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How the pitbull manages his poodles
W hen U.S. officials declare that there is a dire threat from some hapless small country that they have put on their hit list, their foreign poodles are quickly brought in line and agree that, yes, there is a dire threat as the pitbull has declared, but we must go a bit more slowly perhaps in dealing with it. The hit list is long: Guatemala, Grenada, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, among others. So too is the list of poodles: The the U.S.’s NATO allies, our other client states, Kofi Annan and the UN, and the mainstream media, among others.
Recently the pitbull has declared Saddam Hussein and Iraq a dire threat to U.S. national security, and once again he has bullied and coerced the poodles who needed bullying and coercing into agreeing and setting him up for his planned aggression. But what a familiar process. An interesting and enlightening analogy with the present one of Iraq, is that of Guatemala in the early 1950s.
I n the early 1950s, the U.S. government decided on a “regime change” in Guatemala, and even before the Eisenhower administration had planned Operation Success the sainted Harry Truman had given a go ahead for Operation Fortune, his version of a U.S.-organized violent overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala. As historian Blanche Wiesen Cook pointed out in The Declassified Eisenhower , U.S. hostility to Guatemala began in 1947 when the democratic government “introduced a work code affirming the right of workers to organize and strike.” That hostility escalated when the Arbenz government proposed taking unused land from the United Fruit Company (UFC) at modest compensation rates (those the company had used for tax purposes) for redistribution to landless peasants.
United Fruit had intimate connections to the Eisenhower administration, with the U.S. Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, and his brother, CIA chief Allen Dulles, both having worked on UFC law business, among other linkages. The company also did an outstanding job of press management, although as Thomas McCann, UFC’s public relations man in charge of its “carefully staged and regulated tours,” noted sardonically, “It is difficult to make a convincing case of manipulation of the press when the victims proved so eager for the experience.”
Of course the proclaimed objective of Operation Success was neither protection of UFC nor the desirability of getting rid of a social democratic government that allowed unions—it was the threat of “international communism” and “Soviet expansionism,” the long-time Cold War cover for U.S. interventionism and support of undemocratic governments. It is true that there was an active communist party in Guatemala and it had a minor position in the Arbenz government, but that government didn’t even dare to have diplomatic relations with any communist powers, and the Soviet Union had minimal involvement with Guatemala (Court historian Ronald Schneider, with 50,000 documents seized from communists after the regime change, concluded that the Soviet Union “made no significant or even material investment in Guatemala”). There was no communist control or threat of control. Nevertheless, Eisenhower administration representatives regularly claimed that the Communists had captured Guatemala and they even declared this a case of “Soviet aggression,” whereas their own plans for de facto aggression were “self defense” against a dire threat.
To advance Operation Success, “U.S. officials began a sustained plan of public denunciations of the Arbenz administration” (Piero Gleijeses, Shattered Hope ). The U.S. mainstream media, with the New York Times in the forefront, parroted the Administration’s false claims and featured them relentlessly. The media were greatly agitated over the alleged Red conquest of Guatemala (my favorite title, Sydney Gruson’s “How Communists Won Control of Guatemala,” NYT , March 1, 1953) while entirely ignoring the ongoing active planning for U.S. aggression against Guatemala. “Every American publication within the liberal-conservative arc blithely dismissed the charge that the United States was plotting against Arbenz” (Gleijeses, 262).
Does the pattern sound familiar? Note the progress since 1954, however—in 2002 Bush can openly announce a “plot” to commit aggression against Iraq, and that presents no problem to the media given the advanced demonization process. Under a U.S. arms boycott, and threatened with a U.S. direct and sponsored attack, Guatemala bought some arms from Czechoslavakia, delivered in May 1954. When this was discovered, U.S. officials and media became hysterical at this demonstration of aggressive purpose of this supposed instrument of Soviet imperialism (which would be easily overthrown by a rag-tag U.S.-organized mercenary invasion force from Nicaragua a few months later). This import of arms ended the necessity of carrying out the CIA plan to plant and “capture” arms designed for the sinister leader of Guatemala. “Just a week earlier, the CIA had even started to plant boxes of rifles with conspicuous Soviet markings near Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, and to arrange for their ‘discovery’ by Nicaraguan police who would claim they came from a ‘non-America submarine’ sighted offshore” (Schlesinger and Kinzer, Bitter Fruit ) .
Although with the help of the mainstream media the Administration established a suitable war hysteria at home, it was also felt necessary to mobilize support among the Latin American countries for Operation Success. The Administration therefore planned to press the OAS to include in the Tenth Inter-American Conference, to be held in Caracas, Venezuela in April 1954, an agenda item “Intervention of International Communism in the American Republics.” Most of the OAS members were not happy about holding the meeting in Caracas in the first place, as its leader Perez Jiminez was possibly the most ruthless dictator in Latin America, its jails packed with political prisoners. For that reason Costa Rica refused to attend the conference. But Perez Jiminez was highly regarded by the Eisenhower administration. It gave Jiminez a Legion of Merit award and John Foster Dulles spoke warmly of his regime to Congress: “Venezuela is a country which has adopted the kind of policies which we think the other countries of Latin America should adopt. Namely, they have adopted policies which provide...a climate which is attractive to foreign capital to come in.”
In answer to OAS country objections to Caracas, Gleijeses notes that the State Department “denounced any contrary view as interference in the internal affairs of a sister republic.” The State Department, Congress, and the media were also very deeply concerned with the limits of democracy in Guatemala. Does this rigorous adherence to principle sound familiar?
At the OAS meeting in Caracas the main aim of U.S. Secretary of State Dulles was to get Latin leaders to agree to a condemnation of Guatemala, to set the stage for the already planned regime change. None of the Latin delegations supported Dulles’s campaign, except those of the U.S.-beloved dictatorships of Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Venezuela. Even the New York Times reported that when the Guatemalan Foreign Minister Guillermo Toriello answered Dulles, he got double the applause given the U.S. Secretary of State, and Time magazine quoted another Latin representative as saying, “He said many of the things the rest of us would like to say if we dared.”
But the U.S.’s bribes and threats were successful. It had to accept minor concessions in language, so that the resolution adopted, instead of leaving it vague on what “appropriate action” should be taken in the event that “international communism” triumphed here, made it the basis of “consultation”—the triumph “would call for a meeting of consultation to consider” appropriate actions. Adding hypocrisy to its bullying the United States tacked on to the resolution the high principle that, except for dealing with “dangers originating outside this Hemisphere [the resolution] is designed to protect…the inalienable right of each American state to choose its own form of government.”
The 17-1 vote in favor of the U.S.-sponsored resolution was based on brutal arm twisting. A senior U.S. official acknowledged that Dulles “spared no blandishment to get this Caracas Resolution through.” In Gliejeses’s summation, “Decades of submission and ‘sordid calculations... [based on] the hope of receiving a quid pro quo on economic issues’ ensured the pitiful capitulation.” But one hour after he got his agreement Dulles was flying back to Washington, and “those Latin Americans who had sold Guatemala for the lure of U.S. dollars were robbed of the payment.”
The capitulation of the Latin American poodles set the stage for the U.S.-organized invasion in June 1954. Despite an appeal to the UN for protection against this aggression, the United States succeeded in preventing any useful UN intervention. The democratically elected regime was overthrown by violence, ushering in a long dark age for Guatemala. The New York Times had contended back in 1950 that in its Guatemala policy “the United States is not trying to block social and economic progress but is interested rather in seeing that Guatemala becomes a liberal democracy” (ed., April 8, 1950). This was a propaganda delusion and lie. Guatemala did have a liberal democracy between 1945 and 1954 and it was that democracy that the United States deliberately and knowingly ended. The counterrevolutionary regimes that followed did block social and economic progress, destroyed intermediate groups, outlawed dissent, and ended the possibility of reform by democratic means.
Given the huge inequalities in the Guatemalan system, and with peaceable democratic processes foreclosed, guerilla warfare periodically surfaced and, as Piero Gleijeses observed, “only violence could maintain the status quo.” The United States responded to this, not by insisting on democratization or providing aid that would help those at the bottom, but by increasing aid and training the military and facilitating counterinsurgency war. The military gradually took over control of Guatemala, and Guatemala became perhaps the first “counterinsurgency state.” As Gliejeses has pointed out, “Waves of extreme violence (as in 1966-1968, 1970-1973, and since 1978) alternated with periods of selective repression (as in 1974-77), depending on the degree of pressure from below on the bourgeoisie and the military.” By 1980 the situation had become so terrible that an Amnesty International report was titled “Guatemala: A Government Program of Political Murder.”
The U.S. mass media, however, had lost interest in Guatemala once the “Reds” were ousted, so the U.S. public was not made aware of the fact that the defeat of the Reds in 1954 had been a victory over democracy and reform and that the United States had ushered in, and for many decades aided and protected, a regime of exceptional terror.
Iraq in 2002
O nce again the U.S. is organizing for a regime change. As in 1954, it has grotesquely exaggerated the threat to national security posed by a crushed and virtually disarmed target. But the media play the game, just as they did earlier, taking at face value wild assertions of a huge and real threat, pushing this propaganda theme relentlessly, and pretending that the inspections regime demonstrates the international community’s concerns over this threat, when in fact it is merely an imposition by the pitbull and his Poodle Number One.
The media do not remind the citizenry of the history of that dire Guatemalan “threat” of 1954, nor the hugely undemocratic sequel to that earlier “regime change.” They rarely mention that the pitbull actually helped Iraq acquire “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) in the 1980s when Saddam Hussein was fighting Iran, a U.S. enemy of the moment, and that he and Poodle Number One went to some pains to prevent any international condemnation of Iraq for using chemical weapons in those years. The media also fail to mention or reflect on the fact that Iraq didn’t use such weapons during the Persian Gulf War when the United States would have retaliated.
To mention these things the media would have had to be willing to show the monumental U.S. hypocrisy in this demonization process and claim that Iraq’s possession or use of WMDs poses a serious threat. They would have to recognize that Iraq can’t use them without committing suicide, unless it did so once again against a target approved by the pitbull. This might lead to the further reflection that perhaps the real global problem is the pitbull’s possession of WMDs, which he has used lavishly from Hiroshima to Vietnam to its depleted uranium “dirty” weapons employed in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, and which he is actively readying for use in the future as he prepares to dominate the world by threat and violence.
As in 1954, when the Latin American democratic states and global community were opposed to the U.S.-engineered regime change by aggression, so now the world community is opposed to the planned Iraq war. But as in the earlier case the “international community” has been bullied and coerced into supporting the pitbull: agreeing, although not believing, that Iraq poses a serious threat, and putting the onus for war avoidance on the target. Just as in the 1954 case, by joining the pitbull in severely condemning the targeted victim, the poodles have given him the sanction and moral approval for action.
As in 1954, the targeted state and numerous individuals and groups have appealed to Kofi Annan and the UN to do something to stop the openly announced planned aggression by the pitbull. They have pointed out that the UN was organized to prevent “the scourge of war” by “effective collaborative measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace” (Preamble and Article 1, 1 of the UN Charter) and that the UN Charter condemns unilateral attacks across borders not justified by self-defense. Such attacks constitute aggression, “the supreme international crime,” as noted by the UN representative at the Nuremberg trials, Robert Jackson.
But in the New World Order, as in the old, these rules are only applicable to small countries, and even then only when acceptable to the pitbull. They can never apply to actions of the pitbull. Thus, as he wishes to commit aggression against Iraq, Kofi Annan and the world community agree with him that his aims are noble, his cause just, but that he should go through the proper channels to commit aggression. Hence the new inspection regime, with endless requirements that the target must meet in detail or be subject to attack. In short, it is up to the victim to prevent aggression against itself; it is not the responsibility of the international community to prevent aggression. As Kofi Annan stated on November 25 in Paris, “I hope the government of Iraq will fully cooperate with the inspectors and respect its obligations unreservedly. This is the only way to avoid conflict in the region.”
As in 1954, the pitbull is pledged to “consult,” but he has already announced that he is going to invade Iraq anyway, and he is spending all his energy organizing for war and negotiating who will get what part of the loot from the victim, while some of his poodles inspect and pretend to have brought the pitbull back into the world of civilized behavior. While the similarities to 1954 are great, there are differences, and there has been a Kafkaesque kind of “progress”—in 1954 the UN was simply immobilized by U.S. power, whereas today the UN, after lending its authority to a sanctions regime that has killed over a million Iraqi civilians, is now facilitating a planned U.S. aggression. It is doing this by accepting as legitimate the pitbull’s claim that the crushed Iraq poses a grave threat, and by putting up an inspection regime that will easily give the pitbull his excuse to do what he has already announced he will do anyway: commit aggression against a country that has done him no injury and poses no threat to him.
In his 1956 book, The Fable of the Shark and the Sardines , the first president of Guatemala during the democracy decade, Juan Jose Arevalo, wrote, “Sharks will eat sardines forever and ever. But they should eat them plain, without doctrinal oil, without legal jelly, without the cellophane wrapping paper.” But Arevalo overlooked the fact that, unlike sharks, the pitbull needs that doctrinal oil, legal jelly and cellophane wrapping. Without them how would he be able to give his public and poodles the moral cover they require for the ruthless exercise of power?
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.