Friday, March 21, 2008

dd-c08-s11

Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 8: The Agenda of the Doves: 1988 Segment 11/11
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7. Yearning for Democracy

While domestic hawks and doves differ on tactical choices, they are in accord in preferring democratic forms, where this is feasible. Some see this preference as an absolute passion. Thus, New York Times diplomatic correspondent Neil Lewis writes that "The yearning to see American-style democracy duplicated throughout the world has been a persistent theme in American foreign policy." Lewis was reflecting on the situation in Haiti, where the U.S.-backed military government had suppressed the scheduled elections by violence, the widely predicted consequence of U.S. support for the junta. These events, Lewis observed, are "the latest reminder of the difficulty American policy-makers face in trying to work their will, no matter how benevolent, on other nations." Our righteous endeavors had succeeded in the Philippines, with the overthrow of Marcos by "people power," but were coming to grief in Haiti.37

The sentiments are conventional. At the rhetorical level, the yearning for democracy has indeed been a persistent theme, coexisting easily with the regular resort to violence and subversion to undermine democracy.

Given the conventions of ideological warfare, it is quite possible to describe even the most brutal regimes as "democracies," as long as they serve the goals of the policy-makers. The example of the "fledgling democracies" of Central America is notorious. Another familiar case is the doctrine that "democracy is on the ideological march" because the experience of the last several decades shows that it leads to prosperity and development: "As an economic mechanism, democracy demonstrably works," James Markham writes in the lead article in the Times Week in Review.38 We are to understand, then, that the economic miracles of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore took place under democracy. The conventional thesis that Markham expresses reveals, once again, the prevailing contempt for democracy.

The countries that inspired Neil Lewis's thoughts about our unfulfilled yearnings are, in fact, instructive examples of the attitude toward democracy. In the case of the Philippines, few seem to find it jarring to read an upbeat report on "the return of full democracy" to the country under the headline "Aquino's decree bans Communist Party," with a lead paragraph explaining that a presidential decree stipulated penalties of imprisonment for membership in the party, which had been legalized under the Marcos dictatorship. Not long before, Marcos himself had been a model democrat, a man "pledged to democracy" (Ronald Reagan); "we love your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic processes" and your "service to freedom," Vice-president George Bush proclaimed in Manila. That, however, was before Marcos had lost control, and with it, his credentials as a freedom-loving democrat. The nature of Philippine democracy before and after the Marcos dictatorship also evokes little self-reflection -- or even comment.39

The reference to Haiti is also instructive. After many earlier interventions, Woodrow Wilson launched murderous counterinsurgency wars in Haiti and the Dominican Republic (Hispaniola), leaving the countries shattered and demoralized, the constitutional structure reduced to mere farce, and American corporations able to "work their will" without local impediments. In subsequent years, the U.S. supported savage tyrants, turning against them only when they began to infringe upon U.S. interests or lose their effectiveness, with direct intervention when necessary to ensure that events proceeded on their proper course.40

The Reagan administration continued to certify the progress of "democratic development" in Haiti as President-for-life Jean-Claude Duvalier invoked still more repressive legislation in 1985, described as "an encouraging step forward" by the U.S. Ambassador at a July 4th celebration. But not long after, it became clear that the dictator's days were numbered. As the Wall St. Journal observed perceptively, when "U.S. analysts learned that Haiti's ruling circle had lost faith" in Duvalier, "U.S. officials, including Secretary of State George Shultz, began openly calling for a `democratic process' in Haiti."41 At the same time, the U.S. favorite Marcos lost his usefulness, with similar consequences. Since then, we sing our praises for these renewed demonstrations of our yearning for democracy.

Throughout the period, the independent media and other right-thinking people have been much impressed with our benevolence. A survey of New York Times editorials from 1916 through 1928 illustrates the prevailing conception, which persists to this day. As Wilson set forth on his crusades in Hispaniola, the editors wrote that the long record of U.S. intervention "clearly shows that the attitude of the United States has been unselfish and helpful." We had acted "in a fatherly way" and were now doing so again as Haiti "sought help here," provided by the marines. This "unselfish intervention" over the years "has been moved almost exclusively by a desire to give the benefits of peace to people tormented by repeated revolutions," without any thought for "preferential advantages, commercial or otherwise. The people of the island should realize that [the U.S. government] is their best friend" while Wilson's troops rampage. "The good-will and unselfish purposes of our own government" are demonstrated by the consequences, the editors wrote 6 years later, when they were all too apparent. Two years before, they had explained that it was necessary for us to see to it that "the people were cured of the habit of insurrection and taught how to work and live"; they "would have to be reformed, guided and educated," and this "duty was undertaken by the United States." "To wean these peoples away from their shot-gun habit of government is to safeguard them against our own exasperation," with the righteous resort to force that it elicits.42

Similarly in Nicaragua, as the marines pursued the "elusive bandit chief" Sandino, it was plain that we were continuing to act, as we always had, with "the best motives in the world," the Times editors assured the reader. And surely no serious person could accept "the mistaken assumption that the presence of the marines is distasteful" to the Nicaraguans, or could heed the attacks on our policy "by professional `liberals' in this country." The editors did, however, regard it as unfortunate that the clash "comes just at a time when the Department of State is breathing grace, mercy and peace for the whole world." No less admirable is our record in Cuba, where we were able "to save the Cubans from themselves and instruct them in self-government," granting them "independence qualified only by the protective Platt amendment" -- which "protected" U.S. corporations and their local allies who turned the country into a U.S. plantation, averting the threat of democracy and independent development. In the preferred version, "Cuba is very near at hand to refute" the charge of "the menace of American imperialism." We were "summoned" three times until the Cuban people, under our tutelage, "mastered the secret of stability." And while it is true that "our commercial interests have not suffered in the island," "we have prospered together with a free Cuban people," so "no one speaks of American imperialism in Cuba."43

The years pass, the inspiring thoughts remain.


Go to the next chapter.

37 Lewis, NYT, Dec. 6, 1987.

38 NYT, Sept. 25, 1988. See chapter 3, p. 90, for another example.

39 UPI, BG, July 27, 1987. Reagan, NYT, Feb. 12, 1985; Bush, State Department Bulletin 81, August 1981, 30. On democracy under Aquino, see chapter 7, sec. 4.

40 For details, see Turning the Tide and On Power and Ideology.

41 WSJ, Feb. 10, 1986.

42 Editorials, NYT, Sept. 2, Dec. 5, 1916; July 13, 1922; Oct. 5, 1920; May 12, 1928.

43 Editorials, NYT, Jan 4, 14, May 3, 1928; May 3, 1922; Jan. 8, 1928. 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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