Imperialists in Democratic Clothing
by Ken Sanders
Politics of Dissent, October 07,
With his ratings in the tank and desperately
in need of a boost, not to mention a distraction from the sudden
impotence of his administration, this week President Bush fell
back on what worked so successfully for him in the past: fostering
fear and promoting war.
Originally scheduled to mark the anniversary
of 9/11, but postponed so that Bush and his cronies could ignore
Hurricane Katrina, Bush delivered his latest pro-war screed to
the ludicrously misnamed National Endowment for Democracy. A government-funded,
semi-private organization (which happens to be free of Congressional
oversight), the NED is a darling of the neo-conservatives and
shares membership with the Project for a New American Century.
Created by Reagan in the 1980s, ostensibly to promote "free
market democracies" through "the magic of the marketplace,"
the NED's interests and practices are anything but democratic.
As can be gleaned from its stated goals, the NED's notion of "democracies"
are countries friendly to U.S. corporate interests. If a country
isn't "democratic" enough already, the NED uses U.S.
taxpayer money to subversively fund and instigate regime change.
Examples abound of the NED's fondness
for interfering with the elections and democratic processes (however
imperfect) of other nations. In the 1980s, the NED funded militaristic
and dictatorial candidates in Panama, as well as opposition candidates
in such stable democracies as Costa Rica (the opposition candidate
in Costa Rica also had the endorsement of that champion of democracy,
Manuel Noriega). In the 1990 elections in Haiti, the NED provided
significant funding to former World Bank official Marc Bazin in
a failed attempt to oust the leftist Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Bazin,
seen by most Haitians as a "front man for military and business
interests," received only 12% of the vote. Displeased with
that result, the NED funded anti-Aristide groups, culminating
in the violent political instability in Haiti that left dozens
dead and ultimately resulted in Aristide's exile.
In the 1990s, the NED supported Skender
Gjinushi, speaker of the Albanian parliament and former member
of the Stalinist Politburo in Albania. Gjinushi was a principle
organizer of the unrest that led to the 1997 fall of the democratic
government in Albania, not to mention the death of over 2,000
people. In Slovakia, the NED funded several initiatives that ultimately
resulted in the defeat of Slovakia's freely-elected government.
The NED-backed "reformers" who took over in Slovakia
were largely leading officials in the Communist regime of then-Czechoslovakia.
Additionally, and most notoriously, backed
and funded the aborted coup against Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez in 2002. Determined to install a pro-U.S. leader in Venezuela,
the NED funded a subsequent recall referendum and then forged
exit polls declaring Chavez' defeat. Venezuela, like Iraq, possesses
huge oil reserves estimated at 78 billion barrels, making it the
world's seventh largest oil resource. Chavez, however, is staunchly
anti-American and even publicly called Bush an "asshole."
The NED's motivation to "democratize" Venezuela should
be abundantly clear.
Regardless of how one feels about Chavez
or Aristide or any other leader or government of a sovereign nation,
it is antithetical to the principles of democracy to interfere
with and influence the election processes of other nations. It
is particularly appalling when the goal is not to foster democracy
so much as to further enrich U.S. corporations.
At any rate, speaking before the NED,
Bush preached to the converted his sermon of a never-ending and
self-perpetuating war on terror. Invoking a romanticized vision
of the 9/11 attacks ("... a proud city covered in smoke and
ashes ... a fire across the Potomac ... passengers who spent their
final moments on Earth fighting the enemy"), Bush once again
pimped the war in Iraq as a glorious exercise, necessary for making
America safe from the scourge of terrorism.
A nice thought, but completely without
foundation. Aside from the fraudulence of Bush once again tying
Iraq to 9/11, it was utterly false for Bush to claim that the
invasion of Iraq was ever necessary for protecting America's national
security. In fact, all indications are that our glorious invasion
and subsequent occupation of Iraq have only managed to increase
the threat of terrorism, not only to the U.S., but to the rest
of the world, as well. By invading and occupying Iraq, the U.S.
has managed to radicalize the Arab and Muslim worlds to join the
terrorist cause. As revealed by a recent report by the Center
for Strategic and International Studies, the occupation of an
Arab nation by non-Arabs has radicalized hundreds of previously
non-militant Saudis, prompting them to join the anti-American
insurgency in Iraq. In other words, in direct contradiction to
Bush's claim that "[t]he hatred of the radicals existed before
Iraq was an issue," the invasion and occupation of Iraq has
converted non-militant Muslims to jihad and terrorism.
Bush attempted to refute this fact by
reminding those who believe "that our presence in [Iraq]
has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals," that
"we were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and Al Qaeda
attacked us anyway." Touche'.
That's right. We weren't "in Iraq"
when Al Qaeda attacked on 9/11. We were, however, starving Iraqis
through sanctions, and had been for a decade. Additionally, while
we weren't "in" Iraq, we were "in" Saudi Arabia,
which we now know was particularly offensive to Osama bin Laden
and a primary motivation for the 9/11 attacks. In addition to
U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden and other Muslims
deeply resented the U.S. for staging a proxy war against the Soviets
in Afghanistan, relying almost exclusively on Muslims to do its
fighting, and then abruptly abandoning Afghanistan and its "freedom
fighters" once their purpose had been served. Thus, Bush
is correct: terrorists' hatred of the U.S. did not begin with
Iraq. It merely grew.
In a similar vein, Bush argued that "Russia
did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom, and yet militants killed
more than 180 Russian school children in Beslan." While Bush's
facts may be right, his logic is specious. The horrible events
in Beslan were carried out by Chechen terrorists as part of their
war against Russian occupation of oil-rich Chechnya. Thus, while
the atrocities in Beslan had nothing to do with Iraq, they also
did not occur in a vacuum.
What was most notable about Bush's speech
to the NED was his tacit admission that his so-called war on terror
is really a war for imperial dominance. Bush accused the terrorists
of seeking to "overthrow all moderate governments in the
region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from
Spain to Indonesia." Is that not precisely what the U.S.
seeks and has long sought to accomplish both overtly through force
and surreptitiously through groups like the NED? Does not the
U.S. seek to establish a military-corporate empire that spans
How else to explain the hundreds of U.S.
military installations around the world? How else to explain subversive
groups like the NED, which deliberately interfere in other countries'
affairs with the goal of creating regimes friendly to U.S. business
interests? What other explanation is there for orchestrating coups
in oil-rich countries like Iran (successful) and Venezuela (unsuccessful)?
What other explanation can there be for installing and/or supporting
tyrannical regimes in Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, El Salvador,
Guatemala, and Chile (to name but a few)? What other reason is
there for the invasion and occupation of a nation that never did
the U.S. any harm and had absolutely no proven ability to do so?
Why? Whether anyone really wants to admit
it, the U.S. has committed and continues to commit such irrefutably
undemocratic acts to establish and protect its hegemony. Its empire.
How appropriate, then, that Bush celebrated his Iraqi venture
before a crowd of like-minded champions of "free market democracies."
How appropriate, considering that both the speaker and his audience
advocate spreading "democracy," but only through such
undemocratic means as war, coups, and illicit influence.
Ken Sanders is a writer in Tucson whose
publishing credits include Op Ed News, Z Magazine, Common Dreams,
Democratic Underground, Dissident Voice, and Political Affairs
Magazine, among others.
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