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Negroponte, Bolton, Scooter and the rest of the Neo and Paleo Cons. About half of these gusy had to take a presidential pardon once already.
Maybe we should have a "three pardons" law.
At least they're still keeping a sharp eye on Martha Stewart.
Boy did I take a wrong turn! A RedStater stumbling into a BlueOregon therapy session. Hold your potty-mouth invective if you can!
Interesting to bring up a "three pardons law". I cite Marc Rich, Carlos Vignali and Almon Glenn Braswell as evidence that such a law is considered a matter of Presidential privilege on the Left. Leave it to the Left to lionize Marc Rich, Oil for Food profiteer. Surely you don't put Cap Weinberger, the Reagan lieutenant who made the Soviets blink, in the same company... How bizarre to speak up for that icon of bath towels and bed sheets, the mega-capitalist Martha Stewart! Ooops. That would be the Soros Precedent at work.
I too am a Reaganite and a career Marine (now there's a test for those who Hate the War, but Support the Troops). I proudly spent 4 yrs in El Salvador during the 1980s, defeating a brutal Marxist-Leninist insurgency in the last surrogate battle of "the long twilight struggle". Amb Negroponte is a GIANT of that era, and of this.
The CISPES fellow travelers and brave Sandalistas of the Left's penultimate last gasp should travel to El Salvador (or Honduras, or Guatemala) today to see the validation of our policies there. Democracy finally bloomed in full there in the maiz blue revolution and Spring of 1992 when the Chapultepec Accords were signed. And the Left has been in a history-induced funk ever since. Until Al Queda and Al Zarqawi et al, arose to smite their own countrymen (little Eichmans all), and thereby capture the imagination and fulfill the fondest wishes of the America-hating Lefty Loons. Recent electoral matters here and in Iraq have re-stoked the Left's funk.
By 1992, El Salvador had already conducted two presidential elections certified by such progressive, multi-nationalist, meddling, do-nothing organizations as the UN, the OAS and The Carter Center. 3 subsequent presidential elections have passed the same international muster there. The now respectable FMLN has been triple-drubbed by the right wing ARENA party in elections that the international community have certified as fair and problem free. 10,000s of dead for sure. We stopped the human rights abuses of the government, such that after 1986 the FMLN killed most of their 50% share during their remaining 6 years of decline. You can't fool the campesinos. They continue to elect and re-elect ARENA.
The poorly drawn figures above only portray a nostalgia for a time when the American Left championed the terrorists of the FMLN. Jump ahead 10 yrs and now the Left champions the head chopping fascists of int'l Jihad. Strange bed-fellows. The neo-con reference in the above posting is anti-Semitism plain and simple. Leftist/Jihadi code for the perfidious Jew.
The readers of this site won't abide this trespass into their fantasy world. So, I'll close with an excerpt from the column of a "dirty Jew" in the "Zionist rag" called the Jerusalem Post. Amer Taheri wrote recently:
"Why are so many Westerners, living in mature democracies, ready to march against the toppling of a despot in Iraq but unwilling to take to the streets in support of the democratic movement in the Middle East?
Is it because many of those who will be marching in support of Saddam Hussein this month are the remnants of totalitarian groups in the West plus a variety of misinformed idealists and others blinded by anti-Americanism?
Or is it because they secretly believe that the Arabs do not deserve anything better than Saddam Hussein?
Those interested in the health of Western democracies would do well to ponder those questions."
The same was true of Central America in the 1980s. The American Left marched with the terrorists then, and against democracy. Now they march with the head choppers and against democracy. Always on the wrong side of history. "Free Mumia!" "Free Tibet!" "War is not the Answer!" You guys don't free squat. I freed El Salvador, along with a handful of fellow advisors -- and Ronald Reagan. My brothers in uniform -- and W -- have freed Iraq. God is Great! Siempre Fiel-Semper Fidelis/JUC
As the Democrats seek to become a national party once again, they face serious dilemmas where they may have to decide between holding to principle or gaining some ground in the middle. But no loss of principle would be required to cast off, once and for all, the blame-America-first-ism that the left has traditionally perpetrated with regard to Latin America.
I don’t expect Brendan Diez to be well-informed, but it’s sad that someone of his generation would continue to reflexively place blame for Central American misery on an American official while remaining blissfully ignorant of the role of Soviet and Soviet surrogate investment in social and economic disorder in that part of the world, to say nothing of home grown authoritarianism, violence and social stratification.
Yesterday at the local Wild Oats I saw someone probably only slightly older than Brendan wearing a T-shirt with a portrait of Che Guevara with some romantic legend inscribed beneath. It read, “Mejor morir al pie de la cordillera que…” That’s all I saw. Who cares what the rest said. I could only wonder whether this nitwit would have enjoyed living under Ernesto Guevara’s totalitarian rule, whether he could even distinguish between Che and Ghandi and… who knows? — John Lennon (“You say you want a revolution; well, you know….”)
Che and his mates talked about “creating the conditions for revolution” where they didn’t already exist. And almost always, they didn't exist. There was plenty of that in Central America, and if the indígenas didn’t play along, they paid a price. Will Brendan (and those longer in the tooth) acknowledge this part of the death toll in Central America? What depth of ignorance leaves it out?
The obvious starting point here is the implication by the above posters that anyone who thinks that my opposition to widepread institutionalized criminal behavior on the part of the Reagan executive branch, means that I support leftist thugs. That's untrue. It also shows an appalling inability to think beyond a black and white view of world affairs.
When George Bush says, "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists", he is cynically setting a framework that says that all dissenters on any policy matters are quislings of the Enemy of the Month whether it be the "Commies" during the cold war or the more recent "Terrorists".
Governments use this tactic all of the time. You guys are just drinking the Kool Aid when you buy into that crap.
You appear to be a bitter and beaten man. Well who and what the hay do you support? All I read is what you're against. In your second post, you don't say that you were/are against the "Commies" nor the "Terrorists". Rather you put those words in Lefty scare quotes to show your disdain for those who have risked life and limb so you can squawk on.
"Institutionalized criminal behavior." "Governments use this scare tactic all the time." Now there are a couple of REAL scare quotes. Where DO you get your sorry cynicism about your own govt. Every time a Leftist is faced with an argument against his heterodoxy, he (the Leftist) squeals about some imagined threat to his right to flap his gums. Flap on, Pat. Flap on.
Boils down to the same old truism. Lefties rant and march and agitate. Always AGAINST the United States. The rest of us raise families, build commerce, and free nations.
Name one THING you've done to further the progress of this great Nation, or of the human race. One positive contribution. Or are you just some lonely self-appointed sentinel in the watchtower of dissent. Throwing rocks from above the fray...
I'm not lonely or bitter and as for the "beaten" thing, that's between me and my wife, but thanks for caring and sharing. I'll cop to being cynical, since it seems to be the most appropriate attitude with which to approach this current bunch of yo-yos running our country.
Name one THING you've done to further the progress of this great Nation, or of the human race. One positive contribution.
Like you, I've been raising my family and engaging in commerce. I've also found time to do my research, find out the facts, and participate vigorously in my government at local and national levels. This is the first duty of a citizen, and it's what a republic is supposed to be about.
What's so patriotic about rubber stamping anything that the incumbent administration does (as long as thy're Republicans)? I haven't freed any nations lately, but then again, I haven't subverted the US Constitution by dealing with nations that are sworn enemies of the United States either.
If you actually care to know where I stand on the issues of the day, click on my name in the left hand column of this blog and read my posts. If you can't be bothered to find out where I stand, that's fine too. Like my old Dad likes to say, "Don't confuse me with facts, my mind's already made up"
You sound more and more like a good guy to me. I apologize for any personal aspersions. You appear to love the rough and tumble of politics as much as I do. Unfortunately it's too easy to demonize our fellow citizens that don't share our own world view. Both sides of the debate do that. I'd prefer to bury the rhetorical hatchet with you. Me thinks I'd enjoy a Stout and a shot of Jameson's on this coming Thursday. And a walk home arm in arm. But for the politics, I believe we share more in common than we share apart. Peace be with you! Jeff U Cole
The "implication" you draw is mistaken since my post was written without reference to yours. My comments were aimed at the cartoon -- and that nitwit I saw in the supermarket.
People need not have a "black and white" to prefer one side in a conflict over another. And certainly, it's possible to maintain neutrality while two sides fight it out. Whether that's an honorable or cynical position depends on the circumstances.
What irks me is that with regard to Central America is that people on the left themselves have tended not to be neutral but to be actively hostile to their own government and actively sympathetic to enemies who didn't deserve it.
Knowing what I know about you, your opposition to leftist thugs is expected. Unfortunately, so is Brendan's ignorance and insouciance about them.
i admire that you take time out of your busy schedule of saving democracy in this hemisphere to stumble onto websites you dislike and pick on high school students. calling my cartoon "poorly drawn" and saying i'm "ignorant" just proves how shallow your argument really is; if you had solid facts and caould argue your case maturely, you wouldn't need to resort to personal attacks. of course i wasn't going for devinci-esque quality art in my hastily drawn comic strip, i thought the important thing was people knew who was being represented by the caricatures, and could therefore get the joke. i think i achieved that.
also, i am not "ignorant," and i certainly don't support the soviet atrocities of the same era. but that doesn't mean i DO support US atrocities. you lump me with random people you haven't even met who engage in some sort of vague "anti-Americanism," meaning people who don't agree with you, and you've never even spoken with me. if i lived in russia, had freedom of speech, and someone who should be in prison for war crimes was being appointed a high administrative position in the government, my comics would reflect my disgust at that.
we've chatted before on this thingy. how about that che, eh? i, too, think wearing t shirts bearing mr guevara's face is ridiculous. doesn't anyone else see the irony that is the mug of someone who thought money should be abolished hijacked as one of the largest capitalist marketing tools in this hemisphere? i've read a number of che essays, and i think he had some very interesting ideas, how much of these he effectively put into practice is something i'll need to reasearch more, but i think a lot of people are too ready and willing to jump on the anti-cuba bandwagon as soon as the chance arises. nelson mandela used to be high up on our governemnt's list of dangerous terrorists--maybe we should question at least SOME of our country's policy. yeah, cuba has had some definite freedom issues: speech, assembly, the right to a fair election, BIG homophobia problems. wait a second--we had some definite election issues of our own in 2000, and we've always got people like you to degrade anyone who practices the freedom of assembly, and--what's that? oh yeah: our president has been trying to write homophobia into our constitution, and a lot of our state governments, including, sadly, oregon's, already have. sure, we have it better than people thrown in prison as a result of repression by castro. i think, though, that there are lessons we can learn from cuba concerning things like healthcare and food distribution. there is no GOOD reason for people to starve in the richest nation in the world. it happens because of greed, pure and simple. supporting the corporate agenda (bush, OR kerry) just helps keep greed running our lives and our government, and i think that if we don't change our lifestyle, it is not going to end well for us.
both of you,
i just was wondering about this question and i thought you two, what with all your demagoguery and love of those who practice it, could answer it for me: WHEN did working for human rights make one a "radical liberal??" why is driving an suv more of a concern than what that does to the air EVERYONE has to breathe; why does arguing for a healthcare system that even benefits people you don't know go against patriotic values? i think it's greed, i'd like to find out your response. and i mean a REAL response, not a thousand word rant about how evil commies and gays are and how you can't deem my question with an answer because of all the "innacuracies" in this post that, while they don't exist, i'm sure you'll invent.
p.s. if the us were such saviors of all things good in central and south america under reagan's administration, why did nicaragua take us to the world court and win?? probably anti-Americanism, and all that, huh?
Ironic that someone brings up the Wars in Central America at the exact week Willamette Week releases its 30-year anniversary issue.
If you turn to page 46 of that august publication, the man wearing clownface at the bottom of the page is none other than Ben Linder, a then-young Portlander gunned down by terr'ists - in this case, Contras (you know, the ones Reagan and his ilk funded in defiance of Congress) for the "crime" of working to restore electrical power to a war-ravaged city called San José de Bocay.
Next month marks the 18th anniversary of his death - he would have been 45. Maybe if his spirit is feeling charitable, he can send comfort to Reagan, the guy that got him killed, at Ronnie's special section of Hell.
It certainly is ironic that capitalists are making money off Che Guevara but that’s not what’s repellent about people sporting the image. Those who wear those shirts are lionizing a totalitarian either ignorantly – which is bad enough – or knowingly, which is even worse.
And that’s basically the problem I have with the blame-America-firsters on Latin American questions — they are either basically ignorant, or they know enough to know better, and yet they persist in their sympathy. When push comes to shove, more sophisticated interlocutors will acknowledge that there were left-wing abuses, or whatever, but what they are against are the right-wing abuses that the U.S. supposedly supported or committed. In other words, if there was any fault on the part of the U.S.’s enemies, it comes out as a kind of afterthought and doesn’t impinge too much on one’s posturing as one of the more enlightened citizens of this too benighted country. Never does the conversation begin with a sober, fair-minded appreciation of the essence of the conflict, the identity and nature of the significant players, the record of those players’ actions, and what could reasonably be argued was at stake.
John Dunagan’s post is classic. There was an atrocity committed, no interpretation is required, no explanation needed, only a deductive conclusion that, basically, an American president merits a special place in hell. Who and what Reagan was fighting -- and whether the atrocity mentioned is fairly placed at his doorstep -- is superfluous to Dunagan’s purposes.
There’s nothing in any posts that I’ve ever written here that remotely suggests I oppose questioning American policies. Rather, what has astounded me, as a sometime student of Latin American culture and history, is the almost total lack of questioning of America’s enemies’ policies in that region.
What are the premises that lead John Dunagan to his conclusion? What are the ones that lead you to yours? How rigorously have you question them? What good-faith efforts have you made to impartially entertain contrary views? Unfortunately, you have probably rarely been exposed to contrary views and are conditioned become defensive rather than curious in response to them.
Something vastly more ironic than making money selling communist-praising T-shirts is the credulity of free people about the real nature of tyrannical regimes. I find myself dumbstruck that someone who is sensitive to civil rights abuses would think that Ernesto Guevara “had some very interesting ideas.” I find myself on the verge of laughing out loud when I read a line like “Yeah, Cuba has had some definite freedom issues”! Well, let’s not let a little matter of a brutal, suffocating, personality-cult driven totalitarian political regime get in the way of appreciating the merits of government sponsored health care – or, say, the trains running on time…
There is not a little irony, Brendan, in your reference to my supposed “demagoguery and love of those who practice it,” while you contort yourself in an attempt to salvage something admirable from the regime of a megalomaniacal dictator.
Regarding your final point about Nicaragua, ask yourself this question: when the people finally had a chance to speak for themselves (under sufficient scrutiny to prevent the election being rigged), did they choose America’s enemies?
I'll freely acknowledge that I'm no expert on Latin America and 80's era foreign policy.
But, let's not all go pretending that's it's just a handful of radical leftists in a few pockets in America that are somehow misunderstanding the greatness of the American desire to liberate Nicaragua from the infidel commies.
Don't forget that Congress barred the President from taking military action or funding military action in that nation. President Reagan's government (led in part by Ambassador Negroponte) broke the law.
Not "bent", or "fudged", but BROKE the law. Administration officials were indicted, convicted, and sent to prison.
Yeah, I'm not interested in refighting the fights of 20 years ago - but I find it astonishing how often the Bushies like to dig up these fossilized Cold War relics and then put them in charge of our 21st Century foreign policy.
Don't forget: in the third presidential debate, Bush rejected decades of GOP foreign policy ideology in favor of the Carter/Clinton Doctrine. (i.e. "Support Democracy, because democracies don't go to war" instead of the realpolitik "Democracy doesn't matter, as long they're pro-American and we have interests there.") And yet he continues to bring along the very guys who perpetrated that old foreign policy for decades.
It was the conservatives who supported totalitarian regimes all over the world - Pinochet's Chile, Hussein's Iraq, Suharto's Indonesia, Marcos's Phillippines, etc. To pretend otherwise, well, you're still suffering from Reagan's silly "freedom fighter" metaphor.
To back Kari up here. Yes the Sandanistas, The Barbudos in Cuba, the FMLN(?) in Columbia, all have been guilty of a variety of brutal crimes, from murder to narcotrafficing. All of these groups were supported more or less uncritically by many leftists in the US.
The US gumming in the same time period ALWAYS supported totalitarian regimes, and worked to overthrow anyone who refused to assume the role of US patsy, EVEN THE ONES THAT WERE DULLY ELECTED.
Our government DID create astroturf "FREEDOM FIGHTERS", and consistently sided with brutal members of existing Oligarchies in the creating of Death squads who targeted EVERYONE that disageed with the US policy of the day, whether they were commie terrorists or simple peasants, or nonviolent union organizers.
Those are the historical facts and they cannot be disputed in any logical way.
Brendan Diez and Pat Ryan take much abuse here because they refuse to ignore the well documented history of US imperialism. They are not refighting 20 year old battles because US behavior has been constant for much longer than that and has not varied with the changing presidential party affiliation [OK, the R's have been worse of late].
Read Smedley Butler's book. Here is a taste:
'War is Just a Racket'
[Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933 by General Smedley Butler, USMC. General Butler was one of the few Americans to be twice awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.]
War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.
I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.
I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.
There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.
It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.
I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.
I helped make Mexico, 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 revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. 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 interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.
During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
“I spent 33 years in the Marines. Most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909–1912. I helped make Mexico and especially Tapioca safe for American oil interests in 1914. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National Citibank boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street.”
--U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, in CommonSense, November 1935
Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Iraq, Iran, Texas.... the foreign policy is old and consistent. The bullshit about America-hating is pretty stale. I protest US foreign policy because this is my nation, my responsibility. That does not mean that I condoned Soviet imperialism or Sadam Hussein's thuggery. Such suggestions by supporters of US policy are goofy diversion from the truth and deserve to be treated as such.
And as to the relative infamy of those receiving presidential pardons: the big difference is that those pardoned by Democrats were not and do not continue to run the government. That is a significant variance.
How do you read what I’ve written here as a pretense that “it’s just a handful of radical leftist, etc.”? The misunderstanding has certainly not been on the part of a handful of isolated extremists but among leftists and liberals generally. This isn’t to assert that the mass of voters on the right had a good understanding; the fact is that generally they weren’t even interested in the region. But being uninformed was better than being misinformed and biased.
I’m not making any defense of Iran/Contra, during which Reagan Administration officials tried to end-run the Boland Amendment. However, in the big picture, the Boland Amendment was the wrong policy, and in fact was later repealed. The Administration’s overall approach to Central America was right and eventually bore fruit, despite the Democrats’ efforts to undermine it.
My position is that there was a geopolitical contest in Central America in the period in question, but that it hasn’t been sufficiently appreciated as such by Democrats, who have been habitually credulous when it came to criticisms of U.S. actions and habitually skeptical of criticisms of the U.S.’s enemies in the region.
It’s refreshing to hear Pat acknowledge the unsavory nature of the likes of the Sandinistas and the FARC and ELN (Colombia) and the FMLN (El Salvador) precisely because that unsavory nature was not appreciated by Democrats at the time. The Democrats tended to view these groups’ challenges to the generally authoritarian (not totalitarian — the distinction is crucial) regimes of the region as popular democratic movements. They were not. What popular support they had was limited and their power was largely derived from massive funding and military supply from the Soviet Union, via Cuba — or in the case of El Salvador, via Nicaragua.
My assertion is the U.S. rightly opposed the Sandinistas, the FMLN, and Castro, and it rightly continues to oppose the FARC and the ELN. The suggestion that the U.S. has never tolerated Latin American governments who were anything but “patsies” of the U.S. is obviously false — the U.S. has tolerated no end of insults and material offenses, such as nationalization of American citizens’ assets. It is true that the U.S. has historically dealt in a high-handed way in Latin America (though not always indefensibly), even to a point of aggressive expansionism (Mexican War) and imperialist adventurism (Spanish-American War). But in the period that we have been talking about, it was not a matter of squashing “non-patsies,” so to speak, but reacting to foreign incursion and the spread of a totalitarian form of government. Tolerating garden variety anti-Yanquismo is one thing, tolerating Soviet expansion in the Western Hemisphere is another.
The Carter Administration and Democrats in general were naïve about that interference and acted in ways that were harmful both to the inhabitants of Latin American countries and to U.S. strategic interests. Sometimes reality penetrated Carter’s ideologically inspired cluelessness, and he reacted — as when he pitifully complained that the Russians had lied to him following their unforeseen expansionist incursion into Afghanistan, and when Carter (yes, Carter) cut off aid to the Sandinistas in 1980 and resumed aid to the Salvadoran government because of Sandinista aid to the FLMN. But generally Carter — and Democrats as a group — tended to interpret communist clients’ activities in a pollyannish way and interpret U.S. alliances with authoritarian governments and forces in the worst possible light.
I see vestiges of that attitude in your (both Kari and Pat, along with Brendan and John) in your eager vilification of Americans who resisted communist expansion in Latin America and in the inability to mention communists without dismissive humor (“infidel commies,” ha ha).
Kari, regarding your “realpolitik” comments: While I certainly wouldn’t exonerate the U.S. from ever conducting cynical diplomacy, I think it’s generally hard to maintain that it has ever been pure and consistent in the prosecution of realpolitik rightly named. For that I think you’d need to find an example where the U.S. favored a non-democratic regime at the expense of a democratic one. Roosevelt allied the U.S. with Stalin, but out of necessity. Bush I’s alliance with secular Saddam Hussein against theocratic Iran may not have been as urgent, but it was done out of issues of strategic importance (which are ultimately survival concerns) and without inconsistency to commitment to democratic ideals. Opposition to Soviet-funded communist forces closer to home make for a much more compelling proposition, both in terms of national security and favoring democracy. Cuba and Nicaragua are excellent examples of favoring the lesser of two evils.
In any case, I think in a world where people interested in international affairs were motivated more by disinterested advocacy of democracy than reflexive America-bashing, there would be widespread indignation at the CURRENT diplomacy of France, which is more cynical and materialistically motivated than anything perpetrated by the U.S. in the 70s or 80s. But that’s another conversation.
Getting back to the theme of the lesser of two evils, consider the less-than-ideal governments the U.S. has been allied to for reasons of Cold War strategy compared with those that it opposed. Which have fared better, China, North Korea, Cuba or Taiwan, South Korea and Chile? Similarly, the Sandinista experience shows what U.S. support helped spared the Nicaraguan people in the long run. Of course the Nicaraguans themselves deserve credit for their struggle, which continued to thrive in reaction to growing internal opposition to the tyrannical Sandinista regime, even after the U.S. withdrew support — some “Astroturf freedom fighters.”
Anthony's characterization of US policy in Latin America is a combination of amnesia and fable. The shortcomings of Castro, the Sandinistas, and the FMLN do not pardon the atrocities of the rightists who preceded and opposed them. The characterization of any political movement that opposed the hegemony of the wealthy elite as Soviet aligned is cold war poppycock. The US has opposed any force, even democratically elected governments [Allende in Chile, now Chavez in Venezuela]] that does not conform to our military and economic desires.
Shall we discuss CIA directed education of our "friends" in torture methods? How about our protection of Operation Condor murderers? How many Americans are aware that the CIA drug running allegations of Gary Webb's "Dark Alliance" story were later largely supported by US government sources? Are the Soviets the reason for our support of the botched anti-Chavez coup of less than two years ago?
US policy in Latin America changed little in the time before, during and after the Soviet Union's existence. The driving forces have always been more business interests than promotion of freedom and democracy. Our concern for the well-being of ordinary people south of the border [and elsewhere] has always been close to nil.
The Boland Amendment was no more bad policy than the Geneva Accords are quaint. Both were inconvenient impediments to misbehavior by our federal government.
It may be “poppycock” to characterize “any political movement that opposed the hegemony of the wealthy elite as Soviet-aligned,” but the movements discussed here were not merely Soviet-aligned, but heavily Soviet funded and armed. To say that the U.S. has “opposed any force” that doesn’t “conform to its military and economic desires” is at least an exaggeration. In the period and region that we’ve been discussing, the U.S.’s actions were in response to a serious geopolitical threat, and one which, as it happens, promised no benefit to its inhabitants.
But I speak imprecisely. Literally speaking, it promised a whole lot of benefit. And that is good enough for the likes of Tom Civiletti and Brendan Diez, who can’t bring themselves to get too worked up about totalitarian tyrannies such as Castro’s Cuba and Ortega’s Nicaragua, where those promises didn’t work out, to say the least. (We must sit down and discuss Hitler’s and Pol Pot’s “shortcomings” and “definite freedom issues” one of these days.) Of course those promises never worked out anywhere, but hope springs eternal in the socialist breast.
Speaking of Hitler, I believe he was democratically elected too but I don’t think that would necessarily give him immunity from opposition. More on that issue later. And speaking of “wealthy elites,” it’s worth remembering that in the cases of both Cuba and Nicaragua, it was actually the U.S.’s abandonment of the “wealthy elite” (the Batista and Somoza regimes) that preceded the ascendancy of another, even more oppressive elite. Castro himself is now estimated to possess a personal fortune of roughly $550 million. And speaking of “greed,” the Sandinistas made sure to avail themselves of as much property as possible prior to being turfed out by Nicaragua’s voters, during a brief orgy of acquisitiveness now popularly known as “la Piñata.”
Tom’s post reminds me of John Dunagan’s in its formulaic emphasis of America’s supposed wrong-doings and its de-emphasis (almost to the point of obliteration) of those of America’s legitimate enemies. I discovered this formula totally by accident when, as a student of Spanish, I began to read more about Latin American history and began to travel, and eventually study, in Latin America. What I knew about U.S. history, and history in general, made it entirely plausible to me that the U.S. would have acted in Latin America as arrogantly as great powers historically have. I knew about “gunboat diplomacy,” the U.S.S. Maine, etc., etc. What struck me about what I began learning about recent history was the apparently disproportionate viciousness of the U.S. at a period in the country’s history when one would expect something better.
What I eventually discovered was that the disproportion was less in the reality than in the reporting of it. Almost all the sources I ever came across as a student of the region and reader of the popular press focused on American wrongdoings. Those wrongdoings seemed especially bad because as far as one could tell, they were basically unprovoked. After a while, however, it became clear that a large part of the story (at least half) was simply missing. If this sounds like an unlikely claim, all one has to do is look at the posts of Tom and John, and of course the cartoon that started the thread. And the most anyone trying to correct the record can usually hope for are some half-hearted acknowledgment that maybe America’s enemies were up to something not so good, that perhaps, when all is said and done, they had some “shortcomings.” To call this too little too late, would be a hilarious understatement. Such acknowledgements were never made when they mattered most.
During the 1970s and early 1980s the Soviet Union executed a plan to expand its sphere of influence in the Americas. That initiative was accompanied by propaganda efforts aimed at discrediting the U.S.S.R.’s strategic enemy, the United States. In very considerable measure that effort succeeded because influential elements of the public, here and abroad, were only too willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Soviet-sponsored actors and to give no quarter to the U.S.
The result is a remarkably distorted picture. The Soviet Union poured an impressive amount of treasure into the region (U.S. State Department figures for Soviet aid to Cuba/Nicaragua 1983-85 are $15.85 billion, $2.21 billion of which was strictly military, compared to U.S. aid of $3.14 billion, $680 million of which was military) and fomented violent rebellion. The insurgents’ strategy included targeted assassinations, attacks on infrastructure, intimidation and torture. All this in service of a totalitarian scheme of government, the fruits of which were available to see in Cuba (and anywhere else Soviet clients succeeded), and which would eventually be visible in Nicaragua.
Now, fair-minded people might be influenced by considering the above description along with information about the U.S.’s clients (most of whose atrocities wouldn’t have been committed absent Soviet-funded disorder). Unfortunately, and really, disgracefully, all that the public was likely to receive were buckets of the latter and only the occasional droplet of the former. In fact, some of the most important aspects of the story were suppressed by those who found them unpalatable to their “progressive” taste. What did get any publicity was easily enough repressed in the Freudian sense, banishing whatever dissonance it might cause sanctimonious minds addicted to morality plays of rich vs. poor; capitalists vs. proles; First World vs. Third; mean, industrial white Anglo-Saxons vs. cute, dusky-hued people close to nature.
Again, to the formulaic approach to the story and its distorting result. Tom asks whether we “shall discuss CIA directed education of our ‘friends’ in torture methods?” Why yes, Tom, we shall -- AD NAUSEAM. I couldn’t count the number of conversations, articles, presentation that I’ve participated in, read or sat through about the School of the Americas for counter-insurgency. After the umpteenth one it occurred to me that there must have been schools of insurgency too. And of course there were, in the form of countless, well-organized training sessions conducted by Russian and Cuban advisors (among others) over a very long period of time. Who do you suppose was funding that training, and what do you suppose was on the curriculum? It’s a fact that the pupils from those schools distinguished themselves in the black arts that so trouble Tom Civiletti when the U.S. has a hand in their practice. But guess how many conversations, articles and presentations I encountered about the training of insurgents to foment terror, create disorder, effect intimidation, inflict torture and generally “create the conditions for revolution,” as the theorists put it. You already know the answer.
These conversations never get far without some sort of accusation about the U.S.’s supposed disregard for democratically elected governments, using Chile as an example. I had read and heard plenty about that before studying the subject more deeply – and actually talking about it to people in Chile during visits there, and of course in conversations with Chileans I’ve met elsewhere. Tom Civiletti merely mentions U.S. opposition, which is correct as far as it goes, but his insinuation is clear enough. Even so slight a mention is a distortion of the picture, in as much as the significant factor in the downfall was not opposition to Allende by the U.S. government, but by the Chilean legislature itself.
Would anyone reading Tom’s comment guess that the coup of 1973 followed the Chilean legislature’s call for the intervention of the Chilean armed forces on the grounds that the Allende government had subverted the democratic institutions of Chile and violated the terms of its accession to power (contrary to widespread opinion, while Allende became president as the result of a democratic process, he was not popularly elected)?
Chile is to some extent an interesting example of the skullduggery of the CIA, but it’s at least as much a story of the CIA’s incompetence, from what I’ve read. The real story of Chile in 1973 is of how the far left nearly destroyed one of the most democratic countries in the hemisphere, much to the despair of the majority of Chileans. It’s a fascinating and horrifying story, of which abundant reliable evidence is available. By all means, let’s take a closer look at it. When I finally became acquainted with that story, I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t heard it told before. I know better now.
Anthony, if every post of yours is going to go after me by name, I'd appreciate it if you'd spell my name right. Notice: D-E-I-Z, and it always is spelled this way.
Now, I'm having difficulty with your argument. You seem to be saying that yes, the US trained people in torture, supported corrupt governments, and was responsible for a lot of terror--but so were the Soviets, so it's all good. Well, shouldn't we have been above that? I think that it is completely legitimate to criticize a government that is supposed to be a bastion of justice and democracy if it engages in practices equal to or only slightly better than its enemies. Also, Hitler wasn't democratically elected, the government was handed to him by the current leader of the time, who basically said, "If you think you can do a better job, then be my guest." Oh, and the Sandanistas were democratically elected, a number of times, until the CIA bombed the Nicaraguan populace into submission. And, you said something to the effect of democracy not working all the time, so it isn't a good argument to say we supported governemnts that weren't democratic. This argument does not supported your thesis that we always support freedom and democracy--instead it proves Tom's allegation that we support whoever will benefit us to support, just in different words.
Oh, and us supporting Iraq in order to fight Iran? Well, selling weapons to Iran at the same time--the reason Iran-Contra was such a big deal--seems to undermine that argument as well; and the whole thing about supporting Iraq for democratic reasons doesn't make any sense when we new Saddam Hussein was killing people who disagreed with him and was using nerve gas on Iran at the same time.
It's similar to what we are doing now in Colombia. I work with a guy from Colombia who just moved here a few years ago. His family had to leave Colombia because his father sued the government for corruption he'd found in the way money was being handled, and won. Now, this guy tells me that the FLMN and FARC were both started with good ideals but were corrupted by narco-trafficking, and that the government-sided paramilitary groups who are fighting them are just as bad. Now whose side is the US government on? Well, according to my friend, BOTH. We're selling weapons and armor to the liberal insurgents and the repressive conservative government. How does this support democracy?
First, my apologies for misspelling your name.
I agree with your concerns about monitoring the behavior of your own country. My argument is not, “If they can do it, then we can,” but rather I ask that one look at all the evidence of the period and see, once you are in possession of the full story, whether U.S. policy looks more intelligible and defensible. I think it does.
The U.S. opposed a strategic effort by a foreign power that would have damaged U.S. security and economic interests while making life worse for the region’s inhabitants. Surely that is a worthwhile goal on both counts.
If you think the means the U.S. employed were unjustified, there is room for discussion and I believe valid points can be made. But you need to demonstrate a better understanding of what actually went on before moving to the critical stage.
To say that “…the CIA bombed the Nicaraguan populace into submission” demonstrates gross ignorance of the period and bias in evaluating it. Characterizing the Sandinistas as a democratic government shows that either you have a strange notion of democracy or you simply don’t know much about the Sandinistas' record.
Similarly, anyone who would apply the label “liberal” to the ELN or FARC has a poor understanding of their ideology, to say nothing of their methods. Narco-trafficking is entirely consistent with their “good ideals,” which, however, are sufficiently repulsive without it. The “good ideals” of the FARC have amply demonstrated their value in China, the Soviet “Republics,” Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba, among other earthly paradises. I recommend treating your friend’s political interpretations with some skepticism. His personal experience is interesting. The claim he succeeded suing the government for corruption is also hard to believe. But if true, it says something about the government. You can bet that the FARC would never submit to such a procedure, were they in power (or rather, where they are in power). I would encourage you to talk to as many Colombians as you have the good fortune to meet and ask them all what they think of the FARC and the ELN.
Getting back to the main issue, in a conflict such as the U.S. engaged in, within a region where political violence is characteristic, it was inevitable that atrocities would occur. But failure to engage would have had even worse consequences. We should deplore all atrocities, but I wonder why you are so much less impressed about atrocities committed by the other side, and why you express none of your outrage on the role of those who deliberately caused and fueled the turmoil to which the U.S. responded. The bias you share made it easier for that cause to advance.
As we go forward in this dialogue, ask yourself: Do I have sufficient grasp of the forces and parties in play during that time? Have I critically examined the nature, affiliations and record of the U.S.’s adversaries? Am I scrupulously fair and diligent in the way I consider claims about either side? Do I think I know when I only opine, and do I manage that only from a severely limited and perhaps significantly, if not fatally, biased body of claims?
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