Overthrowing elected governments is the most extreme form of interference in election results.
Hypocrisy seems to be as much a part of American life as apple pie or Thanksgiving. And hypocrisy is prominent once again in the reactions of Americans, especially the political class, to the FBI.’s investigation into Russian interference in the most essential feature of our democratic system — free elections.
Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed Russian hacking into computer files related to the presidential election of 2016. I abhor Russian interference in our elections as much as any American (with the exclusion of President Donald Trump and his minions, who won’t forthrightly acknowledge that it occurred), but I cannot forget how our beloved country has interfered in the free elections of numerous other countries over the years.
It was refreshing to see history brought to life in the comic strip ‘Candorville.’
While it did not take a comic strip to remind me of this fact, it was refreshing to see history brought to life in “Candorville,” a week or so ago. The main character, Lemont, has gone to Russia to do some reporting and has encountered a Russian intelligence agent who reminds Lemont that the U.S. has some interference in the elections of other countries to account for:
…1953 overthrow of Iran’s Mossadegh; 1954 overthrow of Guatemala’s Arbenz; 1960 overthrow of Congolese Prime Minister Lumumba; 1964 overthrow of Brazil’s Goulart; 1973 coup in Chile.
It is milder interference to do what the Russians did last year — expose private emails that were embarrassing to one candidate in the election. Overthrowing entire elected governments has to be seen as the most extreme form of interference in an election result.
But Candorville (probably due to limited space) only scratched the surface of U.S. interference in the governance of other countries. An article in the Washington Post discussed this interference last December, pointing to 72 such instances between 1947 and 1989.
As the Post reported,
…26 of the United States’ covert operations successfully brought a U.S.-backed government to power; the remaining 40 failed. … Similarly, covert actions to support militant groups trying to topple a foreign regime nearly always failed. Of 36 attempts, only five overthrew their targets. Sponsoring coups was more successful: nine out of 14 attempted coups put the U.S.-backed leaders in power.
But it wasn’t just during the Cold War that the U.S, tried to intervene in the electoral processes of other countries, however inadequate the interventions may have been.
The war against Iraq was completely unjustified and a war crime.
Most people aged 30 and over should remember America’s overthrow of the leaders of Afghanistan and Iraq. While starting a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan may have some cachet for most Americans, the war against Iraq was completely unjustified and a war crime under international standards to which we claim adherence.
Somewhat buried in the murkiness of U.S. foreign policy is the military overthrow of Honduras’s Manuel Zelaya in 2009. The then-secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, refused to categorize the military coup for what it plainly was. Had she done so, under our laws, we would have been required to suspend U.S. aid to Honduras, including aid to its armed forces. Clinton chose to support new elections, rather than call for Zelaya’s reinstatement. All forms of U.S. assistance continued as dissidents were treated brutally, death squads renewed their deadly terror against those same dissidents, violence surged against people in the LGBT community, and widely boycotted and unfair (as well as illegal) new elections took place.
With this history, I have heard no politicians or members of our 17 intelligence agencies touch on the subject, not even on that supposed bastion of liberalism, MSNBC. As a result, no one has discussed the futility or immorality of these actions and their continuation.
Russian interference in U.S. elections is clearly alarming, but this is where hypocrisy rears its ignominious head, revealing a double standard at work. It seems that meddling in the elections or their results in foreign countries is a problem only when the U.S. is the country meddled with.
Behind this meddling is a more
deeply ingrained ethos.
Behind this meddling is a more deeply ingrained ethos. The people of the United States have become, in large part, adherents of both imperialism and a view of exceptionalism which holds that the U.S. has the right to tell the world what to do in the name of furthering democracy and American interests. What this view actually furthers is economic dominance through military might.
We saw it first in how we treated the indigenous population that had lived on this continent for about 12,000 years before Europeans began their exploitation. The Europeans wanted land and its natural resources, so they took them, sometimes in fair or unfair bargains, but more often through force. Our country, born in imperialism, seems unable to rid itself of this natal deformity. It has come to dominate our history since the end of the second world war, though it was apparent in the Spanish American War, in which the U.S. gained the territories of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
Gore Vidal, emphasizing the modern era of imperialism, noted that “the [American] Republic ended in 1950. Since then we have had an imperial system.” His research shows that since 1950 the U.S. has engaged in at least 300 wars around the globe without seeking the approval of Congress, supposedly a constitutional requirement. Most of these wars were undertaken to correct some U.S.-perceived leadership deficiency in the affected countries.
We give ourselves total license to interfere in the leadership of other countries, but scream as loudly as a Massive Ordnance Air Blast when we are the victims of meddling (once again, with the exception of our current president). We lose standing in the world when we don’t admit our hypocrisy, but more important, we must own up to this 70-year-long disaster of U.S. foreign policy if it is ever to change and we are to establish relations with the rest of the world on a fair and equitable foundation.
[Rag Blog columnist Lamar W. Hankins, a former San Marcos, Texas, City Attorney, also blogs at Texas Freethought Journal. This article © Texas Freethought Journal, Lamar W. Hankins.]
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