The United States of America is the biggest and worst terrorist nation of the world. And most Americans approve enthusiastically. Those two statements need careful corroboration. They need a careful reading of history.
In his State of the Union speech in December 1823, President James Monroe told European nations to stay out of the Americas, and North Americans applauded what was rapidly dubbed the Monroe Doctrine. Of course, most European countries ignored it back then because the U.S. armed forces were not strong enough to enforce it. But soon they were, giving President Theodore Roosevelt the opportunity to declare in his infamous 1904 corollary that the United States had the right to intervene in Latin America to “stabilize” its economic affairs. As every Latino school kid immediately understood, that corollary meant that the United States could decide whatever made the United States richer. And it did -- massively.
Grabbing Land, Grooming Dictators: U.S. Interventions in Latin America
At first the victims of the Monroe Doctrine were almost always the United States' close neighbors in Central America. Examples would take hundreds of pages. But let me mention a few. In 1824, then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams (who later became president) told Simon Bolivar that he must not interpret the Monroe Doctrine as “authorization for the weak to be insolent with the strong.” Bolivar wanted to kick out the Spaniards from the Caribbean, but U.S. oligarchs sought those islands for themselves, leading Bolivar to quip in 1829: “The United States appear to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.”
In 1833 England invaded the Falkland Islands, which as Las Islas Malvinas belonged to Argentina. The United States did nothing. Nor did it object when England seized a huge chunk of Guatemala, plus the island of Roatan. The reason was that while abolition of slavery did not become a formal law until the 1840s in Spanish America, Afro-Spaniards had become an integral part of the land ever since the great liberators -- José de San Martín, Manuel Belgrano, Bernardo O’Higgins, and Simón Bolivar -- made them free because they joined the wars of liberation. Not so in territories dominated by England.
By 1830 slavery was firmly outlawed in Mexico. That did not stop U.S. land-grabbers from pouring over its borders, bringing slaves of African descent with them. When Mexico objected, the gringos declared their area independent, calling it Texas. And when war ensued, the United States seized over half of independent Mexico -- its richest part, of course. A few years later, when Mexico asked U.S. residents in what was left of its territory to pay taxes just like all Mexicans, U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes scoffed at “the volatile and childish character of these people” and sent troops across the Rio Grande to teach them a lesson.
In 1854, the United States settled a minor argument with Nicaragua, again over taxes, by sending a warship to bombard San Juan del Norte. Three years later, when the United States levied a fine of twenty thousand dollars because one of its latifundistas refused to pay his taxes, and a scuffle ensued and Nicaragua could not pay, President Buchanan dispatched the navy to flatten that town and, to make sure, sent in U.S. Marines to finish the job.
These were also the years when privateers, paid by U.S. corporations, raised private armies to conquer top land in Central America for exploitation by those corporations. Some were flamboyant. One, John Anthony Quitman, who had fought with Texas, then at Veracruz and at the storming of Chapultepec, was made governor of Mexico City during the 1847-48 U.S. occupation and organized an invasion of Cuba to make it “clean,” that is, American. Indicted for violating the treaty between Spain and the United States, he was never tried; instead he was elected to the House of Representatives.
Another filibusterer was William Walker, who raised a private army, invaded Mexico’s California and was defeated and tried for violating neutrality laws. Acquitted, he raised a bigger and better-armed army, paid for by the First Boston Group (later known as the United Fruit Company), seized Nicaragua, had himself “elected president,” and asked President Franklin Pierce to admit Nicaragua, which had banned slavery since 1823, as a slave state into the union. Pierce liked the idea, but before he could act, Walker was defeated at Santa Rosa by another private army (paid this time by Cornelius Vanderbilt’s massively exploitative Accessory Transit Company) and his Latino allies. Walker surrendered and was again tried for violating neutrality laws.
At his trial, Walker, a trained lawyer, pressed government witnesses to describe exactly what he had done -- and planned to do. When it was the defense’s turn, he made himself a witness, told the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) jury of his peers that he was indeed guilty of all the government’s charges and proud of it, then screamed: “Who would not prefer to be a slave in the United States than a free man outside of it!” The jury rose, applauded, and shouted, “Not guilty!”
Walker returned to Central America with an even bigger force and conquered El Salvador and part of Honduras (where he declared English the official language), as well as Nicaragua, again legalizing slavery -- and burned recalcitrant Granada to the ground. Captured once again, he was turned over to the British Navy, which, taking no chances this time, tried him in British Honduras and promptly executed him by firing squad.
But U.S. bullying interventions were not limited to private filibusterers. In 1871 the United States occupied ports in the Dominican Republic to control its sale of sugar. In 1881 it openly sided with Peru in its war against Chile, in exchange for the port of Chimbote, which it turned into a base; the coal mines nearby; and a railroad connecting both. The reason for U.S. intervention was never humanitarian. It was always commercial. In 1884-85 an official U.S. government commission toured Latin America and reported it ideal for U.S. businesses and “to introduce the use of our goods.”
From 1895 the United States really got greedy and intervened in every Latin American country -- every single one -- either to overthrow a popular democracy or to help an unpopular dictator keep his rule. It seized land in Venezuela for the Rockefellers, fabricated a phony war with Spain (with the agile aid of the Hearst Press), annexed Puerto Rico, and set up Cuba as a “republic” controlled by the Platt Amendment (1901), which gave the United States the right to intervene in matters of “life, property and individual liberty” and “Cuban Independence” -- that is, in everything. U.S. intentions were certainly clear: in 1848 it had offered Spain 100 million dollars for the island, and when that failed, the nonofficial but very popular “Ostend Manifesto” asserted that “by every law, human and divine,” the United States had the right to take it by force.
After the United States did, it forced the Platt Amendment upon Cuba’s freedom fighters, the survivors of Jose Marti’s victorious struggle for independence from Spain. It then compelled them to grant to the United States the Bay of Guantanamo as a military base at two thousand dollars per year, forever. Marti had died in 1895, so Americans were told that the real victor was none other than Teddy Roosevelt, who defeated Spain by his glorious, courageous charge up San Juan Hill. The fact is, contrary to all of American historians’ propagandistic books and the swashbuckling films showing the brave “rough riders” winning battles and charging up San Juan Hill, there was no one on top of the hill, and the only shot fired was by one of Teddy’s riders, who got off his horse and shot his own foot.
Once president, Teddy Roosevelt continued to try to dominate all of Central America. He fomented a revolution in the Colombian province of Panama, recognized it as a separate country, sent the U.S. Navy to stop Colombia from trying to get it back, bought the canal from the French company that was developing it, and “imported” slaves from English Barbados to work it when Panamanians refused. He proudly boasted, “I took the canal.” Years later he would have smiled approvingly when President Reagan bellowed, “The canal is ours: we paid for it, we built it, we will keep it.”
And so it went. As the much-decorated U.S. Marine General Smedley D. Butler admitted:
I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue.… I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interest in 1919 [occupied officially until 1924, unofficially until 1934]. I helped make Honduras “right” for American fruit companies.
Those fruit companies often demanded that the United States get rid of any Latino leader who tried to regulate land tenure. In Haiti, the sugar interests General Butler mentioned murdered two thousand Caco rebellious patriots and their chief, Charlemagne Péralte. In Nicaragua, two U.S. cruisers helped keep extremely unpopular President Emiliano Chamorro in power because he had signed the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty without the legally necessary approval of Nicaragua’s Parliament. Under the treaty, the United States gained the right to build another Atlantic-Pacific canal at any time it found convenient, “free from all taxation or other public charge,” and “by way of any route over Nicaraguan territory,” “in perpetuity and for all time.” When the people rebelled, U.S. Marines were sent to crush them.
But the rebel Augusto Cesar Sandino, an American-trained agronomist and mining engineer, escaped and with his two brothers waged war against both the United States and the illegal government. U.S. ships bombed his land and village, U.S. planes strafed his men and farm hands and bombed seventy towns (including Las Timas in Honduras by mistake). Ever more popular, backed by as many new recruits as he could muster, “General de los pueblos libres” Sandino was never defeated. Finally U.S. ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane guaranteed his safety on the condition that he and his brothers come to his neutral embassy grounds for the possibility of a truce. When the three Sandinos arrived, National Guardsmen, well concealed in the embassy, opened fire and killed all three. The National Guard’s chief, Anastasio “Tacho” Somoza, then seized power and ruled Nicaragua with a brutal iron fist. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to change American habits in Central America, he was asked why he remained on good terms with the dictator. “Somoza may be a son-of-a-bitch,” FDR quipped, “but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.”
Somoza’s son, “Tachito,” took over from his father when he died, using the National Guard as his personal, and very vicious, army -- but always at the service of the United States. The National Guard helped train the CIA’s army to overthrow Guatemala’s first and only totally freely elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, who was denounced by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother, CIA boss Allen Dulles, as communist because Arbenz wanted to give untilled land to 300,000 landless peasants. The land was owned by United Fruit Company, for which the Dulles brothers had worked and in which they owned stock, but to which Arbenz planned to pay the full book value. Tachito also let the CIA train the Cuban exiles who invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and got creamed not by Cuba’s regular army, which Fidel purposely held back, but by its peasant militias. The modern-day Sandinistas overthrew Tachito; the great defender of freedom, President Reagan, used Tachito’s exiled National Guardsmen, who had become Latin America’s best-trained (by the CIA) torturers, as “contras” to try to bring down the Sandinistas. Subsequently, Sandinista agents blew Tachito’s armor-platted Mercedes six stories high when he was enjoying a ride during his Paraguay exile.
FDR did dump the Platt Amendment and did sign Reciprocal Trade Agreements with most Central American countries. But he plotted against Cuba’s mildly decent but equally mildly corrupt President Grau San Martin (who had replaced the dictator Gerardo Machado after a popular rebellion) and supported Grau’s successor, dictator Fulgencio Batista, who became one of Latin America’s most vicious dictators.
On the other hand, FDR defended Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas’s 1938 nationalization of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, officially because Cardenas was willing to abide by the World Court’s evaluation of its worth. The real reason was in no way an act of friendship; it was based on FDR’s foreboding of the lack of oil in the coming world war. (The World Court sustained Mexico’s figures, and the United States accepted the verdict -- the first and only time that the United States respected an international treaty. Question: Why did the United States not accept the same procedure when Fidel Castro nationalized U.S. refineries in Cuba, which was long before Fidel asked for Russian economic help and declared Cuba communist in exchange?)
Busting Unions and Persecuting the Left: Post-World War II Overthrows
The history of U.S. plots and interventions after World War II is well known. The United States overthrew Argentinian President Juan Perón, calling him a fascist, mainly because of his reforms: he organized unions in every industry, spread social security to cover all activities, made education free and compulsory, launched and completed low-income housing projects and turned them over to low-income earners, made paid vacations a law, gave working students a week off before exams, and gave mothers-to-be three months’ paid leave before and after giving birth. Perón also guaranteed free medical care for everyone and half of workers’ vacation trip expenses, and built worker colonies all over Argentina. Outraged by such social-minded reforms, the United States pushed los gorilas (“gorilla” can refer to coup-making military leaders throughout Latin America but in this case refers to a group of Argentinian generals who served U.S. interests) to overthrow all Peronist leaders, organized the generals’ Revolucion Libertadora and ordered the CIA to plot the dirty war which disappeared at least 30,000 people, though today the United States denounces it as loudly as any media will listen.
In Brazil, the United States arranged for the overthrow of presidents Vargas, Quadros, and Goulart, and anyone else fighting for a better life for its commoners. The generals took over and started executing liberals, socialists, and anyone who liked democracy, but not one member of the Communist Central Committee. The plot was so carefully worked out in Washington and at the U.S. embassy in Rio that both President Johnson and U.S. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon congratulated Gen. Humberto Castelo Branco, the gorilla who was made boss by the rest of the gorillas, the day before they had actually seized power, when Goulart was still in his office in Brazil.
Vargas was deposed by the army twice: the first time in 1945 after the U.S. Congress called him a fascist because he had freed the thousands of political prisoners who had been arrested by the oligarchy-controlled previous governments; and the second time in 1954, because the United States and Brazil’s oligarchy dubbed him a communist after he returned from exile, overwhelmingly won a second term, and launched the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, which would compete with U.S. oil companies. Vargas was also hated in Washington because he invited world-renowned sociologist Gilberto Freyre to map out a land reform, a no-no to every U.S. government. As army tanks surrounded the presidential palace, Vargas got on a nationwide radio hookup, accused a battery of U.S. economic and financial groups allied to native oligarchs of “domination and looting” of Brazil’s economy, and said: “I gave you my life. Now I give you my death.” And he shot himself dead on the air.
In 1962 it was Quadros’s turn. A conservative but honest politician, he had tried to better Brazilians’ lot. But, he said on the radio, he was constantly hampered by former U.S. ambassadors John Moors Cabot and Adolf Berle, Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon, and his own oligarchs, including Carlos Lacerda, whom Washington and Time magazine adored. Quadros did not shoot himself on the air, but simply quit; he walked out of his palace and disappeared “on a slow boat to China,” and the right-wing press celebrated. His successor, vice-president Joao “Jango” Goulart, was a former trade unionist and Labor Minister, so U.S. plotters went to work immediately.
Brazil’s military, which learned how to torture from CIA experts who, as exhaustively documented by A.J. Langguth in his book Hidden Terror, used their new skills throughout the continent: in Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Guiana. In Ecuador they got President Velasco Ibarra overthrown three times. Uruguay, one of the world’s best and least-disturbing democracies, the very first country to make the eight-hour work-day a law (in 1916), obviously didn’t please the United States. But the United States got the military to establish a vicious dictatorship because Uruguay refused to break relations with Cuba; the police were then trained in torture by former FBI captain and CIA torture expert Dan Mitrioni. Mitroni was captured, tried, and executed by the Tupamaros resistance movement in 1970.
In Peru, military coups succeeded one another rapidly, always because U.S. mining enterprises sought bigger and better deals to make more and more profits. In my book Great Fear in Latin America, in which I carefully recount the United States’ self-serving interventions (with sources), I detail one such company, Marcona Mining, which in six years on an investment of 500,000 dollars made more than 30 million dollars after taxes, a return on no less than 6,000 percent. I also show how U.S. corporations use huge amounts of the continent’s potable water, then dump it back into the area’s rivers with all the poisons they need for their extractions; the result is that 5 million children die each year from those poisons. When my book was published in 1963 (and again in 1965 and 1967) I was sued for libel by various U.S. corporations, but the suits were all dismissed when I showed my evidence, usually the formal statistical accounts filed by the mines themselves to the appropriate Ministries of Interior; in Peru, wherein all ministries served U.S. interests (or faced U.S. intervention), the documentation had been stolen and given to me by a Peruvian patriot.
The worst U.S. intervention, of course, was the military coup, which overthrew and killed the popularly and freely elected president Salvador Allende. Not only were 30,000 so-called leftists tortured to death in the infamous sport stadium, but thousands more simply disappeared because they were, at best, democrats. The list of those who should die was prepared by the CIA, which organized the plot through the good offices of IT&T (at least part-owner of the biggest open copper mines in the world -- Chuquicamata, el Tenente, and Salvador, all in Chile -- at the behest of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who then convinced South America’s military dictatorship to set up an organization of special squads of police in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, and Uruguay to assassinate one another’s exiled leftists.
U.S.-backed Coups in Southeast Asia and the Middle East
The CIA backed similar purges in every Third World country that tried to steer an independent course. For example, the list of “communists” in Indonesia ruled by its wartime hero Sukarno was at least half a million, according to Time, and probably closer to two million, as claimed by Seth Mydans of the New York Times; both reported that the list had been prepared by the CIA. Sukarno, who had led the fight against the Dutch imperialists before World War II and against the Japanese invaders during that war, was guilty, according to U.S. politicians, of being a neutralist, meaning an independent. In other words, he sold to the highest bidder and bought from the lowest, a perfectly natural economic principle -- except that U.S. corporations are used to selling high and demand to buy cheap. The CIA repeatedly tried to throw him out, once painting a fake sign on one of its planes and bombing the palace (1958), another time making a pornography film featuring Sukarno making love over and over again (the film actually increased Sukarno’s popularity because most Indonesians did not know that scenes could be stopped and spliced together later, and hence saw him as a man with extraordinary vigor who could just keep making love).
The man the CIA chose to replace him, Gen. Suharto, a Japanese collaborator during the war, proceeded to rule with a vicious police and military for thirty-one years. Suharto eventually invaded independent East Timor and, armed by the United States, murdered one-third of its population. What especially pleased U.S. investors was Suharto’s policy of killing union organizers and keeping wages low. One of the many U.S. firms that took advantage of this was Nike, which paid its workers eighty cents to make hundred-dollar sneakers. Always obeying U.S. orders, Suharto helped the CIA overthrow democracy in Fiji (2006) when, like New Zealand, it passed a law declaring the island nuclear-free. Reagan denounced New Zealand and banned its main products (lamb and butter) from being sold in the United States. But New Zealand refused to comply with U.S. demands, bringing an end to SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organization, similar to NATO and considered even by conservatives to be a U.S. front for dominating the Pacific). It still refuses, whether its elected officials are liberals or conservatives. Fiji, however, was not strong enough to say no to the United States, so its democratic government was abolished.
Today, as we watch dictators in the Middle East beat and murder civilians there (mostly young people seeking democracy and freedom) it is crucial that we remember that the United States is to blame for every death caused by the repressive regimes -- except in Algeria, where the culprit is France, which would not honor a free election that tossed out the old pro-France Front for National Liberation and helped it remain in power, causing a massive resistance movement, which has resorted to terror. Everywhere else, though, the United States gave military, financial, political, and intelligence aid to vicious dictators who are now being combated by the pro-democrats.
Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak was especially loved by the CIA. After he turned his jails and jailers over to the CIA, the CIA kidnapped thousands of innocent folk off the streets of foreign lands and shipped them to Egypt, where they were tortured for months (and often died) in what became known as the Rendition program. More people were there, sent by the CIA, than in all other secret jails combined. In exchange Egypt got more arms, more dollars (about 2 billion dollars a year), and more advice from torture experts than did any other friendly dictatorship (the one country which got a bit more: Israel). And for forty years Mubarak killed, tortured, and jailed his own countrymen with impunity, making himself and his family extremely rich in the process.
The United States has also been a firm friend of Saudi Arabia, which has by far the most alarmingly repressive governmental regime, where the religious police can arrest anyone it dislikes; where the United States accepts the kingdom’s no-women rule to maintain its biggest base in the world; where no one whose ancestors do not go back at least four Saudi-born generations can be a citizen; where women cannot drive, cannot work, cannot ask for divorce, cannot accuse men of beating them, and cannot have bank accounts; and where a few years ago a royal princess was decapitated in the main public square because she wanted to marry a Lebanese commoner, who was also killed. In Saudi Arabia the United States says “yes, sir,” and does not criticize, even when the Saudi army is sent to Bahrain to crush a popular peaceful protest.
By the time in 2011 that the United States, England, and France had decided to intervene in Libya and started killing more people than Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had killed, the repressive forces of Bahrain and Yemen had also butchered protesters in those countries. Yemen had been especially cruel. Yet the triumvirate of rich Western countries did not intervene in either Bahrain or Yemen, where more democratic protesters had been slaughtered than in Libya. Why? Because the U.S. Fifth Fleet lodges in Bahrain’s ports, and Yemen’s president lies about it to his own people and fights our enemies.
What turned Iran into a such pariah nation, as we all know, was not just the result of the CIA’s coup, which overthrew the country’s first genuinely honest, freely and overwhelmingly elected prime minister, Mohammed Mosaddeq, in 1951, but also the result of the fact that Mosaddeq dared to nationalize Iran’s oil, 80 percent of which was owned by the English and 20 percent of which was owned by the United States. The coup gave the oil to the United States (that England did not protest shows how it had become a puppet of the United States). It was the CIA that then trained Iran’s National Intelligence and Security Organization (SAVAK), admitted by all to be the most vicious, blood-thirsty intelligence agency in the world. When I went to Iran with the Ramsey Clark delegation in 1980, I was shown film footage made by the CIA and its “experts” guiding SAVAK agents in methods of torture -- using live prisoners. Obviously all Iranians also saw that film and never forgot.
The U.S. Pledges to “Protect” the Middle East from Communism
These days many people are wondering, “Why Libya? Why did the U.S. decide to get involved?”
This issue goes way back, but let’s begin with President Eisenhower’s 1957 declaration that the United States would protect all Middle Eastern countries from communism or “its agents.” Nasser, who had been chosen leader of the Free Officers, had led Egypt’s 1952 revolution and was certainly no communist; in fact, once president, he had executed all the members of the party’s Central Committee he could find. But he advocated Arab nationalism as an independent force; ever since the great liberal Secretary of State, General George Marshall (in a speech written by Charles Bohlen, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Russia, and France) declared that neutralists were America’s enemies, Nasser’s independence was viewed as antagonistic by Washington (Bush II was not the first to bellow, “You’re either with us or against us”).
For U.S. corporations, Washington was right, as Nasser nationalized all foreign holdings, including its oil and the Suez canal, and established diplomatic relations with both left and right. He became president in 1954, after General Naguib, the figurehead of the Free Officers, was made to resign. Nasser was determined to develop his country into the major force in all of Arab countries. He was helped by an attempted assassination: as he delivered a speech in Alexandria celebrating the British withdrawal, a gunman only twenty-five feet away fired eight shots, which all missed. Panic broke out in the mass audience, but Nasser raised his voice and shouted, “If Abdel Nasser dies -- each of you is Gamal Abdel Nasser -- Nasser is of you and from you and he is willing to sacrifice his life for the nation.” The crowd roared in approval and the assassination attempt backfired, vastly increasing Nasser’s popularity.
It increased even more after his nemesis, President Eisenhower, ordered the French, English, and Israeli forces to stop their invasion of the Suez, which they had hoped to retake from Egypt. After that, there was no stopping Nasser. He helped Syrian officers rebel and join the United Arab Republic, which Nasser created and of which he was chosen president. He gave the various factions of the Palestine Liberation Front arms, money, and asylum in Egypt. He invited Saddam Hussein, after his first attempted coup to keep Iraq in the United Arab Republic failed, and George Habash, after Jordan’s King Hussein crushed the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to live in Cairo. He repeatedly invited representatives from all Arab countries, friends and foes alike, to come to Cairo to discuss their differences -- and join the world’s Non-Aligned Movement.
This group of states, which decline to align themselves formally with or against any major power bloc, first met formally in Bandung. The Non-Aligned Movement was started by Indonesia’s Sukarno; Morocco’s leading opposition leader Ben Barka (murdered in Paris by King Hassan’s principle aide, who was allowed to escape by President De Gaulle, who wanted to keep Morocco’s assets flowing to France); Ben Bella, head of Algeria’s Front National de Liberation; and the world’s most admired (or hated) Third World revolutionary, Frantz Fanon, author of the one volume that best explains the need for armed struggle in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, The Wretched of the Earth. Nasser then got the Non-Aligned Movement to move to Cairo, spreading his prestige not only in Arab countries but also throughout that part of the world, which saw the Cold War as an excuse for the United States to dominate all noncommunist countries.
Through his speeches, his actions, and his ability to symbolize the popular Arab will, Nasser inspired several nationalist revolutions in the Arab world. Muammar al-Qaddafi, who overthrew the monarchy of King Idris in Libya in 1969, considered Nasser his hero and, after his death, sought to succeed him as the “leader of the Arabs.” Ahmed Ben Bella, who led Algeria to independence from France in 1962, was a staunch Nasserist and held him in great esteem. Abdullah as-Sallal drove out the king of North Yemen in the name of Nasser’s pan-Arabism. All were strong supporters of the Egyptian president and advocated pan-Arab unity. Nasser remained a neutralist, executed the head of the Islamic Brotherhood, and -- after the United States stopped helping him build the Aswan Dam because he refused to vote in the UN as the United States told him to -- completed the dam with Russian money and was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title.
No wonder the United States wanted Nasser dead. Did the CIA kill him as most Arabs and most Europeans believe? The United States tells the world over and over again that he died of a heart attack brought about by his diabetes and three packs of cigarettes a day. Few Arabs or Europeans believe it. No proof exists either way, but plenty of other examples do. Among them is the death of Frantz Fanon. Born in Martinique, educated in France, Fanon was so vociferous an African liberationist that Algeria’s Front de Libération National made him minister without portfolio, free to travel the world and preach revolution to all peoples subjugated by the white race, specifically in England, France, and the United States. Early in 1961, Fanon came down with leukemia, went to Moscow for treatment, and did experience remission. Though not confined to bed, he knew he would eventually die of the disease and so dictated his famous work, a work absolutely crucial to anyone who wants to understand why subjugated people revolt. He spoke various times to the Algerian Liberation Army, went to Rome to talk with his admirer, France’s foremost novelist-playwright-philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, then journeyed to Maryland in December 1961 to be treated at the Bethesda Navy Hospital, reputed to be the top center for treatment of leukemia. He was pronounced dead the very next day. Those who claim he was murdered say no one who can walk into a hospital without help dies in one day. So, too, told me his charming and dedicated wife French wife, Josie, when I went to interview her before she committed suicide in 1989.
Corporate Interests Behind the U.S. Decision to Target Qaddafi
At the moment in 2011 when France, England, and the United States decided to go after Qaddafi, he had killed far fewer people than U.S. allies had in Bahrain and Yemen. So why did they decide to target Libya in particular? Even by the time U.S. B-2s had flown all the way from the United States and dropped thousands of tons of blockbuster bombs on Qaddafi’s people, he had mostly fired his cannons at the wind and sand. But U.S. and French missiles and bombs did hit many people, mostly innocents, so many that the Arab League, which had called for a no-fly zone over Libya in the first place, was shocked to see U.S. flying cowboys plaster the country and butcher civilians. The League protested -- to no avail.
So what was the real reason to go after Qaddafi? He had never completely joined the United Arab Republic and certainly never helped Arab nationalists after the death of Nasser. True, he was an independent loco who liked shooting from the hip. But not at Americans. Yes, he helped Irish revolutionaries fighting English domination; yes, he helped France’s rebellious Action Directe. Yes, he helped the Red Brigades and the Red Army Faction. He supported the old Yugoslavia, which, he said correctly, was really dismembered to reinforce German and U.S. corporations in Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina (and the heroin traders of the KLA, who are now the established leaders of Kosovo). He did send his henchmen all over Europe to murder his opponents, and did eliminate brutally all domestic rivals. His only crime against the United States, however, was not allowing U.S. corporations to make money in his country, and selling his oil to France, not the United States.
Yet the United States found reason to attack Libya in 1986, when it accused Qaddafi of bombing “La Belle” nightclub in West Berlin in l986, killing three American soldiers and wounding more than two hundred. President Reagan used that as an excuse to bomb Tripoli, killing Qaddafi’s adopted daughter and a score of his military staffers.
But Europeans didn’t buy the affair. First, as reported in Der Spiegel and various other media sources on the Continent, the nightclub was a hangout for black American soldiers who had come to the conviction that the U.S. wars were racist. Secondly, upon serious investigation by neutral detectives hired by the soldiers’ families, it turned out that the U.S.-made trigger mechanisms were not available in Germany or on any U.S. overseas base but were readily available in CIA training camps.
Not satisfied with that, the CIA, convinced the world would believe its fantasy because the United States had blown up an Iranian airliner in international air space, which then sought revenge, next concocted a really perverse and outrageous coup: putting bombs on Pan Am 103, which blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. Anyone who studies the evidence in the documentary The Maltese Double Cross, which meticulously shows every bit of evidence, must come to the conclusion that something is wrong in the official version. The film documents that neither of the two Libyans (presumably loaned to Iran by Qaddafi) accused of placing the bomb in luggage of the plane was in a position to do so. It further documents that both the CIA and the DEA (the Drug Enforcement Agency) did have such access both in Malta, where the feeder flight originated, and in Frankfurt, where Pan Am 103 took off, and that there was a major rivalry between the two U.S. “investigating” agencies for control of the heroin trade, which is why the most damning evidence is the packages of heroin that fell on Lockerbie’s surroundings and were at first openly shown by the Scottish police.
It is important to know that both agencies spend a huge amount of money not voted on by Congress and hence not part of any overseeing commission. For example, the CIA’s secret war in Laos cost 1 billion dollars a day, but the whole budget of the CIA then was 44 billion dollars, and the war lasted more than forty-four days. So what money did the CIA use for anything besides Laos? Various other documentaries by the BBC Channel Four and Boston’s Frontline, plus a brilliant book by Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin and the CIA, convincingly show that the biggest pusher of heroin in the United States is none other than the CIA, which, incidentally, is why “the war on drugs” never did include heroin.
Even today, despite all the pictures showing those beautiful lakes of poppies caressed by their well-fed Afghani cultivators, their eradication is never shown because the CIA arranges for their transport to labs in Pakistan and shipment to the United States. McCoy thinks the CIA ships in about 60 percent of U.S. addicts’ needs. (In one commercial TV program, Law and Order, the claim was 85 percent.) In The Maltese Double Cross, the evidence shows that the DEA had placed a lot of heroin on that plane for their network in Detroit, so the CIA blew up the plane.
If the United States intervenes only out of a sense of morality to stop unjust wars, and not just because it has something to gain -- oil, minerals, access to an area’s domination -- why did it not intervene in the massacres of Tutsis and Hutus, the war between Burundi and Rwanda? In the Congo? In Ivory Coast? Why did it not stop the massacres in Sudan? On the other hand, why did it encourage Africa’s biggest gangster, Savimbi, head of the UNITA, supported by Apartheid South Africa and Africa’s most vicious and corrupt dictator, Zaire’s Mobutu, to pillage and murder the poor people of Angola, who while dying, still protected U.S. Gulf Oil interest in its island of Cabinda by inviting Cuban volunteers to defend it? Why?
Millions and millions of people are killed, maimed, and deprived of food and shelter because the U.S. government is interested not in its people but in its corporations. The United States causes massive deaths -- more than the crusades, more than the Hundred Years’ War, more than the Holocaust, more than either World War, more than Stalin’s gulags and executions walls -- for just one reason: the dollar. It does so by always arming and aiding the world’s worst scumbags, by using such weapons of mass destruction as anti-personnel mines and fragmentation bombs, which, after they were declared crimes against humanity by the UN because their victims were mostly children playing in the fields after the bombing had stopped, were sold to Israel. Israel then used them in its war in Gaza. (Today, the United States uses a new weapon of mass destruction, the drone, which in Afghanistan and Pakistan has a record of one militant for every fourteen innocents, mostly children.)
The Underbelly of the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex
The typical American wants to believe that the United States is good, helpful, and friendly, that it sends its tomahawk and cruise missiles, Marines, and secret CIA armies all over the world only to help the unfortunate. Yes, the United States today is helping devastated Japan, an important ally. But after the Pakistan earthquake, which killed 8 million people, it sent 800 million dollars: a hundred bucks per dead, not even enough to bury them. And in Haiti? U.S. private charity organizations raised 7.2 million dollars but the U.S. military, which occupied the island without invitation or UN mandate, has so far distributed only 2 million dollars. Ah yes, but it sent a great gift: former presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who walked around the disaster area shaking hands like potentates greeting their flock. But the United States did more serious damage: the first doctors on the scene were Cuban; after working day and night they ran out of medicine, and when they asked permission from the uninvited but occupying U.S. forces to bring in more, the United States said no!
Ordinary Americans are hurting today. Since 2006, about 6 million families have lost their homes to the banks. At least 15 million are unemployed. Neo-fascist governors are trying to crush unions. Reactionary politicians want to get rid of all government aid to health care, abolish public schools, and let the infrastructure rot rather than raise taxes on the top 1 percent of the population, whose total yearly income averages around 12 million dollars each. That 1 percent owns more than half of the country’s assets. There is a bigger gap in pay between the average corporation head and his workers than in any other country of the world. Yet average Joe American supports the rich. Why?
Because the dominant force, the establishment WASPs and their stooges, convince average Joe American to love wars and to “kick ass” (their favorite expression). One of my best friends, who got drafted into the Korean War at the same time I did, was not as lucky as I was. He died in Korea. When I came home I went to see his wife. She showed me his last letter:
Everyone around here is dying, my love, men, women, and children. We are ordered to shoot at anything that moves. We hate them all, both sides. We just like to kill. We get off on it. We shriek with joy when we wipe out a whole family. You can’t imagine how cruel we have become, how cruel I am, killing children while thinking of my little Wally riding piggy-back on me and Junior crawling to his daddy. We didn’t come here to save anybody, but to destroy. Our friend, their dictator Syngman Rhee, whom you are all told is a great defender of democracy, is a scumbag of the worst kind. He hates us just as much as we hate him. But as long as we kill for him, he pretends to love us, and as long as he lets us kill for him, we pretend we love him. Killing has become so much of my way of life that, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, my love, but I have no doubt, no doubt at all, that I will die here myself, and my love, please, please don’t mourn; I deserve it. I really do. Raise the kids with the love I should have given them, and try to make them understand that I was a good guy before they sent me to this place.
No wonder ordinary U.S. service men committed so many “My Lai” massacres in Vietnam.
As the Quakers have calculated, the War in Afghanistan is costing 1 million dollars per soldier per day. That’s 140 million dollars a day. The United States maintains 760 foreign bases, fully armed and equipped. That’s 6 million dollars a week, or 850,000 dollars per day, which is another 350 million dollars per day, more or less. (Which should remind the United States of General de Gaulle’s affirmation that “no country with a foreign base on its land is free.”) If the United States did not go to war and closed its bases, the 500 million dollars per day would be enough to triple all entitlements, double foreign aid, open fully staffed hundred-bed hospitals in every city of 100,000 people or more and keep them going, quadruple the number of schools, septuple the number of teachers thus keeping classrooms occupied by fifteen or less, and still have enough money left over to modernize its crumbling infrastructure.
This is not a choice for Americans because, as President Eisenhower warned us all in his farewell speech, the industrial-military complex wants permanent war to keep increasing its profits. The neocons of the “New American Century” made that very clear. In a 1998 letter to President Clinton, signed by many of the neocons who ended up in George W. Bush’s cabinet, they insisted that war in the Middle East was the only way that the United States can remain leader of the world. And the average American, they said, will approve, because America is the best country in the world. (That is probably the reason most Americans did not gripe when President Obama created an assassination squad, a sort of “Murder Incorporated” of CIA and private thugs, to go kill -- without a trial -- American citizens in foreign countries who dare to denounce his Afghanistan policy.)
Americans’ faith in the United States dates back to the first colonizer.
The Puritan Roots of American Exceptionalism
Three years before she was hanged in Boston, Dorothy Talbye had been a revered member of the Salem church, esteemed for her devotion to her husband and admired for her care of her children. Then one day she asked, why should my husband be master of my life? The answer then -- enforced by the church, the governor, and the court -- was clear: by the laws of Moses. But the same Puritan code proclaimed that any full member of the church who discovered grace was no more fallible than any minister. Dorothy had experienced grace and refused to obey her husband. She was flogged, shunned by other women, and lived in misery until one day in early fall of 1638, she took her daughter, Difficult, to a secluded gulley and quietly broke her neck. No one, she declared, should be forced to live in the misery suffered by women in Puritan America.
“She was possessed by Satan,” wrote Governor John Winthrop in his journal, as if that explained her aberrant behavior in the “city upon a hill” he hoped to create in America. A gaunt, ascetic, forty-two-year-old lawyer and self-trained physician-turned-preacher who would become the first Massachusetts governor, Winthrop had defined that hope to his ocean-weary Puritan flock, swaying gently aboard the 150-ton Arbella as it approached their colony-to-be. He urged his voyagers to create the model of Christian charity, the embodiment of a covenant with God and men, a Bible society of justice and mercy, where pure law and pure relationships of harmony and brotherhood would reign. He and his fellow conquerors of North America believed that they had been chosen by God to form a covenant amongst themselves to purify the action and mores of their homeland churches and of those rulers back there who falsely claimed to have inherited God’s wisdom -- and His divine power.
Thus it became clear that Dorothy Talbye’s real crime had not been her act of murder, but rather her challenging of the political stability anchored in the authority of church and governor, whose code of imposed harmony demanded a wife’s total obedience to her husband. For all their heralding of freedom and equality in the “city upon a hill,” Winthrop and his peers could not allow their society’s way of life to be questioned. The America they had founded and used the courts to preserve was based on the dual principles of individual freedom and collective obedience to its ruling elites.
Indeed within ten years of Winthrop’s death, those elites who never betrayed doubts over the righteousness of their mission, had fought off what they believed were false faiths and all insidious forms of corruption that might have subverted their adventure in the wilderness. But in the process they had instituted a code of behavior that considered rebellion, asocial activity, and irreverent talk as synonymous with crime. What’s more, because of their emphasis on dedication to the building of a successful “city,” they established in practice a dual system of justice: those who achieved material success had proved their dedication and were treated much more leniently than those who failed. It was a system of justice whose underlying philosophy -- “the rich deserve their wealth; the poor are lazy” -- would permeate the American way of life. And so no one criticized Reagan when he spouted, “The rich work hard; the poor are lazy.” It also explains why the courts send a homeless hungry unemployed worker to jail for up to five years for stealing a steak from a supermarket but give a Wall Street financer who embezzles 3 billion dollars two years in a “country-club” prison where he orders meals from his favorite restaurant, and then allows him to serve only one year because he gave back two billion.
That same Puritan spirit has led all U.S. politicians to end their major speeches with “God Bless America” as if God blesses no other.
And that’s the key. Only America is blessed. To early Americans, the native population was known as “hostiles,” which the early dictionaries defined as “half-savage humans.” Blacks were considered inferior, even by Abraham Lincoln, though he conceded that they should not be used as slaves. Foreigners only want “our goods,” most WASPs used to say; recently they changed it to “want our freedoms.” But only WASPs think they have freedom. Legally admitted foreigners know differently; they can easily get arrested by America’s gestapo, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement thugs who need no warrant to ship anyone who looks too brown out of the country. “No one on earth can possibly be as noble, as moral, as we white Americans,” claim many WASPs. Yes, just like Filibusterer Walker shouted at his trial, it is better to be a slave in America than free outside of it. And -- conclude the neocons, the Tea Party lupen, all those who feel only contempt for other skins and other religions -- we descendants from those Puritans, who made America strong and great, are the best. We have the right to police the world.
The unemployed worker, whose home was taken over by the bank whose CEO grabs never less than a billion dollars per year, says: Yeah, life’s tough; I know that the folks in other countries are guaranteed health insurance even if they are unemployed; I know that in other countries a person’s home or tools of his or her trade, including the person’s car, cannot be seized by a bank if the occupant cannot pay for it; I know that in other countries the established media gives all sides, whereas our free-enterprise press just gives our establishment’s views; I know that our child mortality rate is twice as high as in Cuba; I know all that, but the United States of America is the best country in the world and we have a right, a God-given right, to bomb those who disagree.
(To return to the Summer 2011 Table of Contents, click here. For an attractively formatted, ready-to-print PDF of this article, click here.) This article was adapted from a paper delivered at the Oxford Round Table on Terrorism at Oxford University on March 29, 2011.