Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Aftermath of Soleimani's Assassination and the Darker Side of U.S. Foreign Policy

On January 3, 2020 a U.S. drone took out one of the world's most ruthless terrorist, Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the dreaded Quds Force which is a specialized unit within the elite Revolutionary Guard. General Soleimani wasn't just feared throughout the Middle East. He was equally feared at home in Iran where his Quds Force were responsible for the torture and murder of thousands of ordinary Iranians. Yet, within hours after the announcement of his assassination, tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets in protest of his death. Why?

You would think that death of someone as vile as Solemani would be reason to celebrate. Granted many of the protests were organized by the Iranian government who typically use paid organizers some are actually members of the Revolutionary Guard, YEGUP or the PAVA (internal security and the secret police respectively). They tend to bribe or threaten people into participating. Nevertheless, some of the protestors were legitimately upset by the assassination of a government official, hated though he may be, by the U.S. military.

Frankly, you can't blame them if you think about it. After all, how would the American People feel if a foreign power decided to bump off U.S. officials simply because they didn't like their policies towards their country? I think most Americans would be demanding scalps! What if they had assassinated a senior U.S. government official like the President or Vice President? As soon as we found out who was responsible, God help them. We'd turn the country into an uninhabitable wasteland.

Well, perhaps that's was the thinking of at least some of protesters following Solemani's death. Of course, more recently the protests are in response to the Iranian military shooting down an Ukrainian passenger plane and then blatantly lying about for days until overwhelmed proof exposed their lies. The Iranian government brought the Iranian People a step closer to war with the U.S. which would have lead to the utter destruction of their country and the deaths of millions, all because of a lie.

Here is something we tend to forget about in this country. We've get lied to as well, especially when it comes to U.S. foreign policy (and I'm not talking just about Benghazi, though it's a more recent example). Hell, the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 which got us into a war in Vietnam was based on a lie. Let's remember too that in 1953 the U.S., through the CIA, overthrew a popularly elected government in Iran that it didn't like (that is, U.S. "hawks" and certain powerful corporations).

The result was installing Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, who was far from a benevolent monarch. Thousands in Iran "disappeared" while numerous others were tortured or simply murdered. But nevertheless, the Shah supported an open door policy for U.S. military and economic interests. Of course, that wasn't the only time we overthrew a duly elected government. Actually, it's far from it.

In 1952, the U.S. backed Colonel Fulgencio Batista in overthrowing Carlos Prio Socarras, the popular Cuban president. The government which Basista inherited was rather prosperous by Latin America standards with good schools and medical care, a strong economy with a decent infrastructure and a generally open society. However President Prio was protective of Cuban interests from foreign influences, especially the American mafia and certain corporations which wanted control over key Cuban resources, particularly sugar. Enter Colonel Batista and his American backed military coup.

Under Batista, Cuba became a highly repressed society with very limited freedom of expression. Batista cracked down on anyone he viewed as the threat. Corruption was rampant. The infrastructure broke down, and with it the education and healthcare systems, at least for the ordinary Cubans. For the elites, life was good. In fact, it was very good. Batista ruled over Cuba until 1959 when he was ousted by Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro.

At first it was assumed that Castro's demands for major reforms was just the usual political theatrics and the revolution was nothing more than one corrupt politician replacing another and nothing would change. However, Castro was serious when it came to reform. He threw out the mafia and after various corporations balked at improving their treatment and pay of Cuban workers (like providing health benefits, job safety, and time off), he simply kicked them out and nationalized the businesses. It was the same when it came to land reform where Cubans farmers weren't allow to own land but foreign nationals could! It created a sense of being outcasts in their own country.

It's also worth noting that at no time did Castro ever claim to be a Communist at this point. In fact, he repeatedly denied being a Communist and would often state publicly that he want a democratic government reminiscent of President Prio. After pressure by these "sore butt" corporate presidents (and no doubt the mob), it was decided that Castro had to go.

So, in typically fashion he was vilified and economic sanctions were imposed. Then we backed an invasion and attempted coup of U.S. trained and equipped Cuban rebels. However, this time we failed. It was only after the "Bay of Pigs" fiasco in 1961 that Castro announced that from then on he would be a Communist. Who could blame him? After all, Cuba was a tiny little island nation and it needed a powerful friend, which it found in the USSR to our chagrin. Despite the sanctions, Castro remained in power until 2011.

The U.S. had also supported military strongman, General Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay in his coup, ousting Frederico Chavez, in 1954. Stroessner, who was responsible for deaths of thousands, including native Ache Indians who were also often enslaved, largely due to U.S. and European corporations wanting (and gaining) access to the country's forests, mines and grazing lands which the Ache considered sacred and refused to give up. The enslaved Ache were typically worked to death. Thousands more were imprisoned and upwards of 500 political detainees simply "disappeared". In 1974,the UN condemned the Stroessner Regime of slavery and genocide. Nevertheless, he retained power for 35 years until he too was ousted by a coup.

In 1964, the U.S. sponsored a military coup against Brazilian President Goulart out of fear of another Cuban type revolution. As a result, Field Marshall Castelo Branco seized power (with a detachment of U.S. Marines standing by in San Paulo just in case). Branco's regime, which last over 20 years, resulted in the destabilization of the economy amid vast corruption and the imprisonment, torture, and deaths of thousands of Brazilians.

The similar thing happened in South Korea with the U.S. backed coup led by General Park Chung-Hee in 1961. Thousands of either known or suspected pro-Communists or Leftists were arrested, tortured, and executed. Best estimates put the total over 100,000. Of course, anyone who voiced any opposition was subject to the same fate. In 1963 South Vietnam, the U.S. supported the overthrow and assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem through a U.S. approved military coup led by General Duong Van Minh.

It's not that Ngo was the poster boy of a decent guy. He wasn't. It's just that his policies didn't jive with the interests of American "hawks" or the military/industrial complex which saw an opportunity to push back Communist expansion and make a pretty handsome profit to boot. Duong's military junta and subsequent government proved to be much more "cooperative" than his predecessor's.

On September 11, 1973, the popular and democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, was brutally overthrown by a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. Thousands of "troublemakers", from labor leaders, politicians, educators, activists, and anyone viewed as a potential threat were systematically rounded up and executed. The slightest whisper of discontent could get you arrested and you could "disappear" into one of dozens of secret camps throughout the country. After decades in power, it's believed that at least 50,000 Chileans are known to shared this fate.

In 1976, the U.S. backed another military led coup in Argentina. This time is was to overthrow the widow of President of Juan Peron who was serving as the new president (she was Juan Peron's Vice President). Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla was installed and remained the de facto president until 1981. In 1985, Videla was arrested and put on trial for crimes against humanity. It's estimated that as many as 30,000 Argentines were tortured and murdered. In addition it was learned that he sanctioned infant and child kidnapping while their mothers were held in prison camps (the children were sold). Videla was found guilty and sentenced to 50 years in prison. He died while still in prison in 2013.

In 1968, while publicly supporting the military coup by General Omar Torrijos in Panama, the U.S. began a long and lucrative relationship with his head of intelligence, General Manuel Noriega. While Torrijos was known to be corrupt, he was also known to be quite cooperative with U.S. foreign policy objectives in the region and a willing partner in the selling of Panamanian resources.

Torrijos first began receiving American support during the Nicaraguan Revolution which resulted in the removal of U.S. backed dictator, President Anastasio Somoza in 1973 (he had been installed in power in 1967). As a result, the U.S. needed a new and reliable partner, which they found in Torrijo. This relationship continued until Torrijos was killed in a plane crash in 1981.

Due to the useful relationship with Noriega, he was Torrijos' logical successor. That partnership lasted until 1989 when it was decided that he was no longer reliable. In addition, Noriega had made the cardinal mistake of acting on his own. He was eventually arrested and sent to the U.S. where he was tried and sent off to prison. Nevertheless, between Somoza, Torrijos and Noriega, tens of thousands were arrested, tortured, murdered, or simply made to vanish...all without a word from the U.S. Government.

These individuals, as horrible as they were, aren't meant to represented all of the euphemistically named "regime changes" that the U.S has engaged in, along with active encouragement of the same Oligarchy which now controls our country. Not by any means. Starting with the end of WWII in 1945 somewhere around 57 countries have experienced U.S. sanctioned "regime change"; some on multiple occasions. No telling how many changes of government or policies were impacted indirectly by the mere hint of a "regime change". To many in the world this is what "spreading democracy" looks like to them. How would we feel if the tables were reversed I wonder?

The U.S. isn't alone in coercing change in another country's politics, but it is by far much more active in doing so than its ideological enemies. It is also worth mentioning that overwhelmingly these changes have been in favor of very ruthless military juntas which violently suppressed those very ideals which we hold in the highest esteem. Things like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly including the right to protest, the right to fair and speedy trial as well as the right of knowing what we're accused of and facing our accuser. The right to bear arms or being free from self incrimination as well as the freedom for "cruel and unusual punishment" which originally meant torture.

No doubt the Iranian People are glad that someone like General Soleimani is dead along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who was another blight on the region. Nevertheless the Iranian People remember how the U.S. had previously removed previous government officials they didn't like. Surely they have to wonder whether this assassination was simply an attempt to remove a terrorist or a prelude to an invasion, which the U.S. has been threatening to do since the Hostage Crisis in 1979. Regardless, it should be remembered that we don't have clean hands either.

U.S. involvement in regime change

Mapped: The 7 governments the U.S. has overthrown

How the U.S. Government Has Supported The Deaths Of Hundreds of Thousands

Gulf of Tonkin incident

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