Needed: A National Debate on U.S. Support of Dictatorships
by Jacob G. Hornberger
While the U.S. government continues to squawk about the Assad dictatorship’s oppression of the Syrian people, Americans need to constantly keep in mind that the squawking has nothing to do with any principled objection to dictatorship or tyranny. Instead, it has everything to do with the fact that the Assad dictatorship is not a loyal member of the U.S. Empire. Thus, the purpose of the squawking is to not to help the Syrian people escape tyranny but instead simply an effort to bring about a regime change, one in which a new regime, even a dictatorial one, replaces the Assad regime, with the new regime hopefully becoming a loyal pro-U.S. member of the U.S. Empire.
The discomforting truth is that the U.S. government has nothing against foreign dictatorships in general, so long as the dictatorships are loyal to the U.S. Empire.
Consider Iran. From 1953 to 1979, Iran was governed by a regime headed by the Shah of Iran, one of the cruelest and most brutal dictators in history. That regime thought nothing of rounding up people without trial, torturing them, and even executing them, all in the name of protecting “national security” and maintaining “order and stability.”
The U.S. Empire loved the Shah’s regime. That’s not too surprising given that the CIA instigated the coup that destroyed Iran’s experiment with democracy and that installed the Shah into power. In fact, the CIA actually helped train the secret domestic intelligence force that the Shah used to terrorize the Iranian people.
Today, the U.S. Empire hates the Iranian regime. But it hates it not because it is a brutal dictatorship but because it’s not a pro-U.S. dictatorship, like the Shah’s was,
Consider Egypt, a country whose military dictatorship has oppressed the Egyptian people for decades. The U.S. Empire is principally responsible for the enormous might of Egypt’s military dictatorship, given the billions of dollars in cash and weaponry that the U.S. Empire has delivered to the dictatorship for decades.
Why did the Empire do that? Because U.S. officials loved Egypt’s military dictatorship. They believed as strongly as Egyptian officials that the oppression of the Egyptian people wasn’t oppression at all but necessary measures to protect “national security” and maintain “order and stability.”
Consider Bahrain. That country too is headed by a brutal dictatorship, which just recently tortured and killed people for resisting the tyranny under which they have long suffered. The U.S. Empire continues to partner with this brutal regime, a partnership that includes a major U.S. military base in Bahrain. See this April 29, 2012, article from the BBC entitled “Bahrain Police ‘Continue to Torture Detainees.’”
Consider Saudi Arabia, one of the most brutal dictatorships in the Middle East. That regime too has long been an ally and partner of the U.S. Empire. For a good analysis of the close relationship between that dictatorship and the U.S. Empire, see this article, “The U.S. and the Saudis,” published today by Glenn Greenwald at Salon.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a new phenomenon. The U.S. Empire has a long history of embracing and supporting foreign dictatorships. Recall that in 1954, one year after installing the Shah’s dictatorial regime in Iran, the Empire ousted the democratically elected president of Guatemala and replaced him with a series of brutal, unelected military dictators.
Recall the brutal unelected military dictatorship of Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet. U.S. officials loved Pinochet and immediately resumed U.S. foreign aid upon his assumption of power. In fact, the U.S. Empire’s current foreign assassination program might well have been modeled on Pinochet’s foreign assassination program.
Recall also the many other dictators in Latin America that the U.S. Empire has historically embraced and supported, such as dictators in Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua, and others.
Indeed, let’s return to Syria, about which U.S. officials are doing all that squawking. Let’s not forget that the U.S. Empire actually partnered with the Assad dictatorship to torture one of the CIA’s terrorist suspects. We don’t know the details of the rendition-torture partnership apparently because that would threaten “national security.” And we don’t know why the Empire and the Assad dictatorship later fell out with each other. But we do know that the U.S. Empire once did embrace the same dictatorship that it’s now squawking about.
Obviously, the subject of U.S. support of dictatorships isn’t going to be debated during the upcoming presidential race given that both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama buy into the status quo paradigm of U.S. embrace of dictatorships.
Nonetheless, this is an issue the American people should be debating and discussing. Basic moral principles and the future well-being of our nation demand it.