Opinions of Peter Belmont
Speaking Truth to Power

Is USA support for dictatorships paternalism, democracy, or corruption?

by Peter A. Belmont / 2011-01-29
© 2011 Peter Belmont


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The USA has supported dictators for years.

USA support (if not installation) of South American and Central American dictators is so well known and so numerous that I will merely list some of them: Hernández: El Salvador 1932; Somoza: Nicaragua 1935; Armas et al.:Guatemala 1954; Suazo Córdova: Honduras in 1985 aiding the USA support the Nicaraguan “contras”; Pinochet: Chile 1973 (see below); Noriega: Panama 1983.

In a famous statement in relation to one of these dictators, President Franklin D. Roosevelt supposedly remarked in 1939 that ‘Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.’”

The USA helped defeat the democratic Mossadegh government in Iran and installed the vicious dictator, the Shah of Iran (1953). When the Shah was later ousted, the regime of the ayatollahs was the USA’s (and, of course, Iran’s) “reward” for this so unhelpful and unwelcome “regime change”.

The USA helped remove the democratically elected (Marxist) Allende government of Chile and installed the dictator Pinochet (1973).[1]

The USA helped Israel destroy the democratically elected, and Hamas dominated, government of the Palestinian Authority (2005) (the USA treats Hamas as “terrorists”, although it does not treat Israel as “terrorists” despite the latter’s far greater terror-inspiring activities).

The USA is now wondering how long to continue to support the dictatorial Mubarak government of Egypt, having supported the dictatorial government of Tunisia until that government was threatened or removed (removal in progress as I write: January 28, 2011) by a popular uprising.

Although Israel is a democracy of sorts within its pre-1967 borders,[2] Israel acts like a cruel tyrant to the Syrians and Palestinians who live within the territories that Israel captured in 1967 and continues to occupy. And, as all know, the USA supports this tyrannical behavior with gifts of $3B/year, military cooperation and support and gifts, and the free and unrestrained use of the USA veto in the UN Security Council (this veto being used rather as if it were Israel, and not the USA, casting the USA veto there).

USA support for dictators is not democratic.

When the USA supports tyrants and dictators, it cannot be said to be acting “democratically” in the sense of doing what the American people requested it to do, because the American people are largely decent people who would not knowingly support any dictator or tyrant. We recall the USA going to war against German, Japanese, and Italian tyranny in World war II. We approved of that war. We have never told our leaders to support dictators.

USA support for dictators is not paternalism.

A paternalistic government does what it believes is good for the people, even if the people are not equipped (by knowledge, education, analytic skill, or otherwise) to know what is best for them. There is no way that USA installation and support of dictators can be viewed as good for Americans, and, indeed, no USA government has ever offered a suggestion that such was the case. In fact, USA support for dictators has not benefited Americans, but only USA companies and other USA special interests such as the pro-Israel lobby.

However, USA support for dictators is corruption.

Whenever the USA has installed or supported a dictator—rather than fighting the dictator, as with Hitler, Musolini, the Japanese militarists in WWII, and Castro in Cuba (the latter always called a dictator))—it has done so to create opportunities for profits for American corporations—United Fruit Company, various mining and oil companies, or to satisfy powerful lobbies such as the pro-Israel lobby. (The military-industrial-Congressional-university-think tank-complex is another special interest which benefits when the USA goes to war or instigates wars or induces foreign governments to prepare for war. Dictators often arm to protect themselves from their own people.) The usual name for an action which costs a lot of money—such as establishing, elaborately arming, and using USA’s armed forces—in order to facilitate a much smaller benefit to a private entity—such as a corporation—is “corruption.”

Just as the pro-Israel lobby has achieved a 62-year USA subservience to the desires of the state of Israel, the oil-lobby and mining-lobbies and a variety of other pro-business lobbies have achieved a USA subservience to the desires of a variety of USA corporations. While such USA behavior has undoubtedly made huge profits available to a variety of corporations (including many that are not “American” and/or which do not pay much in the way of taxes to the USA), the cost of this behavior (that is, the cost of maintaining a military which each year spends as much as the total spent by all the other militaries in the world combined) far exceeds whatever taxes may be collected by the USA from the corporations and others benefitted. The trillion(s) of dollars so far spent by the USA on its ridiculous wars[3] in Iraq and Afghanistan are costs not to be recovered. To the extent—a very large extent many believe—that these wars were started because of Al-Q’aeda’s resentment of the USA’s presence in the Arab/Muslim world and support for Israel’s tyranny over the Palestinians, we may say that these huge costs are a direct result of the USA’s long term foreign policy of supporting dictatorships and tyrannies and maintaining an imperial structure of world-wide military bases which cast the shadow of USA military intervention world-wide.

But the mechanism which got us where we are is the pervasive USA pattern of governance (oligarchy) by the very rich, that is, corruption, whereby the resources of the USA are used to further the interests of the very rich without regard to whether those interests are of any benefit whatever to the American people.

The American people derive no benefit from Israel’s tyranny over the Palestinians living under military occupation since 1967. The American people derive no benefit from USA’s support for the dictatorial regime of Mubarak in Egypt.

The government of the USA does these things, quite simply, because it is corrupt. And in this it is little different from most of the dictatorial and tyrannical governments which it supports.


[1] General Augusto Pinochet was indicted for human rights violations in his native Chile on 10 October 1998 by Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzón. He was arrested in London six days later and finally released by the British government in March 2000. Authorized to freely return to his native Chile, he was there first indicted by judge Juan Guzmán Tapia, and charged of a number of crimes, before dying on 10 December 2006, without having been convicted in any case. His arrest in London made the front-page of newspapers worldwide as not only did it involve the head of the military dictatorship that ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, but it was the first time that several European judges applied the principle of universal jurisdiction, declaring themselves competent to judge crimes committed by former heads of state, despite local amnesty laws.discussed here.


[2]  If a country which expelled 1/2 its voters in a civil war, Israel’s war of 1948-1950, can be considered a democracy.


[3] Not just ridiculous, of course, but also illegal. As Talleyrand once said, “This is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder.”

  Nalliah Thayabharan  2011-11-25
  Since the 1950s Western imperialists have been in the business of regime change, assassinations and propping up client states to pillage the wealth of nations. The USA has always had a fond affection for repressive dictators, tyrants and corrupt puppet-presidents, who have been aided, supported, and rewarded handsomely for their loyalty to American interests. American tax dollars and USA backed loans have made billionaires of some, while others are international drug dealers who also collect CIA paychecks. But the US government was held responsible in any way for supporting and protecting some of the worst human rights violators in the world. These dictators usually rise to power through bloody USA-backed coups, and rule by terror and torture. Their troops receive arms, training and advice from the CIA and other US agencies. It is the American military support that guarantees their hold on power - and the fact that they provide free access to Wall Street to exploit their countries' resources. The USA has, over the years, installed, financed, supported with cash and arms, 44 bloody dictators. In 13 of those 44 cases, the USA actually overthrew a legitimate functioning democracy for the sake of installing one of their own dictators who would be more pliable to US foreign policy. In several cases when the population of a country revolted and overthrew the USA installed dictaor, the USA sent in their warships to put down the revolution and re-install their dictator once again. The US not only often installed, but in each case protected, both politically and militarily, and supported with arms, cash and military training, the corrupt dictatorships of General Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Id iAmin of Uganda,Colonel Hugo Banzer of Bolivia, Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, P.W.Botha of South Africa,General Humberto Branco of Brazil. Raoul Cedras of Haiti, Vinicio Cerezo of Guatemala, Kai-Shek Chiang of Taiwan, Roberto Suazo Cordova of Honduras, Alfredo Christiani of El Salvador, Ngo Dihn Diem of Vietnam, General Samuel Doe of Liberia, Francois Duvalier of Haiti, Jean Claude Duvalier of Haiti, King Fahd bin'Abdul-'Aziz of Saudi Arabia, General Francisco Franco of Spain, Il Hassan of Morocco, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Yahya Khan of Pakistan, Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines, General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez of El Salvador, Joseph Mobutu of Congo, General Manuel Noriega of Panama, Turgut Ozal of Turkey, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, George Papadopoulos of Greece, Park Chung Hee of South Korea, General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Pol Pot of Cambodia, General Sitiveni Rabukaof Fiji, General Efrain Rios Montt of Guatemala, Halie Salassie of Ethiopia, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal, Anastasio Jr Somoza Jr of Nicaragua, Anastasio, Somoza Sr of Nicaragua, Ian Smith of Rhodesia, Alfredo Stroessnerof Paraguay, General Suharto of Indonesia, Rafael Leonidas Trujillo of Dominican Republic, General Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina and General Mohammed Zia Ul-Haq of Pakistan. The US military and CIA financed and led revolutions to depose legitimate democracies and install a dictator in several countries including Bolivia, Brazil, Haiti, Spain, Philppines, Zaire. Guatemala, Iran, Greece, Chile, Fiji, Nicaragua, Indonesia and Congo. In Zaire, the US military and CIA did the assassination themselves. The US military and CIA intervened in several countries to prevent the citizens of a country from getting rid of a dictator and returning to democracy. In 1953, England and America overthrew the democratically elected government of Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh of Iran. The coup was orchestrated by the intelligence apparatus of both countries after Dr Mosaddegh nationalized the oil industry that was controlled by foreign interests. With the support of US President Eisenhower, CIA Director Allen Dulles used the CIA to topple the elected government of Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh and install the Shah in Iran. They set up Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (the shah of Iran) as a puppet authoritarian ruler who relied heavily on U.S. support. With CIA Director AllenDulles' encouragement, he forced all people to join his party or go to jail. Thousands were imprisoned or murdered. His agents raided a religious school and hurled hundreds of students to their deaths from the roof. His secret police agency, SAVAK, was created in 1957 and managed by the CIA at all levels of daily operation, including the choice and organization of personnel, selection and operation of equipment, and the running of agents. Iran under the Shah became a devoted US ally and a base for spy operations on the border of the Soviet Union. In 2000, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated "In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran's popular Prime Minister Mohammed Massadegh. The Eisenhower Administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons; but the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs." Congo's first President, Patrice Lumumba, seemed to be too socialist and US companies feared they might lose control of Congo's cobalt, copper and diamonds. In 1961, the CIA in collaboration with Belgium plotted the overthrow and subsequent murder of Patrice Lumumba—the country’s first post colonial prime minister of Congo —and installed Joseph Mobutu who had been the US's main man in Central Africa. He imprisoned and tortured, but the US Congress continued to reward his work against communism and his warm reception of American corporations. Joseph Mobutu who served America for 32 years until his own demise at the hands of Clinton administration backed proxies, Rwanda and Uganda. The war caused the death of 6 million Congolese. In 1966, Ghanaian independence leader Dr Kwame Nkrumah was deposed by the CIA using ambitious enemies from within Ghana while Dr Nkrumah was abroad in China on a peace mission attempting to mediate the Vietnam conflict. Another gross example of U.S. meddling in the affairs of others was the September 11, 1973 ousting and assassination of the legitimate, elected government of President Salvador Allende of Chile. General Augusto Pinochet of Chile who once said "Democracy is the breeding ground of communism" deposed and assassinated democratically elected President Salvador Allende in a bloody coup which was carefully managed by the CIA and International Telephone & Telegraph(ITT). The coup d’état was organized by the Richard Nixon administration and Chilean military, ushering in the brutal dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Tens of thousands of Chileans were tortured, killed, and exiled since then. The US installed Trujillo in the Dominican Republic was a convicted rapist. In El Salvador the US installed Roberto D'Aubuisson, whom a US Ambassador called a "pathological killer". Of Somoza in Nicaragua, Franklin Roosevelt said, "Somoza may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he's our son-of-a-bitch". An estimated 50,000 killed during the Nicaraguan "revolution", 120,000 exiled and 600,000 made homeless. Nicaragua was one of the few cases where international pressure on Jimmy Carter's government forced the US to abandon military and political support for one of their favorite dictators. Alfredo Cristiani of El Salvador was famous worldwide for his motto - "Be patriotic-kill a priest". The US candidate for Philippines dictator, under US President Lyndon Johnson, Ferdinand Marcos began his career in prison at age 21 for the murder of the man who had beaten his father in the local election. Starting in 1950, the US CIA funded several decades of academic research into “the relative usefulness of drugs, electroshock, violence, and other coercive techniques” to discover a new method of psychological torture - perhaps the most significant revolution in this cruel science during the past four centuries. Instead of a simple physical brutality, these units practiced a distinctive form of psychological torture with wider implications for the military and its society. The CIA's thousand-page torture manual, distributed to military regimes in Latin America for over 20 years, taught psychological tactics to break down what the Agency called a victim's “capacity to resist”. Through “persistent manipulation of time,” the interrogator can break a victim's will, driving the victim, in the CIA's words, “deeper and deeper into himself, until he is no longer able to control his responses in an adult fashion.” The CIA created in the Philippines "a closed, tight-knit, psychotic club of martial-law enforcers, and few could rival their psychopathic interrogations." In 2008, lawyers for Philippine victims of human rights abuses under CIA-supported Marcos said Friday they regretted a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning lower court rulings that gave the victims the right to money stashed by Marcos in the United States. US President Reagan significantly increased military expenditures and support, but P.W. Botha of South Africa had some bad habits that Reagan ignored including cutting off the ears, noses, and limbs of civilians. His army rounded up 10 year old boys, killed their parents in front of them, raped young women while they watched then recruited them to fight in his army. General Suharto of Indonesia was one of the most brutal dictators in history. He ruled for 32 years and continued his savage atrocities under the support of 7 US presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton. President Lyndon Johnson authorised a CIA-organized coup that brought Suharto to power in 1965, and the CIA then supervised while Suharto exterminated three million Indonesian communist party members. They hacked the alleged subversives to death with machetes. Entire populations of towns and villages were herded to central locations and massacred. Children would be asked to identify communists who would then be executed on the spot. In addition to the half million people who were killed outright after the coup, another 750,000 were arrested and tortured. Ultimately, one million people died in one of the most savage mass slaughters of modern political history. The US continues to this day to train and arm the Indonesian military with the latest high-tech equipment. The US has also recently opened a new "black" "Peace Medicine" installation in Indonesia that is almost certainly a torture laboratory. General Mohammed Zia Ul-Haq of Pakistan executed his elected predecessor, Zulfigar Ali Bhutto in 1979, and by 1984 Pakistan was furnishing 70% of the world's high grade heroin. That same year, George Bush addressed a group of Pakistani officials and praised the government of President Zia for its anti-narcotics program. Henry Kissinger called Pakistan a "frontline state defending free people everywhere', in spite of its record of jailing and torturing dissidents. Pakistan under Zia was the largest recipient of US. aid, of which over half was for weapons. Zia died in a mysterious plane crash in 1988. Yahya Khan of Pakistan was a US-backed genocidal dictator too. Khan initiated a massive campaign of genocide, targeting Muslims, Hindus, Bengali intellectuals, students and political activists. While President Nixon looked the other way, 3 million people were killed in a few months along with another 400,000 women who were raped. General Efrain Rios Montt of Guatemala was one in a long series of dictators who ran Guatemala after the US Secretary of State John Dulles and his brother Allen Welsh Dulles and United Fruit, backed by the CIA, removed democratically-elected President Jacobo Arbenz. Montt had given $500,000 to Reagan's 1980 campaign, and his henchman, Mario Sandoval Alarcon, the Godfather of Central American death squads, was a guest at Reagan's first inaugural celebration. The U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala said "Guatemala has come out of the darkness and into the light". Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez of El Salvador who once said "It is a greater crime to kill an ant than a man", initiated an anti-communist massacre that left 40,000 peasants dead and wiped out the country's Indian culture. Roadways and drainage ditches were littered with bodies. U.S. warships were stationed off-shore, ready to send in Marines to aid the General in case he ran into serious opposition. A dictator becomes a “dictator” abhorred by his countrymen when he has overused his authority & power. These are good lessons for such leaders overstepping their power because they have come to equate power as their right. Such have been the countries that the West have been quick to ear mark & target for overthrowing these countries has been an easy effort to enter & dislodge these leaders. It is these very citizens who end up helping the overthrow take place, thus the non-requirement for stretched military equipment or personnel & the use of their own to minimize the casualties to their own countrymen. Collateral damage is what the West would call this. The countries where these leaders become “dictators” are often rich in natural resources which are one reason why they end up misusing the mandate given to them & becoming power hungry & their stooges & families end up devastating the country to which they are supposed to function as custodians. It is the lack of answering this all important question that demands the West not to use these false clichés of “freedom from dictators” as an excuse. No sooner these “dictators” are overthrown the first thing the West ends up doing is to tap the natural resources, take over the economic hubs & privatize all channels that will supply their countries a steady flow of monetary returns & economic gain. All those who played an indirect role in aiding the West by providing support end up just turning their heads away. Therefore, when we all know Iraq was a mistake it is good to now ask whether Libya is going to be another – where the consequences to the future of the people of these countries were never part of the strategy or overall plan! It is not hard to deduce that all of the efforts to overthrow Governments whatever type of governance has taken place in these countries are done so purely on the basis of acquiring the wealth of these nations. The calls for removal of these “despots” or “dictators” are mere slogans helped greatly by the mass media that provides the visuals of sensationalism to justify the overthrowing by painting the perfect picture of saviors against despots. It took no time for Mubarak of Egypt, the one time darling of the West to be portrayed with so much hatred by the media with no reminder to the public that he was an agent of the West. This is what is likely to happen to all other political leaders who think they will remain the darlings of the West & continue corrupt leadership. In any democracy where people come to power on the strength of a vote it is natural that almost half the nation will not vote in favor of the overall winner. This is certainly not basis for any country to say that a leader is opposed & plans set to overthrow him. The countries that are currently earmarked for regime change will know from diplomatic statements where their countries are heading for & this alone should suffice to ensure the country is set in order & issues that are likely to be used as excuses are properly taken care of. Corruption being one excuse is a perfect area to ensure that politicians, their stooges & the corrupt public service immediately function as they should & not as they want to run for the repercussions are far more dangerous in the present context. If any country should be saved by the West it should be Palestinians suffering in Gaza for years as a result of Israeli.

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