, and the Empire that destroys, and the Empire that must, in turn, be demolished.

The world at large – across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America – suffers the greatest hardships of the Western Mafia imperial system: entrenched poverty, exploitation, environmental degradation, war and destruction. The struggle against the Empire cannot we waged and won from the outside alone. The rest of the world has been struggling to survive against the Western Empire for decades, and, in truth, hundreds of years. For the struggle to succeed (and it can succeed), a strong anti-Empire movement must develop within the imperial powers themselves, and most especially within the United States. The future of humanity depends upon it.

Or… we could all just keep shopping and watching TV, blissfully blind to the global campaign of terror and war being waged in our names around the world. Certainly, such an option may be appealing, but ultimately, wars abroad come home to roost. As George Orwell once wrote: “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.”

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

References

[1] Max Fisher, “The Special Ops Command That’s Displacing The CIA,” The Atlantic, 1 December 2009:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/12/the-special-ops-command-thats-displacing-the-cia/31038/

[2] Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast,” The New York Times, 24 May 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/world/25military.html?hp

[3] Eric Black, “Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh describes ‘executive assassination ring’,” Minnesota Post, 11 March 2009:

http://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2009/03/investigative-reporter-seymour-hersh-describes-executive-assassination-ring

[4] John D. Danusiewicz, “Cheney Praises ‘Silent Professionals’ of Special Operations,” American Forces Press Service, 11 June 2005:

http://www.defense.gov/News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=16430

[5] Max Fisher, “The Special Ops Command That’s Displacing The CIA,” The Atlantic, 1 December 2009:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/12/the-special-ops-command-thats-displacing-the-cia/31038/

[6] Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Halted Some Raids in Afghanistan,” The New York Times, 9 March 2009:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/world/asia/10terror.html?hp

[7] Jeremy Scahill, The Secret US War in Pakistan. The Nation: November 23, 2009: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091207/scahill

[8] Adam Ciralsky, “Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy,” Vanity Fair, January 2010:

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2010/01/blackwater-201001

[9] Mark Mazzetti, “C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists,” The New York Times, 19 August 2009:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html?_r=0

[10] R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick, “Blackwater tied to clandestine CIA raids,” The Washington Post, 11 December 2009:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-12-11/news/36873053_1_clandestine-cia-raids-cia-assassination-program-blackwater-personnel

[11] James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “C.I.A. Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones,” The New York Times, 20 August 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/us/21intel.html

[12] James Risen and Mark Mazzetti, “Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret C.I.A. Raids,” The New York Times, 10 December 2009:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/11/us/politics/11blackwater.html

[13] Jeremy Scahill, “The (Not So) Secret (Anymore) US War in Pakistan,” The Nation, 1 December 2010:

http://www.thenation.com/blog/156765/not-so-secret-anymore-us-war-pakistan#

[14] March Ambinder, “Obama Gives Commanders Wide Berth for Secret Warfare,” The Atlantic, 25 May 2010:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/05/obama-gives-commanders-wide-berth-for-secret-warfare/57202/

[15] Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Actions in Mideast,” The New York Times, 24 May 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/world/25military.html?hp

[16] Marc Ambinder, “Obama Gives Commanders Wide Berth for Secret Warfare,” 25 May 2010:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/05/obama-gives-commanders-wide-berth-for-secret-warfare/57202/

[17] Max Fisher, “The End of Dick Cheney’s Kill Squads,” The Atlantic, 4 June 2010:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/06/the-end-of-dick-cheneys-kill-squads/57707/

[18] Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, “U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role,” The Washington Post, 4 June 2010:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304965.html

[19] Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazzetti, “Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants,” The New York Times, 14 March 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/world/asia/15contractors.html?pagewanted=1

[20] Mark Mazzetti, “U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts,” The New York Times, 15 May 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/world/16contractors.html?pagewanted=all

[21] Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, “Special Operations Veterans Rise in Hierarchy,” The New York Times, 8 August 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/us/09commanders.html?pagewanted=all

[22] Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, “Obama Puts His Stamp on Strategy for a Leaner Military,” The New York Times, 5 January 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/us/obama-at-pentagon-to-outline-cuts-and-strategic-shifts.html

[23] Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker, “Admiral Seeks Freer Hand in Deployment of Elite Forces,” The New York Times, 12 February 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/13/us/admiral-pushes-for-freer-hand-in-special-forces.html?pagewanted=all

[24] Ibid.

[25] David S. Cloud, “U.S. special forces commander seeks to expand operations,” Los Angeles Times, 4 May 2012:

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/04/world/la-fg-special-forces-20120505

[26] Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, “A Commander Seeks to Chart a New Path for Special Operations,” The New York Times, 1 May 2013:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/02/us/politics/admiral-mcraven-charts-a-new-path-for-special-operations-command.html?pagewanted=all

[27] Nick Turse, “How Obama’s destabilizing the world,” Salon, 19 September 2011:

http://www.salon.com/2011/09/19/obama_global_destablization/

[28] Walter Pincus, “Special Operations wins in 2014 budget,” The Washington Post, 11 April 2013:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-04-11/world/38448541_1_mcraven-socom-special-forces

[29] David Isenberg, “The Globalisation of U.S. Special Operations Forces,” IPS News, 24 May 2012:

http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/05/the-globalisation-of-u-s-special-operations-forces/

[30] Tom Bowman, “U.S. Military Builds Up Its Presence In Africa,” NPR, 25 December 2012:

http://www.npr.org/2012/12/25/168008525/u-s-military-builds-up-its-presence-in-africa ;

Lolita C. Baldor, “Army teams going to Africa as terror threat grows,” Yahoo! News, 24 December 2012:

http://news.yahoo.com/army-teams-going-africa-terror-threat-grows-082214765.html

[31] Nick Turse, “The Startling Size of US Military Operations in Africa,” Mother Jones, 6 September 2013:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/09/us-military-bases-africa

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The Maple Spring and the Mafiocracy: Struggling Students versus “Entitled Elites”

The Maple Spring and the Mafiocracy: Struggling Students versus “Entitled Elites”

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

It says a great deal about our society when hundreds of thousands of students – already largely indebted, a significant portion of whom live well below the poverty line, who already work what few jobs exist for a generation forgotten before we leave home – take to the streets in protest and are portrayed as “entitled”, “spoiled brats” as they attempt to “negotiate” their very chance of having a future in this society… with a government that supports and works with organized crime, which is beholden to an economic elite, and which supports only those who can already support themselves.

There is something deeply wrong with a society in which students who struggle for a very chance in life are insulted, degraded, beaten, arrested, humiliated and denigrated. First, we were told for years that we were “lazy” and “apathetic”: Generation MTV, Generation iPod, a techno-savvy but reality-detached deluge of pseudo-humanoids. We were seen as concerned only with ‘self’, worshipping of wealth, and with celebrities like Paris Hilton and whatever Car-crashian disaster is on reality TV this week, who could blame people for thinking this? Our media raised us. Television raised us. Advertising raised us. Public relations agencies raised us. They have told us what to wear, how to behave, what to drink, what to eat, what to listen to, dance to, sing to, who to speak to, who to admire, who to hate, what to spend time thinking about, what to be concerned about, what and how to think and be. We were set up to be Generation Obscurity.

But then, something changed: our circumstances.

For those of us who grew up middle class, we started to have a harder time getting by. We worked while we were in high school, but that was okay, the extra money was nice. But then we graduated and it was time to begin our lives. So we either worked full time, or went to school, and probably work part-time. School is expensive, and whether you live in Quebec, the rest of Canada, the United States, or a great host of many other places, school is more expensive for us than it was for our parents. Our minimum wage might seem higher, but the cost of living has soared since our parents were getting their first few jobs, so in real terms, we earn much less. So we lived and often continue to live at home while we go to school or even while we work. With rent so high, and cities so expensive, who can afford their own space in this crazy kind of place? School was still too expensive, even as we worked and as our parents helped however they could. After all, they were and are struggling too. So we got student loans. And now we’re deep in debt.

Suddenly, our world was thrown into a deep economic crisis. Most of us don’t know how this came to be, or who is responsible, all we know is that we only did what we were told to do: consume. And what did that do for us? We’re in debt. All we know is that even though we didn’t cause this global crisis, we are being held responsible for it. All we know is that we are told we are in a “recovery,” but we don’t feel like it. How many people truly feel more financially secure now than they did in 2007? Do you? I don’t!

But now we are told that we are in a “recovery” because those who caused the economic crisis are doing much better. In fact, many of them are doing better than ever! During the crisis, our government’s said we had to “bail out” the banks that had colluded with the governments to create the crisis in the first place. We were scared, so we sat back and watched as our governments gave banks blank checks. First, I should add, our governments worked with the banks in passing (or dismantling) laws and regulations, implemented policies, undertook joint programs, spent enormous sums of money between them, as our political leaders left office to sit in bank boardrooms, and as bankers left the private vaults to the public treasury. This relationship between big business, big banks, and big government (most emblematic in the central banking system, in which private banks with public powers control the very value of our currencies), is what created the economic crisis. And when that crisis erupted, those same governments gave those same banks more money than ever before, to ensure that they were rewarded for creating such a massive global crisis. At the same time, the governments then gave themselves even more power over the economy and their own social and political environments, all the while ensuring that the banks and corporations were involved in every decision, and would benefit from every outcome. So those who caused the crisis rewarded themselves with more money and more power than they had when they created the crisis in the first place.

At the same time, we, the people, have to pay for everything. We have to pay with increased taxes (remember, that bailout money has to come out of YOUR pockets), with rising prices for food and fuel, with inflated property prices (if they weren’t already collapsing, in which case, we face potential foreclosure), with increased debt – not even to consume, but simply to subsist – with decreased jobs, with unemployment, with increased homelessness, increased reliance upon food stamps, increased welfare and state assistance (which comes with intense scrutiny of your personal finances and life), and now, with austerity: further tax increases, less social services and support, mass layoffs and pay-cuts, decreased support for health care and education, increased tuition, and increased struggles. But remember, we have to suffer under austerity so that our governments can pay for all the rewards they gave to the banks for… making us suffer.

This is called “Capitalism.”

Now, take Canada as an example. Canada is perhaps the best example to use in this situation because, let’s face it: we have one of the better “reputations” among Western nations of the world (though largely undeserving), we are seen as peaceful (though we are now always at war), and compared to the rest of the industrialized West, we fared through the economic crisis much better than most. Our banks, in fact – with five Big Banks that dominate the economy – are consistently rated as among the world’s “strongest banks.” In April of 2012, Moody’s Investors Service rated Canada’s banks as the “safest in the world.” And we better believe Moody’s, because they failed to predict the economic crisis itself, and as their CEO even admitted when questioned about the agency being funded by Wall Street firms, “potential conflicts exist regardless of who pays.” For four years in a row, the World Economic Forum has rated Canada’s banking system as the most sound in the world. Even the Canadian Bankers Association praises Canada’s banks. Imagine that!

Unfortunately for their self-congratulations, it was recently revealed that Canada’s banks actually received a “secret bailout” in 2008, for a total of $114 billion, or $3,400 for every Canadian man, woman, and child. The bailouts took place between 2008 and 2010, funded by the Bank of Canada, the United States Federal Reserve, and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. The government continues to deny it gave the banks a bailout, instead, our Finance Minister insists, it was just “liquidity support,” which means… the government did not “bail out” the banks with public money, it just gave the banks public money… in “support.” Call it what you will, they gave them $114 billion. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada (our central bank), and a former executive with Goldman Sachs (what’s not to love?), even admitted that the Bank of Canada gave tens of billions of dollars to our private banks. The U.S. Federal Reserve provided $33 billion to Canada’s big banks, while the official numbers of what the Bank of Canada provided remain a “secret,” as the government has refused to respond to Access to Information requests on the subject. Available information, however, points to $41 billion given to our banks by the Bank of Canada by December of 2008. Even some foreign banks had access to money from the Bank of Canada. Thus, Canada’s big five banks – Royal Bank of Canada, T.D. Bank, Scotiabank, the Bank of Montreal and CIBC – received collectively over $114 billion in “bailouts.” Oh, excuse me, I mean, “liquidity support.” And now, these same banks have inflated a major housing bubble in Canada which is eerily similar to that which existed in the United States in 2007, with housing prices dangerously high, and the average household debt at $103,000. But don’t worry, these big five banks made “record profits” in 2011. So naturally, with record profits for banks, and record debt for Canadians, the banks have decided to increase their fees on you! And then their profits continued to increase! Naturally, the executives have been giving themselves bigger bonuses than ever.

This is called an “economic recovery.”

And remember, it’s the students in Québec who are “entitled.” People call the students “spoiled” and “entitled” because they pay less than $2,500 for tuition every year, and are trying to prevent a situation in which they will be paying roughly $4,000 per year. But the big banks, making record profits, got the equivalent of $3,400 from every single man, woman, and child in Canada. But that’s not called “entitlement,” that’s called Capitalism.

So, the banks are doing better than ever, and this means we are in a “recovery.” According to our governments and media, it doesn’t matter what situation you are in, only what situation RBC, CIBC, BMO, Scotiabank and TD are in. Starting in the year 2000, Canada’s corporations and banks started having their taxes cut significantly by the government, whether Liberal or Conservative. In 2000, corporate taxes were at 28%, and by 2006 it was at 21%. In the beginning of 2012, corporate taxes in Canada were at 15%. This was all, of course, done to create “jobs.” That is, after all, what we were told by our politicians who insisted it was the right thing to do. At the moment, Canada has a rather significant unemployment rate, and a much higher youth unemployment rate. In 2006, the unemployment rate for Canadians was 4.6%, and today it is at 7.3%. In 2006, the unemployment rate for Canadian youth between the ages of 15 and 24 was at 8.4%, but by 2012, that has increased to 13.8%. In the same period of time, corporate taxes were cut from 22% to 15%, with the stated purpose of creating “jobs.” Now, the unemployment numbers are themselves misleading, because they only actually refer to those who are on some form of government assistance, such as welfare or employment insurance. The rest of the unemployed are not counted. While the corporate tax cuts did not lead to more jobs, but rather, less… they did lead to more money for the corporations and banks. By 2011, Canadian corporations and banks had hoarded $477 billion in cash reserves as money that was saved from taxation. For every percentage decrease in corporate taxes, the government loses $2 billion in potential revenue. In response, the government turns to austerity measures, which means that you have to suffer and pay for everything, especially your own poverty. Poverty is, after all, very expensive.

In 2012, these record profit-making corporations are getting an extra $2.85 billion in additional income tax savings. Even as Stephen Harper cut the taxes further, he acknowledged that the corporations weren’t actually investing their saved money in “jobs” but that it was just “money sitting on the sidelines.” Since 2007, the cash reserves of Canada’s corporations have grown by 27.3%, reaching $583 billion in Canadian currency, and $276 billion in foreign currencies. So what can we conclude from this? Well, when politicians and corporations and banks say that they are pursuing a particular policy to create “jobs,” what they really mean is to create “profits.” So when a politician says, “We need to cut corporate taxes so that they can invest in jobs,” what is really being said is that, “We need to cut corporate taxes so that they can make profits.” This makes more sense, because this is what actually happens. So it’s not so much that politicians lie, but rather that they just speak a different language. So take note, and I guarantee this is a very accurate method, in political-speak: “jobs” = “profits.” So now when you listen to your [s]elected officials blather on, you’ll actually be able to understand what they are saying.

Oh, and in case you forgot, remember: it’s Québec students who are “entitled” and “spoiled brats.” Just making sure you remember that.

In Canada, we have a situation in which total national student debt is at $20 billion, and with tuition increases, this too will increase dramatically. But don’t worry, increased tuition costs and increased student debt is good for the banks, because they provide a lot of the loans and own the debt, and collect the interest and keep you in their pockets for the rest of your life. And remember, if the banks are doing well, the economy is doing well. You don’t matter… at all. Okay, so total student debt in Canada is at $20 billion, with the average student graduating with $27,000 in debt, few job prospects, high unemployment rates, and in a major social and economic crisis, but the Canadian government is buying 65 F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. military contractor, Lockheed Martin, worth a total of $25 billion. So, we can bail out our banks to the tune of $114 billion, and we can spend $25 billion buying military machines to go bomb and kill poor people around the world, but students shackled with $20 billion in debt must be shackled with more. And if they try to do anything about the increases in tuition, and thus, the increases in their debt, Canadian politicians and the media refer to them as “entitled,” “spoiled brats.”

Here are a few numbers to show the current divide between the rich and everyone else in Canada, what we are told is a hallmark of a flourishing democracy and recovering economy:

- the 100 best paid CEOs made an average of $6.6 million, which is 155 times the average wage for Canadians at $42,988

- the tax rate for the richest Canadians dropped from 43% in 1981 to 29% in 2010

- in Quebec, the richest 10% made 24% more in 2006 than in 1976, while the poorest made 10% less

- with average student debt in Québec at $13,000 and $27,000 in the rest of Canada, the cost of “free education” in Québec would be less than 1% of the government’s budget

- for every $1,000 fee hike in tuition, the proportion of poor students drops by 19%, thus making education inaccessible for poor people

- with youth unemployment in Canada between 14-20%, and total student debt amounting to $20 billion, the percentage of students defaulting on government loans is at 14%

- the percentage of Canadians between 20 and 24 living with their parents is 73%

- the percentage of Canadians 25 to 29 living with their parents is 33%

This is called “democracy.”

With Jean Charest as Québec’s premier, attempting to nearly double student tuition from an average of over $2,000 to nearly $4,000, it might be interesting to look at what Charest paid for his education. Charest studied in Sherbrooke in the late 1970s, where he would have paid $500 for tuition, less than $2,000 in today’s dollars. In 1978, the minimum wage (for those students who needed to work to pay their tuition) in Québec was $3.50/hour. In today’s dollars, that would equal $12/hour, while the actual minimum wage in Québec today is $10/hour. Therefore, wrote McGill University professor Michael Hilke, “it was easier for students to pay for college back then.” But Charest calls us “entitled.”

In point 7 of my article, “Ten Points Everyone Should Know About the Quebec Student Movement,” I provided sources and information regarding the deeply interconnected relationship between the government of Québec, especially with Charest’s Liberal Party in power, the corrupt construction industry, and the Mafia. Politicians, especially the Liberal Charest government currently in power, provide over-estimated public funds to the construction industry to do what costs significantly less in other provinces, and to build bridges and roads that fall apart, and it just so happens that the construction industry is owned by the Mafia. While public contracts are not the main source of revenue for the Mafia (who can compete with illicit drugs? … well, except for the oil and arms industries), getting massively over-estimated public funds allows the Mafia-connected construction businesses to throw fundraisers for the politicians and keep them in power. Thus, the interaction between the Mafia and the government is a mutually beneficial relationship, where money flows back and forth, designed to keep each party in power. But it’s unfair to blame Charest and the Liberal Party for collusion with the Mafia; they are simply carrying on a long political tradition of governments working with organized crime. So, the government supports organized crime and opposes organized students. Ultimately, both organized crime and organized polities serve the same interests. Can you guess whose? I’ll save you the effort, it’s really quite simple, and it’s not exclusive to Canada, this is a global phenomenon: follow the money.

Canada is a market leader in many aspects of the global trade in illegal drugs. In a 2009 report form the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Canada was revealed to be the leading supplier of ecstasy to North America, and one of the world’s major producers and shippers of methamphetamine for various markets around the world, which is so significant that it was revealed that 83% of all the meth seized in Australia came from Canada, whereas in Japan it was 62%. In 2006, only 5% of the meth produced in Canada was exported. In 2007, it was at 20%. That’s pretty impressive! In 2007, 50% of the ecstasy produced in Canada was exported, primarily to the United States, Australia, and Japan. In 2007, Canada was identified by Japan as the largest single source for seized ecstasy tablets, followed by the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. But it’s not Canada’s fault, we are simply partaking in an already well-established global drug trade, the most profitable trade in the world following oil and arms.

This of course is a result of our governments having undertaken prohibition against illicit drugs, just as the United States had done with alcohol, which history shows, didn’t work very well. Alcohol prohibition gave an incredible boost to the Mafia and organized crime in the United States and elsewhere, and of course, included in its silky spider web were corrupt cops, politicians, and financiers. When something is “illegal” it becomes far more expensive, and thus, far more profitable. So our governments have decided to continue their policies of prohibition for illicit drugs: to keep profits up, to support organized crime, to participate in organized crime, to keep the money flowing, keep the prisons full, and to declare a mythical “war on drugs” which accomplishes nothing but further militarization designed to wipe out the competition. So Latin American countries must suffer under our increased military and repressive presence. A few months prior to the NATO invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban had eradicated the opium trade in one year, wiping out the world’s largest opium crop. Following the invasion in October of 2001, and the installation of a puppet president Hamid Karzai in December of 2001, the new Afghan government began colluding with drug lords and opium production began to accelerate. In fact, the drug trade in Afghanistan reaches record highs nearly every year since the invasion. Between 2011 and 2012, opium production in Afghanistan increased by another 61%. In 2009, the New York Times reported that one of Afghanistan’s most powerful drug lords was the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and that he also happened to be working for the CIA at the same time. The CIA has a sordid history with the drug trade, from Indochina in the 1960s, to Afghanistan and the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s. More recently, in 2007 there was an under-reported incident in which a CIA plane which had been used for rendition flights (i.e., kidnapping and torture) had crashed in Mexico with 3.3. tones of cocaine on board, carrying Colombian cocaine for the major Mexican drug cartel, the Sinaloa cartel.

Since 2006, the government of Mexico has been waging a massive “drug war” against several of the large drug cartels in the country. This war has been financially and materially supported by the U.S., which has been providing arms, equipment, and intelligence assistance to the Mexican army. The war has been incredibly violent, and widely under-reported in our media north of Mexico. From 2006 to 2011, there were between 45-60,000 deaths related to the drug war. In 2009, the Mexican drug lord – Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera – who heads the largest drug cartel, the Sinaloa cartel, made Forbes’ billionaires list. Journalists in Mexico who cover the war repeatedly get tortured and murdered. Within a six-month period in 2010, more than 11,000 migrants were abducted by drug cartels, either to extort money or to be used as forced labour. An investigative report by NPR in 2010 revealed a deeper and darker side of the story: the war is “rigged.” As the United States gives billions of dollars to Mexico in military and judicial aid, the Mexican government works to support the Sinaloa cartel by destroying the competition. Testimony of top Sinaloa cartel traffickers in court revealed further links between the cartel and the Mexican army. Whether through bribes or other means, including the major participants themselves passing from high-ranking police and military positions directly into the cartels, the relationship between the Mexican government and the cartels, especially the Sinaloa cartel, runs deep. The drug trade through Mexico, which is heavily implicated in bringing cocaine from Colombia to the United States, produces profits of tens of billions every year. Even a top Mexican army general and a former deputy minister of defense have now been implicated in ties to drug cartels, something which is not new in Mexico.

A small scandal emerged for the United States government in 2011 when it was revealed that a U.S. operation “allowed weapons from the U.S. to pass into the hands of suspected gun smugglers.” Codenamed Operation Fast and Furious, it was run by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which admitted “that 1,765 guns were sold to suspected smugglers during a 15-month period of the investigation.” A gun dealer in Arizona reported that he was concerned that his guns were being sold to drug cartels, fuelling the violence that has now killed over 55,000 people, and when he expressed these fears, he “was encouraged by federal agents to continue the sales.” Internal emails released from the ATF revealed that the bureau’s top officials were regularly briefed on the gun-running operation. It was later revealed that many Mexican drug cartel figures who were being targeted by the ATF also happened to be “informants” for the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), who kept the ATF “in the dark” about their relationship with the cartels. At least six Mexican drug cartel figures were also on the payroll of the FBI. Some ATF agents have blown the whistle on the operation, stating that it went back as far as 2008, and that they were “ordered to let U.S. guns go to Mexico.” Memos from 2010 revealed that several top U.S. officials in the Department of Justice, including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr, regularly received updates about the operation. Three National Security officials in the White House also received updates. One of Mexico’s top drug traffickers, the right-hand man of the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, claimed in court testimony that he “was working all along as a confidential informant for U.S. agents,” specifically for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). U.S. weapons smuggling to Mexico is no small operation, as roughly 70% of the weapons seized in Mexico came from the United States.

In Congressional testimony, an ATF agent reported that the ATF was working on Operation Fast and Furious in cooperation with the DEA and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). To add to that, an insider at the CIA revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency (aka: the Cocaine Import Agency), “had a strong hand in creating, orchestrating and exploiting Operation Fast and Furious.” Over fears that the Zetas cartel could totally usurp control of the Mexican government, the CIA reportedly intervened in support of the Sinaloa cartel, with its close ties to the Mexican military. In a report with the Washington Times, it was revealed that the CIA would allow the Sinaloa cartel to smuggle cocaine into the United States on a 747 cargo plane, and in turn, the CIA approached the ATF to create Operation Fast and Furious, ensuring that the trade “wasn’t one-way,” so that arms were funneled into Mexico from the U.S. as drugs were funneled into the U.S. from Mexico, all with CIA support. Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, undercover DEA agents were laundering millions of dollars in drug money for the Mexican cartels in the United States.

Within Mexico, the drug money spreads all across the economy, into skyscrapers, casinos, beach resorts, restaurants, the construction industry, and of course, political campaigns. But the 55,000 deaths in Mexico in the past six years have been good for the United States, particularly for gun sales and big banks. In fact, internal investigations revealed that Wachovia Bank, now a part of Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks in the United States, laundered billions of dollars in drug money for Mexican cartels, even as they were receiving bailout money from the United States government. It was not only Wachovia, but also Bank of America that has been implicated in laundering Mexican drug money, worth up to $378.4 billion. Other banks have been implicated as well, in both the United States and Europe. The UN revealed in 2009 that drug money actually saved the major banks, as roughly $352 billion in drug money was absorbed into the financial system during the worst of the economic crisis in 2008.

So what do we make of all this?

We are told that this is called “democracy” and a “strong economy.” We are told that this is the “best system in the world,” which benefits everyone… just not you.

I prefer to use another word to describe it: Mafiocracy.

Now, I did not come up with this word, but it applies, and I can think of no better word to describe the relationship between big business, big banks, government and organized crime. So we are faced with a Mafiocracy, whether in Afghanistan, Colombia, Mexico, the United States, or even in Québec. With collusion so deep and embedded between organized crime, state agencies, politicians, and financiers, it’s almost problematic to refer to organized crime as somehow separate, since it isn’t. So let’s call it what it is: a Mafiocracy. A local Mafiocracy, such as the one which exists in Québec between the local Mafia, the local government, and the local economic elite, is inter-related with the global Mafiocracy, atop of which sit the Kings of Capital and the High Priests of Globalization. We are in the age of Globalization, and the Mafiocracy has been significantly globalized and energized. As the Mafiocracy gets stronger, democracy gets weaker, until it is altogether gone and dead, without even a memory remaining.

The first time I heard the term “Mafiocracy” was in an incredible documentary about Argentina, entitled, “Social Genocide,” covering the country’s recent history of military dictatorships supported by the U.S., followed by the age of neoliberalism with liberal democratic governments more corrupt than the dictatorships that preceded them, with an elite so extravagant it would be almost comically-absurd if it wasn’t so disturbing. The film documents the relationship between democratically-elected leaders, narco-trafficking, organized crime, international terrorism, Western banking institutions, the IMF and World Bank, corruption feeding off of the national debt, the privatization of public wealth, and all the while demanding the population pay for the Mafiocracy through austerity and “structural adjustment,” what is translated in real terms into “Social Genocide.” When the people stood up in December of 2001, Argentina’s president declared a state of siege, which was responded to by the population who took their pots and pans out into the streets across the country and to the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, and they banged their pots and pans in the midst of police confrontations that killed 26 people, eventually forcing the president to flee from the city by helicopter. The Mafiocracy demanded the people suffer for its own excesses, for its wealth and power, and imposed a rigid, organized, structured and systematic program of “Social Genocide”: what economists, politicians and pundits refer to as “fiscal austerity” and “structural adjustment.” The people took their pots and pans into the streets and said ‘No More!”

Sound familiar?

For more than 100 days, hundreds and thousands of students in Québec have been on strike against a plan to increase tuition by roughly 75%. The Mafiocracy government, after two months of refusing to speak to the students and instead used state violence and repression against them, finally agreed to sit down and talk in April. They then cancelled the negotiations and threw out a new “proposal” which would actually increase the tuition hike. Obviously, this insulting gesture was rejected. Then there were other negotiations in early May, while the riot police were outside nearly killing a few students by shooting them in the face and head with rubber bullets, the government pressured the student leaders to sign a sham of an agreement, with extra pressure coming from the major union leaders, who only exist today because of their willingness to engage and collude with the Mafiocracy – particularly the government and big business – and so they told the students it was the best deal they would get. The deal did not include a decrease in the tuition increases. This entire process has taken place in the midst of a national media campaign against the student movement, which increased and evolved into a social movement, an anti-austerity movement, and at times, even a small rebellion against the Mafiocracy. The media framed the striking students as “spoiled brats” who were “whining and crying” about a loss of “entitlements.” The latest negotiations broke down last week. Why? Because after four days of negotiations, the only “compromise” the government engaged in, was to agree to reduce the overall tuition increases by $1. Yes, you read correctly: ONE DOLLAR.

This is what it means to negotiate with a Mafiocracy.

But the students continue to march, continue to inspire, and the movement – the Maple Spring – continues to expand beyond the students, far beyond the issue of tuition, and far beyond Québec. People walk through the streets, every day and every night, in defiance of a law passed by the Mafiocracy government which criminalized spontaneous protests. People step outside and bang their pots and pans, walk through the streets, through rain storms and sun shine, hot or cold. People are aware that they could again be pepper sprayed, tear gassed, smoke bombed, beaten with batons, trampled with horses, driven into with cars, shot with rubber bullets, or arrested en masse. But still, they go. And across Canada, and in fact, far beyond, people are taking their pots and pans and stepping out into their streets in solidarity.

Remember that description we once heard for the system of government we were supposed to be living under: “of, by, and for the people”? Is that the Mafiocracy? We were a generation reviled for our trivial technological obsessions, entertainment enslavement, and absolute apathy. So we defy those stereotypes and step out into the streets, day after day. We are no longer apathetic, and now we are called “spoiled” and “entitled.” But that’s okay; people – especially those in power, who speak through the media – always fear what they do not understand. Now the social gatherings of youth are not necessarily at bars and clubs, but in protests and casseroles (marching with pots and pans). Regardless of the outcome, we have come to realize that we are a powerful force when united, that we have to physically, intellectually, and emotionally put ourselves on the line to struggle for what is right. We realized that when our options are to either suffer or struggle, the choice is easy. We have a long way ahead of us, we struggle, we persevere, we protest, we push, we persist, we have not yet prevailed, but we are linking up with people – especially youth – across Canada and around the world. We are using the technology which in one sense had enslaved us to obscurity and apathy, and are now using it to mobilize and organize more than ever before.

We have taken the first steps which are required in a global struggle of people against a global Mafiocracy. We follow in the footsteps of those who have walked before us, whether they are in Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Spain, Iceland, or Chile. They cannot fight our fight for us, but we can all fight together. Our struggle is global, though we may experience it in the local. With every step forward, we realize the global implications of what we are starting to do, and the world is starting to watch. The people are waking up, walking out, and trying to reshape society so that it does not simply benefit the few at the expense of the many.

This is called Democracy.

 

For more information on the ‘Maple Spring’, see:

The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

What Really Happened at the Montréal May Day Protest? From Peaceful Protest to Police Brutality

Ten Points Everyone Should Know About the Quebec Student Movement

From the Chilean Winter to the Maple Spring: Solidarity and the Student Movements in Chile and Quebec

Quebec Steps Closer to Martial Law to Repress Students: Bill 78 is a “Declaration of War on the Student Movement”

Writing About the Student Movement in Québec: You’re Damn Right I’m “Biased”! … Confessions of a Non-Neutral Observer

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Fighting the “Rising Tide” of Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Syrian Crisis

Fighting the “Rising Tide” of Arab Nationalism: The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Syrian Crisis

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (left) and President Eisenhower (right)

The following sample is a compilation of unedited research, largely drawn from official government documents of the State Department, CIA, Pentagon, White House, and National Security Council, outlining the development of the Eisenhower Doctrine and the American imperial perceptions of the threat of ‘Arab Nationalism.’

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The Eisenhower Doctrine and the Threat of Arab Nationalism

Following the Suez Crisis, Nasser’s influence and reputation was enormously strengthened in the Arab, Muslim, and wider decolonizing world, while those of Britain and France were in decline. Nasser’s support for nationalist movements in North Africa, particular Algeria, increasingly became cause for concern. Pro-Western governments in the Middle East stood on unstable ground, threatened by the ever-expanding wave of Pan-Arab nationalism and indeed, Pan-African nationalism spreading from North Africa downward. The United States, however, noting the power vacuum created by the defeat of Britain and France in the conflict, as well as the increasing support from the Soviet Union for nationalist movements in the region as elsewhere, had to decide upon a more direct strategy for maintaining dominance in the region.

As President Eisenhower stated in December of 1956, as the Suez Crisis was coming to a final close, “We have no intention of standing idly by… to see the southern flank of NATO completely collapse through Communist penetration and success in the Mid East.” Secretary Dulles stated in turn, that, “we intend to make our presence more strongly felt in the Middle East.” Thus, the Eisenhower Doctrine was approved in early 1957, calling for the dispersal of “$200 million in economic and military aid and to commit armed forces to defend any country seeking assistance against international communism,” explaining that, “the existing vacuum… must be filled by the United States before it is filled by Russia.” Thus, Eisenhower told Congress, this new doctrine was “important… to the peace of the world.” Some Senators opposed the doctrine; though, with powerful political figures supporting it, as well as the New York Times providing an unfailing endorsement, it was approved in early March of 1957. In the Middle East, Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan endorsed the doctrine in the hopes of receiving economic and military aid (even before the U.S. Congress approved it), King Hussein of Jordan endorsed it, and funds were further given to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.[1]

The main opposition to the Eisenhower Doctrine came from Syria and Egypt. Nasser later reflected that the doctrine appeared to be “a device to re-establish imperial control by non-military means,” and therefore he would “have nothing to do with it and felt it was directed at Egypt as much as at any communist threat.”[2] This was not, as it turned out, far from the truth. A State Department Policy Planning Paper from early December of 1956 discussed the formation of a new regional policy (which resulted in the Eisenhower Doctrine), and while focusing on the notion that, “[t]he primary threat to the interests of the United States and the West in the Middle East (especially oil, Suez Canal and pipelines) arises from Soviet efforts at penetration,” Nasser and Egypt figured prominently in this formulation, but couched in the rhetoric of the Cold War. In fact, “Soviet penetration” of the Middle East was stated to rest on three main factors, the first of which was identified as the “ambitions of Nasser and the willingness of Nasser and the Syrians to work with the Soviets, especially to obtain arms.” The other two main factors were identified as, “instability and divisions among the other Middle Eastern nations,” referring to Western puppet governments in the region, and “increased animosity toward the UK and France resulting from their military action against Egypt and intensified by the fact that their action was taken in conjunction with Israel’s invasion of Egypt.”[3]

Thus, while the strategy was presented as a means to prevent Soviet “penetration” of the Middle East, the actual content and objectives of the strategy being formulated were directly related to checking Egyptian influence in the region and beyond. Of course, Soviet advances in the area were of concern to the Americans, that cannot be denied, but the prevalence of Egypt and Nasserist influence as a decisive “Third Force” was undeniable as a source of fear among imperial strategists. The strategy overtly stated that “efforts to counter Soviet penetration” in the region “must include measures to… [c]ircumscribe Nasser’s power and influence.” Noting that the American stance during the Suez Crisis has “greatly increased our prestige and opportunity for leadership,” in presenting the view that the United States is “firmly committed to support[ing] genuine independence for the countries concerned,” the State Department document noted that the U.S. would have to avoid “counter suspicion that our aim is to dominate or control any of the countries or to reimpose British domination in a different form. For this reason, our actions will be largely self-defeating if they create a general impression that our objective is directly to overthrow Nasser.” That of course, implies that it is the “indirect objective” of the policy to overthrow Nasser. Noting that Egypt would likely oppose all the measures put forward by the United States in its regional policy, the Policy Planning Paper stated that, “We should play upon [Nasser’s] opposition to stigmatize Egypt as an impediment to peace and progress in the Middle East,” of which the objective would be “to mobilize opinion against Nasser and to circumscribe his power and influence.” The paper stated that it would be important to inform the U.K. and France that the U.S. objective of the program “is directed toward countering Soviet penetration in the Middle East and circumscribing Nasser’s power and influence,” and thus, it would “serve their interests as well as ours,” having in mind “the vital importance of the Middle East to Western Europe.” As such, the U.K. and France should be convinced to “avoid injecting themselves in the Middle East and leave to the US the primary responsibility of restoring the Western position in the area.”[4]

A National Security Council (NSC) report explained that the “opportunistic and nationalistic Nasser government of Egypt gained in influence throughout the area and other Arab heads of state were less able to resist the formation of governments which catered to this surge of nationalism.” Syria was an obvious example; however, even Western friendly governments had to submit to various nationalistic pressures, as Jordan abrogated the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty with Britain, and “King Saud, while publicly friendly to Nasser and the Arab cause, maintained an independent position using his influence for moderation on nationalistic elements, steering a course between the extreme pro-Soviet and strongly pro-West Arab groups.” It’s important to note how Arab nationalism is described as “the extreme pro-Soviet” course when it actually represented a “Third Force” not allied to either the West or East. While the U.S. had an “extremely favorable” position in the Middle East following the Suez Crisis, the USSR was subsequently “given the greatest credit in the Arab world for the cessation of hostilities in Egypt.” Egypt and Syria increased their economic and military ties with the Soviet bloc, and through such support to these and other Arab nations, “the Soviet Union appeared as the defender of the sovereignty of small countries and of Arab nationalism against the threats of Western ‘imperialism’.”[5] Explaining the “major operating problems” facing the United States in the region, nationalism was identified as the primary threat. The NSC Operations Coordinating Board report stated:

Throughout the Arab area there have been increasing manifestations of an awakened nationalism, springing in part from a desire to end both real and imagined vestiges of the mandate and colonial periods, but stimulated by opportunism, Soviet propaganda, aid and infiltration, and by Egyptian ambitions and intrigue. Because the former mandatory and colonial powers were from Western Europe, the nationalism has assumed generally an anti-Western form. This situation has created opportunities for Soviet exploitation, and has, at the same time, placed the United States in a difficult position. The natural U.S. sympathy with those genuinely desirous of becoming free and completely sovereign nations runs, at times, into sharp conflict with actions required to maintain the strength of the Western alliance and to support our closest allies.[6]

Further problems include the threat to Western economic interests in the area, with the potential for nationalization following the example of the Suez Canal, which could put at risk substantial U.S. private investments in the Arab world. Another major problem was with the divides within the Western alliance itself on how it viewed the Arab world and its problems. Significantly, “the United States sees in nationalism much that represents a threat to the West,” but “it tends to regard this nationalism as an inevitable development which should be channeled, not opposed,” whereas “Britain and France have seen this nationalism… as a threat to their entire position in the area.” The NSC paper lamented that, “It is likely that for the time being Nasser will remain the leader in Egypt,” but “the United States cannot successfully deal with President Nasser.” The United States, then, must determine “the degree to which it will actively seek to curb Nasser’s influence and Egyptian activities in the Near East and Africa.”[7]

Syria became an important part of this equation. Increasingly left-leaning, with major pipelines carrying oil to the Mediterranean supplying much-needed oil for Western Europe’s recovery, and the largest Communist Party in the Arab world, Syria was a strategic nightmare for Western interests. After the Suez Crisis, Syria and Egypt both edged toward closer ties with the Soviet Union, not out of an ideological proclivity toward communism, but because of a pragmatic approach toward preserving and expanding Arab nationalism, which the West was actively opposed to while the USSR had endorsed, naturally, as a means to gaining strategic inroads into the Middle East, not out of any benevolent conception of justice for colonized peoples. In 1956, President Eisenhower stated:

Syria was far more vulnerable to Communist penetration than was Egypt. In Egypt, where one strong man prevailed, Colonel Nasser was able to deal with Communists and accept their aid with some degree of safety simply because he demanded that all Soviet operations be conducted through himself. In Syria, where a weak man was in charge of the government [Quwatli], the Soviet penetration bypassed the government and dealt directly with the various agencies, the army, the foreign ministry, and the political parties. Syria was considered ripe to be plucked at any time.[8]

The fears of Soviet penetration were of course exaggerated beyond the on-the-ground realities, as per usual. The real fear was the potential for Syria to more closely align with Egypt and become a strong partner in Nasser’s non-aligned “Third Force” which happened to be in a location of major strategic interest to the West. As the Eisenhower Doctrine framed the language in terms of the Cold War confrontation between the West and East, the internal documents leading to the formation of the doctrine pointed to the isolation and diminution of Egyptian influence in the region as the main objective. Britain’s only remaining pseudo-protectorate in the region through which it could protect its oil interests was in Iraq, while its relationship with Jordan was faltering under nationalistic pressure. The British then, had a major interest in Syria, a an idea was being pushed through Iraq where the leader of the country, Nuri al-Said, “had sought to take the leadership of the Arab nationalist movement away from Egypt by instituting a ‘Fertile Crescent’ union of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan.” The British objective and vision for the region, not coincidentally, “corresponded with this ambition.” Syria was viewed as a potential point through which to secure access to oil by ensuring a pro-Iraqi government, as well as checking Arab nationalism and Nasser.[9]

In October of 1957, the United States produced a National Intelligence Estimate analyzing “probable developments affecting US interests” in the Middle East “during the next several years.” The outlook for the United States and the West in the Middle East “has deteriorated,” stated the estimate. The USSR’s influence has increased by “supporting the radical element of the Arab nationalist movement,” meaning Nasser. The NIE stated that, “radical Arab nationalists control only Egypt and Syria” at the moment, however, “sympathy and support for their strong anti-Western, revolutionary, and pan-Arab policies come from a substantial majority of the Arabs of the Near East,” while the indigenous support for the West in the region “comes largely from the outnumbered and often weakly-led conservative nationalist elements.” Acknowledging that the regimes in Syria and Egypt were likely to maintain for a few years, their reliance upon the Soviet Union would likely increase, and, moreover, “Nasser and the Syrian leaders will probably continue to exert a powerful influence over radical Arab nationalists throughout the area, except in the unlikely event of their emerging clearly as Soviet puppets.” Even if these specific regimes collapsed, noted the NIE, “the radical Arab nationalist movement will continue as a basic element in the Near East situation.”[10]

The “conservative grouping” which supports the West in the region, consists of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, “forms a loose coalition of regimes that look to the US for aid because of their common interest in the existing system and opposition to the forces of revolution represented by the radicals.” While they do not oppose Arab nationalism in general, for it also justifies their own self-rule, they remain conservative and opposed to radical elements typified by Nasser. The NIE noted that the potential “for broadening or consolidating the position of the conservative forces in the Arab states are poor, although these forces will continue to be an important factor in the area.” One of the main problems was the continued Arab-Israeli dispute, of which prospects for a solution were poor. The NIE warned that the United States believed “that there will almost certainly be some armed conflict in the area during the next several years,” likely in Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and potentially with Israel. While France and the U.K. have lost influence in the region, the USSR has increased its own, with supplying arms to Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, and the U.S. is the main representative of the West in the Middle East. As such, the NIE stated, the region “has thus become a principal arena of the contest between the US and the USSR.”[11]

Since the Suez Crisis, “Nasser has become… the spokesman and symbol of radical Pan-Arab nationalism.” Yet, the conservative forces in the region, especially Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, remained increasingly distrustful of Nasser, and thus welcomed the Eisenhower Doctrine “as an opportunity to strengthen their own positions,” resulting in “a division of the Arab Near East into two loose groupings.” The radical Pan-Arab nationalist movement of Nasser and Syria “advocate the union of all Arabs in a single state,” and are “both the most dynamic and the most violent in their anti-Westernism, the most interested in a military buildup as a symbol of Arab strength, and at the present time the most activist in their hostility toward Israel.” Nasser and the Syrian leaders, stated the NIE, “are revolutionaries who believe in replacing many traditional social and economic institutions with a state socialism of their own devising.” Importantly, the NIE observed that, “[t]he majority of politically conscious Arab Moslems throughout the Near East, particularly the middle class intelligentsia, are sympathetic to this concept of Arab nationalism,” and believe that the interests of the West in the region are “Israel, oil, and domination of the area.” Further, they “also believe the West to be opposed to their concept of Arab unity.” The conservative elements, which reject the radical notions of Arab nationalism, reject ties to the Soviet Union, and draw themselves close to the West, are “largely confined to the upper and professional classes and [have] little popular support.” In other words, the pro-West regimes are simply dominated by “conservative and traditional” elites, while the majority of the population of the region support Nasser’s vision of Pan-Arab nationalism.[12]

Oil interests in the region remained paramount for the West. The NIE took note of the fact that the “non-Communist world looks increasingly for its petroleum requirements to the vast reserves of the Middle East,” which was “particularly true of Western Europe,” which in 1957, “consumes almost three million barrels of oil per day, of which 72 percent comes from the Middle East,” and that rate was expected to increase by 1965. Nationalistic governments and movements in the region were exerting increasing pressure upon the “existing pattern of oil production and transportation” in seeking “increased revenue and more control over oil operations.” Luckily for the West, the conservative elements control the major oil producing areas, but transportation of oil through pipelines and waterways go through areas dominated by the radical Arab nationalist regimes. In fact, 35% of oil going to the West from the region was transported by pipeline, while 65% went through the Suez Canal. The NIE noted, however, that “Egypt and Syria are unlikely, except under extreme provocation, to exercise their capability to stop the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf area to the Mediterranean.” Opposition to Israel was identified as “the principal point of agreement among all factions of Arabs and acute tension between the Arab states and Israel will continue.” The Cold War struggle between the West and East “is regarded as a battle of giants which concerns the Arab world only insofar as it intrudes in Arab affairs or offers opportunities to the Arabs to advance their own interests.” Thus, Arab views toward the Soviet Union and the West are not framed in the Cold War dialectic of the “Free World” versus “Communist dictatorship,” but rather “the result of past experience, present friction, and future aspirations,” which naturally put the West in the part of imperial aggressors, while the Soviet Union can legitimately portray itself as ‘anti-imperial.’ The United States will continue to represent the West in the region, but “Britain, France, and other Western states will be critical of US policy if it does not act effectively to protect Western interests, particularly in petroleum, when threatened.”[13]

Western influence had increased among the conservative Arab regimes over the preceding year, but has failed to be recognized “among the Arab public,” who fail “to understand Western indignation at Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal Company and at his taking Soviet arms.” The French-British-Israeli invasion of Egypt confirmed the radical Arab nationalist portrayal of “Western imperialists,” and, while U.S. actions during the crisis increased its favor in the region, the “Soviet threats against the UK made an equal or greater impression on the Arab public.” The U.S. stance during the crisis “was misinterpreted among the Arabs as an indication that the US intended to back the Pan-Arab program against the UK and France, and many became confused and disillusioned when this turned out not to be the case.” While radical Arab nationalism will continue over the following years, stated the NIE, “[t]he forces of conservative Arab nationalism are likely to continue to be generally identified with the West,” and in some areas this could lead to “instability.” Israel, for its part, “will continue to receive outside financial and diplomatic support [largely from France] and will persist as a dynamic force within the area,” as well as seeking “to keep its armed forces qualitatively superior to those of its Arab opponents.”[14]

For Western interests in the region, a number of factors had to dictate American policy. Naturally, the possibility of cooperation with Syria and Egypt remained slim, while conservative Arab governments were “likely to become progressively more dependent upon the US,” which would mean that “economic progress in these states will be regarded in the area as an index of the value of association with the US.” The increasing “public expectation of improvement in economic standards and welfare will impose difficulties upon governments,” as the “radical nationalist governments of Egypt and Syria are committed to ambitious social and economic reforms,” though they may likely fail to “fulfill their expectations, even with Soviet assistance, and they will probably experience political difficulties as a consequence.” For the conservative governments, which are home to the vast oil reserves of the region, they will have the “financial resources with which to effect reforms which would probably broaden the base of popular support and thus ultimately strengthen their position and that of the conservative grouping.”[15]

Syria and Jordan: The Evolution of a Crisis

The Syrian Crisis emerged between July and October of 1957, after the Ba’ath Party (an Arab Socialist party) won control of the Parliament and Cabinet in early January, with increased Syrian disputes with Turkey over territory, reluctance to grant the Saudi ARAMCO company a pipeline across the country (owned by the Rockefeller Standard Oil Company), and the acceptance of left-wing Arab groups, the “moderate” Syrian leadership was increasingly sidelined. The United States and its Western allies, particularly Britain, had been involved for a number of years in supporting various coups in Syria. One coup was supposed to take place in 1956, but was outflanked by the importance of the Suez Crisis. Codenamed Operation Straggle, it was felt that the plans could be resumed once the British and French had left Suez. Thus, in late 1956, the British and Americans began again discussing “certain operational intentions regarding Syria,” and the CIA stated that “the UK, France, Turkey, Israel, and Iraq all… would welcome US participation and support in strong measures to check or counter the leftward trends in Syria.” With the passing of the Eisenhower Doctrine, Syria had been identified “as evidence of Russian intent” in the region. Syria, of course, denounced the doctrine, and American strategists, such as Allen Dulles at the CIA, increasingly painted Syria with a Soviet brush.[16]

Jordan played an increasingly important role in this situation. King Abdullah, long supported and in fact, put in power by the British, had been assassinated by a Palestinian in 1951. In 1953, King Hussein emerged as the conservative leader of the country. Jordan, situated between Israel, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, was a pivotal player in any schemes at regional “stability” and preventing the spread of Pan-Arab nationalism. As Britain’s influence in the region dissipated, King Hussein sought to cement his regime’s ties with the Americans. Jordan had, for years, been subjected to cross-border raids from Israeli commandos, and the conservative pro-Western government of Jordan had to subdue national public opinion to refrain from striking back. The U.S. attempted to pressure Jordan into a peace settlement with Israel, but when Colonel Ariel Sharon destroyed a West Bank village in 1953, killing sixty-nine Palestinians, most of whom were women and children, “such a hope [had] been dashed to smithereens,” said a U.S. official at the time. Jordan had to wrestle with the reality of being home to a massive Palestinian refugee population, which was the source of enormous instability and caution for any regime in power. While King Hussein, due largely to domestic pressures, refrained from joining the Baghdad Pact (an alliance between Britain, Iraq, and Turkey), once Nasser had purchased Soviet arms in 1955, both the UK and United States began to see Hussein’s Jordan as “virtually impotent” in the confrontation of “universal popular Jordanian enthusiasm for [the] flame of Arab political liberation ignited by Nasser’s arms deal.” Thus, reported an American official in Amman, the capitol of Jordan, the “[p]olitical situation in Jordan is disintegrating and resulting instability is playing into [the] hands of anti-Western nationalists and Communists.”[17]

The British, in response, attempted to entice Jordan to join the Baghdad Pact, which was looked favourably upon by King Hussein. However, when news of this spread to the West Bank, wrote Douglas Little, “anti-Western demonstrations erupted and pro-Nasser Palestinians demanded that Hussein sever his ties with Britain and rely instead on Soviet arms and Saudi gold.” Thus, lamented a British official, “If Saudi/Egyptian/Communist intrigue can prevent Jordan joining the Pact… despite the King and Government wishing to do so… how far has the rot spread?” The “rot” referred to by the British official, of course, was Arab nationalism. Many American officials felt that Britain would be completely extricated from Jordan, leaving CIA Director Allen Dulles to comment in early 1956 that, “The British… have suffered their most humiliating defeat in modern history.” King Hussein shortly thereafter removed the head of the Arab Legion, which was the British-controlled Jordanian army, and put the army under absolute Jordanian control, leading the British to cut Jordanian economic and military aid in retribution. The Americans, however, felt this was a smart move by Hussein, as the “King is now [a] hero and no longer [a] puppet.” Hussein put in place a new leader of the Arab Legion, described by some as an “anti-Western opportunist,” of whom the British presented as having an objective for Jordan that, “is likely to be a military dictatorship on the lines of Colonel Nasser.” This leader, Abu Nuwar, even invoked many concerns among the Americans, who were wary of his pro-Nasser stance and his ties to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank. With the Suez Crisis under way, Jordan requested Iraq send hundreds of military advisers, to which Israel responded with “savage blows” against the Arab Legion, in Eisenhower’s own words, increasing the fear that, “Jordan is going to break up… like the partition of Poland.”[18]

In October of 1956, elections in Jordan led to the formation of a Government coalition of Communists and anti-Western nationalists, “led by Sulieman Nabulsi, a pro-Palestinian East Bank activist whom [King] Hussein reluctantly named prime minister on the eve of the Suez war.” As British participation in the Suez war became clear, Jordan’s government threatened to toss out the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty of 1948, leading Arab Legion chief Abu Nuwar to warn U.S. diplomats that, “If [the] US wants to salvage anything in Jordan,” it would have to act quickly to “furnish military and economic aid… [to] compensate for British aid which will soon be ended.” Hussein warned the Americans that Nuwar and Nabulsi were even considering Soviet aid as a replacement for British subsidy. Thus, the United States jumped into Jordan with $30 million in aid. With the Eisenhower Doctrine unveiled in early 1957, Hussein quietly endorsed the program, to which he was rewarded with suitcases of cash from the CIA, and in April, Hussein forced the prime minister to resign, instigating large anti-Western protests. At that time, however, Allen Dulles informed the National Security Council, “The situation in Jordan had reached the ultimate anticipated crisis… The real power of decision rests largely with the Army, whose loyalty to the King is uncertain.” Two days later, amid protests denouncing the Baghdad Pact and the Eisenhower Doctrine, Nuwar, the head of the Army, attempted to oust King Hussein in a coup. The King, however, was not taken by surprise. With the help of the CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt, he had mobilized loyalist army factions who forced Nuwar into exile in Syria. The crisis, however, continued, as massive anti-US demonstrations took place in Amman and Jerusalem, leading Hussein to ask Secretary of State John Foster Dulles if he could count on US support in proposing “to take a strong line in Jordan, including martial law on the West Bank.” Dulles then urged Eisenhower to send a battalion of US Marines into the Eastern Mediterranean “to signal US support for the embattled Hussein.”[19]

The United States then immediately granted $10 million in economic aid to Jordan, followed closely with $10 million in military aid, both provided through the auspices of the Eisenhower Doctrine, designed to ensure that the Arab Legion remained as “as effective force for the maintenance of internal security,” which translates into domestic repression. Jordan got a new Prime Minister, ostensibly pro-Western, and America increasingly replaced the British as the imperial master of Jordan. Problems persisted, however, as Secretary Dulles noted, as within “wretchedly poor” Jordan, the Palestinians “were a continuing menace to stability,” and “the King sat on dynamite where the refugees were concerned.”[20]

The Syrian Crisis

At the same time, as the crisis began to boil over in Syria, Eisenhower stated that, “If by some miracle stability could also be achieved in Syria,” by which he means pro-Western subservience, “American would have come a long way in an effort to establish peace in that troubled area,” by which he means domination. The CIA, for its part, was already encouraging right-wing factions of the Syrian military to “join forces effectively against the leftists.” In May of 1957, the CIA was attempting to remove “the pro-Communist neutralists” and “achieve a political change in Syria.” With Syrian elections, both Communists and Ba’athist made large gains, while an oil refinery was being constructed at Homs by Czech engineers from the Soviet bloc, and Soviet military advisers made inroads into the nation, resulting in a $500 million grain-for-weapons deal signed with Soviet Premier Khrushchev in July of 1957. In August, the National Security Council’s Operations Coordinating Board produced a report explaining that, “Syrian leaders seem more inclined to accept Soviet influence blindly than in any other country in the area… There was evidence that the Soviets are making Syria the focal point for arms distribution and other activities, in place of Egypt.” Within two days, the United States gave authorization for the covert operation against Syria, which the CIA had been planning for months, aiming to install the former Syrian pro-West leader, Shishakli. This operation, however, according to the U.S. Ambassador to Syria in 1957, was “a particularly clumsy CIA plot” which had been “penetrated by Syrian intelligence.” It was later revealed that, “[h]alf a dozen Syrian officers approached by American officials immediately reported back to the authorities so that the plot was doomed from the start.” Therefore, on August 12, the head of Syrian counterintelligence expelled known CIA agents, arrested their local assets, and put the U.S. Embassy under surveillance. Eisenhower expelled the Syrian ambassador to the United States, which was reciprocated with Syria expelling the American ambassador. Painting the picture of a Syria which was about to “fall under the control of International Communism and become a Soviet satellite,” Secretary Dulles supported invoking the Eisenhower Doctrine.[21]

On August 21, 1957, an emergency meeting on Syria was held at the White House, and Secretary Dulles asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to attend, stating that, “We are thinking of the possibility of fairly drastic action… so come with anybody he needs in that respect.” Though the actual minutes of the meeting remain classified, Eisenhower’s memoirs reflect on some of the discussion that took place: “Syria’s neighbors, including her fellow Arab nations, had come to the conclusion that the present regime in Syria had to go; otherwise the takeover by the Communists would soon be complete.” The U.S. would then encourage Iraq and Turkey to mass troops along their borders with Syria, and “if Syrian aggression should provoke a military reaction” – note how it’s defined as “Syrian aggression” as opposed to “reaction” or “defense” to an aggressive military buildup on its borders – the United States would “expedite shipments of arms already committed to the Middle Eastern countries and, further, would replace losses as quickly as possible.” As such, the U.S. Sixth Fleet was again ordered to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, as it was during the Jordanian crisis earlier that year, while U.S. jets were sent from Western Europe to a NATO base in Turkey. Over the following two weeks, the Americans slowly backed down from their aggressive strategy, which threatened to provoke a major regional war drawing both the Soviet Union and the United States directly into the conflict. Soviet leader Khrushchev wrote a letter to Eisenhower in early September warning him not to intervene in Syria. John Foster Dulles claimed that the crisis had created “a period of the greatest peril for us since the Korean War,” saying that Khrushchev was “more like Hitler than any other Russian leader we have previously seen.” In typical Orwellian fashion, changing the actual crisis from that of a major covert and potentially overt American aggression in the region, Dulles, when speaking to the press, expressed his “deep concern at the apparently growing Soviet Communist domination of Syria.”[22]

While the conservative Arab allies were hesitant to pursue aggressive American policies against Syria, Turkey seemed to be ready for war, as even “despite words of caution from American diplomats and NATO officials,” Turkey “refused to demobilize the 50,000 troops they had massed along the Syrian frontier.” Dulles attempted to placate the Soviets, explaining that Eisenhower was convincing the Turks to retract, and Khrushchev warned, “if Turkey starts hostilities against Syria, this can lead to very grave consequences, and for Turkey, too,” which was a NATO ally, and thus, if Turkey was “to go it alone in Syria,” the Soviet Union would “attack Turkey, thereby precipitating an open, full scale conflict between ourselves and Russia.” With this in mind, U.S. officials bribed Turkey with economic and military aid to demobilize the border in late October. Following the crisis, Syrian leaders saw a dual threat of either Soviet domination of their country or Turkish invasion. In response to this, they promoted a formal union with Egypt along the lines espoused by Pan-Arab nationalism, and in early 1958, the United Arab Republic (UAR) was formed between Syria and Egypt. The Americans then feared that Nasser would use the UAR “to threaten Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq and perhaps engulf them one by one.”[23] However, despite the American fears that the UAR would seek to absorb other Arab states, the United States felt that a merger with Egypt would repress Communist elements in Syria, and that open hostility to the UAR would only incur Arab resentment. Thus, while the UAR was formed on 1 February 1958, the United States formally recognized it on 25 February, and the Syrian crisis came to an end.[24]

U.S. Policy After the Syrian Crisis

On 24 January 1958, a National Security Council report on “Long-Range U.S. Policy Toward the Near East” was issued which explained that the Middle East was “of great strategic, political, and economic importance to the Free World,” as the region “contains the greatest petroleum resources in the world and essential facilities for the transit of military forces and Free World commerce.” Thus, it was deemed that the “security interests of the United States would be critically endangered if the Near East should fall under Soviet influence of control,” and that the “strategic resources are of such importance” to the West, “that it is in the security interest of the United States to make every effort to insure that these resources will be available and will be used for strengthening the Free World,” noting also that the “geographical position of the Near East makes the area a stepping-stone toward the strategic resources of Africa.”[25] The Report went on note:

Current conditions and political trends in the Near East are inimical to Western interests. In the eyes of the majority of Arabs the United States appears to be opposed to the realization of the goals of Arab nationalism. They believe that the United States is seeking to protect its interest in Near East oil by supporting the status quo and opposing political or economic progress, and that the United States is intent upon maneuvering the Arab states into a position in which they will be committed to fight in a World War against the Soviet Union. The USSR, on the other hand, had managed successfully to represent itself to most Arabs as favoring the realization of the goals of Arab nationalism and as being willing to support the Arabs in their efforts to attain those goals without a quid pro quo. Largely as a result of these comparative positions, the prestige of the United States and of the West has declined in the Near East while Soviet influence has greatly increased. The principal points of difficulty which the USSR most successfully exploits are: the Arab-Israeli dispute; Arab aspirations for self-determination and unity; widespread belief that the United States desires to keep the Arab world disunited and is committed to work with “reactionary” [i.e., dictatorial] elements to that end; the Arab attitude toward the East-West struggle; U.S. support of its Western “colonial” allies [France and Britain]; and problems of trade and economic development.[26]

These points of “exploit” are, further, accurate. The United States, affirmed the NSC report, “supports the continued existence of Israel,” and “our economic and cultural interests in the area have led not unnaturally to close U.S. relations with elements in the Arab world whose primary interest lies in the maintenance of relations with the West and the status quo in their countries – Chamoun of Lebanon, King Saud, Nuri of Iraq, King Hussein [of Jordan].” These relations, stated the document, “have contributed to a widespread belief in the area that the United States desires to keep the Arab world disunited and is committed to work with ‘reactionary’ elements to that end,” while the USSR can proclaim “all-out support for Arab unity and for the most extreme Arab nationalist aspirations, because it has no stake in the economic, or political status quo in the area.” In its look at the advances of Communism in the region, the report stated that, “Communist police-state methods seem no worse than similar methods employed by Near East regimes, including some of those supported by the United States,” while the “Arabs sincerely believe that Israel poses a greater threat to their interests than does international Communism.” Lamenting against perceptions of the West in the region, the NSC document noted that the Arabs “believe that our concern over Near East petroleum as essential to the Western alliance, our desires to create indigenous strength [i.e., police-states, dictatorships, strong militaries] to resist Communist subversion or domination, our efforts to maintain existing military transit and base rights and deny them to the USSR, are a mere cover for a desire to divide and dominate the area.”[27]

Unfortunately for the United States reputation, the NSC report stated, “[t]he continuing and necessary association of the United States in the Western European Alliance makes it impossible for us to avoid some identification with the powers which formerly had, and still have, ‘colonial’ interests in the area.” In other words, yes, the United States supports colonialism and imperialism in the Middle East. Further, “[t]he continuing conflict in Algeria excites the Arab world and there is no single Arab leader, no matter how pro-Western he may be on other issues, who is prepared to accept anything short of full Algerian independence as a solution to this problem,” and thus, this creates “fertile ground for Soviet and Arab nationalist distortion of the degree of U.S. and NATO moral and material support to the French in Algeria.” While the area is rife with “extremes of wealth and poverty,” the blame is put on “external factors” such as “colonialism” as well as “unfair arrangements with the oil-producing companies, and a desire on the part of the West to keep the Arab world relatively undeveloped so that it may ultimately become a source of raw materials and the primary market for Israeli industry.” The NSC document then stated that, “we cannot exclude the possibility of having to use force in an attempt to maintain our position in the area,” but that, “we must recognize that the use of military force might not preserve an adequate U.S. political position in the area and might even preserve Western access to Near East oil only with great difficulty.”[28]

As an American objective in the region, the NSC document stated that, “[r]ather than attempting merely to preserve the status quo, [the United States should] seek to guide the revolutionary and nationalistic pressures throughout the area into orderly channels which will not be antagonistic to the West and which will contribute to solving the internal social, political and economic problems of the area.” However, the report went on to essentially counter this point with the policy objective of seeking to “[p]rovide military aid to friendly countries to enhance their internal security and governmental stability,” or in other words, to maintain the status quo, and, “where necessary, to support U.S. plans for the defense of the area.” The document did, however, recommend that when a “pro-Western orientation is unattainable,” to “accept neutralist policies of states in the area even though such states maintain diplomatic, trade and cultural relations with the Soviet bloc… so long as these relations are reasonably balanced by relations with the West.” The United States should “provide assistance… to such states in order to develop local strength against Communist subversion and control and to reduce excessive military and economic dependence on the Soviet bloc.”[29]

In dealing with the “threat” of Pan-Arab nationalism, the NSC report recommended that the United States should proclaim its “support for the ideal of Arab unity,” but to quietly “encourage a strengthening of the ties among Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq with a view to the ultimate federation of two or all of those states.” The aim of this would be to create a “counterbalance [to] Egypt’s preponderant position of leadership in the Arab world by helping increase the political prestige and economic strength of other more moderate Arab states such as Iraq, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon.” In Syria, the aim was simply to seek “a pro-Western, or if this is not possible, a truly neutral government.” Further, it was essential to continue “friendly relations with King Saud and continue endeavors to persuade him to use his influence for objectives we seek within the Arab world.” Referencing the potential use of covert or overt warfare and regime change, the document stated that the United States had to “[b]e prepared, when required, to come forward, as was done in Iran [with the 1953 coup], with formulas designed to reconcile vital Free World interests in the area’s petroleum resources with the rising tide of nationalism in the area.”[30]

The preceding was a research sample of a chapter on the American Empire in the Middle East in The People’s Book Project. This chapter was made possible through donations from readers like you through The People’s Grants. The new objective of The People’s Grants is to raise $1,600 to finance the development of two chapters on a radical history of race and poverty. If you find the following research informative, please consider donating to support The People’s Book Project.

Contribute to The People’s Grant:

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Peter L. Hahn, “Securing the Middle East: The Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, (Vol. 36, No. 1, March 2006), pages 39-40.

[2]            Ibid, page 41.

[3]            Document 161, “Paper Prepared in the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs and the Policy Planning Staff,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 5 December 1956.

[4]            Ibid.

[5]            Document 178, “Operations Coordinating Board Report,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 22 December 1956.

[6]            Ibid.

[7]            Ibid.

[8]            Ivan Pearson, “The Syrian Crisis of 1957, the Anglo-American ‘Special Relationship’, and the 1958 Landings in Jordan and Lebanon,” Middle Eastern Studies (Vol. 43, No. 1, January 2007), pages 45-46.

[9]            Ibid, pages 46-47.

[10]            Document 266, “National Intelligence Estimate,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1955-1957, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iran; Iraq, 8 October 1957.

[11 – 15]            Ibid.

[16]            Douglas Little, “Cold War and Covert Action: The United States and Syria, 1945-1958,” Middle East Journal (Vol. 44, No. 1, Winter 1990), pages 68-69.

[17]            Douglas Little, “A Puppet in Search of a Puppeteer? The United States, King Hussein, and Jordan, 1953-1970,” The International History Review (Vol. 17, No. 3, August 1995), pages 512, 516-519.

[18]            Ibid, pages 519-522.

[19]            Ibid, pages 522-524.

[20]            Ibid, pages 524-525.

[21]            Douglas Little, “Cold War and Covert Action: The United States and Syria, 1945-1958,” Middle East Journal (Vol. 44, No. 1, Winter 1990), pages 69-71.

[22]            Ibid, pages 71-73.

[23]            Ibid, pages 73-74.

[24]            Peter L. Hahn, “Securing the Middle East: The Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, (Vol. 36, No. 1, March 2006), page 44.

[25]            Document 5, “National Security Council Report,” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Vol. 12, Near East Region; Iraq; Iran; Arabian Peninsula, 24 January 1958.

[26-30]             Ibid.

Organized Terror and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine

Organized Terror and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

A brief note from The People’s Book Project: Welcome to 2012: The Book Project and the World We Live In

The following is Part 2 of a sample on The Origins of Imperial Israel from an upcoming book supported through The People’s Book Project.

Part 1: The Origins of Imperial Israel: A Buffer Against Arab Nationalism

See some other samples from the book, and if you like what you see, please donate:

- The American Empire in Latin America: “Democracy” is a Threat to “National Security”

- The Council on Foreign Relations and the “Grand Area” of the American Empire

- The Rockefeller World: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission

- Education or Domination? The Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford Foundations Developing Knowledge for the Developing World

- An Education for Empire: The Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford Foundations in the Construction of Knowledge

Please support The People’s Book Project and donate today!

Part 2

The official Israeli government explanation for the ‘disappearance’ of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from the land (roughly half the Arab population in Palestine in 1948) was that they left “voluntarily.” The “new history” of Israel emerged within the past couple decades due to declassified documents relating to the 1948 war and its origins, and with a number of Israeli historians recreating the history of Israel and challenging the official story. David Ben-Gurion, who would become Israel’s first Prime Minister, was a leading Zionist at the time. He and other Zionists “accepted” the UN partition plan, wrote Jerome Slater, “only as a necessary tactical step that would later be reversed.” In a 1937 letter to his son, Ben-Gurion wrote:

A partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish state will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety… We shall organize a modern defense force… and then I am certain that we will not be prevented from settling in other parts of the country, either by mutual agreement with our Arab neighbors or by some other means… We will expel the Arabs and take their places… with the forces at our disposal.[1]

In the same year, Ben-Gurion also wrote that, “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.”[2] A year later, in 1938, Ben-Gurion told a Zionist meeting that, “I favor partition of the country because when we become a strong power after the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and spread throughout all of Palestine.” Palestine, as defined by the Zionists, had included the West Bank, Golan Heights in Syria, Jerusalem, southern Lebanon, and a significant degree of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.[3]

For any settler colonies, as the Zionists were, there are roughly four conditions which have to met if they are to survive. Graham Usher, an Israeli journalist, wrote that:

They must obtain a measure of political, military, and economic independence from their metropolitan sponsors. They must achieve military hegemony over, or at least normal relations with, their neighboring states. They must acquire international legitimacy. And they must solve their “native problem.”[4]

The Jewish state, as defined by leading Zionists such as David Ben-Gurion, was not to simply be Jewish in its sociopolitical structure, explained Ilan Pappé, “but also in its ethnic composition.” Further, this would be made possible “only by force.” To accomplish this task, an efficient military organization was built over several years, with extensive financial resources. The main Jewish paramilitary organization in Palestine was founded in 1920 in order to protect the Jewish colonies, assisted by “sympathetic” British officers. Orde Wingate, a British officer, was central to convincing Zionist leaders of the need for such a military organization, associating the idea of a Jewish state with militarism and an army. Wingate was assigned to Palestine in 1936, and had established close connections between the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah and the British forces during the 1936-39 Arab Revolt.[5]

In 1940, Ben-Zion Luria, a historian at Hebrew University who was also employed by the Jewish Agency in Palestine suggested that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) should conduct a registry of all the Arab villages in Palestine, numbering some 1,200 in all, which had spread across the countryside for hundreds of years. Luria stated that, “This would greatly help the redemption of the land” into Jewish hands. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was founded in 1901 as one of the principal colonization organizations focused on buying Palestinian land to settle Jewish colonies. By the end of the Mandate in 1948, the Zionists had control over 5.8% of the land in Palestine.[6]

When news about the “village files” reached Yossef Weitz, the chief of the JNF settlement department (a major Zionist colonialist), he suggested that it be transformed into a “national project.” Other top Zionists became very enthusiastic about the project, of which the main emphasis was on mapping the villages. In several cases, these maps in the Israeli State Archives are all that remains of the entire villages. The British, aware of these projects, were unable to find the headquarters for the secret intelligence network that was established to construct the maps. By the later 1940s, the “village files” included much more than mere locations of villages, but rather had details about road access, the quality of the land, water resources, common sources of income for the local population, religious and sociopolitical affiliations, and even the age of individual men within the village. One important category, explained Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, was the index of “hostility,” referring to those individuals and communities which were ‘hostile’ to the Zionist project of colonization, which was largely determined according to examining the participation of certain villages and people in the Arab Revolt of 1936-39, which “included lists of everyone involved in the revolt and the families of those who had lost someone in the fight against the British. Particular attention was given to people alleged to have killed Jews.”[7]

The British, who had the Mandate over Palestine from 1923, when it was given to the British by the League of Nations, always saw Palestine as a highly strategic and vital imperial possession, largely due to its proximity to the Suez Canal, and thus, the route to Britain’s colonial “Jewel”, India. Palestine was considered a ‘buffer’ in the Middle East, in a land of potentially hostile peoples infused with the ideas of Arab nationalism. Just prior to World War II, the Arab population in Palestine revolted against the British rule in reaction to the dramatically increased rate of Jewish immigration and colonization of the land. The Arab Revolt (1936-39) presented the British with a civil war situation, which was suppressed by force of arms. Where the Arabs were a major problem for the British in the 1930s, the Zionists became a problem for the British in the 1940s, for they too turned to terrorist tactics to make British rule over Palestine impossible. Following World War II, the British Security Service (MI5), according to declassified documents from the agency, focused on the threat to Britain posed by Zionist terrorism, both within the Mandate and within Britain itself. The two main organizations identified by MI5 as terrorist groups were the Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Gang, who had planned on taking the war against Britain to its home, hoping to send several terrorist “cells” to London to “beat the dog in his own kennel.” As the secret documents reveal, “MI5 was actually more concerned about the threat of Zionist terrorism than about the looming threat of the Soviet Union.”[8]

MI5’s wartime Director-General, Sir David Petrie, stated in 1946 in regards to the threat of Zionist terrorism that, “the red light is definitely showing.” From a network of informers within Zionist organizations, Britain uncovered plots to assassinate British politicians associated with Palestine policy, including the Prime Minister himself. The Stern Gang had, in 1944, assassinated the British Minister of State in the Middle East, Lord Moyne, and had also tried (on several occasions) to assassinate the British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Harold MacMichael. On July 22, 1946, the Irgun bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which was home to British government officials and personnel, and resulted in the deaths of 91 individuals, some of them Jews. Both MI5 and MI6 had offices in the Hotel at the time. As Britain responded with force against Zionist terrorist groups and other organizations, the extremist nature of the groups naturally increased. In October of 1946, the Irgun bombed the British Embassy in Rome, and conducted several sabotage operations against British military transportation routes in occupied Germany. In April of 1947, the British Colonial Office in London discovered an Irgun bomb consisting of 24 sticks of explosives, but the timer had broken, so the bomb did not detonate. In June of 1947, the Stern Gang launched a letter bomb campaign in Britain, “targeting every prominent member of the Cabinet,” totaling 21 in all, but none of them ultimately got through to their targets. Another letter bomb assault was undertaken by the Stern Gang in 1948.[9]

In June of 1946, the British Army in Palestine undertook a search for the Jewish Agency, Haganah, and Palmach to retrieve their arms and arrest specific members and leaders. The Zionist organizations, however, had infiltrated the British just as the British had infiltrated the Zionist organizations; thus, the Zionists had advanced warning of the raid and some top officials were able to avoid arrest. The chief of the Haganah, Moshe Sneh, which was the military branch of the Jewish Agency, was in liaison with the terrorist organizations Irgun and Lehi. David Ben-Gurion, the president of the Jewish Agency, was also wanted by the British for his complicity in terrorist attacks. All in all, during the raid, roughly 2,700 people were arrested, including a significant portion of the political leadership within the Palestinian Jewish community, and some arms caches were retrieved. The result, predictably, was to multiply the violence committed against the British in retribution for the raids and arrests. Thus, the British High Commissioner in Palestine, Sir Alan Cunningham, concluded that, “immediate partition is the only solution which gives a chance of stability.”[10]

This was largely the result of the Jewish Resistance Movement (JRM) which had emerged and developed between 1945 and 1946, consisting of the Haganah, Palmach, Irgun and Lehi, “directed and coordinated by the Jewish Agency for Palestine, despite the objections of some of its left-wing members.” The aims of the JRM were to “weaken or destroy British rule in Palestine.” The Haganah was founded as a territorial militia to defend Zionist settlements in Palestine, and in 1938, several Haganah units worked with the British to help crush the Arab Revolt. The British created the Palmach during World War II as an “elite offensive unit” in order “to assist [the British] in the event of a German invasion of Palestine.” In 1945, the Haganah engaged in a secret agreement with the terrorist groups Irgun and Lehi against the British Mandate government. The Irgun was formed in 1931 when several officers separated from the Haganah over socialist sympathies within the defense forces, and became a right-wing paramilitary army, standing in opposition to the original conception of socialist and labour Zionism. The Stern Gang (also known as Lehi) separated from the Irgun during World War II when the Irgun agreed to cooperate with the British. The Stern Gang was a radical far-right group which held many fascist sympathies, and even “pursued agreements with Mussolini and the Nazis in 1940,” though unsurprisingly, Hitler did not respond to the requests.[11]

It was within these various terrorist and paramilitary organizations that Plan D was formed among several Zionist leaders, most notably, David Ben-Gurion, to plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Throughout the 1940s, the planning stages of the village files went through many revisions, and encapsulated Plans A through D. In the planning stages during 1940, as one member of the data collection team, Moshe Pasternak, later recalled:

We had to study the structure of the Arab village. This means the structure and how best to attack it. In the military schools, I had been taught how to attack a modern European city, not a primitive village in the Near East. We could not compare it [an Arab village] to a Polish, or an Austrian one. The Arab village, unlike the European ones, was built topographically on hills. That meant we had to find out how best to approach the village from above or enter it from below. We had to train our “Arabists” [the Orientalists who operated a network of collaborators] how best to work with informants.[12]

A large network of informants had been established to gain intelligence on the Palestinian villages throughout the Mandate. The intelligence which was provided allowed for even more details into the village files, especially after 1943, as the expanded information included: “detailed descriptions of the husbandry, cultivation, the number of trees in plantations, the quality of each fruit grove (even of individual trees!), the average land holding per family, the number of cars, the names of shop owners, members of work shops, and the names of the artisans and their skills.” As time passed, and the village files collected more information, political affiliations were added in regards to individuals within the villages, and in 1945, information regarding village mosques, the names of the imams and even accounts of the inside of particular homes. As the end of the Mandate grew close, the village files increasingly provided information of a more militaristic nature: “the number of guards in each village (most had none) and the quantity and quality of arms at the villagers’ disposal (generally antiquated or even nonexistent).” In 1944, a small village was home to the training of informants and spies and from which they would conduct reconnaissance missions. The final report for the village files was in 1947, focusing on forming lists of “wanted” individuals. As Ilan Pappé explained:

In 1948, Jewish troops used these lists for the search-and-arrest operations they carried out as soon as they had occupied a village. That is, the men in the village would be lined up and those whose names appeared on the lists would be identified, often by the same person who had informed on them in the first place, but now wearing a cloth sack over his head with two holes cut out for his eyes so as not to be recognized. The men who were picked out were often shot on the spot… Among the criteria for inclusion in these lists, besides having participated in actions against the British and the Zionists, were involvement in the Palestinian national movement (which could apply to entire villages) and having close ties to the leader of the movement, the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husayni, or being affiliated with his political party. Given the Mufti’s dominance of Palestinian politics since the establishment of the Mandate in 1923, and the prominent positions held by members of his party in the Arab Higher Committee that became the embryo government of the Palestinians, this offense too was very common.[13]

Villages of roughly 1,500 people had about 20-30 individual “suspects” within them. In November of 1947, the Zionist military command concluded that, “the Palestine Arabs had nobody to organize them properly,” and that, “If not for the British, we could have quelled the Arab riot [the opposition to the UN Partition Resolution in 1947] in one month.” The Arabs, while constituting a demographic challenge to the Zionist aspirations for Palestine, were not a military threat. Their military structures and leadership were largely destroyed by the British during the Arab Revolt and the Zionists were also aware that the Arab states were disorganized and hesitant to move forward on the Palestine issue. Thus, it was the British that primarily stood in the way of the Zionist plans for Palestine, and with 100,000 troops stationed in the an area with roughly 2 million people, it was no small force to contend with. Thus, the Zionist leadership, and specifically David Ben-Gurion, began advocating to support the Partition in the hopes of establishing a small Jewish state in order to have a base from which to expand. In 1946, Ben-Gurion told a gathering of the Zionist leadership that they could accept a smaller state, but that, “We will demand a large chunk of Palestine.” Within a few months, the Jewish Agency created a map of a partitioned Palestine. The UN produced a partition map with less land allotted for the Jewish state. After the 1948-49 war, however, the new Jewish state had – through ethnic cleansing – established itself along the lines set out for it in the Jewish Agency map: all of Palestine, save the West Bank and Gaza.[14]

It was in this context that Plan C was evolved from Plans A and B. The British could not repress the eventual Jewish uprising in Palestine after World War II as they had the Arab Revolt prior to the war, and it was clear to the Zionist leadership that the British were on the way out, in no small part due to pressure from Zionist terrorism. In 1946, Plan C was finalized to prepare the Jewish military structures for their offense against the Palestinian population, including striking against political leadership, anti-Zionist Arabs, senior Arab officials, transportation routes, economic infrastructure, etc. Plan C added upon the village files information regarding leaders and activists within the Arab population and other “potential human targets.” Within a few months, the addition of “operational specifics” became the basis for Plan D, which envisioned a Jewish State composed of 78% of the land of Palestine, as set out in the Jewish Agency map. As for the one million Palestinians within those lands, Plan D was very specific:

These operations can be carried out in the following manner: either by destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in their rubble), and especially those population centers that are difficult to control permanently; or by mounting combing and control operations according to the following guidelines: encirclement of the villages, conducting a search inside them. In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.[15]

As Ghazi Falah wrote in the journal, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Plan D’s “underlying objective was the nationwide conquest and control of territories.” Among the tactical objectives of Zionist forces were to occupy “all police fortresses/stations evacuated by British forces, and of Arab villages close to Jewish settlements; creating continuity between Jewish cities and neighbouring Jewish settlements; gaining control of lines of communications; besieging enemy cities; capturing forward bases of the enemy; counter attacks both inside and outside the borders of the State.”[16]

In November of 1947 the UN proposed the partition plan into two states, with Jerusalem and Bethlehem as an international zone. The UN partition plan vastly increased the amount of land for the Zionists, as Jewish land amounted to less than 7% of the total of Palestine in 1947, which was increased to 56% in the UN partition plan, leaving 42% for the Palestinians, who prior to partition had over 90% of the land. The Zionists immediately began the ethnic cleansing in December of 1947 prior to the British leaving, and the first Arab army did not invade until May of 1948, when the British left. Thus, under British rule, wrote Falah, “Jewish forces initiated a war of demographic and territorial expansion which took on the dimension of space purification – expulsion and prevention on the return of the expellees.” All able-bodies Jews within Palestine were mobilized by the Zionist forces to partake in the operation, with civilian Jews settling in the depopulated Palestinian villages in order to prevent any possible return of refugees. Civilians also imposed economic sanctions, disseminating propaganda, and preventing Palestinians from harvesting their crops. Destruction of Arab crops was a general policy, or to have Jewish settlers move in and harvest existing Arab fields in cleansed towns.[17]

Certain towns were then selected for massacres, usually carried out in small villages which had previously good relations with their Jewish neighbours. These towns were selected with the specific purpose of providing “lessons in toughness” for other Palestinians villages to incite them to leave and not return. Between May 1947 and March 1948, there were 92 cases of Zionist terrorism and massacres against Palestinians, organized by the Haganah in cooperation with the Irgun and Stern Gang. The small villages were chosen to be “victims,” to be an example – a terror campaign – to incite fear in the Palestinian population. One such massacre in April of 1948 killed 254 Arab civilians in one village. On top of the massacres, the rape of Arab Palestinian women, whether Christian or Muslim, was also a prominent feature of the more brutal cleansings. When the British left Palestine and the Arab states invaded, they prevented the Zionist forces from occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.[18]

All in all, some 400 Palestinian villages were cleansed, forcing roughly 750,000 Palestinians to flee, leaving roughly 100,000 Palestinians within the newly conquered Jewish territories, who remained under a virtual state of martial law and concentrated in small pales within Israel, the state which was declared by the Zionists in May of 1948. Massive Jewish immigration commenced for survivors of the Holocaust as well as Jews from Arab nations and the Soviet Union.[19]

The men who carried out the ethnic cleansing of Palestine became the mythical heroes of the founding of the state of Israel, most notably David Ben-Gurion, and the future leaders of the Israeli army, Yigael Yadin and Moshe Dayan, along with prominent Arabist academics, who, much like the intellectuals of the Nazi state, were among the most systematically malevolent, responsible for the final decisions regarding which villages were to be eradicated and which villagers were to be executed. The operations of the Arabists – Orientalist intellectuals – “were supervised by Issar Harel, who later became the first head of Mossad and the Shin bet, Israel’s secret services.”[20] The ruthless murders, assassinations, and massacres – even of women and children – were not a mere ‘result’ of the war, as many historians have claimed, but were a matter of policy. As Ezra Dannin, the Israeli government adviser on Arab affairs stated that, “If the High Command believes that by destruction, killing, and human suffering its aims will be achieved faster, then I would not stand in its way. If we don’t hurry up, our enemies will do the same things to us.”[21]

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project.

Please help spread the word about the Project and the book by joining the Facebook Page.

Notes

[1]            Jerome Slater, “What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 116, No. 2, 2001), pages 173-174.

[2]            Ilan Pappé, “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 36, No. 1, Autumn 2006), page 9.

[3]            Jerome Slater, “What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 116, No. 2, 2001), page 174.

[4]            Graham Usher, “Unmaking Palestine: On Israel, the Palestinians, and the Wall,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 35, No. 1, Autumn 2005), page 26.

[5]            Ilan Pappé, “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 36, No. 1, Autumn 2006), pages 9-10.

[6]            Ibid, pages 10-11.

[7]            Ibid, page 11.

[8]            Calder Walton, “British Intelligence and the Mandate of Palestine: Threats to British National Security Immediately After the Second World War,” Intelligence and National Security (Vol. 23, No. 4, 2008), pages 435-436.

[9]            Ibid, pages 439-440.

[10]            Steven Wagner, “British Intelligence and the Jewish Resistance Movement in the Palestine Mandate,” Intelligence and National Security (Vol. 23, No. 5, 2008), pages 629-630.

[11]            Ibid, pages 630-631.

[12]            Ilan Pappé, “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 36, No. 1, Autumn 2006), pages 11-12.

[13]            Ibid, pages 12-13.

[14]            Ibid, pages 13-15.

[15]            Ibid, pages 15-16.

[16]            Ghazi Falah, “The 1948 Israeli-Palestinian War and its Aftermath: The Transformation and Se-Signification of Palestine’s Cultural Landscape,” Annals of the American Association of American Geographers (Vol. 86, No. 2, 1996), page 259.

[17]            Ibid, page 261.

[18]            Ibid, page 262.

[19]            Graham Usher, “Unmaking Palestine: On Israel, the Palestinians, and the Wall,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 35, No. 1, Autumn 2005), page 27.

[20]            Ilan Pappé, “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. 36, No. 1, Autumn 2006), pages 18-19.

[21]            Jerome Slater, “What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 116, No. 2, 2001), page 175.

The American Empire in Latin America: “Democracy” is a Threat to “National Security”

The American Empire in Latin America: “Democracy” is a Threat to “National Security”

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

NOTE: This is an excerpt from a chapter in a current book-in-progress being funded through The People’s Book Project. The chapter is on the American Empire’s early implementation of its “Grand Area” designs in Latin America, as defined by the Council on Foreign Relations during World War II. The Project is currently in dire need of funding, so please donate if possible to allow progress on this book to continue.

Please help spread the word about the Project and the book, itself, by joining the Facebook Page.

A cohesive American imperial strategy to manage the “Grand Area” of Latin America in the post-War period was established by the newly formed Eisenhower administration in the National Security Council’s draft paper, “U.S. Policy With Respect to Latin America,” in January of 1953. In March, a final draft was submitted as NSC 144, a report on “United States Objectives and Courses of Action With Respect to Latin America.” As the strategy document was produced through the NSC, the highest policy-planning body in the American government, it necessarily involved the participation of high-level officials from the Departments of State, Defense, Treasury, the C.I.A., the Mutual Security Agency, and the Office of Defense Mobilization.[1]

Issued on March 18, 1953, the “Statement of Policy by the National Security Council” outlined the primary threat posed to American interests in Latin America:

There is a trend in Latin America toward nationalistic regimes maintained in large part by appeals to the masses of the population. Concurrently, there is an increasing popular demand for immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses, with the result that most Latin American governments are under intense domestic political pressures to increase production and to diversify their economies… [Thus, a] realistic and constructive approach to this need which recognizes the importance of bettering conditions for the general population, is essential to arrest the drift in the area toward radical and nationalistic regimes. The growth of nationalism is facilitated by historic anti-U.S. prejudices and exploited by Communists [emphasis added].[2]

Thus, the true threat – far from the “strategic sham” of Cold War rhetoric (as Zbigniew Brzezinski referred to it) – was the actualized and very realistic challenge to American domination posed by “nationalistic regimes” which support “the masses of the population” of various Latin American countries. Worse still, the masses were demanding “immediate improvement in [their] low living standards,” thus threatening the traditional elite-dominated system of control and subordination which had been established in Latin America for so many centuries. These “radical and nationalistic regimes” had to be prevented from meeting the demands of the masses. Almost as an afterthought, the document stated that – by the way – these “radical and nationalistic regimes” are given strength “by historic anti-U.S. prejudices and exploited by Communists,” as if to simply brush over the immediate imperial threat with the common rhetoric. The use of the word “prejudices” also portends to portray such views of the United States as unwarranted and unjustified, as if the United States were the victim. Indeed, for the strategists in the National Security Council, the threat of radical nationalism had the potential to victimize them of their vast imperial domains.

Thus, the NSC-144 document listed a number of “Objectives” for the United States to undertake in this highly threatening situation where the poor masses of an entire continent no longer wanted to be subjected to the ruthless domination of a tiny domestic and foreign minority. These ‘objectives’ included: “Hemisphere solidarity in support of our world policies, particularly in the UN and other international organizations,” which, in other words, means towing the line with the United States in regards to American foreign policy around the world; “An orderly political and economic development in Latin America so that the states in the area will be more effective members of the hemisphere system and increasingly important participants in the economic and political affairs of the free world,” which can be roughly translated as supporting the development of a Western-oriented middle class which would support the elites and keep the lower classes – the masses – at bay; “The safeguarding of the hemisphere… against external aggression through the development of indigenous military forces and local bases necessary for hemisphere defense,” which implies allowing America to establish military bases throughout the continent – naturally for “defensive” purposes – in offensively defending America’s resources (which happen to be in other countries), as well as establishing local military proxies through which America can exert regional hegemony. Further objectives included: “The reduction and elimination of the menace of internal Communist or other anti-U.S. subversion,” which equates to purging and liquidating the countries of dissenters, a patently fascistic policy objective; “Adequate production in Latin America of, and access by the United States to, raw materials essential to U.S. security,” which means that American corporations get unhindered access to exploit the region’s resources; and “The ultimate standardization of Latin American military organization, training, doctrine and equipment along U.S. lines,” which implies making every country’s military structure and apparatus of internal repression dependent upon U.S. support, and thus, it would ensure a structure of dependency between domestic elites and the American Empire, as the domestic elites would need the military and police apparatus to repress the “masses” whom they rule over and exploit. Therefore, America would need to essentially subsidize Latin America’s systems and structures of repression.[3]

In identifying “courses of action” to achieve America’s “objectives” in Latin America, the NSC document stated that the United States could achieve a “greater degree of hemisphere solidarity” – i.e., hegemony – if it utilizes the Organization of American States (OAS) “as a means of achieving our objectives,” because this would “avoid the appearance of unilateral action and identify our interests with those of the other American states.” It further recommended undertaking consultations with Latin American states, “whenever possible,” before America took unilateral action within Latin America. The “consultations,” it should not be confused, were not designed to weigh the opinions of Latin American states in the decision-making processes of the empire, but rather to explain “as fully as security permits the reasons for our decisions and actions.” So essentially, it’s more of a courtesy call, a polite announcement of imperial actions.[4]

Importantly, one major “course of action” included the encouraging – via ‘consultation,’ assistance, and “other available means” – of “individual and collective action against internal subversive activities by communists and other anti-U.S. elements.” What this amounts to, then, as a “course of action,” was for America to undertake a comprehensive program aimed at advising (“consulting”), financing, arming, and organizing Latin American states to internally and regionally oppress, control, or eliminate dissidents and activists. Not unrelated, of course, the “courses of action” also stated that the United States should work to “encourage” Latin American nations to “recognize” (i.e., submit) to the idea that the “best” way to “development” for them is through “private enterprise,” which required “a climate which will attract private investment,” which meant to grant favourable concessions, low tariffs, and easy exploitation of resources to foreign conglomerates, namely, American. The document even directly recommended simplifying “customs procedures and reduction of trade barriers” in order to “[make] it easy for Latin American countries to sell their products to us,” which is kind of like saying, “If I give you a large loan, it will make it easier for you to pay a higher interest to me.” What it really implies, then, is not to improve conditions for Latin American countries in “selling” products, but in making it “easier” for Northern countries to buy products, as in, making them much cheaper, and thus, Latin American countries will get less for them, and their resources could be appropriated with greater ease than previously. Naturally, the “courses of action” in the economic realm also stipulated that the United States should “assist” Latin America in playing “a more vigorous and responsible role in economic development of the area.”[5]

The notion of “responsible” development means that the nations would not be attempting to nationalize their resources or impose strict trade controls over their national wealth and products so as to industrialize and develop internally (as the United States did following the American Revolution), because this is “irresponsible” behaviour. It is irresponsible precisely because it is effective in the process of national development, as evidenced by the fact that every major industrial economy in the early 20th century had been established through state protections and interventions into the economy, and this is what allowed them to rise as industrial giants and become powerful global powers. Thus, the notion of a ‘Third World’ state possibly becoming a powerful industrial nation in its own right is not a “responsible” way to establish oneself as a vassal state for a regional and global empire, which requires its protectorates to be dependent, not self-sufficient.

Conveniently for the United States, then, which articulates the rhetoric of “free market” capitalism (which it does not practice, with heavy state subsidies, trade restrictions, and market controls), the Soviet Union – its new ideological ‘enemy’ – overtly imposed and openly advocated state control of the economy (though in practice it relied quite heavily upon American industrial corporations for support), and thus, any state which nationalized resources or imposed state controls and interventions in the economy could be said to be following the path of the Soviet Union, and subsequently be presented to the domestic American populace as a “Communist threat.” This is, indeed, exactly what took place throughout the Cold War period.

On this very note, the NSC-144 document directly stated that in relation to its propaganda efforts in the region – “Information and Cultural Programs for Latin American states” – the United States “should be specifically directed to the problems and psychology of specific states in the area,” of which the objective would be to ‘alert’ these states and their populations “to the dangers of Soviet imperialism and communist and other anti-U.S. subversion,” and thus, indirectly “convincing them that their own self-interest requires an orientation of Latin American policies to our objectives.” In other words, unless following the strict dictates of the United States, these states will be branded as Communist or “subversive.” Subversive elements, as the NSC-144 document stipulates, were to be dealt with largely through military means. The United States recommended as a “course of action” to “provide military assistance to Latin America,” which would “be designed to reduce to a minimum the diversion of U.S. forces for the maintenance of hemispheric security,” or in other words, building up domestic Latin American military and police forces so that the American military won’t have to directly respond to every threat to its hegemony in the region. On this note, it was also vital to ensure that America had several military bases in the region, and, as the document suggested, “the United States should take political, economic or military action, as appropriate, to insure the continued availability of U.S. bases in Latin America.”[6] What this implied was that if U.S. military bases were threatened in the region, that was reason enough to take military action against any entity which challenged the presumed permanence of the bases.

NSC-144 even directly stated that, “where necessary,” the United States should directly protect certain resources and industries and their transportation routes to the United States, but that each Latin American country “should organize its own civil defense.” One example of this would be the American bases along the Panama Canal. The United States should also, according to the document, “establish where appropriate, military training missions in Latin American nations,” as well as “to provide training in the United States for selected Latin American personnel.” Ultimately, then, a key aim of U.S. military assistance to the region was to “seek the ultimate standardization along U.S. lines of the organization, training, doctrine and equipment of Latin American armed forces,”[7] a very typical imperial phenomenon, along the notion of God creating man “in his own image.”

The NSC-144 document of 1953 and its appendage in NSC 5432/1 of 1954 were incredibly important in establishing a method and process of United States hegemony in Latin America during the Cold War period. With the Eisenhower administration in power in 1953, America took a hard-line approach to Latin America. His Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, stated – following the Caracas Conference in 1954 which adopted an “anticommunist resolution” for the OAS – that the United States could “operate more effectively to meet Communist subversion in the American Republics.”[8] One of the most important examples of American imperialism in Latin America almost immediately followed NSC-144, with the 1954 coup in Guatemala.

Guatemala: Democracy is not in the “American Interest”

In 1950, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was elected President of Guatemala under the popularly supported pretense of continuing socio-economic reforms such as instituting land reform, an extremely popular policy among the people. President Eisenhower identified the ‘threat’ posed by the Arbenz regime to the “American interest” when he wrote that, “the Arbenz government announced its intentions, under an agrarian reform law, to seize about 225,000 acres of unused United Fruit Company land.”[9]

The Council on Foreign Relations had many interests in the issues presented by Guatemala, as the Council’s early “studies on Latin America had focused precisely on United States economic interests there.” As Shoup and Minter wrote:

In 1952 and 1953, Spruille Braden, former assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs and a consultant for the United Fruit Company, led a Council study group on Political Unrest in Latin America… the first meeting, in the fall of 1952, was devoted to Guatemala, with John McClintock of the United Fruit Company as the discussion leader.[10]

One member of the study group wrote in his journal, following one of the meetings, that “the Council on Foreign Relations the other night agreed generally that the Guatemalan government was Communist,” and that the United States “should welcome” the overthrow of the Arbenz government, “and if possible guide it into a reasonably sound channel.” Those most involved in deciding U.S. policy towards Guatemala within the U.S. government were also members of the Council:

Most important were President Eisenhower himself, the CIA head Allen Dulles, who continued on the Council’s board of directors at the same time, and Frank Wisner, another Council member who was the CIA’s deputy director for plans (the man in charge of clandestine operations).[11]

It should also be noted that U.S. Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, while not a member of the Council, was the brother of Council board member and CIA Director Allen Dulles. Arbenz in Guatemala represented exactly the “threat” as identified in NSC-144 of, “nationalistic regimes maintained in large part by appeals to the masses of the population,” and was thus considered to be a “radical and nationalistic” regime. The immense threat posed by such a regime to America was in the Arbenz government’s willingness to direct its policies to meet “an increasing popular demand for immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses,” as the NSC-144 identified as the key trend in Latin America.

Operation PBSUCCESS, authorized by Eisenhower in August 1953, boasted a $2.7 million budget for “psychological warfare and political action” and “subversion,” among the other components of a small paramilitary war.[12] As the CIA officer in charge of the operation, E. Howard Hunt (later infamous for the Watergate burglary), explained in an interview some years later, “What we [the CIA] wanted to do was to have a terror campaign… to terrify Arbenz particularly, to terrify his troops, much as the German Stuka bombers terrified the population of Holland, Belgium and Poland at the onset of World War Two.”[13]

In December of 1953, an organization established by the U.S. government called the National Planning Association on the Guatemala Situation produced a report proclaiming that, “Communist infiltration in Guatemala constitutes a threat not only to the freedom of that country but to the security of all Western Hemisphere nations.” With twenty-two committee members signing this statement, fifteen of them were Council on Foreign Relations members.[14]

In short, the Council on Foreign Relations made the argument that the “improvement in the low living standards of the masses” presented a Communist threat to the entire Western Hemisphere and threatened the “freedom” of Guatemala itself. While the notion of “Communism” here is a metaphor for “radical nationalism,” such nationalistic regimes which were listening to and acting on the needs of the “masses of the population” – what can be called democracy – are indeed a major security threat to the United States and its hegemony over the entire region, and this is no metaphor.

It is not an exaggeration to say that a comparatively small country presents such an enormous threat to American regional and even global hegemony if it were to actually meet the “demand for immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses,” and this is so not in spite of the country being a small Central American nation, but because it was a small, seemingly insignificant nation to the course of global affairs. This is precisely so because if a small nation could successfully chart its own path separate from the United States, especially one so geographically close to the United States, it could serve as an example to other nations in the region and around the world as presenting a method of independence and autonomy which could become increasingly attractive, especially to the “masses” of the world. Such an example could not be permitted to exist, least of all in such close regional proximity to the United States, for if a nation could successfully resist American dominance in its own “backyard” – as Latin America was established to be with the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 – then it could happen anywhere. Nothing would appear to be a greater threat to a large global power than a successful resistance by a small, local actor: David and Goliath.

In regards to U.S. policy toward Guatemala, the ties between the government, United Fruit Company and the Council on Foreign Relations were well established so as to create a consensus on defining the “national interest” as seeking to replace the Arbenz regime:

Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes, a future President of Guatemala, recorded that his cooperation in the coup was sought by Walter Turnbell, a former executive of United Fruit, who came accompanied by two CIA agents… [U.S. Secretary of State] John Foster Dulles, while at [Wall Street law firm] Sullivan and Cromwell, had represented the United Fruit Company in negotiating a contract with Guatemala some years before. [Assistant Secretary of State] John M. Cabot’s brother was a director and former president of the United Fruit Company. Spruille Braden [at the State Department] served as a United Fruit Company consultant. Former CIA director Walter Bedell Smith, after leaving the government, became a director of United Fruit, as did Robert D. Hill, a participant in the operation as ambassador to Costa Rica.[15]

The Council itself also had extensive ties to United Fruit Company, with three Council members serving on the board of United Fruit, not to mention the Dulles brothers who were very close with the Council and United Fruit, while being in the key positions of CIA Director and Secretary of State.[16]

Propaganda as Policy

Another major facet of the significance of the U.S. operation to overthrow the democratic government of Guatemala was not simply that it was the first post-World War II U.S. coup in Latin America, but that it involved a monumental propaganda campaign aimed at shaping domestic American opinion, which would ultimately come to define much of the methods and substance of U.S. domestic propaganda throughout the Cold War. Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud and the “Father of Public Relations” was pivotal in this program.

Bernays was hired as a public relations counsel for United Fruit Company in the early 1940s in order to help sell bananas during the winter. Bernays began finding new ways to sell bananas by marketing them not simply as a product to be consumed, but as a healthy life choice, and he further emphasized the need that United Fruit not simply educate North Americans about bananas, but about Latin America in general. Thus, Bernays established the Middle America Information Bureau, which was “in part an honest attempt to educate, providing scholars, journalists, and others with the latest information about a nearby place that most Americans knew almost nothing about.” However, Bernays wrote a memo to all employees of the Bureau that, “all material released by this office must be approved by responsible executives of the United Fruit Company.” The information that informed the articles produced by Bureau staff was provided directly by United Fruit.[17]

Bernays had early persuaded the United Fruit Company to begin framing the reformist democratic government of Arbenz as Communist, and had launched a campaign of planting stories in the media embracing this perspective. Articles began appearing in the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, the New York Herald Tribune, Time, Newsweek, and even the left-leaning progressive magazine, The Nation, which “was especially satisfying to Bernays, who believed that winning the liberals over was essential to winning America over.”[18]

In January of 1952, Bernays took a group of journalists on a two-week tour of the region. The trip was “under the [United Fruit] Company’s careful guidance and, of course, company expense… The trips were ostensibly to gather information, but what the press would hear and see was carefully staged and regulated by the host.”[19] Bernays had control over media information on Guatemala up to and during the CIA coup. The government in Guatemala that came to power then ruled for decades with an iron fist “as it condemned hundreds of thousands of people (mostly members of the country’s impoverished Maya Indian majority) to dislocation, torture and death.”[20]

The achievement of scaring the American public with the threat of Communism proved to be incredibly successful in terms of creating public support for regime change in Guatemala. Thus, in 1954, when the exiled army officer in Honduras, Carlos Castillo Armas, had crossed the border into Guatemala with two hundred men who had been recruited and trained (and armed) by the CIA, Bernays framed this invasion in the American media as an “army of liberation.”[21] These tactics of media manipulation and the shaping of public opinion would come to define the Cold War propaganda strategy of the United States. For decades to come, every liberation struggle, every government, and every policy of foreign peoples and nations that threatened the dominance of U.S. hegemony and in particular, U.S. economic interests, would henceforth be framed as ‘Communist.’ As such, any force or process set against the ‘Communists’ in these regions would be seen as “liberators” and “democratic freedom fighters,” whether the strategy was that of fomenting rebellion, supporting death squads and terrorists, undertaking coups, “terror campaigns,” or outright war.

The underlying and far-reaching implications of this has been to create a historically unique situation in which the home population of the imperial nation (in this case, Americans) are subjected to a process of indoctrination so profound that they are in a state of ‘imperial denial.’ As such, Americans see their country and its role in the world as exceptional, in that they do not by and large accept or even contemplate the imperial nature of America and its policies, but rather are imbued with a type of ‘manifest destiny’ in which they believe that America is the “greatest nation” on earth, and thus have the ‘responsibility’ to ‘protect’ the world as a type of global policeman. This is unique in the history of empires, which until the dawn of the American empire, never denied their imperial nature as such (though they still justified it in various rhetorical ploys), nor were their populations entirely ignorant of their countries’ imperial status.

The Regional Politics of Global Dominance

As a result of the coup in Guatemala, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Henry F. Holland, stated that America “had paid a price in terms of prestige and good will” in the eyes of many Latin American nations and peoples.[22] It is telling to note the perspectives of several other Latin American nations and politicians in the lead-up to the Guatemala coup in late June of 1954. The United States learned an important lesson from their intervention in Guatemala, best examined with the case of internal politics in Chile, an important U.S. ally in the region, that the U.S. had to cultivate friendly perceptions and undertake propaganda efforts within Latin American countries, not simply within the United States itself.

Chile was an important source of resources for the United States, but in the early 1950s, its economy was in deep trouble, which then began to translate into political trouble for the United States. Chile elected a new president, Carlos Ibañez del Campo in 1952 (who had previously been a dictator in Chile from 1927-1931), with a priority to deal with Chile’s economic problems, though in ways that frustrated American interests. America appointed a new Ambassador to Chile, Willard L. Beaulac, who saw Chile’s economic problems as a threat to “solvency but also the stability of its political institutions.” As the Chilean public became increasingly dissatisfied with Ibañez’s handling of the economic situation, U.S. officials worried that he may try to do away with the democratic model and resort back to his dictatorial ways, modeling himself along the lines of Argentina’s Juan Peron, a populist dictatorship disliked by America. In the 1952 Chilean elections, Ibañez had framed himself as a “Peronist populist,” running as “the General of Hope.” Thus, the-then Ambassador to Chile declared, “The grave danger to Chile, and to us, is still Ibañez.” Further, a Socialist senator from northern Chile, Salvador Allende, increased in popularity, and declared: “If the President of the Republic does not consider himself capable of resolving [Chile’s] problems and fulfilling the promises he made, he would do well to take the democratic course of calling the country to resolve the problem through new elections.”[23]

Ibañez began courting the dictatorial path. His Undersecretary of Defense, Colonel Horacio Arce, approached U.S. Ambassador Beaulac “about how the United States would react to an Ibañez-led authoritarian regime,” to which Beaulac stated the American preference for a democratic regime. Ibañez had twice stated personally to the American Ambassador that he intended to impose an authoritarian regime. In Chile, American officials at the State Department did not view Communists as a real threat to the country, despite having one of the largest Communist organizations in Latin America (the others being in Brazil and Cuba). In 1948, the Chilean Congress had passed the Law for the Permanent Defense of Democracy, “which banned the Chilean Communist party and removed all Communists from the voter rolls.”[24] Thus, the ‘threat’ was generally contained.

With the Eisenhower administration’s focus on handling Guatemala and expanding U.S. actions against the Arbenz government, it then attempted to mobilize other Latin American countries to support its policies. The U.S. undertook a policy recommendation right out of the playbook – NSC paper 144 – which stated that the United States could achieve a “greater degree of hemisphere solidarity” if it utilized the Organization of American States (OAS) “as a means of achieving our objectives,” because this would “avoid the appearance of unilateral action and identify our interests with those of the other American states.”[25] Thus, for the OAS’s approaching Tenth Inter-American Conference, set in Caracas, Venezuela in March of 1954 (one year after the final draft of NSC-144 was published), U.S. officials proposed the addition of an “anti-Communist” resolution. This resolution stated:

That the domination or control of the political institutions of any American state by the international Communist movement… would constitute a threat to the sovereignty and political independence of the American states, endangering the peace of America, and would call for appropriate action in accordance with existing treaties.[26]

The treaty referred to specifically was the 1947 Rio Treaty, which stipulated that “if two thirds of member nations agreed, the OAS could take action against the nation that posed the threat.” One historian, Stephen Rabe, contended that the Secretary of State John Foster Dulles – with this resolution – essentially expanded “the Monroe Doctrine to include outlawing foreign ideologies in the American Republics.” The greatest opposition to this resolution at Caracas, interestingly, came from the Chilean delegation of Left and Center politicians and representatives, who openly opposed the Caracas Conference itself, as well as U.S. policy in Guatemala. One Chilean politician pointed out that the OAS should be concerned with the internal policies of the region’s dictatorships, not with Guatemala, and noted the irony of holding the conference in Venezuela, ruled by a “ruthless” dictator, General Marcos Pérez Jiménez. Eduardo Frei of Chile’s Falange party refused to attend the Chilean delegation to Caracas, stating:

I do not believe that the Department of State would be so bold as to suggest, least of all, an intervention into the internal affairs of [Guatemala] which is at liberty to determine freely its own destiny. If [the Department of State] did, all democratic forces of America would rise up to repudiate the aggression and to make common cause with Guatemala.[27]

Apparently, he underestimated the extent of America’s domestic propaganda system, which presented the “terror campaign” against a democratically elected and incredibly popular government as a victory for freedom and democracy. Orwellian artistry at its most malevolent.

Two weeks prior to the Caracas Conference, a group was organized within Chile’s Chamber of Deputies, led by the Chamber’s president, Baltasar Castro, as well as a number of Socialist party members and other radicals, calling themselves the “Friends of Guatemala,” who expressed their support for Arbenz in Guatemala, as well as their opposition to U.S. policy. Other “Friends of Guatemala” organizations appeared in El Salvador, Cuba, and Mexico, but Chile’s was the most influential and best mobilized, as they focused on the issues of “self-determination, Arbenz’s status as a democratically elected president, and the United States abusing its power to pressure smaller neighbors.” Baltasar Castro, as leader of the “Friends of Guatemala,” attracted negative attention from the U.S. embassy in Santiago, Chile. As their criticism intensified, other Latin American neighbours increasingly expressed reservations regarding the OAS meeting and specifically the anti-Communist resolution. Thus, they amended the resolution to stipulate that instead of taking “direct action,” they would “call for future consultations on additional measures,” and Chile, as well as several other nations, then voted in favour of the resolution, believing that it no longer stood for “unilateral or collective intervention” against Guatemala. A member of the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff who attended the meeting observed that Latin America had “more fear of U.S. interventionism than of Guatemalan communism.”[28]

Salvador Allende, an important Socialist party politician in Chile, had not yet reached the national political stage in Chile (as he would later), but was generally considered by U.S. officials in the region to be “a friend,” whom they thought could act as a significant counter-weight to Ibañez. However, Allende had been increasingly critical of poverty and malnutrition among the poor and lower classes of society. This was tolerated by American officials who felt Allende had “no use” for Communism. Thus, as Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Edward G. Miller stated, Allende could “do substantial damage to Ibañez,” so he was tolerated. With the 1954 Caracas conference, Allende was provided “with a new political issue,” and began speaking out against U.S. policy in the region, stating that the anti-Communist resolution at the OAS conference was “nothing more than an instrument of the Cold War,” and it did “not reflect any of the fundamental concerns of the peoples of this part of the continent.” Further, Allende admonished Secretary of State John Foster Dulles for leaving the OAS conference “ten minutes after obtaining” the acceptance of the anti-Communist resolution, which exposed, according to Allende, how the conference was an instrument “for approving the anti-Communist resolution of Mr. Dulles.” As Allende presciently observed, American propaganda gave:

the impression that the mountains of [our] countries are infested with communists, that our coasts are full of communist ships, that the small country of Guatemala threatens the existence of the largest of the bourgeois countries. Like David and Goliath. But Guatemala does not have a sling. Its only sling is showing the road to follow for introducing progress and liberty into the nations of America.[29]

That was, however, certainly enough to make an enemy of America. After all, “introducing progress and liberty into the nations of America” is inimical to the interests of the United States, which sought to control and dominate the region and exploit its resources under the obedient command of local elites and with the ultimate pacification and submission of the “masses.”

Following the Caracas conference, as some State Department officials observed, “anti-U.S. sentiment runs quite high” in Chile, and that U.S. diplomats in the country were “striving to preserve such good-will as we still have.” U.S. officials, growing increasingly frustrated with the “anti-U.S. sentiment” in Chile, then began to hope that Ibañez would undertake an “anti-Communist campaign,” in order “to change the existing Chilean attitude that communism in Chile is a local phenomenon.” As U.S. Ambassador Beaulac noted, “The communists were Chileans… and it was difficult for the United States to compete with Chileans in Chile.” As the U.S. stepped up pressure against Guatemala in the lead-up to the coup, the “Friends of Guatemala” in Chile stepped up their own efforts against U.S. policy in the region, and proposed to hold a conference in Chile on the matter, focusing on three major agendas for deliberation:

(1) The self-determination of peoples, (2) the right of nations to dispose of their raw materials and autonomously to conduct their diplomatic and commercial relations, and (3) the internal democracy of countries, the full exercise of human rights, and the inviolability of individual guarantees.[30]

Naturally, this angered U.S. officials, who accused the Friends of Guatemala of attempting “to create pro-Guatemala propaganda,” and Assistant Secretary of State Holland stated: “I sincerely hope something will shock the Chileans out of their present posture of complete irresponsibility, political and economic.”[31] This goes again to the NSC-144 document which emphasized the need for America to “encourage” Latin American nations onto “responsible” modes of governance, politically and especially economically. Thus, supporting the “self-determination of peoples” is politically “irresponsible,” and worse yet, “the right of nations to dispose of their raw materials and autonomously to conduct their diplomatic and commercial relations,” is incredibly “irresponsible” for U.S. officials, who, as stated in NSC-144, were to “assist” Latin America in playing “a more vigorous and responsible role in economic development of the area.”[32] The Latin American countries were viewed by the United States as being akin to misbehaving children, and thus, they had to be properly disciplined and have their behaviour ‘corrected.’

The “shock” for Chile came with the coup in Guatemala, though not a ‘shock’ in the sense that U.S. officials had hoped. When the invasion of Guatemala began on June 17 with Colonel Castillo Armas and his CIA-backed army, mass protests erupted in Chile (and elsewhere in the continent), “often in front of the U.S. embassy,” and in Santiago’s city center, protesters burned a U.S. flag “amid the cheers of thousands of students.” A U.S. reporter took a photo of the flag burning which ended up in several U.S. newspapers, and the protests continued, even burning effigies of U.S. President Eisenhower. Ibañez’s Undersecretary of Defense told Ambassador Beaulac that Chilean students thought “that the United States is persecuting Guatemala.” Apparently, Chileans and other peoples in the region had no misunderstandings about who was responsible for the invasion and coup in Guatemala, as Chilean public opinion “continued to run high” in support of Guatemala and showed “accumulated pent up resentment against the United States,” as the American Embassy in Chile admitted.[33]

Chile’s Chamber of Deputies and Senate passed a resolution opposing U.S. policy and in support of Arbenz in Guatemala, and discussed the role of United Fruit in “supporting movements designed to overthrow a government which is not amenable to its interests.” Salvador Allende, Baltasar Castro, and others organized protests against the United States in cooperation with workers organizations, student groups, and radical political parties, of which American officials lamented that these men were “giving comfort to the communist cause.” As the U.S. Embassy in Chile cabled to Washington, the invasion of Guatemala “provided the communists with an issue – U.S. ‘aggression’ against the integrity of a duly constituted government, around which many in Latin America are quick to unite.”[34]

When the image of a U.S. flag being burned in Chilean protests showed up in American newspapers, the New York Times, in its usual animosity toward truth and justice, declared that Chilean Communism “comes the nearest to being a menace now,” while the New York Herald Tribune suddenly cited “recent reports of growing Communist strength in Chile.” Thus, the image of a U.S. flag being burned in protest against a violent action of state terror against an innocent country and its people who were only seeking liberty, autonomy, and justice, suddenly became represented in the American media as an act of “Communism” against American ‘democracy.’ The role of the aggressive superpower waging a brutal assault and “terror campaign” against an innocent country was removed from the dialogue, and it was presented as a “Democracy versus Communism” issue, with those who oppose U.S. terrorism being “Communists.” This negative image of Chile in the American media, however, urged several Chilean elites to quickly address the situation, and President Ibañez conducted an interview with NBC in which he stated that Communism was “a real menace in Latin America,” but Chileans would “defend inter-American principles,” and that, “Chilean public opinion is in no way represented by the provocations of certain uncontrolled groups.” In a meeting with Ambassador Beaulac, Ibañez declared, “I don’t know how much longer I am going [to] stand for this. I am going to do something but I don’t know yet what it is. You can be sure of one thing, however, and that is that Chile will not go Communist. I will cut off their heads when the time comes.” Thus, as Ibañez pursued constitutional “reforms” to give himself more power, American media and public officials responded negatively (fearing he was attempting to resort to his dictatorial origins), and they sought to discourage such moves. At the same time, the Friends of Guatemala were mobilizing their efforts, holding a conference in July of 1954 with delegates from Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Paraguay, at which, the U.S. Embassy later wrote, “oratory was uniformly and usually vehemently critical of the United States and the OAS.” U.S.-supported dictators in the region were also denounced, including Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Manuel Odria in Peru, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, and Tiburcio Carias in Honduras. More worrying, still, was that American corporations like Standard Oil, United Fruit, and Anaconda Copper were presented “as the present-day counterparts of the pirate marauders of yore.”[35]

The conference ended with the approval of five resolutions, the first of which rejected the Caracas anti-Communist resolution, “which give[s] the United States a presumed right of intervention in complicity with illegitimate Latin American governments [i.e., dictatorships] in the political and economic life of our peoples.” The second resolution was in recognizing “the inalienable right” of self-determination; third, they would fight against the pact which created the OAS; and fourth, to “fight against all forms of colonialism, especially on the American continent.” The fifth resolution was to express “sympathy for all underdeveloped nations” in the struggle for “self-determination and called on them ‘for common action in defense of this right’.”[36]

Frustrated with the “anti-U.S. sentiment” within Chile, Ambassador Beaulac increased his rhetorical assault on those who opposed U.S. policies, and speaking before the American Chamber of Commerce in Santiago, Beaulac lambasted those who are “quick to talk against the United States, as though the United States and not Russia… menaced freedom everywhere,” and divided these “anti-U.S.” elements into two groups: the “dupes,” who were “simple-minded people who know no better and who will never know any better,” and secondly, the “demagogues,” who were “ambitious men” seeking to advance “their own political fortunes.” The lesson of Guatemala, then, for Beaulac, was “for decent men [i.e., those who support U.S. policy] to work as hard to tell the truth [i.e., the American version of the truth].” As the Chilean press attacked Beaulac for “interference” in domestic affairs, the American media countered with suggesting that “responsible quarters” in Washington had been concerned that “Communists are gaining power in Chile.”[37]

As Chile was portrayed in a negative light by the American media, Chilean officials complained to U.S. State Department officials who replied that it was “normal for the American public, press, and Congressional opinion to interpret the many of these acts as indicative of a strong pro-Communist bias in Chile,” and that, “acts like burning of the American flag are bound to cause resentment in the American people,” and thus, “the public would draw its own conclusions.” The Eisenhower administration had grown increasingly frustrated with Chile, a country it had given the status of “a favored nation” to, and Ambassador Beaulac told a Chilean official that Chileans should not “try to make political capital at the expense of the United States,” as “Chile cannot gain the good will and cooperation [of] the Government of the United States by attacking it.”[38]

In surveys of Chilean public opinion conducted in 1955 and 1956, the United States Information Agency (USIA) discovered that Chileans had the least “favorable impression” of the United States, being “inclined to say that U.S. words do not agree with U.S. actions,” referring to the rhetoric of democracy versus the actions and support of tyranny.[39] Reports increasingly emerged within the United States that Chile was “the major source of anxiety for many weeks” in the U.S. State Department, with its Communist movement (relative to its population size), being “the largest and most alarming in Latin America.” In 1955, Ambassador Beaulac stated, following a visit to Washington, that “a number of highly placed people” in Washington felt that “communism in Chile constitutes a serious threat to the stability of the Chilean government.”[40]

Over the following years, Salvador Allende mobilized the Chilean left into a wide coalition of Socialists, workers, democratic parties, populists, and others, leading to Allende being the nomination for the presidential election of 1958. At a rally of more than sixty-five thousand supporters in 1958, Allende declared that, “The Department of State insists upon a policy that is odious and anti-popular… We demand the right to seek our own solutions and to follow the roads that best suit our habits and traditions.” His political rise coincided with that of Fidel Castro in Cuba, leading to intense frustrations and fears among State Department and other foreign policy officials in Washington. As one official stated, “our political interests will not permit us to stand by and watch Chile ‘go down the drain’.”[41]

Indeed, some years later, Salvador Allende rose to great political prominence in Chile, becoming the president in the early 1970s, and this set in motion one of Latin America’s most infamous American-led coups which established a dictatorship of infamous brutality. However, that story will be told later.

What the story of Guatemala in the 1950s underscored was the continuing relevance of the Monroe Doctrine, established by the United States in 1823, which declared Latin America to be the “backyard” of the United States, and thus, the U.S. would inevitably control the entire Western Hemisphere, which it would exploit for its own benefit and imperial expansion. Over 125 years after the Monroe Doctrine, the United States finally had the means to make it an established fact: America was the ultimate empire, and most especially, the only dominant power in the Western Hemisphere. Thus, no opposition – no matter how small or large – would or could be tolerated. This doctrine remained throughout the rest of the Cold War, and led to countless coups, dictatorships, “terror campaigns” and ruthless repression and mass murder on a monstrous scale. Perhaps more than anywhere else, the history of the United States in Latin America presents an image of America not as a “benevolent empire” as some American commentators have suggested, but as a truly brutal, dehumanizing, oppressive and transnational tyranny: a continental terror state. This, however, does not reinforce American perceptions of themselves or the role of their country in the world; thus, this history is – as George Orwell predicted it would be – thrown into the “memory hole.” In truth, it’s known little to those outside Latin America itself. The best way to gain a clear conception of the nature of a particular nation is to look at how it treats the most vulnerable. In the case of America, looking at Latin American history is a character study of the United States itself, from which one can only deduce that its ‘human’ characteristics more closely resemble a technocratic psychopath than a benevolent leader.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project.

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Notes

[1]            NSC 144, United States General Policy With Respect to Latin America, Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, Volume IV, page 1.

[2]            Ibid, page 6.

[3]            Ibid, page 7.

[4]            Ibid.

[5]            Ibid, page 8.

[6]            Ibid, page 9.

[7]            Ibid, page 10.

[8]            Dennis M. Rempe, “An American Trojan Horse? Eisenhower, Latin America, and the Development of US Internal Security Policy 1954-1960,” Small Wars & Insurgencies (Vol. 10, No. 1, Spring 1999), pages 35-36.

[9]            Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter, Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy (Authors Choice Press, New York: 2004), page 195.

[10]            Ibid, pages 195-196.

[11]            Ibid, page 196.

[12]            Kate Doyle and Peter Kornbluh, CIA and Assassinations: The Guatemala 1954 Documents. The National Security Archives: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB4/

[13]            Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (Random House, New York: 2008), pages 112-113.

[14]            Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter, Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy (Authors Choice Press, New York: 2004), page 197.

[15]            Ibid, page 198.

[16]            Ibid, pages 198-199.

[17]            Larry Tye, The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998), pages 161-163.

[18]            Ibid, pages 167-168.

[19]            Ibid, page 170.

[20]            John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays & The Birth of PR. PR Watch, Second Quarter 1999, Volume 6, No. 2: http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/1999Q2/bernays.html

[21]            Larry Tye, The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998), page 176.

[22]            Mark T. Hove, “The Arbenz Factor: Salvador Allende, U.S.-Chilean Relations, and the 1954 U.S. Intervention in Guatemala,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 31, No. 4, September 2007), page 623.

[23]            Ibid, page 628.

[24]            Ibid, page 629.

[25]            NSC 144, United States General Policy With Respect to Latin America, Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, Volume IV, page 7.

[26]            Mark T. Hove, “The Arbenz Factor: Salvador Allende, U.S.-Chilean Relations, and the 1954 U.S. Intervention in Guatemala,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 31, No. 4, September 2007), pages 629-630.

[27]            Ibid, pages 630-631.

[28]            Ibid, pages 631-633.

[29]            Ibid, pages 633-634.

[30]            Ibid, pages 635-636.

[31]            Ibid, page 636.

[32]            NSC 144, United States General Policy With Respect to Latin America, Foreign Relations, 1952-1954, Volume IV, page 8.

[33]            Mark T. Hove, “The Arbenz Factor: Salvador Allende, U.S.-Chilean Relations, and the 1954 U.S. Intervention in Guatemala,” Diplomatic History (Vol. 31, No. 4, September 2007), pages 636-639.

[34]            Ibid.

[35]            Ibid, pages 639-642.

[36]            Ibid, pages 642-643.

[37]            Ibid, pages 643-646.

[38]            Ibid, pages 646-648.

[39]            Ibid, page 654.

[40]            Ibid, page 655.

[41]            Ibid, pages 658-661.

The Predatory Global Empire in Panama: Punishing the Poor

The Predatory Global Empire in Panama: Punishing the Poor

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

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Establishing a New War Doctrine

The war on Panama presents an interesting case to study. Taking place in 1989, it was the first war and intervention (whether covert or overt) which was not justified on the basis of a ‘Communist threat’. As such, it has been deemed as the first post-Cold War war. However, the justifications for the intervention, which was incredibly violent and destructive, especially upon the poor majority of Panama, were confused and inconsistent. Like all wars, conflicts, and interventions, it was made necessary through imperial logic: a once-client regime and puppet leader became too autonomous from the United States, its leader (and his nefarious connections with the American elite) became a liability and an embarrassment, and the tiny country of Panama threatened American strategic interests in the region, notably with the Panama Canal and the American military bases present to protect it. More importantly, perhaps, Panama was experiencing the development and growth of a populist-nationalist movement, particularly among its poor black and brown population, who had been previously ruled by a tiny white elite of European descent. In the imperial paradigm, the greatest threat to empire is the political, social, and economic mobilization of the people over whom the empire dominates.

Of course, it is a challenge to publicly justify a foreign intervention and war on the premises of a small nation and its people threatening the strategic imperial interests of America; after all, in the eyes and minds of most Americans, America is not an empire, but a bright shining beacon of freedom and bastion of democracy to lead the ‘free world.’ Thus, to sell a war requires the maintenance of more lies to fit in with the prevailing mythology. Yet, in the strategic vacuum created by the ending of the Cold War, and thus the disappearance of ‘Communism’ as the prevailing global boogeyman to serve as an excuse for any and all atrocities committed by America and the West, Panama was subjected to a far less eloquently articulated and designed justification. The threat of Communism was briefly attempted, and then the strategy quickly switched into the realm of the U.S. ‘War on Drugs,’ with many other failed attempts at justification thrown in for fair measure.

While the war was ultimately successful at removing the imperial ‘threat’, the politics surrounding the event were so disjointed that the war fails to stand up to any half-decent examination of the conflict as legitimate, and is, in fact, slightly embarrassing. There is a reason why it is a largely ‘forgotten’ war in terms of the collective memory of the American people having overlooked that ‘incident’ in recent history. People tend to remember only the wars they are reminded about and told to remember. This one, however, is worth remembering, not least because of the great loss of life it incurred on an incredibly poor and innocent people.

The Jimmy Carter administration, in 1978, signed an agreement with Panama allowing the country to regain control of the Panama Canal by 2000. The canal no longer had the same strategic importance it once held for the United States, as it did in the early 20th century. Long considered by American strategists to be “America’s back yard,” Latin America has been subjected to overt and covert U.S. interventions, coups, and wars more frequently than any other region of the world. In 1823, the Monroe Doctrine was written, which “asserted the pre-eminent and unilateral claim of the United States to hegemony in the Western hemisphere.” This document projected “near-absolute strategic control” over Latin America, thus justifying literally dozens of interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean. With the Cold War, the ‘doctrine’ was that of anti-Communism. With the end of the Cold War, “foreign policy managers [were] bereft of a national security doctrine and severely constrained by the greater volatility and suspicion of North American public opinion in foreign policy matters, and congressional and public fear of future Vietnam-style interventions.”[1]

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt “forcibly separated Panama from Colombia by sending in the U.S. Navy and Marines.” In 1904, he announced an updated version of the Monroe Doctrine with “a U.S. right to intervene unilaterally in the affairs of neighboring republics” in order to “prevent chronic wrongdoing.” Thus, in 1912, U.S. Marines entered Nicaragua’s civil war on the side of wealthy land owners; in 1914 the Navy bombarded and briefly occupied Veracruz, Mexico; in 1915, U.S. Marines occupied Haiti, establishing a military government and remaining there for over a decade; that same year U.S. Marines also occupied the Dominican Republic, also remaining there for over a decade. In 1926, the U.S. invaded Nicaragua again, destroying the agrarian rebel movement threatening domestic and international elite interests. Throughout the 1920s, the U.S. intervened in Panama, Honduras, and Cuba.[2]

The Reagan and Bush administrations (1981-1993) dramatically increased U.S. militarism and interventions around the world, such as in Lebanon, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Honduras, the covert war against the Sandanistas in Nicaragua, the Iran-Contra conspiracy, the invasion of Grenada, invasion of Panama, the Gulf War, and the 1992 intervention in Somalia. As Waltraud Queiser Morales wrote, “the Panamanian case can be seen as an important transition from ‘Monroe militarism’ and Reagan’s ‘containment militarism’ to Bush’s ‘New World Order militarism’.” This was characterized less by anti-Communist rhetoric, which was only partially (at least initially) used in the justification for the Panama invasion, but largely “projected ahead to an era of future global lawlessness in the ‘strategic slums’ of the Third World, where the US faced the chronic danger of ‘prolonged security operations’.”[3]

National Security Doctrines (NSDs) are important for American administrations to establish and articulate, as they deflect dissent and justify state actions with an aura of credibility and most notably by employing the notion that the end justifies the means. The Reagan doctrine for Latin America employed such a technique: “The national security of all the Americas is at stake in Central America. If we cannot defend ourselves there, we cannot expect to prevail elsewhere. Our credibility would collapse, our alliances would crumble, and the safety of our homeland would be put at jeopardy.”[4]

The Reagan doctrine was largely realized through its support of anti-Soviet and virulent anti-Communist “freedom fighters” in the Third World, as well as “friendly anti-Communist authoritarians.” This strategy defined the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, the largest covert operation in history, but had the Reagan administration particularly preoccupied with Central America; most notably, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The new strategic doctrine defined low intensity conflict (LIC) as a principle means for implementing this vision. LIC was defined by the Pentagon in 1985 as, “a limited politico-military struggle to achieve political, social, economic, or psychological objectives,” often using methods of insurgency and terrorism. The war, however, is waged in three key areas: the field, within the administration in Washington, and in the media. During the Reagan years, the “War on Drugs” emerged as a potentially powerful new National Security Doctrine (NSD).[5]

Between 1986 and 1988, U.S. policy-makers employed a conscious rhetorical effort to associate the flourishing global drug trade with leftist guerillas in the Third World. The acceleration of employing the “war on drugs” in defining National Security interests increased as U.S. (largely covert) efforts experienced setbacks in Central America. Thus, Presidential directives were signed which increased efforts on the part of intelligence and military personnel against drug operations. Thus, still employing the method of a Low Intensity Conflict (LIC), “militarized drug operations provided a laboratory to project US power, train local militaries in the new strategic doctrine, transfer military hardware and gather intelligence.” The drug war could thus be used “to generate public support behind a resurgent, interventionist US foreign policy in Latin America.”[6]

Of course, missing from this discourse is the very-well documented facts revolving around how the United States has covertly – directly following World War II – supported the drug trade around the world, largely through efforts of the CIA. This was especially the case in Southeast Asia during the Indochina War, where heroin was the principle prize for these covert efforts; Afghanistan and Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan war (and in the present occupation of Afghanistan), which then came to replace Southeast Asia as the main producer of heroin in the world, and of course, South and Central America (particularly during the Reagan years onward) in terms of the cocaine trade. The role of the CIA and other covert elements has been extensively documented by professors Alfred McCoy and Peter Dale Scott in various books and publications, most notably, The Politics of Heroin (McCoy) and American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (Scott).

The Destabilization of Panama

General Omar Torrijos, Panama’s military strongman, “was a populist reformist” who had negotiated the Panama Canal Treaties with the United States in the late 1970s. While the Canal held less strategic significance for the United States than in previous times, the 14 military bases present in Panama remained incredibly significant in strategic circles, particularly with the Pentagon’s Southern Command headquarters based in Panama, “which was the site for U.S. military and covert operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.” In 1981, Torrijos died mysteriously when his plane blew up in midair, and he was subsequently replaced by the head of Panama’s military intelligence, General Manuel Noriega. Noriega had long been supported by the United States, going back to when George H.W. Bush was Director of the CIA in the Ford administration, at which time the CIA paid Noriega $200,000 a year.[7]

Following the death of Torrijos, “US relations became cosy with his successor and head of the Panamanian Defence Forces, General Manuel Antonio Noreiga, who had associations with the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Southern Command (Southcom), housing over 14,000 US troops in Panama at 14 US military bases worth some $5 billion.” Noriega was a longtime participant in the drug trade, particularly with the Colombian drug cartel, which was all well-known to the U.S. Embassy, Southcom, and the CIA. Yet, in 1987, letters from the DEA and the US Justice Department referred to Noriega’s cooperation with those agencies in the drug war as “superb.” It was ‘superb’ in the true sense of intent and methods, whereby the U.S. was an active organizational participant in the drug trade. Noreiga and many others in the Panamanian military “facilitated drug smuggling and laundered millions in drug money with the complicity of the DEA, Southcom and the CIA.” When cash reserves were high in Panama in 1986, “deposits of $1.3 billion in laundered drug monies were easily transferred from Panama’s central bank to the Federal Reserve Bank in Miami.” Further, large sums of drug money were diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras (death squad terrorists) fighting a war against the Sandanistas on behalf of the CIA. The operation of support for the Contras in their brutal war in Nicaragua were exposed in Congressional hearings and investigations known as the ‘Iran-Contra Affair,’ which was made public in the late 1980s. The scandal, by no means exclusive to the case of Nicaragua, involved the CIA and Pentagon covertly funding, training, and arming the Contras with money earned from illegal arms sales to Iran as well as money from the drug trade. The investigations revealed a complex network of relationships and actors, centered in the National Security Council (NSC), and directly involving CIA Director William Casey, Lt. Col. Oliver North, and then Vice President George H.W. Bush.[8]

Yet, despite Noriega’s “cosy” relationship with these agencies and individuals in the United States, “there were limits to [his] willingness to serve Washington.” As political scientist Michael Parenti explained:

He reasserted Panama’s independence over the control of the Canal Zone and the leases for U.S. military bases. He reportedly refused to join an invasion against Nicaragua and maintained friendly relations with both Managua and Havana. Before long, hostile reports about him began appearing in the U.S. media. In 1987, the Justice Department indicted Noriega for drug smuggling. A crippling economic embargo was imposed on Panama, a country of two million people, causing a doubling of unemployment and a drastic cutback in social benefits.[9]

The initial aim, then, of US intervention in Panama, “was to destabilize Noriega and install in his place a more pliant right-wing commander, but US military leaders feared an even greater threat in the nationalistic Panamanian Defence Forces [PDF].” Further, with the exposure of the Iran-Contra Scandal, “Noriega became a potential domestic political embarrassment and threat to higher-ups in the government, including Bush himself.”[10] Subsequently, “a media blitz demonized the Panamanian leader as a drug dealer, thus preparing the U.S. public for the ensuing invasion.”[11] Thus, “in the end, the drug war served as the public excuse for invasion. But it was not the real reason.”[12]

As Waltraud Queiser Morales wrote, just as was done elsewhere (such as Chile, Grenada, and Nicaragua), the United States promoted the destabilization of Panama, as “economic sanctions, pro-democracy and electoral manipulation, and confrontational military exercises worked to intimidate and provoke incidents that could provide pretexts for intervention.” The pro-democracy and electoral strategy employed by the United States (part of America’s “democratization” project), involved the “Bush administration, the CIA, and the National Endowment for Democracy [which] funneled more than $10 million to opposition candidates – Guillermo Endara, Guillermo Ford and Ricardo Arias Calderon – in the 1989 Panamanian national elections.” With Endara having won, amidst claims of vote fraud by the Panamanian Defence Forces (PDF), and with Noriega subsequently annulling the elections and staying in power, riots and protests erupted. Images of US-supported politicians being beaten and attacked by the PDF and Noriega’s supporters erupted in the American media, which ultimately “damaged Noriega’s regime and enhanced the opposition’s image in Panama and the United States.” Noriega, however, annulled the elections on the basis of “foreign interference,” which, as a direct result of millions of US dollars funding opposition candidates, is an accurate claim of “interference.”[13] Imagine the notion of a foreign power throwing tens of millions of dollars at domestic American politicians in a national election. The idea alone is reprehensible, not to mention illegal. But this is how America “promotes democracy” around the world: through buying the politicians.

The Reagan and Bush administrations had hoped to encourage a coup by the Panamanian Defence Forces (PDF). The Reagan administration began to encourage this option in 1988, as Ronald Reagan continuously refused to employ the option of a direct military intervention. However, additional US forces were sent to their bases in Panama as an indication to Noriega of the increasingly threatening posture of the United States. On March 16, 1988, the Panamanian Chief of Police, Colonel Leonidas Macias, attempted to orchestrate a coup against Noriega, which ultimately failed.[14] The Reagan administration was split internally on the potential to use the military option. The State Department supported the option, while the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) had opposed military intervention. Elliot Abrams, the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, in March of 1988, suggested using limited force, “a commando raid to capture Noriega and to bring him to trial in the United States, accompanied by 6,000 American soldiers to defend… against any PDF retaliations,” yet the Pentagon remained opposed to the option.[15]

In anticipation that Reagan would eventually adopt Abrams’ suggestion, the Pentagon launched a public counter-attack to discredit Abrams and his suggestions, which included leaking many of his ‘suggestions’ to the press. The Reagan administration attempted to negotiate a deal with Noriega, offering to drop the drug-related charges against him which were brought forward in US courts in 1988. Vice President Bush, however, firmly opposed negotiations with Noriega, as he was campaigning for the presidency, Bush did not want to appear soft on Noriega, as he had suffered the public image of a ‘wimp.’[16] Bush’s victory in the Presidential elections in 1988 allowed for the development of a new strategy for Panama, and with a change in administration personnel, the administration could become more unified in their position.[17]

On October 1, 1989, the United States was informed about a future coup attempt by a member of Noriega’s inner circle, Moises Giroldi, and asked for U.S. assistance in blocking roads to protect the family of the coup plotter. The United States Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney, agreed to help, and when the coup took place two days later, on October 3, the U.S. blocked the requested roads. However, Noriega outmaneuvered the coup plotters, getting help from a special military unit, and the U.S. refused to intervene to ensure the success of the coup. Thus, the plotter was killed, and Noriega began to purge the PDF of dissenting elements. The failure of the U.S. to ensure the success of the coup led to many domestic political leaders criticizing Bush and his strategy.[18] However, this was actually part of a larger strategy. The coup was not supported because there were internal complications within the Bush administration as well as a larger overall strategy. Two top military commanders were replaced days before the coup took place. The chief of Southcom was replaced three days prior to the coup, and the next day, Colin Powell (Reagan’s National Security Adviser), became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The men that these two replaced – General Woerner and Admiral Crowe, respectively – had opposed direct military intervention in Panama, and thus preferred a coup option. Thurman and Powell, however, wanted the change of government to take place “on a U.S. timetable,” and Powell stated that he didn’t like the idea of “a half-baked coup with a half-baked coup leader.” Powell advocated, instead, not simply for replacing Noriega, but that the United States would have to employ a strategy of “destroying and replacing his entire regime.”[19]

What was needed, then, was a pretext for a full-scale invasion in order to crush the regime and destroy the PDF. As the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama revealed, “over 100 instances of U.S. military provocations in 1989 were documented by the Panamanian government. These included U.S. troops setting up roadblocks, searching Panamanian citizens, confronting PDF forces, occupying small towns for a number of hours, buzzing Panamanian air space with military aircraft, and surrounding public buildings with troops.”[20] Again, simply imagine if a foreign military in the United States, which had over a dozen major bases around the country, was engaging in such provocative actions within America. This would be construed as a direct military threat and interpreted as a foreign occupation.

In December of 1989, a Panamanian soldier was injured by U.S. troops.[21] Subsequently, on 15 December, the Panamanian National Assembly declared Panama to be in a state of war with the United States.[22] This, however, was “interpreted” in the U.S. media as a declaration of war against the United States by the tiny Central American nation of Panama. Ted Koppel of ABC “reported that Noriega had declared war in the United States.” Yet, as Noriega himself stated, America “through constant psychological and military harassment, has created a state of war in Panama.”[23] In mid-December, the United States achieved its goal of provoking Panamanian Defence Forces to act, as PDF soldiers stopped a U.S. military patrol car, holding the police officer at gunpoint, and on 16 December, “they fired at an American vehicle in a checkpoint and killed” a U.S. Marine. On 17 December, “a U.S. officer shot a PDF policeman.”[24]

On that same day, the Bush administration discussed their options in Panama. Colin Powell “advocated a large scale intervention whose goal would be to destroy the PDF and the entire Noriega regime and not just [aim to achieve] the capture of Noriega.” Powell reasoned, “that it could be difficult to find Noriega and arrest him at the beginning of the operation, but destroying the PDF would ensure Noriega’s capture.” Thus, Powell concluded, “the PDF’s destruction would be required to establish democracy in Panama.” Subsequently, “Bush agreed and approved the plan for large-scale military intervention in Panama.”[25]

On December 20, 1989, George Bush launched a midnight attack on Panama with an invasion of 26,000 US troops. The invasion took place amidst “a complete media blackout,” allowing for great atrocities to take place with no independent voices or visuals emerging from the nation. The “three-day intervention” known cynically as “Operation Just Cause” was heaped with praise in the United States, as Bush’s reputation as a ‘wimp’ was erased and his popularity shot up. As Bush declared war, the publicly pronounced reasons were “to protect American lives and bring the drug-indicted dictator to justice.”[26]

The True ‘Threat’ in Panama: The Poor

In reality, there were far greater reasons for the war, dictated not by humanitarian, legal, or moral claims; instead, the true reasons were ardently imperial in nature. There were of course the strategic considerations: more reliable client states and puppet leaders, more indirect control over the Canal and maintenance of the fourteen military bases as a launching point for counter-revolutionary operations around Central America, and to install a “democratic” regime based upon party politics as opposed to potentially problematic military leaders who may stand up to the United States. However, there was also a far greater threat, which wove through all the other reasons: Panama was in the midst of a nationalist popular movement, consisting largely of the poor black majority who had for centuries been repressed by a tiny white elite of European descent, as has been the case across all Latin America.

Before Noriega, the military dictatorship of General Omar Torrijos established itself during a period where the issues of race and class were becoming more public and vocal. Torrijos, who ruled Panama from 1968 until 1981 (when he died in a mysterious plane explosion), “sought to legitimize his military regime by seeking support from all social groups for his populist-nationalist project.” The Panamanian Black movement, which had begun in earnest some decades before, truly began to flourish during the Torrijos regime, and played a large part in creating the heated nationalistic sentiments and public demands for the Carter-Torrijos Panama Canal Treaties in the 1970s. As George Priestley and Alberto Barrow wrote:

It was within this new political environment of military led populism and nationalism that racial discrimination and racism was weakened in Panama as progressive and Black groups emerged to gain greater visibility, challenged racial stereotypes, and forged transnational bonds.[27]

The movement was helped along in no small part due to Afro-Panamanian organizations based in the United States, which were directly engaged with the Torrijos government to build support for the “nationalist struggle for the recuperation of the Panama Canal and Panamanian sovereignty.” When Torrijos was killed in the plane explosion, the CIA’s man in Panama, Noriega, back-tracked on many of Torrijos’ programs, including “interventionist” state measures in the economy which “had brokered the populist-nationalist alliance and eased social and racial tensions.” Noriega, instead, embraced the Western neoliberal policies of ‘structural adjustment,’ which antagonized the growing popular movement in Panama. As Noriega failed to become a “responsible” leader in the eyes of the United States, he faced two increasing problems: antagonizing the United States and the Panamanian Black movement simultaneously. However, there were still several remnants of the Torrijos reforms, and the populist-nationalist sentiments which had been fostered by the Torrijos military regime remained strong in the military ranks of the PDF itself. With the U.S. invasion and occupation (and the subsequent media blackout), the true intent of the war became clear to those who suffered in it:

A disproportionate number of those who were affected economically by Noriega’s structural adjustment policies, and who lost their lives because of the U.S.’s Low Intensity Conflict and invasion were from El Chorillo, Colon, and San Miguelito, [poor] communities whose residents are predominantly Black and brown.[28]

These communities, along with the PDF itself, had to be targeted in the war. While Noriega’s economic structural adjustment policies had weakened the populist movement for social justice and equality, the movement continued to struggle and the PDF remained an ideological ally in the promotion of nationalism. This is ultimately the real reason why the United States could not simply support another military coup, as it would still take place from within the ranks of an intensely nationalistic and somewhat left-leaning military, just as was the case with Noriega. This explains why the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, claimed that it was not enough to remove Noriega from power, but that the U.S. had to have a strategy of “destroying and replacing his entire regime.”[29] Destroying the regime is just what the U.S. did. As Morales wrote in Third World Quarterly:

The invasion victimized thousands of innocent Panamanians and left densely populated areas devastated. Local and international eye witnesses said civilians and residential areas were deliberately targeted. Perhaps 18,000 Panamanians were displaced and thousands remain[ed] in refugee camps in 1993. Local reports had 7000 Panamanians, primarily progressives and labour activists, arrested. Charges of summary executions and secret mass graves also emerged. The Panamanian National Human Rights Committee claimed that 4000 persons were killed in the invasion; regional human rights agencies and the United Nations Human Rights Commission reported over 2500 deaths. The US military admitted only 250; later the Pentagon released the figure of 516 Panamanians killed, over 75% civilian.[30]

The United States media, for its part, “covered Operation Just Cause like a U.S. Army recruitment film,” explained Michael Parenti. American audiences were shown “helicopters landing, planes dive-bombing, troops trotting along foreign streets, the enemy’s headquarters engulfed in flames, friendly Panamanians welcoming the invaders as liberators.” Of course, Parenti elaborated, there was no mention in the media that “the Panamanians interviewed were almost always well dressed, light skinned, and English speaking, in a country where most were poor, dark skinned, and Spanish speaking. Also left out of the picture were the many incidents of armed resistance by Panamanians.” As for the actual bombings and indeed, the virtual ‘scorched-earth’ policies of burning down El Chorillo along with several other working-class poor black neighbourhoods, the media treated “these aerial attacks on civilian populations as surgical strikes designed to break resistance in ‘Noriega strongholds’.”[31]

Following the invasion, the United States installed their favoured candidates from the previously held elections (whom the US – through the CIA and NED financed with $10 million) as Panama’s new “democratic” leaders: President Guillermo Endara, Vice President Guillermo Ford, and Attorney General Rogelio Cruz. As it turned out, unsurprisingly, “all three of these rich, white oligarchs were closely linked to companies, banks, and people heavily involved in drug operations or money-laundering.”[32] After invading, the U.S. “abolished the Panamanian Defense Forces and crushed the popular movement, creating conditions for the consolidation of a right of center party system and the growth of an economy based on neoliberal policies that have exacerbated socio-economic inequalities and increased racial/ethnic exclusion of Afro-Panamanians.”[33] As Priestly and Barrow wrote:

The U.S. invasion and the so-called transition to democracy had negative effects on popular organizing. During and immediately after the invasion, Black and brown communities were devastated; their organizations negatively affected, and their leaders killed or jailed, or otherwise persecuted. Political parties regained center stage in the electoral process and many Black and popular militants were co-opted into these organizations, reducing the organizational capabilities of some organizations and eliminating others.[34]

Only months after the invasion “did a few brief reports appear regarding mass graves of Panamanians dead buried hastily by U.S. Army bulldozers,” while the American media focused on the sideshow of the pursuit of Noriega, who ultimately turned himself in early January. No footage was shown of the poor neighbourhoods destroyed by U.S. bombing, such as El Chorillo’s “total devastation,” and no mention “of the many lives lost in what amounted to a saturation terror-bombing of a civilian neighborhood.”[35] As Michael Parenti wrote:

With the U.S. military firmly controlling Panama, conditions in that country deteriorated. Unemployment, already high because of the U.S. embargo, climbed to 35 percent as drastic layoffs were imposed on the public sector. Pension rights and other work benefits were lost. Newspapers and radio and television stations were closed by U.S. occupation authorities. Newspaper editors and reporters critical of the invasion were jailed or detained, as were all the leftist political party leaders. Union heads were arrested by the U.S. military, and some 150 local labor leaders were removed from their elected union positions. Public employees not supporting the invasion were purged. Crime rates rose dramatically, along with poverty and destitution. Thousands remained homeless. Corruption was more widespread than ever. More money-laundering and drug-trafficking occurred under the U.S.-sponsored Endara administration than under Noriega.[36]

Noriega was taken to the United States and convicted of drug smuggling in 1992. The United States conveniently ignored the drug-trafficking by Panama’s new “democratic” Endara administration, not to mention “its infringement of civil liberties and democracy.” The U.S. Congress received George Bush with a standing ovation when he declared, “One year ago the people of Panama lived in fear under the thumb of a dictator. Today democracy is restored. Panama is free.” Endara, however, “was extremely unpopular in Panama,” seen as “just another pliant US puppet.”[37] In June of 1990, the Washington Post had declared that the Endara regime, against all evidence, improved human rights and “press freedoms have been restored.”[38]

Conclusion

The struggles of the once-popular resistance and Black movement continued well into the 21st century, and up to the present day. The war on Panama represented the true nature of what was to come in the post-Cold War world, as it was the first war the United States undertook without Cold War rhetoric. Its principle aim was to destroy a popular people’s movement, remove a non-compliant dictator, and establish more control over the country and the region. Of course, among our political leaders and media in the West, this is referred to as “restoring democracy.” Thus, the threat of the Communist boogeyman faded, and the benevolent aim of ‘democracy’ resurfaced, as it initially did following World War I when Woodrow Wilson declared that the world must be made safe for democracy. For all the rhetoric of Western leaders and media, the greatest crime a leader or people can commit is to support themselves, or simply seek to do so; to provide for the poor and needy, to attempt to industrialize and develop their own country as they see fit, and to create an educated, free, healthy and stable population and society. This, above all else, is the ultimate sin in the world of “international politics.”

Logic thus dictates, then, that the greatest potential for true change and hope in this world is solidarity among all people’s movements the world over, and for a resurgence of populist movement, ideally not nationalistic in character, but simultaneously local and global: seeking local autonomy (moving around the nation-state, an easily corrupted and contemptuous institution), and seeking solidarity globally, to align itself with all such movements around the world, achieving strength in numbers, interaction of ideas, articulation of strategies, and advancement of all peoples in all places.

If a popular movement in a tiny little nation like Panama was such a threat to the massive American Empire, the largest, most militarily advanced, and most globally expansive empire in all of human history, this is actually a source of hope for all humanity. If Panama was such a threat that the United States saw fit to invade and occupy the small country, then imagine the threat which would be posed if all people, everywhere in the world, simultaneously sought a populist liberation struggle; not divided by nations and regions, but acting locally – for local autonomy from domestic elites and liberation from the empire – and interacting globally, with other such movements around the world. This is truly the greatest threat ever known to a global empire. This threat has been articulated by one of the empire’s most prominent strategists, Zbigniew Brzezinski, as the “Global Political Awakening.” Thus, it is in the interest of all peoples, everywhere, always and eternally, to seek and support all liberation struggles, to advance the “Awakening” and bring in a new concept of democracy, one which lives up to the rhetoric of our current system: “of, by, and for the people”; a democracy void of predatory elites. This is true freedom, true liberation, and no other philosophy or ideology is so capable of uniting the people of the world under one banner than that of the ‘ultimate liberation’: of, by, and for the people.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is co-editor of the book, “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.” His website is http://www.andrewgavinmarshall.com

Notes

[1]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 77.

[2]            Charles Maechling, Jr., “Washington’s Illegal Invasion,” Foreign Policy (No. 79, Summer 1990), pages 113-114.

[3]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 78.

[4]            Waltraud Quesler Morales, “The War on Drugs: A New US National Security Doctrine?” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 11, No. 3, July 1989), page 151.

[5]            Ibid, page 152.

[6]            Ibid, pages 154-155.

[7]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 45.

[8]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 82.

[9]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), pages 45-46.

[10]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 83.

[11]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 46.

[12]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 83.

[13]            Ibid.

[14]            Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 547.

[15]            Ibid, page 548.

[16]            Ibid, page 549.

[17]            Ibid, page 551.

[18]            Ibid, pages 554-555.

[19]            Ibid, page 556.

[20]            The Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama, The U.S. invasion of Panama: the truth behind operation ‘ Just Cause’ (South End Press, 1991), page 24.

[21]            Ibid.

[22]            Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 558.

[23]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 46.

[24]            Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 558.

[25]            Ibid, pages 558-559.

[26]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), pages 83-84.

[27]            George Priestley and Alberto Barrow, “The Black Movement in Panama: A Historical and Political Interpretation, 1994-2004,” Souls (Vol. 10, No. 3, 2008), page 231.

[28]            Ibid, pages 231-232.

[29]            Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 556.

[30]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 84.

[31]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 46.

[32]            Ibid, page 48.

[33]            George Priestley and Alberto Barrow, “The Black Movement in Panama: A Historical and Political Interpretation, 1994-2004,” Souls (Vol. 10, No. 3, 2008), page 232.

[34]            Ibid, page 234.

[35]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), pages 46-47.

[36]            Ibid, page 49.

[37]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 84.

[38]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 49.

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