United States Interventions (Part II)
by William Blum Since 1945 the United States has carried out extremely serious interventions into more than 70 nations. Part I of this series, published last week, looked at wars and other interventions commenced during the 1940s and '50s. This week the series continues from the Congo to Greece. The Congo/Zaire 1960-65: In June 1960, Patrice Lumumba became the Congo's first Prime Minister after independence from Belgium. But Belgium retained its vast mineral wealth in Katanga province and prominent Eisenhower administration officials had financial ties to the same wealth. Lumumba, at Independence Day ceremonies before a host of foreign dignitaries, called for the nation's economic as well as its political liberation, and recounted a list of injustices against the natives by the white owners of the country. The poor man was obviously a "communist". The poor man was obviously doomed. Eleven days later, Katanga province seceded. In September, Lumumba was dismissed by the President at the instigation of the United States and in January 1961 he was assassinated at the express request of Dwight Eisenhower. There followed several years of civil conflict and chaos and the rise to power of Mobutu Sese Seko, a man not a stranger to the CIA. Mobutu went on to rule the country for more than 30 years, with a level of corruption and cruelty that shocked even his CIA handlers. The Zairian people lived in abject poverty despite the country's plentiful natural wealth, while Mobutu became a multi-billionaire. Brazil 1961-64: President Joao Goulart was guilty of the usual crimes. He took an independent stand in foreign policy, resuming relations with socialist countries and opposing sanctions against Cuba. His administration passed a law limiting the amount of profits multinationals could transmit outside the country; a subsidiary of ITT was nationalised; he promoted economic and social reforms. US Attorney-General Robert Kennedy was uneasy about Goulart allowing "communists" to hold positions in government agencies. Yet the man was no radical. He was a millionaire land-owner and a Catholic. That, however, was not enough to save him. In 1964, he was overthrown in a military coup that had deep, covert American involvement. The official Washington line was ... yes, it's unfortunate that democracy has been overthrown in Brazil ... but, still, the country has been saved from communism. For the next 15 years, all the features of military dictatorship which Latin America has come to know were instituted: Congress was shut down, political opposition was reduced to virtual extinction, habeas corpus for "political crimes" was suspended, criticism of the President was forbidden by law. Trade unions were taken over by government, mounting protests were met by police and military firing into crowds, peasants' homes were burned down, priests were brutalised. Disappearances, death squads, a remarkable degree of depravity, torture ... the government had a name for its program: the "moral rehabilitation" of Brazil. Washington was very pleased. Brazil broke relations with Cuba and became one of the United States' most reliable allies in Latin America. Dominican Republic, 1963-66: In February 1963, Juan Bosch took office as the first democratically elected President of the Dominican Republic since 1924. Here at last was John F Kennedy's liberal anti- communist, to counter the charge that the US supported only military dictatorships. Bosch's government was to be the long sought "showcase of democracy" that would put the lie to Fidel Castro. Bosch was true to his beliefs. He called for land reform; low-rent housing; modest nationalisation of business; and foreign investment provided it was not excessively exploitative of the country. A number of American officials and Congressmen expressed their discomfort with Bosch's plans, as well as his stance of independence from the United States. Land reform and nationalisation are always touchy issues in Washington, the stuff that "creeping socialism" is made of. In several quarters of the US press Bosch was red-baited. In September, the military boots marched. Bosch was out. The United States, which could discourage a military coup in Latin America with a frown, did nothing. Nineteen months later, a revolt broke out which promised to put the exiled Bosch back into power. The United States sent 23,000 troops to help crush it. Cuba 1959 to present: Fidel Castro came to power at the beginning of 1959. A US National Security Council meeting of March 10, 1959 included on its agenda the feasibility of bringing "another government to power in Cuba". There followed 40 years of terrorist attacks, bombings, full-scale military invasion, sanctions, embargoes, isolation, assassinations ... Cuba had carried out The Unforgivable Revolution, a very serious threat of setting a "good example" in Latin America. Indonesia 1965: A complex series of events, involving a supposed coup attempt, a counter-coup, and perhaps a counter-counter-coup, with American fingerprints apparent at various points, resulted in the removal of President Sukarno from power and his replacement by General Suharto. The massacre that began immediately — of communists, communist sympathisers, suspected communists, suspected communist sympathisers, and none of the above — was called by the New York Times "one of the most savage mass slayings of modern political history". The estimates of the number killed in the course of a few years begin at half a million and go above a million. It was later learned that the US Embassy had compiled lists of "communist" operatives, from top echelons down to village cadres, as many as 5,000 names, and turned them over to the army, which then hunted those persons down and killed them. The Americans would then check off the names of those who had been killed or captured. "It really was a big help to the army. They probably killed a lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands", said one US diplomat. "But that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment." Chile, 1964-73: Salvador Allende was the worst possible scenario for a Washington imperialist. He could imagine only one thing worse than a Marxist in power — an elected Marxist in power, who honoured the constitution, and became increasingly popular. This shook the very foundation stones upon which the anti-communist tower was built: the doctrine, painstakingly cultivated for decades, that "communists" can take power only through force and deception, that they can retain that power only through terrorising and brainwashing the population. After sabotaging Allende's electoral endeavour in 1964, the CIA and the rest of the American foreign policy machine failed to do so in 1970, despite their best efforts. Over the next three years they left no stone unturned in their attempt to destabilise the Allende Government, paying particular attention to building up military hostility. Finally, in September 1973, the military overthrew the Government. Allende died in the process. Thus it was that they closed the country to the outside world for a week, while the tanks rolled and the soldiers broke down doors; the stadiums rang with the sounds of execution and the bodies piled up along the streets and floated in the river. The torture centres opened for business; subversive books were thrown to the bonfires; soldiers slit the trouser legs of women, shouting that "In Chile women wear dresses!"; the poor returned to their natural state; and the men of the world in Washington and in the halls of international finance opened up their cheque-books. In the end, more than 3,000 had been executed, thousands more tortured or disappeared. Greece 1964-74: The military coup took place in April 1967, just two days before the campaign for national elections was to begin, elections which appeared certain to bring the veteran liberal leader George Papandreou back as Prime Minister. Papandreou had been elected in February 1964 with the only outright majority in the history of modern Greek elections. The successful machinations to unseat him had begun immediately, a joint effort of the Royal Court, the Greek military, and the American military and CIA stationed in Greece. The 1967 coup was followed immediately by the traditional martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, torture, and killings, the victims totaling some 8,000 in the first month. This was accompanied by the equally traditional declaration that this was all being done to save the nation from a "communist takeover". Corrupting and subversive influences in Greek life were to be removed. Among these were miniskirts, long hair, and foreign newspapers; church attendance for the young would be compulsory. However, it was torture, usually in the most gruesome of ways, often with equipment supplied by the United States, which most indelibly marked the seven-year Greek nightmare. James Becket, an American attorney sent to Greece by Amnesty International, wrote in December 1969: "Hundreds of prisoners have listened to the little speech given by Inspector Basil Lambrou, who sits behind his desk which displays the red, white, and blue clasped-hand symbol of American aid. "He tries to show the prisoner the absolute futility of resistance: `You make yourself ridiculous by thinking you can do anything. The world is divided in two. There are the communists on that side and on this side the free world. The Russians and the Americans, no one else. What are we? Americans. Behind me there is the government, behind the government is NATO, behind NATO is the US. You can't fight us, we are Americans.'"
* * *NEXT WEEK: East Timor and Nicaragua to Iraq and Yugoslavia.