मुख्य The Plot to Control the World: How the US Spent Billions to Change the Outcome of Elections Around the..

The Plot to Control the World: How the US Spent Billions to Change the Outcome of Elections Around the World

Russia’s foreign policy is following the lead of the United States.

As politicos and pundits wring their hands about alleged Russian collusion and meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections, Dan Kovalik reminds us that the US has been meddling in other countries’ elections and democratic processes for decades, and with terrible results.

While the US holds itself out as a beacon of democracy and freedom in the world, the US’s actions stray quite far from this pretense. From Vietnam in the 1950s, when the US blocked elections which would have allowed the Vietnamese people to vote for a unified country and for their own president, to the overthrow of democratic governments in Iran and Guatemala and the consequent installation of brutal regimes which killed tens of thousands, the US has undermined democracies in ways which make the alleged Russian “meddling” (the sum total of which involve claims of social media posts and computer hacking) look like mere child’s play.

The Plot to Control the World details these instances of US interference and other instances of meddling in other countries’ democratic processes, such as in Nicaragua, Haiti, Venezuela, Greece, the Congo, Honduras, and even in Russia in the very recent past. These examples put the current allegations against Vladimir Putin and Russia into historical context and challenge the reader to consider that, if the US does not want other countries to interfere in its elections, it may be high time for the US to stop its interference in other countries around the world.
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Copyright © 2018 by Dan Kovalik

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

Cover design by Brian Peterson

Cover photo credit AP Images

ISBN: 978-1-5107-4500-1

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-5107-4501-8

Printed in the United States of America



1The Foreign Policy of the United States is Intervention

2Russia 1996: Making the Country Safe for Plunder



5Congo & the Most Important Assassination of the Twentieth Century




9Honduras (2009)

10 Nicaragua

11 Ukraine (2014)




AS I WRITE THIS BOOK, THERE continues to be a panic in the halls of Washington and in newsrooms across the country about alleged Russian interference in US elections. So far, the sum total of the allegations, which will most likely never be tried or tested in court, is that (1) agents on behalf of Russia used social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to sew discord about already highly charged social issues—e.g., police violence, kneeling of NFL players during the playing of the National Anthem, and whether to continue pub; licly displaying confederate symbols and statues; and that (2) agents of Russia hacked into the computers of DNC officials and then proceeded to share correspondence through Wikileaks which revealed (quite truthfully) the DNC dirty dealings against Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential bid.

These allegations, and that is all they are at the present, have had a significant impact on free speech rights in the US. For example, President Trump has issued an Executive Order, quite broadly written, which would sanction foreign persons and entities, along with their US “agents” or investors, for engaging in a large spectrum of conduct, including what is determined to be the spreading of “propaganda” or “disinformation,” if it is “undertaken with the purpose or effect of influencing, undermining confidence in, or altering the result or reported result of, the election, or undermining public confidence in election processes or institutions.”¹

In addition, both Facebook and Twitter, in response to claims that they did not do enough to prevent the alleged Russian interference into the 2016 elections, have begun to ban the accounts of over nine hundred people and groups they believe are misleading the public.² Such accounts that have been suspended, either temporarily or permanently, include those of right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars show; the Venezuelan-funded news outlet, Telesur English; the American Herald Tribune; and a number of Iranian and Russian news outlets.

In the interest of full disclosure, I myself appeared on Infowars once, have written for and appeared on Telesur English, have written for the American Herald Tribune, and am often interviewed by Iranian and Russian news outlets, such as Press TV and RT. Quite possibly my Facebook and/or Twitter accounts will be banned, and quite possibly I, who am very critical of the US and its functioning as a democracy, will be sanctioned under the above-cited Executive Order as an alleged “agent” of some of these outlets for the purpose of purveying information which somehow “undermin[es] public confidence . . . in election processes or institutions.” Maybe this book will even be the catalyst for such charges.

In any case, another account banned by Facebook is that of Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based firm which has become notorious as of late for collecting behavior data on over two hundred million Americans—data which the Trump Campaign used to advance his 2016 presidential campaign.³

A pertinent fact about Cambridge Analytica is that the US State Department also contracted with that firm after 2017 in order to “to influence elections in dozens of countries around the world.”⁴ But of course, this should not be surprising, for the US has been meddling and interfering in other countries’ elections and democratic processes for years. And it has done so in quite ruthless and brutal ways which make the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections look like mere child’s play.

As the New York Times quite rightly explained in February of 2018:⁵

Bags of cash delivered to a Rome hotel for favored Italian candidates. Scandalous stories leaked to foreign newspapers to swing an election in Nicaragua. Millions of pamphlets, posters and stickers printed to defeat an incumbent in Serbia.

The long arm of Vladimir Putin? No, just a small sample of the United States’ history of intervention in foreign elections. . . .

Most Americans are understandably shocked by what they view as an unprecedented attack on our political system [by Russia]. But intelligence veterans, and scholars who have studied covert operations, have a different, and quite revealing, view.

“If you ask an intelligence officer, did the Russians break the rules or do something bizarre, the answer is no, not at all,” said Steven L. Hall, who retired in 2015 after 30 years at the C.I.A., where he was the chief of Russian operations. The United States “absolutely” has carried out such election influence operations historically, he said, “and I hope we keep doing it.”

These interventions, the NYT explains, while spearheaded by the CIA for the first several decades, are now largely instigated by the US State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which was founded by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

The NYT, citing an academic study published in Oxford University’s International Studies Quarterly, relates that the US admittedly meddled in foreign elections on at least eighty-one occasions between 1946 and 2000.⁶

This list of eighty-one cases of US election meddling per se is certainly not exhaustive, even up to the year 2000, and does not even purport to include the even more serious instances of US-backed coups and assassinations which actually destroyed democratic institutions in foreign lands. As historian and author William Blum summarizes:

The secret to understanding US foreign policy is that there is no secret. Principally, one must come to the realization that the United States strives to dominate the world. . . . To express this striving for dominance numerically, one can consider that since the end of World War Two the United States has:

Endeavored to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.

Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.

Waged war/military action, either directly or in conjunction with a proxy army, in some 30 countries.

Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.

Dropped bombs on the people of some 30 countries.

Suppressed dozens of populist/nationalist movements in every corner of the world.

Meanwhile, our nation’s paper of record could not allow its acknowledgment of serial US interference to detract from the paper’s eternal mission to promote American Exceptionalism—that is, the idea that the US is a unique force for democracy and freedom in the world. Thus, the NYT goes on to argue that, “in recent decades, . . . Russian and American interferences in elections have not been morally equivalent. American interventions have generally been aimed at helping non-authoritarian candidates challenge dictators or otherwise promoting democracy. Russia has more often intervened to disrupt democracy or promote authoritarian rule . . . .”

The NYT makes this claim without any supporting evidence, and indeed despite the fact that in the immediately preceding paragraph, it explained that “[t]he United States’ departure from democratic ideals sometimes went much further [that mere propaganda campaigns]. The C.I.A. helped overthrow elected leaders in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s and backed violent coups in several other countries in the 1960s. It plotted assassinations and supported brutal anti-Communist governments in Latin America, Africa and Asia.”

A very abbreviated list of anti-democratic coups and brutal regimes the US helped to give birth to include the death squad regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala (supported by the US into the 1990s); the Colombian paramilitary state (supported until the present time); Iraq’s Saddam Hussein dictatorship (backed until 1990); the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire (supported into the early 1990s); the 2002 coup against democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; and the right-wing coup governments in Honduras and Ukraine (both backed until the present time).

All of these instances of foreign interference certainly took place in “recent decades,” unless, of course, that term has no meaning at all. But the New York Times, of course, simply pretends otherwise. It further ignores the fact that somehow, and seemingly inexplicably, the US currently gives military support to 73 percent of the world’s dictatorships.⁷ Thus, rather than being an exception, or a “departure from democratic ideals” as the New York Times puts it, the US’s intervention in other countries in the interest of promoting dictatorship is in fact the rule.

This type of sleight of hand, performed here by the New York Times in the course of one short article, was eloquently explained by Harold Pinter, in his 2005 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Pinter explains not only the fact that of the US’s cruel foreign interventions, but also how the US has been uniquely adept at being able to convince the world, despite all evidence to the contrary, of its inherent goodness:

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.⁸

Let us then briefly awaken from this hypnotic state and take a look at a number of the emblematic cases of US interference in other countries which, by design, had catastrophic results for the people and their pursuit of democracy and freedom.



AS I WRITE THIS BOOK, IT has just been revealed that President Trump met on several occasions with dissident Venezuelan military officers to discuss plans for a coup against democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro. According to the New York Times, again pretending that such intrigue is largely a thing of the past, “[e]stablishing a clandestine channel with coup plotters in Venezuela was a big gamble for Washington, given its long history of covert intervention across Latin America. Many in the region still deeply resent the United States for backing previous rebellions, coups and plots in countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil and Chile, and for turning a blind eye to the abuses military regimes committed during the Cold War.”⁹

Of course, this was not the first time in recent years the US was involved in supporting a coup in Venezuela. Thus, in 2002, the US, through the monetary assistance of the NED and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the detailed foreknowledge of the CIA, and the encouragement of senior White House officials, helped to lay the groundwork for the coup against President Hugo Chavez in which he was forcibly led away by rogue military forces and flown to a remote island on Good Friday.¹⁰ The US was also one of the few countries that quickly and unequivocally recognized the coup government, which wasted no time in declaring void the popularly created Constitution, firing the Attorney General, and dismissing the Supreme Court and democratically elected National Assembly.¹¹ While the coup was short-lived, with the people rising up to return Chavez to power on Easter Sunday, the US had shown its true colors, and its utter disdain for the democratic processes of another sovereign country.

In thinking about particular instances of US foreign meddling, intervention, and invasion, it is critical to realize that none of these instances were somehow aberrations. Rather, they have been, and continue to be, part and parcel of a consistent, seamless, and unwavering policy of the United States dating back to colonial times, and they are firmly supported by an ideological belief system which rises to the level of a religious faith.

This faith has a name, and it is Manifest Destiny—the belief that the expansion of the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific of North America, and beyond, was and is not only inevitable, but is in fact a God-given moral right.¹²

Put in more crass terms, this is the notion that, as white, Christian, and freedom-loving people, we are uniquely good, and therefore have the unique right to expand throughout the world and intervene where we please without limitation. Indeed, any resistance put up to our expansion and intervention is unacceptable, immoral, and punishable by extreme violence. This part of the faith was explicitly set forth in 1845 by the person who coined the term “Manifest Destiny,” John L. O’Sullivan, then-editor of the Democratic Party newspaper, who condemned England and France “‘for the avowed object of thwarting our policy and hampering our power, limiting our greatness and checking the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.’”¹³

A key tenet of this faith holds that we are uniquely good, and therefore privileged to do as we wish anywhere in the world, even when we do uniquely bad and horrible things to other peoples in the process of our international endeavors. It is not our actions and their effects which should be looked at, the faith provides, or even the specific intentions motivating particular actions. Rather, it is our inherent and profound goodness, and our general desire to do good, which matter and which justify our expansion and foreign interloping.

And so, the fact that US expansion in North America was carried out through the mass removal, plunder, rape, and physical elimination of millions of Native Americans and Mexicans occupying the land which God gave us, and through the oppression of hundreds of thousands of Africans brought over as slaves to build our country, in no way takes away from the goodness of us as a nation or a people, or from the rightness of our expansion project.

As the Encyclopedia Britannica explains, “the idea of Manifest Destiny was used to validate continental acquisitions in the Oregon Country, Texas, New Mexico, and California. The purchase of Alaska after the Civil War briefly revived the concept of Manifest Destiny, but it most evidently became a renewed force in US foreign policy in the 1890s, when the country went to war with Spain, annexed Hawaii, and laid plans for an isthmian canal across Central America.”¹⁴

And, while the words “Manifest Destiny” have rarely been uttered in decades—most likely due to sheer embarrassment with the obviously Messianic notions these words evoke—the belief system represented by these words continues unabated to justify US intervention and aggression to this day. Indeed, as the devil himself, this doctrine goes by many names, such as American Exceptionalism.

Those who have experienced the wrath of this religion, on the other hand, call it by names such as Colonialism, or neo-­Colonialism, or Imperialism. However, such words are simply verboten when speaking about the United States.

Indeed, Jeane Kirkpatrick, who would soon become UN Ambassador under President Reagan, stated as much in 1979, explaining in what would become a famous and quite influential piece in Commentary magazine: “[i]f, moreover, revolutionary leaders describe the United States as the scourge of the 20th century, the enemy of freedom-loving people, the perpetrator of imperialism, racism, colonialism, genocide, war, then they are not authentic democrats or, to put it mildly, friends. Groups which define themselves as enemies should be treated as enemies.”¹⁵ In short, if you use the “C” word or the “I” word in talking about the US, you are an enemy, plain and simple.

Imperialism especially is a word which dare not speaketh its own name. One of the few American intellectuals who was willing to utter this term, however, was Mark Twain who indeed helped to found the Anti-Imperialist League.

Mark Twain was one of the first great Americans to see the rottenness and hypocrisy of the American faith in unbridled expansion, and the dire consequences of pursuing it, and he called it out in only the way he could. Thus, Twain wrote the following piece in 1906 upon hearing of one of the more legendary massacres, “The Moro Massacre,” carried out by US forces during their ostensible “liberation” of the Philippines from Spanish rule:

A tribe of Moros, dark-skinned savages, had fortified themselves in the bowl of an extinct crater not many miles from Jolo; and as they were hostiles, and bitter against us because we have been trying for eight years to take their liberties away from them, their presence in that position was a menace. Our commander, Gen. Leonard Wood, ordered a reconnaissance. It was found that the Moros numbered six hundred, counting women and children; that their crater bowl was in the summit of a peak or mountain twenty-two hundred feet above sea level, and very difficult of access for Christian troops and artillery. Then General Wood ordered a surprise, and went along himself to see the order carried out. Our troops climbed the heights by devious and difficult trails, and even took some artillery with them. The kind of artillery is not specified, but in one place it was hoisted up a sharp acclivity by tackle a distance of some three hundred feet. Arrived at the rim of the crater, the battle began. Our soldiers numbered five hundred and forty. They were assisted by auxiliaries consisting of a detachment of native constabulary in our pay—their numbers not given—and by a naval detachment, whose numbers are not stated. But apparently the contending parties were about equal as to number—six hundred men on our side, on the edge of the bowl; six hundred men, women and children in the bottom of the bowl. Depth of the bowl, 50 feet.

Gen. Wood’s order was, “Kill or capture the six hundred.”

The battle began—it is officially called by that name—our forces firing down into the crater with their artillery and their deadly small arms of precision; the savages furiously returning the fire, probably with brickbats—though this is merely a surmise of mine, as the weapons used by the savages are not nominated in the cablegram. Heretofore the Moros have used knives and clubs mainly; also ineffectual trade-muskets when they had any.

The official report stated that the battle was fought with prodigious energy on both sides during a day and a half, and that it ended with a complete victory for the American arms. The completeness of the victory is established by this fact: that of the six hundred Moros not one was left alive. The brilliancy of the victory is established by this other fact, to wit: that of our six hundred heroes only fifteen lost their lives.

General Wood was present and looking on. His order had been, “Kill or capture those savages.” Apparently our little army considered that the “or” left them authorized to kill or capture according to taste, and that their taste had remained what it has been for eight years, in our army out there—the taste of Christian butchers.

The official report quite properly extolled and magnified the “heroism” and “gallantry” of our troops; lamented the loss of the fifteen who perished, and elaborated the wounds of thirty-two of our men who suffered injury, and even minutely and faithfully described the nature of the wounds, in the interest of future historians of the United States. It mentioned that a private had one of his elbows scraped by a missile, and the private’s name was mentioned. Another private had the end of his nose scraped by a missile. His name was also mentioned—by cable, at one dollar and fifty cents a word.

What is remarkable about this piece is that it could have been written many years later to talk about US “liberation” interventions in such countries as Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq where the US, with incredibly superior firepower, killed untold numbers of people, mostly civilians, at will and like fish in a barrel, while suffering relatively much fewer casualties. And the reason that the numbers of the victims of US intervention are “untold” is because, as Twain explains, the US only counts, names, and honors its own dead, for they are the only ones worth counting.

Mark Twain had originally supported the Spanish-American War which the US invasion of the Philippines grew out of, believing, as told first by President William McKinley who started the conflict, and then by our revered “rough rider” and president, Teddy Roosevelt, that it was indeed a project to free the peoples of Cuba and the Philippines from Spanish oppression. I also recall learning in high school that this was the goal and indeed the outcome of this glorious war, and that Cuba and the Philippines were in fact democratized by the US intervention. But the reality, as Twain was honest enough to see and to write about, was quite different.

The fact was that one overlord was replaced by another in this war, and that was the point all along. In the case of Cuba, moreover, the people were well under way to liberating themselves from the Spanish (about two-thirds of the way) when the US intervened to “help” them in 1898, and the US took the opportunity to effectively annex Cuba in the process.¹⁶

Thus, while initially occupying Cuba from 1898 to 1902, President Roosevelt left Cuba after putting in place the Platt Amendment to Cuba’s new constitution. Contrary to the Cuban’s desire to have a new Constitution to protect their basic rights and liberties, the Platt Amendment forced upon them gave the US the right “to supervise Cuba’s finances and internal development and to intervene militarily to enforce order and stability. . . . The spoils of victory also included a naval base at Guantanamo Bay and the annexation of Puerto Rico.”¹⁷

And so began the US’s imperial domination of huge swaths of the world in the name of democracy, freedom, and Jesus.

As for the Philippines, the US treatment of its people—which even included waterboarding, then known as the “water cure”—even shocked and upset some US military commanders.¹⁸ As one commentator recently explained:

When America defeated Spain in 1898, Filipinos thought three centuries of colonialism were over. They declared the birth of a republic, wrote a constitution, and formed a government under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo. But by the terms of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, America took possession of the over 7,600 islands that make up the Philippines by paying Spain $20 million for them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many Filipinos were outraged. The Philippine-American war that followed from 1899–1902 is considered by many historians to be the first counterinsurgency fought by the US The war featured guerrilla warfare by the Filipinos and, on the American side, “concentration zones,” scorched earth tactics, retaliation, and torture. . . .

In the face of all the controversy, the Roosevelt administration declared victory in 1902. 4,200 US soldiers and 20,000 Filipino soldiers were dead. Civilian casualties have been estimated from 250,000–750,000. The White House valorized US troops, but it was the US military’s own who begged to differ with the White House. The Commanding General of the US Army’s report found that the American use of torture was systemic and the result of a breakdown of moral order.¹⁹

As for the total number of Filipinos killed, the above-quoted figure is most likely way too small. More credible estimates put the number killed at around three million, or a full one-third of the population, warranting the application of the term “genocide” to the American slaughter.²⁰ In any case, what is clear is that the only “liberating” that US forces carried out in the Philippines was freeing many poor souls from their mortal coil.

In short order, the US would invade other countries, particularly in the Caribbean. For example, in 1915, the great promoter of democracy and international law, President Woodrow Wilson—after whom Princeton’s world-renowned international diplomacy school is still named—ordered the invasion of Haiti. Even before this invasion, the US had been intervening in Haiti. Most notably, “when the slaves in the country fought for independence in the late eighteenth century, the US provided aid to the French colonists in an effort to stop the rebellion, fearful that the revolt would spread to the US.”²¹ And, when the independence movement in Haiti finally succeeded, in spite of the US’s best efforts, the US withheld recognition of the new Haitian government for sixty years in retaliation for its premature outlawing of slavery.²²

Through the 1915 invasion, the US brought liberty to the people of Haiti by reestablishing forced labor, putting them on chain gangs to build roads and infrastructure to support US business concerns; looting the Haitian bank of all its cash and gold reserves and dissolving its democratically elected legislature for refusing to adopt a constitution allowing for foreign land ownership.²³ The US would not withdraw its troops until 1934. All told, about fifteen thousand Haitians were killed in the three first years of the resistance to the invasion in which, according to one of the leaders of the US campaign, General Smedley Butler, the rebels were “‘hunted down . . . like pigs.’”²⁴

These brutal international forays were justified back then by the Monroe Doctrine, a seemingly benign policy of opposing European colonization over our southern neighbors residing in “our backyard,” and the less discussed Roosevelt corollary thereto pursuant to which Teddy Roosevelt declared the right to exercise “international police power” in the Western Hemisphere and beyond.²⁵ The US relied upon these doctrines to justify thirty interventions in the Caribbean in the first three decades of the twentieth century.²⁶

Today, we hardly hear the term Monroe Doctrine, and even less so the Roosevelt corollary, as they are seen as largely outdated, and many of the quite brutal actions carried out pursuant to them best forgotten. Most honest people today, if they knew about or gave much thought to this history, would recognize that this epoch in US foreign policy was nothing other than naked colonialism.

Even General Smedley Butler himself, who hunted Haitians and many others down “like pigs,” was honest enough to admit this later, famously explaining:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.²⁷

The brilliant trick US leaders have always managed to pull off has been to convince the public that we would never engage in such brazen acts of aggression; that to the extent we have, it has been aberrational, inadvertent, and certainly unintentional; and that now, from here on out, we will really live up to our true mandate of spreading democracy and freedom everywhere. Then, when everyone is well-convinced of this laudable intention and lulled into sleepy complacency, the same leaders immediately come up with another convincing justification, draped up in lofty goals and rhetoric, to continue the very same policies of imperialist intervention as before.

And so, after WWII, President Harry S. Truman came up with his famous Truman Doctrine which would be in effect until at least 1989 and the end of the Cold War. Pursuant to this ­Doctrine, the US claimed the right to intervene economically, politically, and militarily around the world to halt the spread of Communism.²⁸ With this announcement, the beginning of the Cold War officially began.

As the noted historian Odd Arne Westad correctly pointed out, however, “the Cold War was a continuation of colonialism through slightly different means.”²⁹ And indeed, the “Kennan Corollary” to the Truman Doctrine was quite upfront about this. Thus, George F. Kennan, one of the chief architects of the Cold War doctrine which would be in effect for nearly fifty years, announced that the US must continue its dominion, particularly over Latin America, with the goal of protecting “access to ‘our’ raw materials” and ensuring the respect for the US’s special role in the world.³⁰

Kennan, who toured Latin America and felt utter contempt for the people, religion, and culture he encountered there, concluded that “‘harsh governmental measures of repression may be the only answer; that these measures may have to proceed from regimes whose origins and methods would not stand the test of American concerns of democratic procedures; and that such regimes and such methods may be preferable alternatives, to further communist successes.’”³¹ Jeane Kirkpatrick, in her famous 1979 Commentary piece, articulated the very same ideas, stating that the US should unapologetically support right-wing dictatorships in the Third World, such as those of the Shah of Iran and Somoza of Nicaragua, in order to protect our interests. This would become known as the Kirkpatrick Doctrine, and Reagan would follow it with great élan.

Meanwhile, this new form of colonialism would often be carried out through the CIA in more covert and subtle ways than before, but with equally devastating consequences. As suggested by Kennan and later Kirkpatrick, this many times meant partnering with extreme right-wing, fascist, and even Nazi forces to get the job done. And of course, this made perfect sense for President Harry Truman who himself had famously proclaimed his indifference during WWII as to whether the Nazis or the Soviets won the war; either way, the goal was to make sure that the US came out on top of everyone.

And, Truman would get down to business right away. Quite befittingly, he would begin his project of intervention in the cradle of democracy and Western civilization itself—Greece. In 1947, Greece was being ruled by a fascist/monarchist government which was reinstalled by Great Britain after being toppled by a popular struggle during WWII.³² Great Britain, feeling exhausted by WWII, now called upon the US to help militarily prop up the retrograde government against a left-wing guerilla movement which, all agree now, was indigenous, and not being supported by the Soviet Union.

As the US State Department Office of the Historian explains, “[i]n fact, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had deliberately refrained from providing any support to the Greek Communists and had forced Yugoslav Prime Minister Josip Tito to follow suit, much to the detriment of Soviet-Yugoslav relations.”³³ But again, what the people of Greece wanted themselves was completely irrelevant, despite a new UN Charter which enshrined the right of nations to choose their own political and economic systems.

Answering the call, Truman came to the rescue, requesting $400 million from Congress to help in the struggle to keep the fascists in control in Greece. As Howard Zinn explains:

The United States moved into the Greek civil war, not with soldiers, but with weapons and military advisers. In the last five months of 1947, 74,000 tons of military equipment were sent by the United States to the right-wing government in Athens, including artillery, dive bombers, and stocks of napalm. Two hundred and fifty army officers, headed by General James Van Fleet, advised the Greek army in the field. Van Fleet started a policy—standard in dealing with popular insurrections of forcibly removing thousands of Greeks from their homes in the countryside, to try to isolate the guerrillas, to remove the source of their support.³⁴

As Zinn also explained, the control of regional oil sources was also behind this military intervention, but that was never a point Truman mentioned. In the end, the US helped make Greek safe for fascism once again. And, the regime reinstalled in Greece “instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the CIA created a suitably repressive internal security agency (KYP in Greek).”³⁵ The fascist government erected a statue of Harry S. Truman in Athens as thanks for the US’s role in the coup under his leadership. This statue has been blown up, rebuilt, and blown up again several times.

However, all good things must come to an end. And so, much to the chagrin of both Britain and the US, democracy broke out again when liberal George Papandreou was elected in 1964. Just before the 1967 elections which Papandreou was sure to win again, a joint effort of Britain, the CIA, Greek Military, KYP, and US military stationed in Greece brought about a military coup which brought the fascists back to power. And, the new rightist government immediately instituted “martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, and killing, the victims totaling eight thousand in the first month. . . . Torture, inflicted in the most gruesome ways, often with equipment supplied by the United States, became routine.”³⁶ All was right with the world once more.

Meanwhile, Truman and his successors made sure that rightists and fascists regained power elsewhere in the world. And so, for example, after using nuclear weapons to end the war against imperial Japan in WWII (or quite possibly to begin the new war against the USSR), the US moved quickly to reinstate the very people we had defeated. As the New York Times explained years later:

In a major covert operation of the cold war, the Central Intelligence Agency spent millions of dollars to support the conservative party that dominated Japan’s politics for a generation.

The C.I.A. gave money to the Liberal Democratic Party and its members in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, to gather intelligence on Japan, make the country a bulwark against Communism in Asia and undermine the Japanese left, said retired intelligence officials and former diplomats.³⁷

As the NYT explains, “the payments to the party and its politicians were ‘so established and so routine’ that they were a fundamental, if highly secret, part of American foreign policy toward Japan . . . .” The result of this interference was, as all admit today, the creation of a corrupt, “one-party conservative” state. The NYT refers to this as a “one-party, conservative democracy,” but that, of course, is a contradiction in terms.

And, what the NYT does not mention is that the leader the US initially selected to secure its interests in Japan and the Pacific was Nobusuke Kishi, also known as the “Shōwa (Emperor) era monster/devil”—the war criminal, famous for his brutality, who oversaw the use of coerced Korean and Chinese labor in Japan’s Manchurian munitions factories.³⁸ The US exonerated Kishi for his WWII-era war crimes, and, with the critical assistance of the CIA, he went on to serve two terms as Japan’s prime minister in the 1950s, becoming widely known as “America’s favorite war criminal.”³⁹

The US, again through the CIA, did the very same in Italy, successfully influencing the outcome of elections there for nearly a quarter of a century. Again, the New York Times, citing former CIA officer, F. Mark Wyatt, explains:

Mr. Wyatt joined the C.I.A.’s clandestine service in 1948, months after the agency’s birth, and plunged into its first successful covert effort. The mission was to ensure the electoral victory of Italy’s Christian Democrats over the Communist Party.

Mr. Wyatt helped deliver millions of dollars to the eventual victors; the precise cost of the covert campaign has never been declassified, though the details of the operation were.

“We had bags of money that we delivered to selected politicians, to defray their political expenses, their campaign expenses, for posters, for pamphlets,” Mr. Wyatt said in a 1995 interview recorded for “Cold War,” a 1998 documentary shown on CNN. Suitcases filled with cash had changed hands in the four-star Hotel Hassler in Rome, he said. The Christian Democrats won the elections by a comfortable margin and formed a government that excluded the Communists.

The C.I.A.’s practice of buying political clout was repeated in every Italian election for the next 24 years, and the agency’s political influence in Rome lasted a generation, declassified records show.⁴⁰

Moreover, in addition to propping up the Christian Democratic Party with millions of dollars in cash, “CIA operatives . . .

helped orchestrate what was then an unprecedented, clandestine propaganda campaign: This included forging documents to besmirch communist leaders via fabricated sex scandals, starting a mass letter-writing campaign from Italian Americans to their compatriots, and spreading hysteria about a Russian takeover and the undermining of the Catholic Church.”⁴¹

Meanwhile, the US would seamlessly continue to intervene and subvert democracy in such countries as Cuba, the Philippines, and Haiti.

In terms of Cuba, the US, in the interest of keeping the island safe from Communism and safe for US businesses (including the lucrative gambling industry) would provide unconditional “political, moral, economic, and military support” to the “corrupt, repressive” dictator Fulgencio Batista from 1952 until 1959 when he was finally overthrown by guerilla forces led by Fidel Castro.⁴² And, the US has never stopped intervening since, even decades after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, engaging in an endless series of “terrorist attacks, bombings, full-scale military invasion, sanctions, embargoes, isolation, assassinations,”⁴³ and hundreds of assassination attempts against Fidel Castro himself. Moreover, contrary to the overwhelming desire of the Cuban people, the US continues to control the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay which, of course, it also uses as a detention center and torture chamber.

In the Philippines, the US, after abandoning the islands to the fate of the brutal Japanese invasion for most of WWII, supported the repressive and corrupt dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos from 1965 to 1983.⁴⁴ The US viewed Marcos as an important bulwark against the spread of Communism (in reality de-­colonization) in South East Asia, especially given that he was one of the few regional leaders willing to support the US war effort in Vietnam.

The US supported him through his most repressive years in the 1970s when he declared Martial Rule. As Agence France-Presse explains:

By doing so he could stay in power longer than the constitutionally mandated limit of eight years.

With the continued backing of the United States, the Philippines’ former colonial ruler, Marcos ruthlessly moved to stamp out dissent.

Television, radio stations and newspapers were only allowed to promote his “New Society,” so the public was fed a constant stream of praise for Marcos and his jet-setting wife, whose extravagance was a sharp contrast to the poverty of most Filipinos.

Opposition politicians, including Marcos arch-critic Senator Benigno Aquino, as well as student leaders and other dissidents, were thrown behind bars, as the Philippines descended into a climate of fear.

“The Marcos government appears, by any standard, exceptional for both the quantity and quality of its violence,” wrote American academic Alfred McCoy, one of the pre-eminent historians on the Philippines.

McCoy said the regime’s security forces killed 3,257 ­people—many of the victims first abducted, then abused and finally murdered and dumped on a roadside in a warning to others.

An additional 35,000 were tortured and 70,000 were unfairly imprisoned under Marcos, according to McCoy.⁴⁵

As far as the US was concerned, however, all was fair in love and war on Communism, or at least perceived Communism, and democracy in the Philippines could always wait for another day.

But it is Haiti which the US has treated with particular cruelty. The US has never in reality allowed Haiti to govern itself. Thus, the US did not withdraw the Marines from Haiti before creating and arming “‘a modern army, one that would continue the US occupation long after US troops were gone’, functioning on behalf of the Haitian elite and their American counterparts. . . . ‘The US occupation wedded the country’s future to North American business interests.’”⁴⁶

Then, from 1957 to 1986, the US would economically and militarily support the brutal dictatorships of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. To help “Papa Doc” stay in power, “US Marines trained the dictator’s Tonton Macoutes paramilitary force, known for ‘leaving bodies of their victims hanging in public, a clear warning to anyone stepping out of line, most especially leftists, socialists and pro-­democracy activists.’”⁴⁷ US Marine instructors, “who were working through a company . . . under contract with the CIA and signed off by the US State Department,’” then trained the paramilitary group known as the Leopards for “Baby Doc” Duvalier.⁴⁸

Just after the fall of the “Baby” Doc dictatorship, the CIA helped to create the appropriately named S.I.N., short for the National Intelligence Service of Haiti. As the New York Times, referring to the S.I.N., would later explain, “[t]he Central Intelligence Agency created an intelligence service in Haiti in the mid-1980’s to fight the cocaine trade, but the unit evolved into an instrument of political terror whose officers at times engaged in drug trafficking . . . .”⁴⁹ The depths of S.I.N.’s corruption was staggering. As the Times wrote:

The Haitian intelligence service provided little information on drug trafficking and some of its members themselves became enmeshed in the drug trade, American officials said. A United States official who worked at the American Embassy in Haiti in 1991 and 1992 said he took a dim view of S.I.N.

“It was a military organization that distributed drugs in Haiti,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It never produced drug intelligence. The agency gave them money under counternarcotics and they used their training to do other things in the political arena.”

Still, the CIA support kept coming. Thus, the “S.I.N. received $500,000 to $1 million a year in equipment, training and financial support from the C.I.A,” and it received this assistance to and through the time the S.I.N. engaged in its most notorious act “in the political arena”—the successful overthrew of the democratically elected president, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, on September 30, 1991. Moreover, the US Drug Enforcement Agency said of the S.I.A. as late as 1992 that it “‘works in unison with the C.I.A. at post.’”

That Father Aristide was overthrown by CIA-backed forces came as little surprise to most observers. Aristide has always been seen as a problem for the US in the region given his advocacy of Liberation Theology whose main tenet is “the preferential treatment for the poor.” Even worse, Aristide tried hard to put this philosophy into practice as president. As one commentator wrote:

Aristide’s coup-inducing crimes included inviting street children and homeless persons to breakfast at the National Palace and endeavouring to raise the daily minimum wage from $1.76 to $2.94. As Joanne Landy wrote in the New York Times in 1994, the latter effort was “vigorously opposed by the US Agency for International Development because of the threat such an increase would pose to the ‘business climate’, particularly to American companies paying rock-bottom wages to workers in Haiti”.⁵⁰

Even after the coup against Aristide, the CIA, along with the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), continued to organize and work with repressive forces to ensure that Haiti would be a safe haven for sweatshops. One such force was the euphemistically named Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), a paramilitary organization intimately linked to the Haitian military that assumed the task of terrorizing the non-elite masses under the military junta which ruled after the coup.⁵¹

Again, the New York Times, invariably writing well after the fact, explained that Emmanuel Constant, “[t]he leader of one of Haiti’s most infamous paramilitary groups [FRAPH] was a paid informer of the Central Intelligence Agency for two years and was receiving money from the United States while his associates committed political murders and other acts of repression . . . .”⁵²

The FRAPH chief was even on the CIA payroll, the Times explains, at the time the FRAPH was organizing violent protests to try to prevent the return to office of Father Aristide in 1994.

President Bill Clinton actually assisted Aristide in returning to office in 1994, even as his own CIA was working against these plans. However, Clinton’s intervention in this regard was not altruistic—far from it. Rather, Clinton paved the way for Aristide’s return on the express condition that Aristide make drastic changes to Haiti’s agricultural system in order to benefit US, and in particular, Arkansas farmers. These changes, which required Haiti to import thousands of tons of rice, would be ruinous to the country, undercutting Haiti’s ability to feed itself and resulting in millions of Haitians starving.⁵³ Clinton himself would later admit to this. As Foreign Policy explained:

In the wake of Haiti’s devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake exactly three years ago, former US President Bill Clinton issued an unusual and now infamous apology. Calling his subsidies to American rice farmers in the 1990s a mistake because it undercut rice production in Haiti, Clinton said he had struck a “devil’s bargain” that ultimately resulted in greater poverty and food insecurity in Haiti.

“It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked,” he said. “I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did.”⁵⁴

However, the US continued to be worried about Aristide who disbanded the Haitian military—a military which had protected US interests for so long. Therefore, shortly after Aristide was elected as president for a third time in 2001, the US began to destabilize Haiti.

First, “[i]n 2002, the US stopped hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Haiti which were to be used for, among other public projects like education, roads.”⁵⁵ And then, in early 2003, the US encouraged paramilitary incursions into Haiti from the neighboring Dominican Republic which ultimately led to the toppling of Aristide again. These paramilitaries were led by Andre Apaid, who “was in touch with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in the weeks leading up to Aristide’s overthrow,” and by Guy Philippe and former FRAPH leader Emmanuel Constant, both who “had ties to the CIA, and were in touch with US officials” during this time.⁵⁶

In 2004, the US then moved in, along with France and Canada, to remove Aristide in the name of restoring peace and order to Haiti—the peace and order which the US had helped to destroy in the first place. As one commentator put it succinctly, Aristide’s “inability to maintain order in an atmosphere of US-backed destabilization had provided an excellent pretext for another exercise in ‘regime change.’” Aristide was “kidnapped at gunpoint” by the joint US, France, and Canadian forces, and “flown without his knowledge to the Central African Republic” on a US military aircraft.⁵⁷

As the Huffington Post explained in a postmortem of the coup, “[i]n 2004, the US again destroyed democracy in Haiti . . . .”⁵⁸ Between 2004 and 2006, Haiti was ruled by Gerard Latortue. And during these two years, with Aristide gone, and peace and order restored, “Haiti experienced some 4,000 political murders, according to The Lancet - while hundreds of Fanmi Lavalas members, Aristide supporters, and social movement leaders were locked up - usually on bogus charges. Latortue’s friends in Washington looked the other way.”⁵⁹ Haiti’s democracy has not recovered. Indeed, “Haiti has remained rocked by political turmoil in the years since . . . .”⁶⁰

Haiti represents an emblematic case of US intervention over a large expanse of time. While the specific, claimed justifications for intervention changed over time—e.g., opposing the end of slavery, enforcing the Monroe Doctrine, fighting Communism, fighting drugs, restoring law and order—the fact is that the interventions never stopped and the results for the Haitian people have been invariably disastrous. In the end, the true goal of all of these interventions was, and shall always be, the protection of US economic interests.

But they will always be dressed up in the packaging of loftier aspirations, making the interventions more palatable to the American people who have never given up on the idea that God has ordained us to rule the world, and that such rule is, by its nature, good and right. The following descriptions of other emblematic interventions, though hardly exhaustive, demonstrate this same pattern of the exercise so many believe to be our Manifest Destiny.


RUSSIA 1996:


IT IS NOW GENERALLY ACCEPTED THAT the US, under President Bill Clinton, heavily interfered in the pivotal 1996 election in Russia on behalf of the terribly unpopular Boris Yeltsin who was seeking a second term as president. Indeed, the foregoing NYT article on US election meddling explains, “American fears that Boris Yeltsin would be defeated for reelection as president in 1996 by an old-fashioned Communist led to an overt and covert effort to help him, urged on by President Bill Clinton. It included an American push for a $10 billion International Monetary Fund loan to Russia four months before the voting and a team of American political consultants . . . .”

The study in Oxford University’s International Studies Quarterly also lists the 1996 Russian election as one in which the US engaged in “overt” election interference.

However, before we get to 1996, it may be worth looking at events in the more distant path. As we continue to receive our daily dose of Russia bashing by much of the US press, it is worth remembering that while Russia has never invaded the United States, the US did in fact invade Russia without provocation shortly after its 1917 Revolution. President Wilson, wanting to make the world safe for capitalism, attempted to strangle this socialist revolution in its crib by coming to the aid of quite ruthless counterrevolutionary forces in that country.

As recounted by Jeremy Kuzamarov and John Marciano in their recent book, The Russians are Coming, Again:

President Wilson deployed over ten thousand American troops to the European theater of the First World War, alongside British, French, Canadian, and Japanese troops, in support of the White Army counter-revolutionary generals implicated in wide-scale atrocities, including pogroms against Jews. . . .

The atrocities associated with this war and the trampling on Soviet Russia’s sovereignty would remain seared in its people’s memory, shaping a deep sense of mistrust that carries into the present day. . . .

Kuzamarov and Marciano then quote historian D.F. Fleming, who Harold Pinter seemed to echo in his Nobel Prize speech: “’For the American people, the cosmic tragedy of the intervention in Russia does not exist, or it was an unimportant incident, long forgotten. But for the Soviet people and their leaders the period was a time of endless killing, of looting and raping, of plague and famine, of measureless suffering for scores of millions—an experience burned into the very soul of the nation, not to be forgotten for many generations, if ever. Also, for many years, the harsh Soviet regimentation could all be justified by fear that the Capitalist power would be back to finish the job.’” And in fact, that power would be back to finish the job as soon as it saw its opportunity.

That moment came after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, and the ascendancy of Boris Yeltsin to the presidency. The US was able to prevail upon Yeltsin to impose the harshest of economic policies upon the Russian people—policies which would immiserate the Russian population, but which would at the same time prevent any restoration of socialism and which would allow for the maximum plunder of the economy built up under the USSR.

As Russian Scholar Stephen F. Cohen explains in his important work, Soviet Fates And Lost Alternatives,⁶¹ post-Soviet Russia under the stewardship of Yeltsin suffered a major economic collapse, with investment in the economy falling by 80 percent, and 75 percent of the population falling into poverty. As Cohen explains, Russia became “the first nation to ever undergo actual de-modernization in peacetime.” Cohen relates that this led one Moscow philosopher to state, in regard to those who long wanted to destroy the Soviet Union, “They were aiming at Communism but hitting Russia.”

As explained in a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “[t]he changes in Russian mortality in the 1990s are unprecedented in a modern industrialized country in peacetime.” In this study, the NCBI estimated that, between 1992–2001, there were approximately 2.5 to 3 million premature Russian deaths as a result of the combination of the economic and social dislocation caused by the collapse of the USSR and the 1998 economic crisis which followed.⁶² Other Western demographers have put the total excess deaths at between five and six million, while Professor of Sociology James Petras puts the figure at fifteen million.⁶³

This devastating collapse in post-Soviet Russia was overseen and managed, or mismanaged to be more precise, by Yeltsin who, in turn, took his cues from President Bill Clinton.

In a Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report, entitled, “Russian Political Turmoil,”⁶⁴ Russia’s economic crisis of the 1992 to 1998 period “can be traced . . . ultimately to [Boris] Yeltsin . . . under whose stewardship the GDP has contracted by 50%, accompanied by economic distress worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s in the United States for most of the Russian population.” And, as the CRS Report continues, even when Yeltsin’s administration “assembled a western-oriented economic team and pursued economic policies supported by the Clinton Administration, the G-7, and the IMF . . . economic conditions and the government’s and Yeltsin’s approval ratings continued to deteriorate.”

The Report goes on to admit that “[s]ome critics of US policy toward Russia charge that it is too closely linked to Yeltsin and is seen by ordinary Russians as endorsing Yeltsin and the unpopular economic policies that they blame for leading the country to ruin.” On the other hand, the Report states, “[d]efenders of US policy reply that Yeltsin has steered Russia on an essentially correct, though painful, course.” (emphasis added). In other words, regardless which side one was on in this debate, there was no questioning the fact that the course supported by the US was “painful” for the Russian people. But, the argument went, the Russian people’s pain was potentially our gain, given that “[a] weak and unstable Russia may be less likely to pose an aggressive military threat . . . .”

The man to continue Russia’s pain and unraveling was Boris Yeltsin. And the Clinton White House would make sure that he would win a second term in office despite the Russian people’s quite predictable distain for his policies.

As a July 15, 1996, Time magazine article entitled, “Rescuing Boris,” detailed,⁶⁵ this meant sending in a team of US political consultants who were paid $250,000 plus expenses to secretly manage and redirect Yeltsin’s failing 1996 presidential campaign. This team included Dick Morris, Bill Clinton’s chief campaign adviser, and Richard Dresner, who had helped with Bill Clinton’s electoral victories for Arkansas Governor.

In addition, as Dick Morris would later explain, President Bill Clinton himself acted as key adviser to Yeltsin. As Morris recently explained, “We, Clinton and I, would go through it and Bill would pick up the hotline and talk to Yeltsin and tell him what commercials to run, where to campaign, what positions to take. He basically became Yeltsin’s political consultant.”

The help given by the Clinton White House, including its ensuring the $10 billion “emergency infusion” of IMF monies to Russia shortly before the election⁶⁶—$1 billion of which was directly earmarked for Yeltsin’s reelection campaign⁶⁷—was absolutely critical. As Time magazine explained, Yeltsin was deeply unpopular with the Russian people given “his brutal misadventure in Chechnya; his increasing authoritarianism; and his economic reform program, which has brought about corruption and widespread suffering.” Indeed, Yeltsin, had a 6 percent approval rating at the time the American consultants intervened.⁶⁸

Ultimately, however, Boris was rescued by the Clinton White House. In return, it should be noted, Clinton was able to get something in return for one of his old Arkansas buddies and major campaign donors, Tyson Chicken, prevailing upon Yeltsin to exempt Tyson from 20 percent tariffs which otherwise would have been imposed on its chicken imports.⁶⁹

The Time magazine article concluded in a triumphant tone, explaining that, with Yeltsin’s ultimate nail-biter of a win, “Democracy triumphed—and along with it came the tools of modern campaigns, including the trickery and slickery Americans know so well.”

Examples of the American “trickery and slickery” which Yeltsin used to win reelection were “extensive ‘black operations,’ including disrupting opposition rallies and press conferences, spreading disinformation among Yeltsin supporters, and denying media access to the opposition.”⁷⁰ The dirty tricks also included such tactics as announcing false dates for opposition rallies and press conferences, disseminating alarming campaign materials that they deceitfully attributed to the [opposition] Zyuganov campaign, and cancelling hotel reservations for Zyuganov and his volunteers.⁷¹

Finally, widespread bribery, voter fraud, intimidation, and ballot stuffing assured Yeltsin’s ultimate victory in the presidential vote which had to go to a runoff election because it was so close—that is, if Yeltsin really won at all. Thus, then-President Dimitri Medvedev told attendees at a closed-door meeting in 2012 that “Russia’s first President did not actually win re-election in 1996 for a second term. The second presidential vote in Russia’s history, in other words, was rigged.”⁷²

Meanwhile, buried in the Time magazine article was a reference to “the Duma catastrophe,” which the article also cited as an event that made Yeltsin’s reelection bid so difficult. It is worth revisiting what this “catastrophe” was as it illustrates what kind of “democrat” Yeltsin really was, and reveals just as much about the US which continues to hold Yelstin up as a pillar of democracy.

In short, “the Duma catastrophe” began with a political stand-off between the Duma—the Russian legislature, and at the time the most powerful branch of Russian government—and Boris Yeltsin. The Duma, which still had a large contingent of Communists who were resistant to the market changes which were, by all accounts, wreaking havoc in Russia, was refusing to approve Yeltsin’s pick for prime minister, Yegor Gaidar. As one publication explains, “Gaidar, who was the architect of the economic shock therapy and Yeltsin, who backed the plan, were vastly unpopular among the Russian public at the time, which encouraged the decision of the Duma leaders to act against the executive branch.”⁷³

In other words, the legislators were being asked by their constituents to resist an unpopular president, just as the Democrats are now being urged to resist Trump.

In response, Yeltsin tried to dissolve the Duma, but the Duma declared this action to be unconstitutional. They then proceeded to remove Yeltsin from office and to install the vice president in his stead. Yeltsin responded by shutting off electricity and water to the White House, which then housed the Duma. And, when a number of Duma lawmakers still refused to leave and supporters showed up to the White House to protest Yeltsin’s actions, Yeltsin did what any good, democratic leader would do: he shelled the Russian White House, killing anywhere between two hundred and two thousand people.⁷⁴ A new Constitution was then adopted which gave more power to the Executive Branch. In the end, these “events that took place on October 1993 secured the domination of the executive branch over the legislative and judicial branches, effectively prohibiting the country from being a parliamentary republic.”⁷⁵

As I remember quite vividly from that time, the actions of Yeltsin in bombing his own legislative building and assuming greater power was applauded by both Washington and the US media as a triumph for Russian democracy. In this event—­reminiscent of the “Tiananmen Square massacre” in China just four years before in which three hundred to three thousand people were killed⁷⁶—the West was rooting for the tanks.

As Stephen F. Cohen explains, the Russian people, not surprisingly, characterized the deeply flawed reign of Yeltsin as “shit-ocracy,” and they naturally welcomed a change in the person of Vladimir Putin who was, and is viewed, as being able to bring back order, stability, and national pride to Russia.⁷⁷

David Satter, writing for the Wall Street Journal, explained it succinctly: “Yeltsin . . . and the small group of economists who advised him, decided that the most urgent priority for Russia was putting property immediately into private hands, even if those hands were criminal. In this, they were fully supported by the US. The result was that the path was laid for the pillaging of the country and the rise in Russia” of Putin.

Meanwhile, it is worth remembering, as US officials and media fret about Vladimir Putin’s conduct in the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine, that the Clinton administration also showed no tangible concern for Yeltsin’s prosecution of the first of a brutal war in the Chechen War Republic. As Helsinki Watch (now Human Rights Watch) reported at the time:

Russian forces prosecuted a brutal war in the breakaway republic of Chechnya with total disregard for humanitarian law, causing thousands of needless civilian casualties. . . .

Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered 40,000 troops to Chechnya on December 11, 1994, to stop that republic’s bid for independence. A December 17, 1994, government statement promised that “force [in Chechnya] will be employed with due consideration of the principle of humanity.” But within one week Russian forces began bombing Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, in a campaign unparalleled in the area since World War II for its scope and destructiveness, followed by months of indiscriminate and targeted fire against civilians. Russian Human Rights Commissioner Sergei Kovalyev, who remained in Grozny through much of the bombing, bore personal witness to the destruction of homes, hospitals, schools, orphanages and other civilian structures. Indiscriminate bombing and shelling killed civilians and destroyed civilian property not only in Grozny but also in other regions in Chechnya, especially in the southern mountain areas.⁷⁸

Helsinki Watch complained that “[t]he Clinton administration responded sluggishly to the slaughter in Chechnya and failed to link Russian conduct with important concessions, such as the May summit with President Yeltsin or support for IMF loans.”⁷⁹ To the contrary, as noted above, Clinton prevailed upon the IMF to give a massive infusion of money to Russia in the year this Helsinki Watch report was written in order to guarantee Boris Yeltsin’s reelection.

In the end, there was nothing very democratic about the Yeltsin regime, and the US, beyond some lip service, did nothing to coax Yeltsin into being democratic. Indeed, given that the communists in the mid-1990s had much popular support, real democracy in Russia was anathema to the US goal of making sure that Russia was subject to the cruelties of unfettered capitalism.

This is why the Clinton administration even stood by as Yeltsin oversaw passage of “the Law on the Federal Security Service (or FSB, formerly the KGB), which permits the FSB to conduct searches without warrants, conduct their own investigations, arrest suspects, and run their own prisons, suspended fundamental civil rights and restored powers that were among the hallmarks of the Soviet era.”⁸⁰ Helsinki Watch noted that “[t]his legislative carte blanche is especially alarming since the FSB increasingly has been involved in human rights violations.”

The US’s indifference to such measures proved once again that it is not repression per se which is a problem—not even Soviet-style repression—as long as the West’s free market goals are advanced by the repression. And advanced they were. Indeed, as Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of the Treasury under President Ronald Reagan, explains:

Remember, the initial collapse of the USSR worked very much to the West’s advantage. They could easily manipulate [Boris] Yeltsin, and various oligarchs were able to seize and plunder the resources of the country. Much Israeli and American money was part of that.⁸¹

Yeltsin has indeed been compared to another favorite of the U.S., Augusto Pinochet, the fascist leader the US installed in Chile in 1973 in order to make sure that social justice would not break out in that country.⁸²



THE CIA’S FIRST FORAY INTO FULL-BLOWN regime change was in Iran in 1953. The target of the CIA’s operations was Prime Minister Mohammad who had committed the grave sin of nationalizing its own oil fields which, since 1919, had been controlled by Great Britain for the latter’s own benefit and profit.

While Great Britain had profited greatly from Iran’s oil, the people of Iran were kept “in a state of squalor unequaled in the world.” According to historian D.F. Fleming, in his lost classic The Origins of the Cold War, “[i]n some villages 90 percent of the people had malaria, and infant mortality exceeded 50 percent.” Iran, according to Fleming, was truly “‘a nation in rags.’ Abject misery was graven on most faces. Even in Teheran anyone standing on the street would be approached by a beggar every five minutes.”

It was against this backdrop that, in the early 1950s, the ­people of Iran united around a talented, nationalist politician to try to gain true independence—independence which necessarily included more Iranian control over its precious oil resources. The politician’s name was Mohammed Mossadegh.

Mossadegh, upon being elected to the Majlis’ oil committee, and suspecting that the British were short-changing the Iranians on the oil royalties owed them, initially made the quite reasonable request for the British to open Anglo-Persian’s financial books. The British refused this request as well as Mossadegh’s request to train Iranians in technical jobs of the oil industry. When Mossadegh was elected head of the Majlis’ oil committee, he then demanded that Iran receive half the profits of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Again, Britain refused.

It was only after the British refusals of these reasonable requests that the Majlis, under the leadership of Mossadegh who was elected prime minister by overwhelming vote of the Majilis on April 28, 1951, finally decided to nationalize Iran’s oil industry on May 1, 1951.

In retaliation, the British stopped exporting refined oil from the Abbadan refinery, and Iran, without tankers or oil technicians of its own, could neither run the refinery nor export any oil. And once Winston Churchill returned as UK prime minister in October of 1951, Britain took even more aggressive action against Mossadegh, buying off Iranian media and undermining the country’s economy. ⁸³

PM Churchill, with the help of CIA chief Allen Dulles, came up with a tried-and-true pitch for getting rid of Mossadegh—claiming an urgent need to rescue Iran and the Middle East from the specter of Communism.⁸⁴ This sales point worked like a charm on President Eisenhower who readily green-lighted a US-instigated coup against Mossadegh. The coup plot was dubbed “Operation Ajax.”

The coup plot was carried out by the CIA, headed by Allen Dulles, in close coordination with the US State Department, then headed by Allen’s brother John, and the White House. It was collectively decided by these groups that they would reinstall the Shah, who Mossadegh had sidelined in the interest of trying to democratize Iran, and replace Mossadegh with General Fazlollah Zahedi in the prime minister position.

General Zahedi was known as a strongman, having been dismissed by Mossadegh from his position as minister of the Interior after he “ordered the massacre” of protestors.⁸⁵ Zahedi also had a dark past, having been exiled by the British during WWII as a war profiteer and as a close friend of Nazi agents.

As evidenced in a CIA memo contained in the 2017 released documents, Zahedi’s having been a Nazi collaborator was seen as an asset to the Americans. As the memo, detailing US assets in Iran, explains, “[a]ssociated with the Nazi efforts in Iran during World War II, he has long been firmly anti-Soviet. A pro-Western orientation is reflected in the education of his son in the US and the activity of his son in the Point IV [Truman’s Cold War technical assistance plan to developing countries] in Iran. . . .” The memo goes on to say that the CIA’s assets in Iran believed Zahedi “to be the only military man on the scene who would stage a coup and follow it through with forcefulness.”⁸⁶

The game plan the US ran in Iran in 1953 was the standard one it ran during the Cold War—that is, target a nationalist government for overthrow in the interest of preserving US economic domination, and justify such an overthrow by manufacturing a Communist threat. Such a threat is manufactured, as in the case of Iran, by isolating the targeted country economically and politically, starving its economy (or, making “the economy scream” as President Nixon put it in reference to the US’s policy toward Chile’s Allende government) and thereby pushing that country into the arms of the Soviets. Then, the US could claim that it must overthrow that country’s government because of its ties to the Soviets—ties that the US forced upon them.

As for the part of the plan to starve the targeted country’s economy, that plan was aggressively followed by the US and Britain in their goal to topple Mossadegh, and it worked like a charm. Thus, Iran was prevented from receiving any revenue from its oil as a consequence of a worldwide embargo and blockade against Iranian oil which was aggressively enforced by the British Navy. Meanwhile, the US itself, in support of Britain, refused to buy Iranian oil. The result was that “the country’s main source of income was gone. Iran had earned $45 million from oil exports in 1950, more than 70 percent of its total earnings. That sum dropped by half in 1951 and then to almost zero in 1952.”⁸⁷

As a May 30, 1953, “Memorandum of Conversation” between the Shah and US Ambassador Loy W. Henderson reflects, even the Shah, the US’s handpicked successor to Mossadegh and soon-to-be tyrannical dictator, was alarmed at the situation.⁸⁸ As the memo relates, “Shah told by Henderson that US would not buy Iranian oil for the foreseeable future unless dispute with Britain was resolved, nor it would it give financial or economic aid.” It should be noted that, as reflected in the 2017 released documents, the resolution of the oil dispute, at least on the surface, now came down to the question of how much Iran would pay Great Britain as compensation for the nationalization of the oil fields.

And, the Shah gave his opinion that the best chance for settlement was under Mossadegh rather than a successor, and he further “said that the present economic position of Iran is so dangerous that he would like to see the US give financial and economic assistance to the country even though Dr. Mossadegh was still in power and even though the extension of that assistance might make it appear that the US was supporting


The US was unmoved by the Shah’s plea. As a later, June 19, 1953, Memorandum of Conversation relates, it was agreed by the major US decision-makers, including President Eisenhower himself, that Mossadegh would be told that the US is refusing to give him any economic aid, as “it would be unfortunate at this time to give Mossadegh any ammunition which would strengthen his political position.”⁹⁰

The US even rebuffed what appeared to be an incredible offer by Mossadegh. Thus, a May 4, 1953, Telegram from the US Embassy in Iran to the Department of State quotes Mossadegh as stating, “I am willing have this dispute settled by someone whom Britain and I can trust. I agreeable President Eisenhower act as arbiter. I ready give him fully power to decide issue. Will you be good enough to ask President Eisenhower if he would undertake settle this matter for us?”⁹¹ The June 19 memo relates that “it is agreed that no response should be given to Mosadeq in regard to his request that Eisenhower settle the dispute.” Instead, silence would be the rude reply to Mossadegh’s incredibly conciliatory proposal.⁹²

While the US claimed, as it always does, that it was intervening in Iran to protect democracy and freedom, the CIA’s own documents evidence a complete contempt for the will of the Iranian people and the willingness to use brutality to suppress that will. And, as time went on, the US’s support for brutal repression in Iran only increased.

And so, for example, in a memo to US Ambassador Henderson, dated May 19, 1953, the counselor of Embassy, Mattison, gives his quite reasonable opinion that while forcing a change of government in Iran might lead to the US obtaining the ends it wanted, the resulting regime “would probably take the form of a military dictatorship or a dictatorship supported by the military, as there is some doubt that sufficient popular support could be obtained for a settlement on British terms.”⁹³ History would of course prove Mattison correct in this regard.

The fact was that, as US policymakers would often acknowledge in their internal documents, Mossadegh, despite the problems he was facing—problems largely created by the conscious work of the UK and US to sink the Iranian economy—was still popular and still the single most important politician in Iran. Thus, in a May 8, 1953, Telegram from the US Embassy to the State Department, Ambassador Henderson opines that “Mosadeq still however, outstanding political figure [in] Iran.”⁹⁴

In a July 1, 1953, “Despatch from the Embassy in Iran to the Department of State,” the first secretary of the Embassy actually pays tribute to Mossadegh, stating:

There seems to be no question of the broad base of popular support for Dr. Mosadeq at the time he first took office as Prime Minister. As leader of the struggle against the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in a country where resentment and even hatred of the British is deep-rooted, Mosadeq could count upon the support of people from all levels of society with but few exceptions. For many months after the oil nationalization, the Prime Minister’s popularity continually mounted. To the common people, Mosadeq as looked upon almost as a demigod.

The phenomenon of Mosadeq was almost unique in Iran. The figure of a frail, old man, in an Oriental country where age of itself commands respect, who appeared to be successfully winning a battle against remarkable odds, aroused the sympathy of all Iranians. In a country where political corruption had been the accepted norm, there now appeared a man whose patriotism and financial honesty were unassailable.⁹⁵

Here, the Embassy paints the picture of a man of great, and indeed unique, virtue.

Again, in a July 8, 1953, memo, Kermit Roosevelt cites a trusted Iranian source, in an “estimate of Mossadegh’s strength,” saying the following:


Mossadegh is the only strong political figure in Iran.


Mossadegh has the confidence of all people except a few disgruntled aristocrats.


Mossadegh cannot be ousted at this time.”⁹⁶

Given Mossadegh’s popularity among the people, and still bent upon getting rid of him just the same, the CIA proceeded with its plan on forcing him out. And so, just about two weeks after the foregoing memo assessing Mossadegh’s formidable strength as a political figure in Iran, the CIA, by memo dated July 22, 1953, set forth its list of around three hundred people to arrest on the night of the coup. Mossadegh was at the top of this list.⁹⁷

Early on, as initial preparations are being made for the overthrow, the CIA lays out a list of its assets which it has had in Iran for some time, even before the coup plans had been formulated and green-lighted by Eisenhower. A March 3, 1953, CIA memo lists the following: “Mass Propaganda means (press, etc.): CIA controls a network with numerous press, political, and clerical contacts which has proven itself capable of disseminating large-scale . . . propaganda . . . ; Poison Pen, personal denunciations, rumor spreading, etc.: CIA has means of making fairly effective personal attacks against any political figure in Iran, including Mossadegh. . . . ; Street Riots, demonstrations, mobs, etc.: CIA [less than 1 line not declassified] . . . .⁹⁸ The CIA also explains that it “has one group in Iran which, it is believed, may be fairly effective in carrying on morale sabotage within the country and stimulating various types of small scale resistance.”

Similarly, in but another CIA memo, dated April 16, 1953, the CIA, under a heading entitled, “Activist Assets,” discusses the fact that “[less than 1 line not declassified] have the capabilities of bringing out gangs of street fighters.”⁹⁹

And, of course, the CIA had stockpiles of readily available cash and weapons. Thus, in a March 20, 1953, progress report to the National Security Council, the CIA explains that “[a]t the present the CIA has a stockpile of small arms, ammunition and demolition materiel [less than 1 line not declassified]. The stockpile is in quantity designed to supply a 10,000-man guerilla force for six months without resupply. . . .”¹⁰⁰

As one author puts it succinctly, the CIA’s “agents in Tehran bought off secular politicians, religious leaders and key military officers. They hired thugs to run rampant through the street, sometimes pretending to be Mossadegh supporters, sometimes calling for his overthrow, anything to create a chaotic political situation. Money was spread around the offices of newspaper editors and radio station owners as well.”¹⁰¹

The plan was to create chaos and confusion which would be blamed on Mossadegh, and then to move against Mossadegh by arresting him at his home in the middle of the night.

The first attempt at this plan did not succeed because Mossadegh’s chief of staff, General Riahi, who was marked as someone who should be arrested as well on the night of the coup and who Roosevelt then wanted killed, got wise to the plan in time and took precautions to protect Mossadegh. The coup, at this point, looked doomed, with a CIA memo dated August 17, 1953, concluding: “Except in the unlikely event that a strong and resolute opposition majority develops in some future Majilis, any future attempt to unseat Mossadegh will necessarily be an out-and-out coup, without legal sanction.”¹⁰²

However, the one thing the CIA still had going for it was the fact that few had caught on to the fact that the US had been behind the attempt. And, it would in fact be Mossadegh’s faith in, and kind feelings for, the Americans that would ultimately be his undoing as we shall soon see.

As an August 16, 1953, Telegram from the US Embassy to the Department of State explains, only the communist Tudeh Party’s newspaper, Shojat, carried any account of the attempted coup whatsoever.¹⁰³ However, Tudeh was right on the mark, explaining in the paper that “American imperialists sent [General Norman] Schwarzkopf [yes, the father of “Stormin’” Norman Schwarzkopf of First Gulf War fame] as spy to court after Dulles and Eisenhower statements with instructions present government must be ousted by military action and replaced by government headed by men like Alayar Saleh, General Zahedi, Hakimi, Dr. Amini.” Luckily for the CIA, few folks of importance read the communist party paper, and so a second attempt could be made.

And, this attempt was made and succeeded in a most devious way. Thus, while Kermit Roosevelt again set plans into motion to cause street riots and other provocations, while personally hiding General Zahedi until the right moment, he needed one last ruse to pull off Operation Ajax. There is a reference to this in the CIA documents when Ambassador Henderson, in a Telegram to the US State Department, explains how he went to see Mossadegh at his home.¹⁰⁴ He then told the unsuspecting Mossadegh that he was “particularly concerned [about] increasing attacks on Americans,” and how every hour or two he was “receiving additional reports [of] attacks on American citizens not only in Tehran but also other localities.” He pleaded with Mossadegh to call on law enforcement agencies to take affirmative action to protect Americans.

What is not said here is that Henderson was meeting with Mossadegh as part of Roosevelt’s plans to create enough pressure for the lid to be blown off the situation on the streets of Tehran. The problem, as Stephen Kinzer explains so well in his great book, All The Shah’s Men, was that Mossadegh was too restrained in the face of the terrible violence being stoked by the CIA. As he relates:

The riots that shook Tehran on Monday intensified on Tuesday. Thousands of demonstrators, unwittingly under CIA control, surged through the streets, looting shops, destroying pictures of the Shah, and ransacking the offices of royalist groups. Exuberant nationalists and communists joined in the mayhem. The police were still under orders from Mossadegh not to interfere. That allowed rioters to do their jobs, which was to give the impression that Iran was sliding towards anarchy. Roosevelt caught glimpses of them during his furtive trips around the city and said that they ‘scared the hell out of him.’

The riots were working to a point, but now Roosevelt needed an overreaction by Mossadegh to justify what amounted to a military coup in the name of restoring order and democracy. This is where Ambassador Henderson comes in. Thus, as Kinzer explains, Henderson was told by Roosevelt to go to Mossadegh and to ask him for the police to crack down on the rioters in Tehran in order to protect the lives of Americans who were allegedly under threat and attack.

In so doing, Roosevelt and Henderson were appealing to Mossadegh’s better angels to undo him. As Kinzer puts it, “Roosevelt had perfectly analyzed his adversary’s psyche. Mossadegh, steeped in a culture of courtliness and hospitality, found it shocking that guests in Iran were being mistreated. That shock overwhelmed his good judgment, and with Henderson still in the room, he picked up a telephone and called his police chief. Trouble in the streets had become intolerable, he said, and it was time for the police to put an end to it. With this order, Mossadegh sent the police out to attack a mob that included many of his own most fervent supporters.”

The fuse had been lit, and Roosevelt was ecstatic. As he wrote in a Telegram From the Station in Iran to the Central Intelligence Agency, dated August 19, 1953, “Overthrow of Mossadegh appears on verge of success. Zahedi now at radio station.”¹⁰⁵ By August 20, 1953, the coup had been successful, with Mossadegh’s home being stormed and looted, and with Mossadegh taken away under arrest.¹⁰⁶ The Shah was then summoned back from his own self-imposed exile at the time prescribed by Kermit Roosevelt.

As planned, the Shah’s monarchy was fully restored and General Zahedi was installed as prime minister in Mossadegh’s stead. The coup government now installed, though still precariously, any pretenses to such lofty goals as democracy and freedom were quickly abandoned. First of all, though one might believe that the CIA’s work was done, it had in fact had just begun, with the directorate of Plans for the CIA explaining in an August 1953 memo that the coup had “created a favorable atmosphere for CIA operations in the country.”¹⁰⁷

In a Monthly Report Prepared in the Directorate of Plans, CIA, dated September 1953, it is mentioned how General Zahedi’s government was now firmly established in light of $45 million in emergency funds sent to him by the US.¹⁰⁸ Meanwhile, the CIA relates how the “Shah feels that the Majlis should not be brought into session because a strong authoritarian government is necessary to provide the country’s internal stability.” Further, “[t]he Shah . . . has issued orders that Mossadegh be killed immediately by his guards in case of any serious Tudeh rebellion.”

Events continued to move quickly toward a more repressive system in Iran, and seemingly with US approval. For example, in a Despatch dated November 13, 1953, Roosevelt speaks openly about how he had counseled the new government that if it cannot figure out a way to change the ballot boxes [for the election for the Majili], they may play safe and just stuff them.”¹⁰⁹ He then describes how the Shah did in fact rig the elections for Majili in a number of areas by ballot stuffing.

An Editorial Note in the newly released documents states: “[i]n a memorandum to Secretary of State Dulles, July 30, 1954, Acting Special Assistant for Intelligence Fisher Howe discussed the political prospects for Iran. He wrote that political power in Iran was exercised by the Shah and the landowning classes. . . .

Iran’s power structure was maintained by the continuance of martial law, the enforcement of strict press censorship, the work of the security forces, the provision of US emergency aid, and the expectation of an oil settlement in favor of Iran.”¹¹⁰ Similarly, a National Intelligence Estimate dated, December 7, 1954, explains that “[t]he principal new features of the present power situation are: (a) the extensive use of authoritarian means—martial law, censorship, and prosecution or repression of opponents—to curtail opposition to the regime and the government . . . .” The Estimate goes on to state that “[s]o long as Zahedi is Prime Minister, the government will almost certainly continue a fairly firm policy of repression.”¹¹¹

Again, there is no hint here that the coup government had any plans on democratizing Iran, or that the US had any such intentions either.

Meanwhile, in a November 5, 1953, Despatch from the US Embassy to the US State Department, we see the logical result of the US collaboration with Nazi sympathizers. Thus, the Embassy, again without any apparent concern, explains that “The Shah and his administration are encouraging the growth of quasi-military and fascist-type groups as added insurance against the possibility of further Tudeh mob actions.”¹¹²

Under the heading “Anti-Tudeh Organizations,” the Embassy explains, “These organizations . . . have all the trappings of a falange or fascist type of group, even to their black-shirted uniforms. The Sumka demonstrated its strength and discipline on the occasion of the recent Sports Festival, when approximately 500 of its members impressed the crowds at the Stadium with a show of swastika-bedecked banners carried in perfect marching order. These organizations . . . almost certainly receive their excellent financial backing from the Shah and the administration.”

Meanwhile, the UK and the US both got what they wanted all along with the fall of Mossadegh.

Thus, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was reorganized into British Petroleum, or BP for short.¹¹³ And, according to an Appendix in the newly released documents, it received 40 percent of the Iranian oil industry.¹¹⁴ The US received another 40 percent of the industry, split between five companies—according to the Appendix, Gulf-International Company (8 percent), Standard Oil Company of California (now, Chevron) (8 percent), Standard Oil of New Jersey (now, ExxonMobil) (8 percent), Texas Company (now, a subsidiary of Chevron) (8 percent), and Socony-Vacuum Overseas Supply Company (now, ExxonMobil) (8 percent). An additional 14 percent of Iran’s industry went to Royal Dutch Shell, with the remaining 4 percent to a French company.

For his grand prize, Kermit Roosevelt would become vice president of Gulf Oil, a quite natural next job for the man who helped make Iran safe for Western oil companies, including Gulf itself. To his credit, though, he left the CIA for a job at Gulf because, while forever proud of his coup orchestration in Iran, he was not interested in going along with the Dulles Brothers next coup in Guatemala in 1954.¹¹⁵ Roosevelt was rightly fearful that the CIA would get too used to overthrowing foreign governments, many times against the will of the people, and he did not believe that was a prudent or ethical idea.¹¹⁶

For many Iranians, the nature of the Shah’s reign is best typified by his infamous security apparatus known as the SAVAK. The nature of the SAVAK, moreover, says much about the nature of the foreign policy of the United States which helped to create it and support it for over twenty years.

A great, succinct summary of the SAVAK, and the US relationship with it, can be found in Dean Henderson’s Big Oil and Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf:

By 1957 the Company, as intelligence insiders know the CIA, created one of its first Frankensteins—the Shah of Iran’s brutal secret police known as SAVAK. . . .

Three hundred fifty SAVAK agents were shuttled each year to CIA training facilities in McLean, Virginia, where they learned the finer arts of interrogation and torture. . . .

From 1957–79 Iran housed 125,000 political prisoners. SAVAK “disappeared” dissenters, a strategy replicated by CIA surrogate dictators in Argentina and Chile.

. . . In 1974 the director of Amnesty International declared that no country had a worse human rights record than Iran. The CIA responded by increasing its support for SAVAK.¹¹⁷

For its part, the Washington Post, in an article written shortly after the Islamic Revolution, acknowledges that “the CIA ‘definitely’ trained SAVAK agents in ‘both physical and psychological’ torture techniques . . . .”¹¹⁸ The article explained that there were “‘[j]oint activities’” between the SAVAK and the CIA and Israel’s Mossad, and that “[t]he Israelis even wrote SAVAK’s ­manuals . . . .”

Well-trained by the CIA, the “Savak—Sazman-i Etelaat va Amniyat-I Keshvar, the ‘National Information and Security Organization’—was to become the most notorious and murderous [of the Shah’s security services], its torture chambers among the Middle’s East’s most terrible institutions.”¹¹⁹

The SAVAK was the original incubator used by the CIA to develop its torture techniques for worldwide distribution. One grisly example of this was illustrated by Mohamed Heikal, one of the “greatest Egyptian journalists, . . . [who] described how Savak filmed the torture of a young Iranian woman, how she was stripped naked and how cigarettes were then used to burn her nipples. According to Heikal, the film was later distributed by the CIA to other intelligence agencies working for American-­supported regimes around the world including Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines.”

The techniques used by the SAVAK, many borrowed from the Nazis and then passed along to the SAVAK by the CIA,¹²⁰ were uniquely grisly and terrible. And, the SAVAK operated much like the Gestapo, entering a person’s home at night, hauling the person away, and many times disappearing that person forever.

As Robert Fisk explains, “[t]he Shah was finally persuaded to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross into Iran’s prisons in 1977; they were allowed to see more than 3,000 ‘security detainees’—political prisoners—in eighteen different jails. They recorded that the inmates had been beaten, burned with cigarettes and chemicals, tortured with electrodes, raped, sodomized with bottles and boiling eggs. Interrogators forced electric cables into the uterus of female prisoners. The Red Cross report named 124 prisoners who had died under torture.”

The first comprehensive report I could find from Amnesty International on Iran and the SAVAK was a briefing dated November 1976—just as Jimmy “Human Rights” Carter was preparing to take office as president. The Amnesty International Briefing, Iran, November 1976¹²¹ makes for fascinating, if not horrifying, reading, and gives one a glimpse into the dark world which the US played a key role in manufacturing for the Iranian people.

Amnesty International (AI) described Iran as “in theory a constitutional monarchy with a partially elected parliament, but in practice the Shah has supreme authority.”¹²² As AI explained, “[o]ne important instrument of the Shah’s authority is the army . . .

[and] [t]he other, equally important, is the National Intelligence and Security Organization (SAVAK) which was formed in 1957 ‘for the purposes of security of the country and prevention of any kind of conspiracy detrimental to public interests . . . .’ The head of the SAVAK is appointed by the Shah and wields unlimited power.”

AI related that “[t]he suppression of political opposition is carried out by SAVAK with extreme ruthlessness using a system of informers which permeates all levels of Iranian society and which has created an atmosphere of fear remarked on by visitors to Iran and emphasized by opponents of the regime outside the country.”¹²³

Torture was endemic, and indeed central, to the Shah’s reign. As AI reported, “[a]ll observers to trials since 1965 have reported allegations of torture . . . . Alleged methods of torture include whipping and beating, electric shocks, the extraction of nails and teeth, boiling water pumped into the rectum, heavy weights hung on the testicles, tying the prisoner to a metal table heated to white heat, inserting a broken bottle into the anus, and rape.”

The very existence of the SAVAK belies any claims that the US somehow cares about human rights, democracy, or freedom, or that it wants such things for the Iranian people. And certainly, the Iranian people must be forgiven if they do not believe that the US has their best interests at heart.

Iranians have every reason and right to feel anger and even hatred toward the United States, not just for what the US has done to them, but also because the US continues to do so while holding itself out as a bright beacon of democracy and freedom in the world. The US’s as pretense of being a uniquely righteous country must be hard to bear for many in the world, not just the Iranians.

Moreover, as we would see time and again, the US’s meddling in another country would be followed by meddling in our own democratic processes. Thus, Ronald Reagan would exploit the hostage-taking which followed the Iranians’ revolution against the US-backed Shah in 1979 to steal the 1980 presidential elections in the US.

As intrepid journalist Robert Parry helped to expose, Reagan worked with senior Republicans, including George H.W. Bush (former CIA director and then Reagan’s running mate), high-level CIA officers not appointed by Carter, and Israeli intelligence as used long-time assets in Tehran—assets which both the United States and Israel had cultivated for years under the Shah—to prevail upon the hostage takers to hold the American hostages at the former US Embassy longer in order to undermine Carter’s chances at reelection. As Parry writes, “[t]he idea was that by persuading the Iranians to hold the 52 American hostages until after the US presidential election, Carter would be made to look weak and inept, essentially dooming his hopes for a second term.”¹²⁴

According to Parry, Israeli intelligence agent Ari Ben-Menashe, among other “October Surprise” witnesses, gave sworn testimony about the “meetings between Republicans and Iranians in 1980 that were designed with the help of CIA personnel and Israeli intelligence to delay release of the 52 hostages until after Carter’s defeat.”

Parry quite correctly compares this coup plot against Carter to the plot against Mossadegh himself, though, of course, the target of the coup plot in this case was a sitting American president. There is probably no better illustration of the United States’ habitual overthrow of foreign governments coming back to haunt us, and our own democracy, than this event. And, it should not be surprising that the chickens would come back to roost in this way. When any individual or institution (e.g., the CIA) becomes too comfortable with making deals with devils to obtain such ends as regime change elsewhere, it is but one small step beyond this to making such deals to implement regime change at home. In this way, the CIA and its immoral coup plotting has become a grave danger to our own Republic.



THE NEXT COUNTRY ON THE CIA chopping block was Guatemala whose crime was to have a revolution in 1944 which overthrew a military dictatorship, established democratic rule, and gave land and a modicum of dignity to its mostly peasant population. As Noam Chomsky, quoting a CIA memorandum from 1952, describes:

Furthermore, the 1944 revolution had aroused “a strong national movement to free Guatemala from the military dictatorship, social backwardness, and ‘economic colonialism’ which had been the pattern of the past,” and “inspired the loyalty and conformed to the self-interest of most politically conscious Guatemalans.” Things became still worse after a successful land reform began to threaten “stability” in neighboring countries where suffering people did not fail to take notice.

In short, the situation was pretty awful.¹²⁵

In light of the above, and the fact that some of the land reform was to come at the expense of United Fruit Company (now Chiquita) whose land the government was willing to purchase at the market rate, the Guatemala government, led by President Jacobo Arbenz, was deemed a “Communist threat” which had to be overthrown.¹²⁶

A good glimpse into the US-orchestrated coup which followed can be found in the now-declassified report of the CIA’s own historian, Nicholas Cullather, whose candor is quite refreshing. As Cullather explains:

The CIA’s operation to overthrow the Government of Guatemala in 1954 marked an early zenith in the Agency’s long record of covert action. Following closely on the successful operations that installed the Shah as ruler of Iran [redacted] the Guatemalan operation, known as PBSUCCESS, was both more ambitious and more thoroughly successful than either precedent. Rather than helping a prominent contender gain power with a few inducements, PBSUCCESS used an intensive paramilitary and psychological campaign to replace a popular, elected government with a political non-entity.¹²⁷

This operation clearly proved the old adage that “there’s no success like failure,” for from the point of view of promoting democracy, freedom, and development, this was a grandiose failure.

As Cullather himself concedes, “”[t]he overthrown Arbenz government was not, [as] many contend