During the last U.S. presidential election season, Russians attempted to hack their way into voter registration and election systems in 21 states, organized political rallies here, and spent more than a million dollars per month trolling social media sites, and, in general, bamboozling large numbers of citizens.
I’ve seen American reactions that range from being positively impressed at how effective they were, to wanting to strike back at them in vengeance. I’m somewhere in the middle on that, but it’s reminded me about our own history of overturning democracies in other countries, installing dictatorships, invading, and interfering.
Here’s a short list of selected actions. I’ve left out all interventions before 1950 — and that’s a large number that includes Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines, Honduras, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and more — and I’ve also limited myself to some of the best documented interventions.
1953. The U.S. and U.K. overthrew the elected Prime Minister of Iran, who was replaced by a brutal, U.S-backed dictator, the Shah. The coup was designed to undo the Iranian nationalization of a large British oil company (that had previously exploited its workers and cheated Iran of profits) and to give the U.S. and U.K. control of Iranian oil.
1954. The CIA helped overthrow the democratically elected president of Guatemala, paving the way for a pro-U.S. military dictator. The U.S. had been heavily lobbied by the powerful United Fruit Company, whose usual business of bribes and exploitation had been interrupted by the Guatemalan government. Our involvement continued for decades, including training and supporting the military of the Guatemalan government throughout a civil war, despite the government’s slaughter of more than 200,000 civilians.
1961.The CIA engineered a failed invasion of Cuba (Bay of Pigs) I’ve read different estimates of the casualties, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand killed, including fighters on both sides. The U.S. also plotted many failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro.
1964.The U.S. opposed the growing influence of communism in Vietnam, and wanted an excuse to increase its existing military presence and role. It used two incidents in the Gulf of Tonkin (one fake, one misreported) to justify increased troop levels and then carried out an invasion and war, which devastated the nation, spread into neighboring countries, and cost millions of lives.
1964. The U.S. helped depose the elected president of Brazil in a military coup, leading to a series of repressive right-wing dictators. Brazil’s president had planned to nationalize many large U.S-involved companies and the country was also seen as a potential socialist/communist threat.
1973. The CIA helped overthrow Chile’s elected president Allende, ending 40 years of democracy and creating a brutal dictatorship. Allende’s supporters were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. The new dictator was more business-friendly to the U.S.
1980s. The U.S. attempted to overthrow the government of Nicaragua by funding and training murderous Contra terrorist groups. After Congress cut off funding, they were covertly supported when the Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran and funneled the earnings to the Contras. Also, Contra drug sales in the U.S. and Central America helped fund the war.
1980s. The U.S. interfered in a civil war in El Salvador to suppress leftists, heavily arming both the government’s military and covert death squads. Key death squad personnel were trained in methods of torture and execution at Ft. Benning, Georgia. The death squads were responsible for 85% of civilian deaths, including religious leaders and hundreds, or possibly thousands, of children.
1989. The U.S. invaded Panama and ousted former CIA-informant, President Manuel Noriega. There were about 475 military personnel killed, and at least 500 civilians.
2003. The U.S. invaded Iraq on a pretext regarding non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” Meant to bolster U.S. military and economic power in the Middle East, the invasion resulted in killing and injuring hundreds of thousands, and the conflict continues today. The invasion fomented radicalization of militants across the region, leading to the formation of groups such as ISIS.
I love the USA, but it isn’t blind love, and I feel the need to call attention to the darkest elements here. We can and should put a stop to Russian election meddling. Meanwhile, there are lessons to learn about the depravity of taking down other nations whenever it suits our economic interests.