This essay was in part, inspired by—and written in memory of—William Blum (1932-2018). Blum was a comrade-in-arms, and himself one of the great keyboard warriors of his time. We all had much to learn from this man about courage, integrity, tenacity, and resilience in the service of truth. His trenchant opposition to the ruthless and relentless exploitation of other countries and their people by his own country, the United States of America—at what was clearly at considerable personal cost—is possibly best exemplified by his book America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy, the Truth About US Foreign Policy, and Everything Else.
Brief: Advocacy of regime change—the wrecking ball in the foreign policy tool shed—continues to permeate the political and media discourse in Washington, with Venezuela holding pole position on the D.C.-based Democracy Busters ‘dance-card’. It seems, though, that with every successive effort by the U.S. and its proxies to destabilize countries and dethrone their elected leaders, they pay less attention to disguising their real motives and covering their tracks, and more attention to ignoring their failures and downplaying their disasters. That this reality should awaken more folks to the hollowness and hubris of America’s much-touted repute as a “beacon of freedom” is a given for those of us with a more clear-eyed view of how much chaos, destruction, and geopolitical instability this policy prescription engenders. I invite one and all to re-arrange the furniture in their geopolitical ‘living room’, and consider the following: nothing is going to change in the execution of U.S foreign policy, until pretty much everything else does.
The Low-life Lion King of the Congo
A bit like Neil Young does from time to time, I’ve recently been delving into the archives. And as it turns out, I have a lot of unpublished material. Some of this I’m pleased to report is as relevant, if not even more so, today. Now one of the trending issues is regime change, America’s default, bi-partisan foreign policy gambit that’s been in play since at least 1945. Not unsurprisingly, it is a recurring theme in my archival musings on empire. Which is to say: the shadow and portent of “regime change” is rarely far removed from the foreign policy public discourse in Washington, at least for those with an ear for these things. What with the events taking place in Venezuela then*, along with plans afoot by the Regime Renovators du jour Elliot Abrams, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton and their ilk to take down Iran’s government, it seemed an opportune time to strap on the parachute and jump down the memory hole in order to get a handle on what all the fuss is about. (*See the blog Washington Babylon for Ken Silverstein’s current front-line reportage on Venezuela. From what I’ve seen, it’s hard to beat.)
For the record, the core of this ‘dissertation’ was penned back around 2014, now with some key updates and editorial revisions. It was intended then—as now—to provide another perspective on Uncle Sam’s incurable addiction to meddling in the affairs of other nations, and the blowback from doing so. I should add the following: Another factor prompting this was my recent discovery of a powerful Netflix drama series called Black Earth Rising. The backdrop to this narrative is the events which took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (aka Zaire), a modern-day catastrophe which had its genesis back as far as the early fifties, but whose dark history of colonial and imperial exploitation goes back several centuries.
Before proceeding, though, it is important to retain at the ready America’s own more recent role in keeping the home fires burning in same, wherever they require ‘lighting’ and ‘fuelling’. Such as in Venezuela now, Libya in 2011, Syria in 2012, and in 2014 in Ukraine, to name just a few infamous, more contemporary examples. The stories of US involvement in the political affairs of foreign countries are as legion as they are, of course, familiar. At least they are for those of us with few illusions about America’s status as “a force for good in the world”, and places such as Cuba, Guatemala, and Iran are prime examples. Yet throughout the years the Cuban revolution was taking place on America’s doorstep, there were plenty of others brewing on every continent on the Big Blue/Green Ball. One of the most significant of these was on Joseph Conrad’s turf—the geographical heart of deepest, darkest Africa, specifically the Belgian Congo (later the DRC/Zaire).
In 1960 a BC independence movement started gaining momentum, and between then and 1965 the CIA was intimately involved in an ongoing effort to influence the outcome of events in order to advance freedom, democracy, and self-determination in this ‘tin-pot’, ‘third-world ‘backwater’, regardless of whether they wanted it or not. As we’ll see to some degree at least, said “outcome” was very ugly indeed. Like Guatemala, Cuba and Iran et al, the blowback had a very long shelf-life and a very deep impact. The BC was a colonial outpost of Belgium from the latter part of the 19th century, initially under the barbarous, infamously despotic, truly genocidal King Leopold II, who pillaged, raped, purged, looted, pilfered, rampaged, plundered and burned his way through the African country throughout his reign until 1908. A particularly nasty, vile piece of work was His Royal Highness, ‘Low-life’ Leo’. If Belgium dragged the chain in succumbing to its own imperial and colonialist ambitions, like so many of her European cohorts had already done, it is in the Congo where she tried to make up the ground. For Leopold’s part, it is generally accepted he presided over the deaths of upwards of 10 million Congolese people. Arguably he was one of the worst advertisements for colonialism, imperialism, monarchism, exploitation, and despotism (by any measure a big call).
If ever there was a more infamous manifestation of a monarch exercising the divine right of kings (DRK) in the last one hundred and fifty years, I cannot think of one off hand. For that matter, whilst the historical concept of the DRK itself might’ve been considered passe by Leopold’s era, he simply ignored it, or didn’t get the memo. In the mass murder ‘popularity stakes’, this dude was up there with the biggest and the best of them: Hitler; Stalin; The Great ‘Helmsman’ Mao et al though he makes the more recent genocidal maniac Cambodia’s Pol Pot look like an underachiever by way of comparison. But unlike the aforementioned, Leo does not enjoy household name status in the history books, or in popular culture.
Interestingly, the BC, a major exporter of uranium during the Second World War, supplied the ‘juice’ that the Americans used in the A-bombs dropped in Japan. This was not, of course, the last time a uranium-producing African nation would figure large in a world-changing foreign policy decision taken by the Americans. Yet significantly it also held vast amounts of still relatively untapped high-value mineral and resource wealth (e.g. gold, copper, cobalt). This attracted the attention of the US (natch!), especially at the height of the Cold War, when said war was possibly much more about laissez-faire economics, energy, and other high value and/or strategic resources than it was about political ideology.
During the 1950s, in the post-World War Two, post-colonial period, there was widespread nationalist fervour fomenting in the country. There were years of unrest, political bickering, and nit-picking between ethnic and tribal groups and other political forces, over who the main muchachos would be in any new independent government. Most importantly, though, it was over who would get the main spoils, and/or, of course, who would get to keep them and profit from them. This scenario is a familiar one to be sure, and one that would be repeated monotonously with varying degrees of tragedy in most emerging, independent African nations throughout subsequent years. To say little of other places on the imperial itinerary.
In 1960 the country eventually achieved its full independence from Belgium, and Patrice Lumumba became the popularly elected Prime Minister. For his part Lumumba complained about how his country and his people had been ruthlessly exploited over the year. Nothing new here in this sentiment: It was a constant refrain from most developing countries in the post-colonialist, nationalist era. Lumumba appeared to be leaning towards Moscow with the possibility that the country could be taken over by godless, liberty challenged communists, or fall into their Geopolitical Orbit. “Appeared” is the operative word here, as like it so often is/was; such fear mongering was an expedient gambit with ulterior motives, much like terrorism has been more recently.
History now tells us that with many former colonies, it was not so much ideology that drove the nationalist ambitions of the former colonies of empire; it was attaining true political independence, sovereignty, and authentic control over their internal affairs. In almost all cases their former colonial masters and their new ‘besties’, the Americans, had decidedly different ideas. This was especially the case with countries like the DRC, which, as noted, was sitting on mountains of much sought after resources and minerals. Either way, any nod towards Moscow would just not do, and this information understandably set a cat amongst the hawks in Langley and Washington.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was revealed later on some members of the then Eisenhower administration had ‘interests’ in the mineral and resource wealth of the country, a frequently recurring motif underpinning America’s unrelenting efforts to assert that “right to protect” and from there export that aforementioned “democracy” etc. so they could eventually extort and then import these resources to America and the West at bargain basement prices. It also scared the bejesus out of the local anti-communist, right-wing elements in the country including in the Army, especially the top military brass who were highly tuned to the geopolitical and economic imperatives in relation to guaranteeing their future, and who would clearly benefit from a takeover of government. Oh, and did I say they were pro-American?
This was, of course, music to the CIA’s ears. PLUs–not Peace, Love and Understanding here mind you–they doubtless were thinking “People Like Us!” And the CIA was only too eager to assist. If the purportedly communist elements took over, there was no doubt this would threaten the political fortunes and personal and financial interests of those making foreign policy in the US (shades of things to come) and presumably their fellow travelers in US and Congolese mining and resource sectors and other vested local and international interests. The go-to guys at the CIA got to work…as they invariably do. Lumumba was eventually ousted and later assassinated. And former Army chieftain Joseph-Désiré Mobutu (later reinventing himself as Mobutu Sese Soko) assumed control.
And speaking of being and “ousted” and “assassinated’—albeit in his case, in one fell swoop—it is important to note here that the president at the time of Lumumba’s killing was none other than John Fitzgerald Kennedy (aka JFK), who’d only just begun to get comfortable in his new digs on Pennsylvania Ave. As noted earlier, the assassination of Lumumba was a train already in motion when Kennedy arrived at the White House. For his part, JFK was famously anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist to his boot-straps, and ostensibly supported the DRC’s independence. We’ll explore this more later on.
Dark Days in the Dark Continent (Regime Renovators Redux)
Not unlike his former colonial masters in their own colonialist ambitions, Mobutu initially dragged the chain on demonstrating his despotic disposition. But when he did get going he was unstoppable and quickly made up for any lost ground. To grease the wheels of power and keep them spinning in his favor, he bribed many of his potential challengers and rivals thereby giving new meaning to the old Sun Tzu adage of ‘keep(ing) [your] friends close, and [your] enemies closer’. This was a dictum apparently finding favor with many other dictators of the era. Probably still does. It’s in the job description. Especially if one seeks security of tenure. And who better to provide that security than old Uncle Sam.
For those political opponents who were less compliant or corruptible, Mobutu reportedly presided over their public executions in front of Coliseum-sized crowds, or in simple, crude, tried and true tyrant style had them and their families tortured and/or murdered then disposed of ‘on the QT’. And then he really dug in his heels. By the end of the decade, he was unchallenged master of the Congo universe, and yet slowly but inexorably turned his country into an economic, social, environmental, political, and human rights basket case, another black hole in the post-imperial African continental universe! This was a man who successive US presidents called “America’s beacon of hope” in the region or similar sentiments. Go figure!
Over time Mobutu’s regime morphed into a ‘klepto-bruto-kakocracy’ of the first order. He maintained a personal fleet of Mercedes limos, and went on frequent shopping trips to Paris, London, and Milan on the Concorde (he even had a special airfield built for the plane) with his large entourage of wives/concubines and scores of cloying hacks, flacks, lackeys and subservient minions sticking to his belligerent black-ass like baby-shit to a blanket. He had dozens of mansions and palaces, and amassed an estimated $5bn dollars stashed in his own personal Swiss bank accounts all of which one can only presume he was keeping for a rainy day in case the road ahead got a little too bumpy. That he went on to become one of Africa’s most enduring if not endearing despots, is a matter of public record, even if said “public” is largely oblivious to this grossly tragic and criminal exercise in regime redemption and how it all played out over three decades and three countries. And it was all achieved with the blessing of the consecutive powers that be in Washington, regardless of whether they were Democratic or Republican. Deja vu, all over again!
Although the ride did eventually get quite bumpy for Mobutu, any karma due him took its time in arriving. In the interim, he caused a lot of people a lot of grief over a very long period of time and an equally broad expanse of geography.
The post-colonial world was never going to be a pretty sight anywhere it could be found on the planet (even without the meddling of the major powers), and this is one country where that observation really hits home, in a continent full of similar basket cases and less than pretty sights. For over the three decades whilst Mobutu ruled the country (renamed Zaire in the meantime), the living conditions of most of his people deteriorated rapidly and dramatically, and they were the lucky ones that survived the seemingly eternal, deathly inferno he brought to life with merciless gusto. Though he never came close, Mobutu was prepped to show King Leo a clean pair of heels in the mass murder and brutality stakes. No-one really knows how many of his countrymen he butchered himself; but if one is wondering from where Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) and Idi Amin (Uganda) and their despotic Dark Continental ilk got their delusions of bloody grandeur back in their heyday, then Mobutu is your go-to man!
In the early 1990s, though, it all started to go decidedly pear-shaped for the by now similarly pear-shaped dictator, with even the Americans turning against him. It all began to go the same way for a lot of other people as well. Tribal connections in Africa are deep and very complex and are rarely respective of national borders or sovereign boundaries, most of which have been redrawn dramatically, arbitrarily, and frequently in the past 100-150 odd years. This has mainly been since the rent-seeking white man showed up to collect said rent. Since, for example, the 1972 genocides and even further back than that, there have always been ethnic tensions—‘diplo-speak’ for different tribes slaughtering each other en masse—within and across the three countries. That these were either exploited deliberately or incidentally fuelled by the interference of major western powers is a given, especially the U.S.
A full account of the events that took place in this region around this time is beyond the scope of this essay. For a deeper elucidation, and one which is almost at complete odds with the current official “genocide” narrative, go here and here.
Christopher C Black, a Toronto based international criminal lawyer, is one of the go-to sources herein, with the scars to prove it by his own account. The James Corbett podcast interview below is a must-listen in this respect. Black spent 14 years successfully defending former Rwandan Gendarmerie General Augustin Ndindiliyimana at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). In that time, Black uncovered copious evidence about what really happened in the so-called “100 Days” of 1994 and the four-year civil war that led up to it. Black shares that information in this podcast and deconstructs the lies that continue to be propagated about the Rwandan genocide.
That the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) originally chalked up the coup in Zaire/DRC as a victory then, and saw the rise of Mobutu as beneficial to the region was clear. A “victory” for what and “beneficial” to whom, though, are questions that many are still asking even to this day.
It’s uncertain, though, whether the current crop of Langley Gangsters is asking the same questions after all these years. Chances are that today’s CIA spooks would not be even able to pinpoint Zaire/DRC on a map, let alone have any collective recollection of the role their predecessors had in the recent history of the ravaged, impoverished, at once bled dry and blood-soaked country. Or in the region. Or on the whole continent. Or of any of the others mentioned in the The Great American Regime Redemption narrative. That’s why we’re here down in the memory hole!
Our Son of a Bitch (Not Theirs)
To underscore just how much the US courts and panders to their roster of client dictators past and present, it is perhaps at Ronald (The Gipper) Reagan’s tenure we might have a ‘gander’. Like most US presidents, Reagan turned a blind eye to the shenanigans of the despots on their diplomatic dance-card. One of the most infamous of these was Mobutu. This was the man that The Gipper–who three times hosted him at official White House gatherings, and ignored criticisms of his human rights record–called a “voice of good sense and goodwill”. Small wonder they called him–i.e. Reagan–the Great Communicator. If people believed this shit (and it seemed most did at the time), they’d believe anything. Either that or Ronnie had once again begun to show the effects of Alzheimer’s, and he really had swallowed the whole jar of jelly beans as it were in one fell swoop.
Now some less than kind souls have even suggested the Gipper rode into the White House with at least Alzheimer’s early onset. Or he’d simply forgotten the details of the briefing he received from the good folks on the Zaire/DRC desk down at Foggy Bottom. Or maybe Reagan actually was engaging in some FDR-type realpolitik, that being: ‘he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch’. Hard to know for sure! More likely, though, in true neo-con tradition, he chose to ignore it, or didn’t consider the deprivation of human rights on a national scale or persecution, denial of human rights, murder, exploitation, mass incarceration, and of its citizens all that much of a big deal. In fact, The Gipper’s Ambassador to the UN, Jeanne Kirkpatrick (aka the ‘Fairy’ Godmother of Neo-cons and an Amazonian Cold Warrior of the first order), was once quoted as saying that: ‘…America could be justified in its defense of totalitarian regimes if it served the defense of liberty and the national interest’. This was a refrain we have come to hear many times since.
The concept of the “national interest” for the US has always been one that’s a moving feast at the best and worst of times, and the above statement would’ve had the Grandmaster Minter of political double-speak George Orwell spinning in his eternally designated bolthole. We don’t know if Kirkpatrick was referring to people like Mobutu and his ilk in particular when she framed this pearl of foreign policy wisdom, but he clearly would not have been completely out of the frame. It’s also just as uncertain how Mobutu might have served the “liberty” and/or the “national interest” of either the US or Zaire however it might have been defined, or for that matter the other countries in the regions that suffered blowback from his poisonous, sclerotic, genocidal and cataclysmic reign, most notably Rwanda and Burundi.
It’s also not known if Mobutu had the same understanding of “liberty” and “national interest” as those that he detained, assassinated, murdered, terrorized, raped, tortured, mutilated, plundered, imprisoned, pillaged and just plain neglected throughout his time in office.
The lucky ones–if they can in any logically considered sense be defined as such–are presumably the ones he did neglect. He might not have destroyed as many lives as King Leo, but he gave it his best shot. With his death in disgraced exile in Morocco of prostate cancer in 1997, Mobutu’s belligerent, brutal ‘blackass’ was no more, and the moment of his passing presumably came not a nanosecond too soon for those who did survive him, with what remained of their lives and their families and tribes and their communities. It’s still further unknown what these folk and their descendants think now about the leaders, institutions, and nations without whose support the long-since deceased, yet still reviled Mobutu relied upon to keep him in power would have had a considerably shorter shelf-life than he did if not for them interfering in their affairs.
America, this is your foreign policy dollar working for you, then and now.
Now if King Leopold in the Belgian Congo was the poster boy/template for the ugly, vicious, ruthless, colonialist/imperialist period of centuries-old European empire, then Mobutu in Zaire went on to assume the role of his future political doppelganger in the equally ugly, vicious, ruthless, post-colonial, post-imperial, nationalist, and independence periods, a period that the U.S. (you know, the world’s “beacon of freedom”?) called the shots on. The CIA adopted him, nurtured him, and egged him on all the way. After all, he believed in Freedom, and Democracy, and Liberty, and all that other All-American (Bull)Shit too didn’t he? What’s not to like?
For his part—and we might say, his final part—The Gipper played the role of an Alzheimer’s victim who eventually ‘buys the ranch’ for real in 2004, riding off into the sunset for the very last time. No doubt like most presidents before and after him, he did so oblivious to, or unconcerned about, the blowback that unfolded as a result of his country’s policies under his own ‘regime’. Mobutu was, of course, only one in a veritable conga-line of client dictatorships whose unerring, unquestioning support by America of them and the respective ruling elites and their cadres of the many and various regimes helped unleash mayhem, destruction, exploitation, torture, murder, misery, deep-seated ethnic, religious and racial division, and genocide upon their people and societal disorder, political dysfunction and economic catastrophe upon their nations.
As for Reagan, true to form the Old Ham just wouldn’t get off the stage, being of the ripe old age of 93 when they eventually hauled his ass off to Boot Hill. Still a bit of a ‘B’ movie exit by many measures, certainly for many who might consider his presidency a bit, well, ‘B’ movie. Not all it’s cracked up to be then? But try telling that to the Raging, Rabid, Raving, Righteous ideologues of Neo Americon (sic) Century, and you will get ‘short-shrifted’ PDQ. You know who I’m talking about here folks: the aforementioned Pompeos, the Boltons, the Abrams and all the rest of their hacks, flacks, and lackeys, on either side of the Potomac and beyond.
He was their savior back in the day…for which we should all be forever grateful (not). The most depressing thing, though, is that the current cabal almost makes The Gipper look and sound like a bleeding heart liberal democrat and anti-imperialist…maybe even a man of the people? I did say “almost” didn’t I?…..
The photo above was taken on 13 February 1961, when U.S. Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson called president Kennedy to belatedly report Patrice Lumumba’s assassination. The photo was taken at the very moment JFK received the news.
To bring our narrative up to speed with current events and take it full circle—especially those that have to do with regime change and America’s interferences in the affairs of other countries for reasons generally unrelated to concerns on the part of the U.S. about freedom, democracy, liberty, and the much ballyhooed rule of law—we have to once again parachute back down the memory hole. This time, though, we look at JFK and his connection to the Lumumba story. The whole mess in the DRC was as earlier indicated all about the filthy lucre (or in au courant parlance, “it’s all about the ‘Benjamins’”).
The DRC was/is one of the most resource-rich nations certainly on the Dark Continent if not in the world. As Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela is currently finding out, few national entities can hold their own against the combined powers of the large multi-national corporations and the governments of countries like Britain, France, and America, when you have something they want. After all, the corporations own them all lock, stock, and barrel. All things considered, Lumumba never stood a chance of surviving as PM of the newly independent nation. The former had a very different definition of what it meant to be independent than the latter and his supporters. His assassination was preordained by the previous Eisenhower administration, and by most accounts, Kennedy was totally unaware of this.
It is also notable that JFK himself was infamously offed by the regime changers of his own era, those who felt threatened by his stance on any number of issues. One of the motives for his dispatch could well have been the president’s supportive position on post-colonial nationalism and the increasing—and to their former imperial overlords, annoying—assertiveness of their former colonies, along with their desire for independence with all the fruit that came with it. By supporting these stances, this by definition meant that Kennedy was perceived to be no friend of empire.
But notwithstanding his campaign rhetoric, it’s no surprise that current POTUS Donald Trump has fully embraced the regime changers agenda. As I have observed elsewhere on occasion, Trump is after all the consummate ‘chancer’; even a drop-dead ‘drongo’ like him knows which side on which to butter his bagel. Which brings to mind the late, great comedian Bill Hicks’ pitch-black routine about a hypothetical induction session given by the powers that be behind the throne to all new occupants of the White House.
In Hicks’ fanciful—yet at the same time still frighteningly plausible—scenario, the new POTUS (let’s imagine it’s The Donald) is ushered into the Situation Room to watch a video presentation. And, spoiler alert, they didn’t go there to hold hands, sing “Kumbaya”, and watch re-runs of the West Wing. As the first few frames come up, it becomes immediately obvious even to Trump this is an actual cinematic rendering of the events in Dallas, TX., on November 22, 1963, circa lunchtime. Unlike previous footage of this memorable event, this ‘version’ has never been made public, and presents a scenario that is completely at odds with the official narrative. The new president slowly but surely braces himself, fuelled by ever increasing shock as he watches the unfolding images reveal a mise-en-scène very different to the more familiar Zapruder footage.
In this version, though, he sees several shooters in a deadly crossfire—none of whom are located anywhere near the Texas School Book Depository Building, and one of whom mos def is situated behind the white picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll and looks nothing like Lee Harvey Oswald—all of which confirms for him unequivocally that every conspiracy theorist who’s ever attached their name to the JFK assassination after rejecting the Warren Commission report was indeed right. As the presentation comes to the end, there is a prolonged silence in the room; after he’s recovered a measure of composure, one of the presenters asks the freshly minted POTUS if he has any questions. He replies: “Nah I’m good; let’s go bomb Damascus!”
We all get the picture, even if my recollection loses something in the translation.
Pissing in the Information Pool (aka Imperial Public Relations)
Insofar as the situation in Venezuela goes, placing to one side the reality that hell has no fury like an empire scorned, it is perhaps instructive to consider other reasons as to why Uncle Sam has such a ‘hard on’ for the country and its current, ‘recalcitrant’ leader Maduro.
Again, a little backstory is key here. As most folks know, every military operation comes with its own unique identifier, a brand if one likes, to use marketing terminology. It’s uncertain if the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex—which knows a thing or three about marketing to be sure, possibly much more than they do about actually winning wars—has contrived a specific nomenclature for any possible offensive operation in Venezuela in order to effect its regime change strategy. But it’s unlikely to compete with the one some bright spark in the George W Bush administration conjured up—in what can only be described as an inspired flash of lateral thinking—when they decided to invade Iraq in 2003 and ‘renovate’ Saddam Hussein’s regime from the inside out.
In its hegemonic zeal, Bush and Co. neglected (amongst many other things it should be noted), to pay close attention to the optics of its brand, and the message said brand might unintentionally convey to the public if one does not get one’s ducks flying in the same direction and at the same speed on such important details. This is especially important if one is looking to disguise the real objectives underpinning one’s not so benevolent intentions. As anyone who works in marketing or public relations will tell you, it’s all about the “optics”: Perception is nine-tenths of reality! Or put another way: it is to a marketer what location is to a realtor.
All of which is to say, the planned, ultimately disastrous, monumentally expensive in blood and treasure invasion and occupation of Iraq was originally designated—wait for it—as Operation Iraqi Liberation, or for the ‘acronymically’ inclined, “OIL”. (No, folks, I am not making this shit up…As the inimitable and irrepressible Walter Brennan might have opined back in the day, “that’s no brag, that’s fact!”) It was apparently some time before the penny dropped and it was hastily rebranded Operation Iraqi Freedom (or “OIF”), lest people get the wrong idea. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but when to comes to acronyms, I much prefer “OIL” to “OIF”; it rolls off the tongue a lot easier for one thing. And it’s almost always gratifying when we catch our politicians and public figures in embarrassing moments, not that many easily succumb to such sentiments anyway.
In any event, this linguistic ‘wardrobe malfunction’ as it were achieved the distinction as one of the great exemplars of the Freudian slip to be found anywhere in anyone’s political history, recent or not so. And in Venezuela, like in Iraq, make no mistake: it’s also all about the OIL (Even back in World War One, it was one of the big drivers of the outbreak of war, and not an insignificant determinant of its outcome. See Robert Newman’s History of Oil.) The lucky (or depending on your POV, unlucky) Venezuelans have more of the ‘Texas Tea’ than Saudi Arabia!…
That they also have much more “democracy” and “freedom” too than the Saudis is a given (with even the occasional fair and free election, and insofar as one might gather, far fewer public beheadings), though admittedly this might not be considered a huge achievement by some folks for any country regardless of the measure of their authoritarian persuasion to which they might or might not be inclined. Not that that metric either way has ever really counted for much either way in Washington, now or then. Like Superman does with his underpants then, these days the regime renovators wear their ‘Freudian slips‘ on the outside; indeed, they all but seem to do so with pride, like a wannabe Hollywood starlet sashaying down the red carpet on Oscar night in some famous couturier’s new frock. One only has to listen to John Bolton; if he mentions the word “Iran”, and though the thought may be unsettling to some, one can be reasonably sure his Y-fronts will be clearly visible.
When it comes to understanding the mindset of these folks, it appears they’ve resurrected then contrived their own bespoke version of the aforementioned Divine Right of Kings. Either that or like Superman, they really believe they are fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, all three of which are literally by definition a moving feast at the best of times in U.S. political discourse. And they see it is their God-given right—nay responsibility—to protect and save the rest of the planet’s denizens from themselves.
Such then is how they view their exceptional, indispensable place within the geopolitical firmament. The French in their imperial heyday called it their “mission civilisatrice“. The scribe cum poet laureate of imperial excess Rudyard Kipling referred to something akin to it as the “White Man’s Burden”, one which he suggested none too subtly America would have to pick up after the British Empire ran out of puff. Which would suggest the Americans mos def did get the memo this time round. More accurately, we might simply describe it as pillaging, raping, plundering, rampaging, burning, looting, exploitation, and rampant desecration and wholesale destruction of communities, regions, and nations and their natural and human resources in order to enrich themselves and their fellow elites in their own countries simply because they can.
Sounds like a pretty good day’s work if/when you can both get it, and get away with it, eh? As the inimitable Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa once opined: ‘When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray”. We closed our eyes…. [and] When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.’ Sounds about right to me.
We should round out this diatribe with an admonishment from the late, great Chalmers Johnson, who along with being a True American Patriot was, like William Blum, no fan of his country’s relentless, ruthless empire building, and also one who knew a thing or three about “blowback”. ‘Although most Americans may be largely ignorant of what was, and still is, being done in their names, all are likely to pay a steep price—individually and collectively—for their nation’s continued efforts to dominate the global scene.’
One only needs to be able to read, have some basic research skills, and a willingness to have the scales pulled from their eyes to understand where he was coming from. Still, though, it does echo similar sentiments to Johnson’s, the very last word must go to Blum (to whom said “diatribe” is dedicated): ‘No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what your government is doing is actually worse than you can imagine’.