This diary was inspired by arguments from three commentators last week. First, we had Ductape Fatwa’s controversial diary about the inability to reason with Americans. Then there were the comments from BooMan culminating in his diary extolling the virtues of American exceptionalism. And finally, SallyCat’s diary rejecting invective and calling for fact. I would note that SallyCat’s diary appeared to flow naturally from the earlier comments put forward by MilitaryTracy.
I did not agree totally with any of the diarists above. I believe Ductape is right about U.S. foreign policy, but also agree that a significant portion of the American public is in fact reasonable – though I believe we are deliberately misinformed by our media and government. I reject completely the idea that the U.S. is or has any right to be “exceptional.” And to the extent that SallyCat’s diary can be seen as a rebuke to Ductape Fatwa as an example of a writer employing “hateful rhetoric,” I disagree. Though I admired the call for more facts and less rhetoric. Which is why I spent some time this weekend on this project.
I set out to compile a basic outline of some of the troubling aspects of U.S. foreign policy. I just wanted a list of incidents and operations which might show, factually, the kind of country the U.S. has become in the last sixty years. Obviously this list of acts does not represent the good will of many of us who have lived over those decades. But it is our country’s legacy nonetheless.
The resulting list is not wholly coherent. I’ve made it as chronological as I could. It is woefully incomplete. But I think if you weave the threads of fact together, you can begin to see a relatively clear picture. You might quibble with the factual accuracy of any given item. I used Wikipedia as a primary source. So I would defer to those wiser on any given subject. But many of the “facts” below seem to be relatively uncontroversial. And I do not believe you can wash away the entire list as not being “reality based.” The list stands. And it is an incomplete record of our actions since World War II.
I’ve not included every American act. I believe someone trying to defend America as an exceptional example of virtue, or right, or decency, could compile another list. One listing out our good acts. And it would be impressive. But to me, in its totality, this list represents a single conclusion. U.S. foreign policy is very willing to disregard human life and law, so long as the interests of the sitting government are at stake. And if you equate these same actions with a human being, it would be hard not to call this person a murderous bandit willing to kill in his own interest.
When I look at the list, I see a giant battle between corporate-fascists (I’m afraid that is my conclusion of our interests) and leftist movements (the Soviets, Chinese, Cubans). If I extend the list into the future, I see that it might evolve to a battle between corporate-fascists and terrorists. But I imagine the list will look very much the same.
There are also idiosyncracies on the list that do not fit with my own pet theory. There are intelligence programs aimed at surveillance that I included because I found them interesting, and supportive of the notion that we do live in a fascist state to some extent. And there are battles undertaken for humanitarian aims. I would have a hard time second guessing these individual battles if they stood on their own. But in the context of the list of our actions, they are not the rule.
This is what I found in a weekend of very interesting reading.
Operations Overcast and Paperclip
An operation by U.S. military and intelligence agencies in the 1940s and 1950s that illegally brought ineligible Nazi war criminals to the United States to work on the missile and space industry.
A CIA propaganda operation from the 1940s through the 1970s, employing thousands of journalists and exercising influence over dozens of media outlets, in an effort to control media information for CIA interests. An example of their work – lessening domestic coverage of the CIA-assisted coups in Iran and Guatemala.
A joint CIA/NATO operation to create a paramilitary structure across Europe. The structure operated from the 1940s through the 1980s. It was built using manpower from former Nazi and fascist elements. Its initial design was to act as an anti-Communist resistance force in case of a Soviet invasion. But the right-wing paramilitary forces were frequently linked to violent acts of subversion aimed at controlling and discrediting popular left-wing movements.
A FBI counter-intelligence program in the 1950s through the 1970s to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize perceived threats to the political status quo. These “threats” included antiwar, community, and religious groups. While some of the groups targeted advocated violent means to change America (the Klan and the Weather Underground), COINTELPRO went well outside bounds of acceptability. Here is a quote from the Church Committee that I can’t resist including: “Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that…the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.”
The Korean War
The U.S. fights a proxy war on the Korean peninsula. Korea is divided following World War II. The Soviets set up a Communist government in the North. The U.S. sets up a Capitalist government in the South. The North, with Soviet backing and approval, invades in 1950. The U.S. enters the war with the U.N. (through unusual circumstances, the Soviet and Chinese votes on the security council are not there to veto the effort). The Soviets participate in the air war, and the Chinese enter the war after the U.S. fails to heed the Chinese warning not to re-invade above the 38th parallel. Over two million Koreans die. A cease-fire was declared in 1953. Eight-hundred and fifty thousand or more South Korean civilians are dead. Over eleven percent of the North Korean population – more than a million people – are dead (civilian figures not immediately at my fingertips). Over one-hundred thousand Chinese and fifty-thousand Americans are dead. The country remains divided near the same border drawn by the Soviets and the U.S. following WWII.
Overthrow of Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh
The CIA orchestrated the ouster of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. This ouster was accomplished in order to secure Iranian oil supplies, and out of the fear that Mossadegh was turning toward better relations with the Soviet Union.
Attempted Coup of Indonesia’s Sukarno
The CIA provided support for a military coup aimed at the ouster of Indonesian President Sukarno in 1956. Sukarno survived the coup, but an American pilot was shot down and captured, providing proof of American involvement.
A CIA research program on mind-control and interrogation in the 1960s and 1970s. This shit is almost too bizarre to believe really. But it happened. Severely unethical treatment of sometimes unsuspecting people with LSD is an example. And then there were intravenous drug cocktails that were sometimes lethal. Justified by the need to control minds and to become the masters of interrogation.
A domestic CIA operation that illegally tracked the anti-war movement in the 1960s and 70s. The operation tracked 13,000 individuals and over 1,000 organizations opposed to the war in Vietnam, and employed such tactics as secret burglaries to collect information.
Assassination of Congo’s Patrice Lumumba
The CIA had planned the quiet assassination of the Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Ministers Patrice Lumumba by the use of poisoned tooth paste on orders from President Eisenhower in 1961. This plan was abandoned by a CIA station chief with a conscience. The anti-colonialist leader’s crime – we believed he was a Communist. Lumumba’s reprieve was short lived. He was ousted in a coup and executed under the care of Belgian forces. The Belgian’s had the decency to formally apologize for their conduct when it was exposed.
Assassination of the Domincan Republic’s Rafael Leónidas Trujillo
The CIA assisted in the assassination of the President of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, in 1961. They provided the guns and wanted him dead because his government was too reactionary.
This operation has been denied by the CIA. And the documents in question have been called fakes by a Swedish diplomat. But I’ll just put forward the facts as I’m able to find them. The reality of what happened here is certainly beyond my full understanding.
Some evidence exists suggesting that the CIA was involved in an assassination of the second Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold. The evidence, a letter in the archives of South African intelligence agencies, was uncovered by Bishop Desmond Tutu during the truth commission investigations following apartheid. He shared it with the world. The letter suggests that Hammarskjold was becoming problematic to British and U.S. interests, and that he was killed in 1961 by a small-explosive planted in the wheel of his aircraft while on a mission in Africa. I did not spend time trying to debunk the South African intelligence documents. Perhaps they have been thoroughly discredited.
Attempted Assassination of Iraq’s Abdul Karim Qassim
The CIA was involved in an assassination attempt against the Prime Minister of Iraq in 1963 because of the Qassim’s perceived communist tendencies and his assertion of state control of Iraq’s oil.
Coup and Assassination of South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem
Ngo Dinh Diem was the first President of the Republic of Vietnam. His rule was supported by the United States. When he proved to be a little too gung-ho in his anti-communist pursuits, the United States withdrew support. The U.S. gave assurances that a planned coup d’etat would could proceed unhindered. Diem was overthrown and executed on November 2, 1963. When Kennedy was shot twenty days later, some Vietnamese believed Diem’s ghost was responsible, as Kennedy had approved Diem’s assassination. Diem’s wife was visiting the U.S. when she learned of the coup. She immediately pinned responsibility on the U.S., saying that, “Whoever has the Americans as allies does not need enemies.” She predicted a dark future for the U.S. in Vietnam.
The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War started as a civil war between the Communists and Capitalists. Following the end of French imperial rule, the Communists were established in the North, and the Capitalists were established in the South. The county soon fell into a second proxy war with the Chinese and Soviets supporting the North and the United States supporting the South. U.S. troops are committed in force between 1964 and 1973. Estimating the death toll is an inexact science. A range from 1.5 million to perhaps 6 million Vietnamese killed is a good estimate. As many as 4 million civilians. 58,000 U.S. troops died. Siagon fell in 1975, and the U.S. has now normalized relations with the communist government in Vietnam.
U.S. Military Intervention in the Dominican Republic
Following the CIA assisted Trujillo assassination in 1961, the CIA then orchestrated a coup against democratically elected President Juan Bosch. Bosch was too leftist. In 1965 Francisco Caamaño helped lead an armed resistance against a right-wing military government, in a armed effort to restore a constitutional government to the Dominican Republic. President Lyndon Johnson ordered in U.S. military troops to thwart the effort because the U.S. did not want another left-wing Cuba in the hemisphere.
The Cuban Project
A covert CIA campaign in 1961 and 1962 to destabilize and overthrow the Communist government of Cuba and replace it with a government more friendly to U.S. interests. The plans included assassinations, sabotage, propaganda and the arming and training of paramilitary forces. The plan also included a “false-flag” operation called Operation Northwoods, where false terrorist attacks would be carried out against the U.S. in order to justify a military operation in Cuba. Fortunately this plan was rejected at the highest levels (by Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara or the President – or someone on this level).
A conspiracy between fascist forces in the countries of cone of South America, which assassinated, executed and imprisoned left-leaning (and other unpopular) leaders, thinkers and writers in the 1970s and 1980s. Documents released eventually confirm U.S. participation in the planning and communication of the oppressive factions. Henny Kissenger is repeatedly sought for questioning by various instruments of international law, but is able to evade ever answering questions on the record. Though his travel plans certainly appear to have been complicated, as one might expect for and international outlaw.
U.S. Intervention Against Chilean President Salvador Allende
The U.S. tried to oust Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1970-71. Allende was a socialist who moved quickly to nationalize Chile’s resources. The known U.S. moves to oust Allende included political manipulation and force. Allende was ultimately ousted in 1973 by a military coup. The U.S. was certainly aware of the coup and did everything in its power to create the conditions allowing the coups success, but direct U.S. involvement is not a settled point. Allende was killed or committed suicide, to be replaced American-ally and dictator Augusto Pinochet.
The Assassination of Omar Torrijos
Torrijos was the military dictator of Panama from 1968 to 1981. He continued on in a role as the leader of the National Guard while his successor Aristides Royo served as a figurehead president. Torrijos’s plane crashed in 1981. Some evidence has emerged to indicate his plane was blown up by the CIA, to squelch a joint Panamanian-Japanese canal in Panama.
The U.S. Invasion of Grenada
In 1983 the U.S. invaded the British Commonwealth of Grenada. A coup in Grenada’s leadership had led from a Marxist government to an ultra-Marxist government. Claiming the need to protect American medical students, the United States invaded over the objections of the British. Over 100 Grenadans and Cubans died, including 45 civilians. Nineteen U.S. service members were killed. A more acceptable government took power and the U.S. withdrew. Grenada continues to operate a medical school.
The Contra War
The United States violated international law by supporting the Contra insurgency against the legitimate government of Nicaragua. The International Court of Justice found the United States responsible for training and equipping a guerilla force, for U.S. acts of aggression, for mining Nicaragua’s harbors, and for an illegal trade embargo. The U.S. was ordered to pay reparations, and the U.N. general assembly voted nearly unanimously to enforce the order. The only three votes against payment of the reparations were the U.S., Israel and El Salvador. Needless to say, the Nicaraguan government targeted by the U.S. was leftist.
The U.S. Invasion of Panama
The U.S. unilaterally invaded Panama in 1989. The stated reasons for the invasion were protection of U.S. citizens, restoration of democracy and human rights, combating drug trafficking, and defense of the Panama Canal treaties. Much of the world found these justifications questionable because the CIA had supported ruling Panamanian military strongman Manuel Noriega for decades. 27,000 U.S. forces and 300 aircraft were used against 3,000 Panamanian defenders. Twenty-three U.S. soldiers were killed and over 300 were wounded. It is estimated that three to four thousand Panamanian civilians were killed. The U.S. invasion was rebuked by the Organization of American States and the United Nations General Assembly. The U.S., Britain and France vetoed a security council resolution condemning the invasion. Manuel Noriega was apprehended and convicted of drug offenses in the U.S.
The Pentagon’s Joint Combined Exchange Training program allows uses of U.S. Special Operations Forces in foreign countries on training missions, advancing “dubious foreign policy goals” and resulting in “justified criticism for the human rights violations of some of the foreign troops trained.” This has effectively created a foreign policy arm at the Department of Defense which operates as a militant and unofficial diplomacy, at odds with official U.S. policy. It began in the 1990s and continued into this decade. I don’t know if it is still operational.
The Battle of Mogadishu
U.S. forces sent to help in the delivering of food aid began operations to capture or eliminate Somali factional-leader Mohammed Farah Aidid. On July 12, 1993, the U.S. military launched an attack on a safe-house where they thought Aidid supporters were meeting. In reality, the Americans had attacked a meeting of clan elders that were discussing peaceful resolution of an ongoing situation, and the possible replacement of Aidid as the clan leader. Sixteeen missiles later, 50 of the most respected elders in the clan were dead, unifying clan opposition to the U.N./U.S. presence. Operations to interdict Aidid continued. On October 3, 1993, U.S. two U.S. helicopters involved in an operation to seize Aidid supporters were shot down. On October 4, 1993, a ground force was sent in to retrieve the downed soldiers. Eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed. Seventy-nine were wounded. The Somali death toll was estimated at between 500 and 2,000, a mixture of militia and civilians.
The Kosovo War
In 1999, NATO began a unilateral military bombardment against Serbia. The war was precipitated by ethnic divisions and violence in the Yugoslavian/Serb province of Kosovo. Serbian forces were killing and evicting ethnic Albanians from the province. Ethnic Albanians were battling back with “terrorist” attacks by the banner of the CIA assisted Kosovo Liberation Army. NATO justified the attack on humanitarian grounds, accusing the Serbs of ethnic cleansing. Humanitarian grounds can justify an attack under the U.N. Charter, but the U.N. did not authorize use of military force. During the war, NATO planes flew 38,000 combat missions. There were between 500 and 5,700 civilian casualties. One to five thousand Serbian soldiers were killed, compared with only two U.S. deaths. An estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed by Serb forces after the start of the air campaign. NATO bombers took out bridges, power plants, a television station, and the Chinese embassy during the bombing. Some evidence suggests that the attack on the Chinese embassy was a planned strike. NATO bombers also eliminated hundreds of state-run Serbian factories, but almost no commercially owned businesses were targeted.
The Second Iraq War
The ugliness and illegality of this ongoing war needs no explanation or link for this audience, in my opinion.