Friday, March 21, 2008

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Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 5: The Post-Cold War Era Segment 10/15
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Leaving nothing to chance, the U.S. military sent hundreds of psywar specialists into Panama to "spread pro-American propaganda messages throughout the country" in a campaign to "bolster the image of the United States" and "to stamp American influence on almost every phase of the new government," the press reports. "These guys are...very sophisticated in the psychological aspects of war," an Army official said, "They are engaged in propaganda." 55

Noriega's career fits a standard pattern. Typically, the thugs and gangsters that the U.S. backs reach a point in their careers when they become too independent and too grasping, outliving their usefulness. Instead of just robbing the poor and safeguarding the business climate, they begin to interfere with Washington's natural allies, the local business elite and oligarchy, or even U.S. interests directly. At that point, Washington begins to vacillate; we hear of human rights violations that were cheerfully ignored in the past, and sometimes the U.S. government acts to remove them, even to attempt to assassinate them, as in the case of Trujillo. By 1986-7, the only question was when and how Noriega should be removed, though there were hold-outs. As late as August 1987, Elliott Abrams, obsessed as always by the attraction of violence in Nicaragua, opposed a Senate resolution condemning Noriega.56

Another indication of possible ambivalence in high places is the curious Israel-Panama relation. Apparently, as in the case of Somoza, Israel was not compelled to cancel arms shipments and other assistance to Noriega until virtually the end. According to the Israeli press, when Noriega stopped being Washington's "bosom friend" in 1986, "Israel was ordered to behave -- it was permitted to continue to sell weapons, but required to keep a lower profile in its relations with Noriega." About 20 percent of the half billion dollars of Israeli weapons sales to Panama in the past decade were from the past 3 years, in addition to other military equipment, Efraim Davidi reports in the Labor Party press. He believes that the Americans were following the usual plan of providing weapons to military elements which, they hoped, would eliminate their specific target -- much the same scenario as in Israel's sale of U.S. weapons to Iran from the early 1980s.57

All in all, a successful operation. The U.S. can now proceed to foster democracy and successful economic development, as it has done with such success in the region for many years. The prospect is seriously put forth, in blissful disregard of the relevant history, and the reasons for its regular course. The cheery reports on these prospects did not raise even the most obvious questions: What were the consequences of the most recent invasions, conducted with the same promises?

It took real dedication to miss the point. On the day of the Panama invasion, the back pages carried obituary notices for Herbert Blaize, who presided over the triumph of democracy and reconstruction after the liberation of Grenada to much acclaim -- a perfect occasion for an analysis of the realization of the promise. Initially, the U.S. poured $110 million into the tiny island to stimulate U.S. investment and tourism, to little effect. The country is saddled with a foreign debt of close to $50 million and a trade deficit of $60 million. In early December of 1989, a strike of virtually all public employees demanded payment of wage increases promised from 1987; funds are unavailable, despite heavy borrowing to curb a growing budget deficit. The official unemployment figure is 20%, estimated at 40% among young workers. Alcoholism and drug addiction are said to have reached record levels, along with homicides and other signs of social dissolution. The health care system instituted under Maurice Bishop was dismantled after Blaize expelled the Cuban personnel who staffed it. Two percent of the population are estimated to have emigrated in 1986. In June 1987, President Blaize pushed through an Emergency Powers Act that gave the security forces extensive powers, including detention without trial, house arrest, deportation, and the right to declare a curfew, also establishing a board to censor "politically sensitive songs." There are no more appeals to "Reagan the Provider," who will build us homes, give us food and jobs, and lead us to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, as he promised. Instead, graffiti on walls read "Yankees Out" and "Yankees Go Home." "Recent wall scrawlings are more likely to say things like `Reagan is the world terrorist No. 1'," Gary Krist reports with incomprehension, and "the most flattering description of George Bush" that he heard on the island was that he's "just another Ronald Reagan, only not as aggressive"; that was before the re-run of the script in Panama.58

Or we could look to the Dominican Republic, liberated by a U.S. invasion in 1965 and set on the road to democracy -- though only after years of death squad killings and torture, and the takeover by U.S. corporations of most of what they had not acquired during earlier occupations. This too is regarded as a triumph of democracy, with civilians elected and the military not taking power -- in fact, happy to leave the job of policing to the civilians and the IMF. But "on an island blessed like few others with varied mineral resources, fertile soils, lush forests, and plentiful fish and fowl," Latin America scholar Jan Knippers Black observes, "an ingenious and industrious people continues to struggle with little relief or progress against the ravages of hunger and disease," and the country remains "a virtual appendage of the United States," lacking even minimal independence, with no escape from misery for the general population.59

While U.S. troops were "restoring order" in Panama in January, a boat filled with Dominican refugees fleeing to the U.S. sank, with dozens drowned; another had caught fire a few days earlier, with no survivors. As usual, these incidents were not reported. Unknown numbers of these illegal boat people sail on rickety boats to Puerto Rico each year, with many drowned, and thousands arrested and deported. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service expects to capture more than 10,000 of them in 1990, some 10-20% of those attempting illegal entry, double the number for 1989. Relative to population, a comparable flight from Vietnam would be in the range of 1/2 million to a million, a figure that would arouse vast international protest about the horrors of Communism. The Dominican Republic was not devastated by foreign invaders and economic warfare. But unlike the Vietnamese boat people, there is no political capital to be made from anguishing over the fate of those fleeing its shores, so they remain hidden from view, much like the thousands of boat people fleeing Haiti, some 20,000 returned forcefully during the Reagan years, while others escape to the neighboring Dominican Republic -- or are captured and brought there by force -- to work as virtual slaves on the sugar plantations.60

No such thoughts interrupted the praise of Operation Just Cause and its rich promise -- which is not entirely empty. Bush's announcement of $1 billion in aid to reconstruct the society destroyed by U.S. economic warfare and military attack included $400 million to finance sales of U.S. products to Panama, another $150 million to pay off bank loans, and $65 million in private sector loans and guarantees for U.S. investors -- all gifts to the rich at home by the U.S. taxpayer.61


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55 WP-BG, Dec. 30, 1989.

56 Elaine Sciolino, NYT, Aug. 14, 1987.

57 Davidi, Davar, Dec. 22, 1990, translated by Israel Shahak. The figures on weapons sales are attributed to "foreign publications," but, Shahak notes, this is probably a device to pass censorship with information from reliable Israeli sources. On the arms sales to Iran, see references of chapter 1, note 86.

58 Glenn Fowler, NYT, Dec. 20; Reuter, BG, Dec. 20; Caribbean Development Bank, cited in AP, Dec. 9; Robert Glass, AP, Dec. 22; Grenadan intellectual Gus John, p.c.; Alexander Cockburn, In These Times, Dec. 21, 1989; William Steif, Progressive, January 1990; Krist, New Republic, April 24, 1989. See NACLA's Report on the Americas, Feb. 1990, for more details on Grenada's decline, including discussion of the harmful effects of the U.S. AID program.

59 Black, "The Dominican Military's Conditional Retreat," in Constantine Danopoulos, ed., Military Intervention and Withdrawal (Routledge, 1990). See also chapter 8, below.

60 AP, Jan. 7, 1990. Economist, Dec. 23, 1989; Aug. 25, 1990. Haiti, AP, Nov. 4, 1989, citing Americas Watch. On the selective concern for refugees, see Political Economy of Human Rights, vol. II, chap. 3.

61 Robert Pear, NYT, Jan. 26; AP, Jan. 25, 1990. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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