By Vexen Crabtree 2003
“The United States has been guilty of supporting obnoxious regimes for its own selfish purposes, notably in Latin America, the Middle-East and South-East Asia.”
Heater and Berridge examine some of the occasions where the USA's military intervention has been for commercial purposes, to protect American interests such as oil or to forcefully open up new markets. The USA may also intervene for genuine concern about human rights and democracy. During the cold war the USA supported any anti-communist regime (however brutal or tyrannical) if it was capable of fighting the Communists. Such groups included the fighters and leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The USA intervenes in one of two ways:
Sometimes the USA can play an absolutely essential role in forcefully keeping a legitimate government in power when it is threatened. For example in World War Two the USA joined the allies and helped repel occupying German forces from Europe. The USA is often a savior and a saint, supporting valid democracy across the globe.
But sometimes the tactic of supporting a regime goes terribly wrong. When it does go terribly wrong it is often the civilians and innocent population that suffer, causing widespread resentment and hatred of the USA for its intervention. In some countries, the only knowledge they have of the USA is of failed interventionism and (seemingly) tyrannical imperialism. This has occurred especially in the Middle East.
“The litany of U.S. connections with Islamic militants during the Bosnian war (1992-95) is long and disheartening. The US actively supported the Muslim-led government of Bosnia-Herzegovina in its fight against Bosnian Serbs and Croats. [...]
Furthermore, the U.S. had allowed Iran to gain influence in Bosnia and Croatia by knowingly allowing Teheran to ship weapons to both regimes in direct violation of the UN arms embargo in 1994-95. After the war, millions of American taxpayer dollars paid for new equipment and weapons for the Bosnian Muslim Army, [..]
During NATO's assault in 1999, Belgrade made serious allegations that the KLA was connected to bin Laden's terrorist network and the muhajedeen movement in general, but the US was not willing to listen. Now these allegations are confirmed by none other than the CIA [...]
The US government has not only known about this all along, but has enlisted the terrorists as a useful weapon against the Serbs, and recently the Macedonians as well.”
“We abhor terrorism - unless we're the ones doing the terrorizing. We paid and trained and armed a group of terrorists in Nicaragua in the 1980s who killed over 30,000 civilians. That was OUR work. You and me. Thirty thousand murdered civilians and who the hell even remembers!”
Michael Moore (2001)3
“We fund a lot of oppressive regimes that have killed a lot of innocent people, and we never let the human suffering THAT causes to interrupt our day one single bit.
We have orphaned so many children, tens of thousands around the world, with our taxpayer-funded terrorism (in Chile, in Vietnam, in Gaza, in Salvador) that I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised when those orphans grow up and are a little whacked in the head from the horror we have helped cause.”
Michael Moore (2001)3
“During the 1970s the United States built up Iran as a regional power. American motives were the need to stem Soviet influence in the area and to ensure a supply of oil. After the overthrow of the Shah in the 1979 revolution, the United States began to cultivate Iraq, a long-standing Soviet client and leading rival of Iran, instead. Iraq and Iran then fought a bitter eight-year war.”
The 1979 Iranian revolution overthrew the American "puppet" Shah government in Iran. Building up to this, the populace of the country had grown increasingly hostile to the American influence on their rulers, to the "immoral" and foreign cultural elements that were being introduced into their country. The revolution was strongly anti-American, and the government that replaced the Shah was a strong Islamic Fundamentalist government. Note that before this event, the USA had increasingly been dominating the people with a government they didn't want - democracy, in Iran, was certainly not on the USAs list of priorities. The result was a backlash that equalled a civil war.
“It can, indeed, be argued that the main political content of the ideology was similar to that of other Third World populist movements, not least in its hostility to the corruption of foreign influences at the cultural level, and in the deligitimisation of the Shah as being dependent on the USA and tied to Israel.”
This lead to the USA instead pouring military support and finance into Saddam Hussein's rule of Iraq. This government had a terrible human rights record from beginning to end, it was corrupt, tyrannical and oppressive. It was easily manipulated by American wealth. However, Iraq, too, became increasingly anti-American. By 1990, the USA became fearful of Saddam Hussein's growing power and "attempted to destroy his military might in the second gulf war of 1991, and set about bolstering Saudi Arabia in turn as the regional power"4.
“In the months following the second Gulf war the American administration pumped over 800 million dollars' worth of sophisticated military equipment into Saudi Arabia in order that she might perform this function.”
The government of Saudi Arabia, which also has an appalling human rights record, has not yet followed the same pattern as Iran and Iraq. So although not a victory for democracy or freedom (the House of Saud has never been big on freedom), it has certainly been a victory for USA perseverance.
Despite the consistent trend that USA support of a government, for economic or military purposes, breeds contempt amongst the populace who can only be kept in the dark for so long, and who always resent their government being effectively bribed. Despite this,
“[The USA went on] in Cuba to support Flgercio Batista and create Fidel Castro; in Vietnam to support Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngugen Van Theiu and end up with Ho Chi Minh and his successors; in Iran to support the Shah and find itself opposed by Ayatollah Khomeini. By taking a militant [...] position, the United States has repeatedly found itself on the side of the oppressors and against the people, or, in other words, against local nationalism.
Paradoxically [...] is seems that the more strenuous are America's efforts to restrain insurrection abroad, the less likely are democratic institutions to flourish.”
The more influence the USA has and the more pressure it exerts, the stronger the backlash is against the foreign influence, and the less democratic the replacement government that is created in response! From this, we can only conclude that very frequently the USA does not understand foreign people or their nationalism. Despite the USA being a patriotic country, it appears to underestimate the power of patriotism in other countries.
“It was the Americans, after all, who poured resources into the 1980s war against the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul, at a time when girls could go to school and women to work. Bin Laden and his mojahedin were armed and trained by the CIA and MI6, as Afghanistan was turned into a wasteland and its communist leader Najibullah left hanging from a Kabul lamp post with his genitals stuffed in his mouth.
But by then Bin Laden had turned against his American sponsors, while US-sponsored Pakistani intelligence had spawned the grotesque Taliban now protecting him. To punish its wayward Afghan offspring, the US subsequently forced through a sanctions regime which has helped push 4m to the brink of starvation, according to the latest UN figures, while Afghan refugees fan out across the world.”
Seumas Milne (2001)7
“All this shaped the most extreme mujaheddin factions, including that of Mullah Mohammed Omar, who later emerged as the Taliban's supreme leader. [...] Since 1979, the US had turned a blind eye to the mujaheddin's massive opium trafficking and smuggling rackets, which the contras had developed in collaboration with senior officers of the Pakistan military, the ISI and Pakistan-based mafia.”
Norm Dixon (2001 Oct 10)8
Notably, the huge stockpiles of arms and, especially, surface to air missiles, left in extremist hands by the USA and the UK (who have an equal share of blame in the creation of the Taliban, have been used predictably enough, by these extremists against USA invading forces across the Middle East.
In 2002 the USA returned to Afghanistan to kill and destroy the Taliban under the lead of Mullah Mohammed Omar, and the Al-Qaeda under the lead of Osama Bin Laden (who the USA called a 'freedom fighter' in the 1980s, but a "terrorist" now, however his actions haven't changed, only their target). In 2003 the USA also returned to Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein. Returning to Cuba, the USA has fought Fidel Castro and in Vietnam it fought 'Ho Chi Minh and his successors'. The single most outstanding thing that all of these enemies have in common is that they were created by American interventionism in the first place. The result of all these USA-born monsters has been heavy oppression of the people and widespread resentment of the USA. During the Bosnian war (1992-95) multiple Islamic militants were similarly supported, trained and armed. The Nicaragua terrorists, amongst other varied and colourful enemies of humanity for various reasons; and still, the thing they all have in common is that inhumanity reigned and monsters were created.
It is now looking like other monsters that the USA forced into existence will have to be faced, including the Iranian government that was setup in rebellion to the USA's manipulation of the Shah.
Winston Churchill said, "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results..." and this virtual truism should perhaps should inform the greatest question the world should ask: What IS the United States after that justifies such terrible results?
The USA may have learned some lessons (finally?), as in the 2003 Iraq invasion, it specifically did not grant masses of military equipment or funds to the allied Northern Kurdish forces - the USA seems to be learning that the more weapons you put out there and more factions you turn into monsters, the worse the fighting becomes and the less democratic the governments.
All countries use the same unfortunate tactics as the USA from time to time. The USA is not unique in its foreign policy misadventures. And sometimes, these tactics are justified. It is not clear at all what methods should be used to try to improve the world in places where it resists decency. But the extent to which the USA has engaged in these practices has caused a widespread hatred of the USA amongst the populaces of the countries that have suffered from the resultant regimes.
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"Revolution and World Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Sixth Great Power" (1999). Published by Palgrave Macmillan.
Kegley & Wittkopf
(1987) American Foreign Policy. 3rd edition. Published by Wadsworth. Charles W Kegley, Jr, Uni South Carolina and Eugene R. Wittkopf, Uni Florida.