Behind CIA Interventions

Common Courage Press -
Political Literacy Course (email), November 24, 1999


Can the Central Intelligence Agencyís covert attempts to overthrow governments, however misguided those attempts were, be excused as valiant efforts to protect the world from communist subversion? The documentary record amassed in William Blumís "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Intervention Since World War II" suggests a far less principled self-interest. Alternatives to the U.S. system of development--or de-development as the case may be--are seen as rotten apples that must be removed to prevent the rot from spreading. As Margaret Thatcher put it recently, "TINA: There Is No Alternative." Part of the CIA's role is to keep it that way. Hereís a small sample of their efforts.

1. United States government officials labeled the President of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, who had been democratically elected in 1954, a "communist." They accused Arbenz of allowing communists to hold positions within the Guatemalan government. As further proof of Arbenz's communist credentials U.S. officials pointed to Arbenz's land reform programs, which gave arable land to some 100,000 impoverished peasants. These land reforms threatened the extensive land holdings of the United Fruit Company, which pressured the United States to take action against the Guatemalan government. In 1954, with the help of the CIA, a coup from the military ousted Arbenz and replaced his government with a brutal military dictatorship that has lasted for forty years.

2. In 1955, the CIA supported an attempt by Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza to invade Costa Rica and topple President Jose Figueres's government. Figueres had recognized the right to asylum in Costa Rica, making it possible for hundreds of exiles from brutal Latin American right-wing dictatorships to take refuge there. Quite far from being a "communist," Figueres boasted in 1975 that he had worked for the CIA "Öin 20,000 waysÖall over Latin America," for thirty years, including helping the CIA remove the regime of Dominican Republic ruler Rafael Trujillo.

3. In 1958, the CIA attempted to foment a rebellion that would remove Indonesian President Sukarno from power, who at the time was conducting a political balancing act between rightist military forces and the 1 million-member-strong Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Sukarno was targeted by the CIA for refusing to prohibit PKI members from running as candidates in small elections and taking positions in the government.

4. From 1955 to 1970 the CIA attempted to remove Prince Norodom Sihanouk, ruler of Cambodia, from power through several attempted assassinations and failed coups. Sihanouk had angered the United States by criticizing the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO), the U.S.-created political-military alliance of area states to "contain communism." Sihanouk also adopted a neutralist stance amidst the saber-rattling of the Cold War, established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and Poland, and had accepted aid from the People's Republic of China.

These crimes scratch the surface of the known CIA record. For the definitive work Noam Chomsky calls "Far and away the best book on the topic," consult William Blumís "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Intervention Since World War II."

Common Courage Press