Why US Leaders Intervene Everywhere
excerpted from the book
The Terrorism Trap
by Michael Parenti
City Lights Books, 2002
Washington policymakers claim that US
intervention is motivated by a desire to fight terrorism, bring
democracy to other peoples, maintain peace and stability in various
regions, defend our national security, protect weaker nations
from aggressors, oppose tyranny, prevent genocide, and the like.
But if US leaders have only the best intentions when they intervene
in other lands, why has the United States become the most hated
nation in the terrorist's pantheon of demons? And not only Muslim
zealots but people from all walks of life around the world denounce
the US government as the prime purveyor of violence and imperialist
exploitation. Do they see something that most Americans have not
been allowed to see?
Supporting the Right
Since World War II, the US government
has given some $240 billion in military aid to build up the military
and internal security forces of more than eighty other nations.
The purpose of this enormous effort has been not to defend these
nations from invasion by foreign aggressors but to protect their
various ruling oligarchs and multinational corporate investors
from the dangers of domestic anticapitalist insurgency. That is
what some of us have been arguing. But how can we determine that?
By observing that (a) with few exceptions there is no evidence
suggesting that these various regimes have ever been threatened
by attack from neighboring countries; (b) just about all these
"friendly" regimes have supported economic systems that
are integrated into a global system of corporate domination, open
to foreign penetration on terms that are singularly favorable
to transnational investors; (c) there is a great deal of evidence
that US-supported military and security forces and death squads
in these various countries have been repeatedly used to destroy
reformist movements, labor unions, peasant organizations, and
popular insurgencies that advocate some kind of egalitarian redistributive
politics for themselves.
For decades we were told that a huge US
military establishment was necessary to contain an expansionist
world Communist movement with its headquarters in Moscow (or sometimes
Beijing). But after the overthrow of the Soviet Union and other
Eastern European communist nations in 1989-1991, Washington made
no move to dismantle its costly and dangerous global military
apparatus. All Cold War weapons programs continued in full force,
with new ones being added all the time, including the outer-space
National Missile Defense and other projects to militarize outer
space. Immediately the White House and Pentagon began issuing
jeremiads about a whole host of new enemies-for some unexplained
reason previously overlooked-who menace the United States, including
"dangerous rogue states" like Libya with its ragtag
army of 50,000 and North Korea with its economy on the brink of
The real intentions of US national security
state leaders can be revealed in part by noting whom they assist
and whom they attack. US leaders have consistently supported rightist
regimes and organizations and opposed leftist ones. The terms
"Right" and "Left" are seldom specifically
defined by policymakers or media commentators-and with good reason.
To explicate the politico-economic content of leftist governments
and movements is to reveal their egalitarian and usually democratic
goals, making it much harder to demonize them. The "Left,"
as I would define it, encompasses those individuals, organizations,
and governments that oppose the privileged interests of wealthy
propertied classes, while advocating egalitarian redistributive
policies and a common development beneficial to the general populace.
The Right too is involved in redistributive
politics, but the distribution goes the other way, in an upward
direction. Rightist governments and groups, including fascist
ones, are dedicated to using the land, labor, markets, and natural
resources of countries as so much fodder for the enrichment of
the owning and investing classes. In almost every country including
our own, rightist groups, parties, or governments pursue tax and
spending programs, wage and investment practices, methods of police
and military control, and deregulation and privatization policies
that primarily benefit those who receive the bulk of their income
from investments and property, at the expense of those who live
off wages, salaries, fees, and pensions. That is what defines
and distinguishes the Right from the Left.
In just about every instance, rightist
forces are deemed by US opinion makers to be "friendly to
the West," a coded term for "pro-capitalist." Conversely,
leftist ones are labeled as "anti-democratic," "anti-American"
and "anti-West," when actually what they are against
is global capitalism.
While claiming to be motivated by a dedication
to human rights and democracy, US leaders have supported some
of the most notorious rightwing autocracies in history, governments
that have tortured, killed or otherwise maltreated large numbers
of their citizens because of their dissenting political views,
as in Turkey, Zaire, Chad, Pakistan, Morocco, Indonesia, Honduras,
Peru, Colombia, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, the
Philippines, Cuba (under Batista), Nicaragua (under Somoza), Iran
(under the Shah), and Portugal (under Salazar).
Washington also assists counterrevolutionary
groups that have perpetrated some of the most brutal bloodletting
against civilian populations in leftist countries: Unita in Angola,
Renamo in Mozambique, the contras in Nicaragua, the Khmer Rouge
(during the 1980s) in Cambodia, the mujahideen and then the Taliban
in Afghanistan, and the rightwing drug-dealing KLA terrorists
in Kosovo. All this is a matter of public record although seldom
if ever treated in the US media.
Washington's support has extended to the
extreme rightist reaches of the political spectrum. Thus, after
World War 11 US leaders and their Western capitalist allies did
nothing to eradicate fascism from Europe, except for prosecuting
some top Nazi leaders at Nuremberg. In short time, former Nazis
and their collaborators were back in the saddle in Germany. Hundreds
of Nazi war criminals found a haven in the United States and Latin
America, either living in comfortable anonymity or employed by
US intelligence agencies during the Cold War.
In France, very few Vichy collaborators
were purged. "No one of any rank was seriously punished for
his or her role in the roundup and deportation of Jews to Nazi
camps." US military authorities also restored fascist collaborators
to power in various Far East nations. In South Korea, police trained
by the fascist Japanese occupation force were used after the war
to suppress left democratic forces. The South Korean Army was
commanded by officers who had served in the Imperial Japanese
Army, some of whom had been guilty of horrid war crimes in the
Philippines and China.
ln Italy, within a year after the war,
almost all Italian fascists were released from prison while hundreds
of communists and other leftist partisans who had been valiantly
fighting the Nazi occupation were jailed. Allied authorities initiated
most of these measures. In the three decades after the war, US
government agencies gave an estimated $75 million to right-wing
organizations in Italy. From 1969 to 1974, high-ranking elements
in Italian military and civilian intelligence agencies, along
with various secret and highly placed neofascist groups embarked
upon a campaign of terror and sabotage known as the "strategy
of tension," involving a series of kidnappings, assassinations,
and bombing massacres directed against the growing popularity
of the democratic parliamentary Left. In 1995, a deeply implicated
CIA, refused to cooperate with an Italian parliamentary commission
investigating this terrorist campaign.
In the 1980s, scores of people were murdered
in Germany, Belgium, and elsewhere in Western Europe by rightwing
terrorists in the service of state security agencies. As with
the earlier "strategy of tension" in Italy, the attacks
attempted to create enough popular fear and uncertainty to undermine
the existing social democracies. The US corporate-owned media
largely ignored these events.
Attacking the Left
We can grasp the real intentions of US
leaders by looking at who they target for attack, specifically
just about all leftist governments, movements, and popular insurgencies.
The methods used include (a) financing, infiltrating, and co-opting
their military, and their internal security units and intelligence
agencies, providing them with police-state technology including
instruments of torture; (b) imposing crippling economic sanctions
and IMF austerity programs; (c) bribing political leaders, military
leaders, and other key players; (d) inciting retrograde ethnic
separatists and supremacists within the country; (e) subverting
their democratic and popular organizations; (f) rigging their
elections; and (g) financing collaborationist political parties,
labor unions, academic researchers, journalists, religious groups,
nongovernmental organizations, and various media.
US leaders profess a dedication to democracy.
Yet over the past five decades, democratically elected reformist
governments-"guilty" of introducing egalitarian redistributive
economic programs in Guatemala, Guyana, the Dominican Republic,
Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Syria, Indonesia (under Sukarno), Greece,
Cyprus, Argentina, Bolivia, Haiti, the Congo, and numerous other
nations-were overthrown by their respective military forces funded
and advised by the US national security state. The intent behind
Washington's policy is seen in what the US-sponsored military
rulers do when they come to power. They roll back any reforms
and open their countries all the wider to foreign corporate investors
on terms completely favorable to the investors.
The US national security state has participated
in covert actions or proxy mercenary wars against reformist or
revolutionary governments in Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia,
Portugal, Nicaragua, Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara, Egypt,
Cambodia, Lebanon, Peru, Iran, Syria, Jamaica, South Yemen, the
Fiji Islands, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. In many cases the attacks
were terroristic in kind, directed at "soft targets"
such as schools, farm cooperatives, health clinics, and whole
villages. These wars of attrition extracted a grisly toll on human
life and frequently forced the reformist or revolutionary government
to discard its programs and submit to IMF dictates, after which
the US-propelled terrorist attacks ceased.
Since World War 11, US forces have invaded
or launched aerial assaults against Vietnam, Laos, the Dominican
Republic, North Korea, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Libya,
Iraq, Somalia, Yugoslavia, and most recently Afghanistan-a record
of direct military aggression unmatched by any communist government
in history. US/NATO forces delivered round-the-clock terror bombings
on Yugoslavia for two and a half months in 1999, targeting housing
projects, private homes, hospitals, schools, state-owned factories,
radio and television stations, government owned hotels, municipal
power stations, water supply systems, and bridges, along with
hundreds of other nonmilitary targets at great loss to civilian
life. In some instances, neoimperialism has been replaced with
an old-fashioned direct colonialist occupation, as in Bosnia,
Kosovo, and Macedonia where US troops are stationed, and more
recently in Afghanistan.
In 2000-2001, US leaders were involved
in a counterinsurgency war against leftist guerrilla movements
in Colombia. They also were preparing the public for moves against
Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, is engaged in developing
a popular movement and reforms that favor the poor. Stories appearing
in the US press tell us that Chavez is emotionally unstable, autocratic,
and bringing his country to ruin, the same kind of media hit pieces
that demonized the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the New Jewel Movement
in Grenada, Allende in Chile, Noriega in Panama, Qaddafi in Libya,
Milosevic in Yugoslavia, and Aristide in Haiti, to name some of
the countries that were subsequently attacked by US forces or
surrogate mercenary units.
Governments that strive for any kind of
economic independence, or apply some significant portion of their
budgets to not-for-profit public services, are the ones most likely
to feel the wrath of US intervention. The designated "enemy"
can be (a) a populist military government as in Panama under Omar
Torrijos (and even under Manuel Noriega), Egypt under Gamal Abdul
Nasser, Peru under Juan Velasco, Portugal under the leftist military
officers in the MFA, and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez; (b) a Christian
socialist government as in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas; (c)
a social democracy as in Chile under Salvador Allende, Jamaica
under Michael Manley, Greece under Andreas Papandreou, Cyprus
under Mihail Makarios, and the Dominican Republic under Juan Bosch;
(d) an anticolonialist reform government as in the Congo under
Patrice Lumumba; (e) a Marxist-Leninist government as in Cuba,
Vietnam, and North Korea; (f) an Islamic revolutionary order as
in Libya under Omar Qaddafi; or even (g) a conservative militarist
regime as in Iraq under Saddam Hussein if it should attempt an
independent course on oil quotas and national development.
The goal of US global policy is the Third
Worldization of the entire world including Europe and North America,
a world in which capital rules supreme with no labor unions to
speak of; no prosperous, literate, well-organized working class
with rising expectations; no pension funds or medical plans or
environmental, consumer, and occupational protections, or any
of the other insufferable things that cut into profits.
While described as "anti-West"
and "anti-American," just about all leftist governments-from
Cuba to Vietnam to the late Soviet Union-have made friendly overtures
and shown a willingness to establish normal diplomatic and economic
relations with the United States. It was not their hostility toward
the United States that caused conflict but Washington's intolerance
of the alternative class systems they represented.
In the post-World War II era, US policymakers
sent assistance to Third World nations, and put forth a Marshall
plan, grudgingly accepting reforms that produced marginal benefits
for the working classes of Western Europe and elsewhere. They
did this because of the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union
and the strong showing of Communist parties in Western European
countries. But today there is no competing lure; hence, Third
World peoples (and working populations everywhere) are given little
consideration in the ongoing campaigns to rollback the politico-economic
democratic gains won by working people in various countries...
Michael Parenti page