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Democracy in the Modern World


John Simkin
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Tim Gratz has always been quick to defend the long history of American presidents (usually Republican) using the CIA to destabilize and overthrow democratic governments. That was of course during the Cold War. According to Tim, Ronald Reagan won the war against communism (what about China?) and that now Republicans like George Bush can promote the idea of democracy. After all, that is why American troops are in Iraq. The problem with this policy is that the people of virtually every country in the world, does not want what George Bush wants. Democracy is in fact bad news for Bush.

Recently, democratic elections in Iran and Palestine have caused Bush serious problems. The same is true of democratic elections that have taken place in countries all over South America (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia, etc.)

In Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated the more moderate, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In Palestine, Hamas swept to power. Everybody knows that an anti-American government will come to power in Iraq once US troops are removed from the country.

In the old days, Republican presidents sent in the troops if the CIA was unsuccessful at manipulating “democratic” elections. After Iraq, this is no longer possible. As the recent cases of CIA torturing prisoners have illustrated, covert activities are much more difficult in our modern world.

What should George Bush do next?

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John, please name a "democratic" government the CIA toppled.

You make a good distinction that these efforts were made during the intensity of the Cold War.

Do you think that during WWII the allies would have been correct to overthrow non-democratic governments favorable to the Nazis? Perhaps the Vichy government in France or the Quisling government in Norway comes to mind.

When one is engaged in a life-and-death struggle with a murderous dictatorship intent to destroy your democracy, it is important that one minimize the influence of the dictatorship.

I agree with you that different standards should apply when one is not in a war but I would argue that we are now engaged in a war with terrorists.

I would be interested in your views on what ethical constraints should have been applied against, say, GB during WWII.

Tim? Well, obviously Chile . Cuba has shown itself too robust a democracy for the anti democratic CIA, in spite of decades of economic and armed terrorism, to have success there. Hopefully that will remain so.

As far as the bushes during the 40's go? Neutering?

John, I need to research it more but you might be correct about Chile.

Correct me if I am wrong but this would be the only case of a CIA-influenced regime change in a democratic government?

Guatemala in 1954 is another obvious example. Greece is another country where the CIA backed a right-wing military coup in 1967.

We also now know that the CIA attempted to destabilize the Harold Wilson government (1964-1970) and (1974-76). This was a joint CIA/MI5 operation.

We also know that the Strategic Service Unit (1945-47) and the CIA (post 1947) were involved in a black propaganda campaign and illegal funding of opposition parties in an attempt to prevent left-wing governments being elected in Western Europe after the war. When left-wing governments were elected, such as in the UK in 1945, the American intelligence agencies, attempted to bribe leading politicians and trade union leaders to move to the right. This strategy was very successful and is the reason why the Clement Atlee government was far less radical in the last couple of years of its existence.

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John, I thought we had agreed that Guatamela was not a democratic government.

No we did not. You were the only person to argue this (quoting CIA black propaganda as evidence). As I pointed out, Dean Acheson accepted the Guatamela had carried out democratic elections and via Truman ordered the CIA to bring an end to its attempt to overthrow the Arbenz government.

When Dwight Eisenhower took power he gave the go ahead for the CIA and United Fruit to overthrow Arbenz. Joe McCarthy was then used to smear Acheson and other liberal Democrats as being "pro-communist".

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=5945

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I thought members of the Forum might be interested in this exchange on the subject of the CIA and democracy.

John, please name a "democratic" government the CIA toppled. (Tim Gratz)

It is not just the democratically elected governments that were toppled by CIA interference, Tim. [Although that is a long list.] It is also the democratically elected governments that weren't allowed to transpire, due to CIA interference. [Also a lengthy list.] Nor should you fixate overmuch on CIA perfidy in the prevention of democracy around the globe, because your nation's gunboat diplomacy predates by more than a century the establishment of CIA. [Try starting with the quashing of the Haitian revolution in 1804 and work your way forward chronologically.] CIA is merely the latest in a long list of covert foreign policy instruments. Previously, when peasants wished to be paid more for harvesting their nutmeg, bananas, coffee, sugar, etc., the US foreign policy instrument used to stifle such aspirations in the Western Hemisphere was the US Marines.

However, since you'd prefer to dwell exclusively upon CIA interference in other countries' democratic aspirations, let's have a quick look at a partial list, shall we?

Italy - 1947 to present

Philippines - 1948-54 [at least]

Iran - 1953

Guatemala - 1954

Haiti - 1957

Iraq - 1959/1963/1968

[belgian] Congo - 1961

Dominican Republic - 1961

Ecuador - 1961

Canada - 1963

Brazil - 1964

British Guyana - 1964

Britain - 1960s [Harold Wilson years]

Indonesia - 1965

Peru - 1965

Greece - 1967

Oman - 1970

Chile - 1970-1975

Australia - 1975

El Salvador - 1981

Honduras - 1983-89

Nicaragua - 1980s

Panama - 1989

Venezuela - 2002

Though the list is incomplete, it should at least give you a starting point for filling in the massive blind spot you have about your own country's history of interfering with the political aspirations of other countries. (Robert Charles-Dunne)

You make a good distinction that these efforts were made during the intensity of the Cold War.

Do you think that during WWII the allies would have been correct to overthrow non-democratic governments favorable to the Nazis? Perhaps the Vichy government in France or the Quisling government in Norway comes to mind. (Tim Gratz)

Since your country chose to sit out the first half of that war, one is hard pressed to understand your point. Did the Vichy regime suddenly become anathema to the US only once it was involved in WW II?(Robert Charles-Dunne)

When one is engaged in a life-and-death struggle with a murderous dictatorship intent to destroy your democracy, it is important that one minimize the influence of the dictatorship. (Tim Gratz)

Which is precisely why so many people around the world labour so hard to minimize US influence throughout the globe. Its record of "exporting democracy" is woeful, as itemized above.(Robert Charles-Dunne)

I agree with you that different standards should apply when one is not in a war but I would argue that we are now engaged in a war with terrorists. (Tim Gratz)

You're always at war with somebody. It's just that your government would prefer that its own citizens didn't know it, which is why the covert option is always favoured over direct US military intervention. Hence, CIA's ongoing utility in conducting wars that are never declared, coups that are never acknowledged, murders that didn't officially happen. (Robert Charles-Dunne)

I would be interested in your views on what ethical constraints should have been applied against, say, GB during WWII.

John I will have to look it up but my source for the proposition that Arbenz supporters killed his opponent was a reputable historical book. On what basis do you believe the allegation was CIA propoganda? Do you propose the CIA assassinated a right-wing military officer to make way for the election of a Commie-lover? Get real. Just on a cui bono theory, who was the most likely suspect in the murder of Arbenz's opponent? (Tim Gratz)

Operating on the dubious assumption that you are sincere about wanting to know the history of your nation's murderous involvement in the governments of other nations, I suggest you start here:

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB4/

The record disclosed there is based solely upon the documentation generated by your own government. Read it and puke. (Robert Charles-Dunne)

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The overthrow of the Mossadeq government in Iran (for the heinous crime of wanting control of Iranian oil to be held by Iranians, rather than British or US oil companies) was probably one of the most disastrous CIA topplings of a democratic government. It sent a very clear message to the whole of the Middle East that the US wasn't really interested in democracy - only US control of natural resources.

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