The Role of the U.S. in Latin America and Elsewhere

The term "terrorism," in practice, means the terrorism that THEY carry out against US. And the U.S. is not alone in this practice - it is probably close to universal. Cuba is certainly not alone in being treated this way. There is very rich literature documenting the practice generally.... Even the orders of the World Court calling on the U.S. to terminate its "unlawful use of force" (i.e., international terrorism, or maybe even aggression) against Nicaragua, and the supporting Security Council resolution (vetoed by the US), are unknown [in the U.S.], and if brought up, dismissed as proof that the Court is "anti-American" and irrelevant. The Cuban case is unusual because it is so clear, certainly since JFK ordered his staff to launch "the terrors of the earth" against Cuba....
--Noam Chomsky, September, 2002

To understand the politics of Cuba, it is necessary to understand the role of the US in Latin America and elsewhere. By examining the history of the US aggression and intervention, we can see clearly the motives that have driven its foreign policy and what it is capable of given the motive and opportunity. It will then be easy to see why the Cuban people must take what seem to us to be extraordinary measures to counter this threat. For them, it is truly a matter of life and death. Recent developments -- shifts in popular opinion in the US, etc. -- are the basis for some optimism that Cuba/US relations may soon improve. Cubans must, however, exercise extreme caution if they are not to meet a fate similar to that of the former USSR, Yugoslavia and others. As William Blum states in the introduction to his recent essay, US Aggression and Intervention, in The Guardian (CPA),

The engine of American foreign policy has been fueled not by a devotion to any kind of morality, but by the necessity to serve other imperatives:

In his essay, he briefly describes no less than 70 extremely serious interventions by the US around the world. (For detailed accounts and a full set of references, see Blum's "Killing Hope: CIA and US military interventions since World War II" – see excerpts at his web site.)

Following are some examples for quick reference:


For those who think that US aggression such as we saw in Vietnam and Chile are things of the past, they need only look at the recent history of Yugoslavia and Iraq. In Yugoslavia, throughout the 1990's we see the US, its allies (primarily Helmut Kohl's Germany) and its surrogates (the IMF and World Bank), have systematically destroyed Yugoslav society and plundered its economic resources. All this inevitably lead to the collapse of civil society and war. This is well documented. Former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, in his "Text of the indictment for US and allied war crimes in Yugoslavia" writes:

The United States, Germany, NATO and other defendants engaged in a course of conduct beginning in, or before 1991 intended to break the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia into many parts, segregate different ethnic, religious and other groups among and within newly balkanized borders, weaken the Slav, Serb, Muslim and other populations by causing and prolonging internal violence and by direct assaults by the United States and certain NATO members.

Lenora Foerstel, in her essay "U.S. and NATO Goals in the Balkans," writes:

The wars begun by U.S. and German interests in the Balkans have not yet ended. With the aid of NATO, these two countries intend to use the Balkans as a corridor to Eurasia and to move all the way to the Caspian Sea. Equally important is their goal to build capitalist economies dependent on western aid in all of the former socialist nations.

Michel Chossudovsky, in his essay, "Dismantling Yugoslavia; Colonizing Bosnia," writes:

The conventional wisdom holds that the plight of the Balkans is the outcome of an "aggressive nationalism," the inevitable result of deep-seated ethnic and religious tensions rooted in history. Likewise, commentators cite "Balkans power-plays" and the clash of political personalities to explain the conflicts.

Lost in the barrage of images and self-serving analyses are the economic and social causes of the conflict. The deep- seated economic crisis which preceded the civil war is long forgotten. The strategic interests of Germany and the US in laying the groundwork for the disintegration of Yugoslavia go unmentioned, as does the role of external creditors and international financial institutions [like the IMF and World Bank].

For a remarkable insight into the workings of these international financial institution, we have Gregory Palast's interview with economics Nobel laureate and former Chief Economist of the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz ("IMF's Four Steps to Damnation," Observer, April 29, 2001). Here, he outlines the infamous Structural "Adjustment" Program that the conservative, Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) routinely imposes on all of the its financially troubled client states:

Each nation's economy is analysed, says Stiglitz , then the Bank hands every minister the same four-step programme.

Step One is privatisation. Stiglitz said that rather than objecting to the sell-offs of state industries, some politicians - using the World Bank's demands to silence local critics - happily flogged their electricity and water companies. 'You could see their eyes widen' at the possibility of commissions for shaving a few billion off the sale price....

After privatisation, Step Two is capital market liberalisation. In theory this allows investment capital to flow in and out. Unfortunately, as in Indonesia and Brazil, the money often simply flows out....

At this point, according to Stiglitz, the IMF drags the gasping nation to Step Three: market-based pricing - a fancy term for raising prices on food, water and cooking gas. This leads, predictably, to Step-Three-and-a-Half: what Stiglitz calls 'the IMF riot.'.

The IMF riot is painfully predictable. When a nation is, 'down and out, [the IMF] squeezes the last drop of blood out of them. They turn up the heat until, finally, the whole cauldron blows up,' - as when the IMF eliminated food and fuel subsidies for the poor in Indonesia in 1998. Indonesia exploded into riots....

Now we arrive at Step Four: free trade. This is free trade by the rules of the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank, which Stiglitz likens to the Opium Wars. 'That too was about "opening markets",' he said. As in the nineteenth century, Europeans and Americans today are kicking down barriers to sales in Asia, Latin American and Africa while barricading our own markets against the Third World 's agriculture.

Continuing on this theme, Richard Becker, in his "IMF/World Bank, Globalization and US Militarism" writes:

U.S. imperialist domination is the number-one problem, the main obstacle to real development and progress for the people of the world. And military superiority above all is what makes the United States the leading imperial power.

From Washington's point of view, the aim of globalization-- breaking down all barriers to capital's worldwide exploitation--is not just "corporate domination" in the general sense, but U.S. corporate domination. To achieve this domination, the ruling establishment often uses economic, political, diplomatic and military means in an integrated strategy, as they have against Iraq and Yugoslavia.

In Iraq, we see what can only be described as US-sponsored genocide where thosuands of  civilians a month are dying now as a direct result of the embargo on Iraq. Half a million Iraqi children have died so far under the current sanctions. This is the view of Dennis Halliday, a top UN official in charge of the so-called Food-for-Oil program in Iraq. From a recent article (August 2000) in the Baltimore Sun:

In the interview, Halliday criticized what he called the U.S. corruption of the U.N. Security Council, suggesting that U.S. leaders are imposing neocolonialism "to dominate the Arab world in order to control the supply of oil, and destroy and suppress perhaps the strongest country within the Arab world, which in 1990 dared to challenge the West."

Halliday is no supporter of Hussein, nor does he apologize for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. But he said Hussein's "grave mistake" provided an opening to crush the Iraqi people, which Bush seized.

In the course of the gulf war, the U.S. officials "broke international law and the Geneva Conventions. They deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure -- committing crimes against humanity," Halliday said.

Both Halliday and his successor, Hans von Sponeck, who felt powerless to do anything about the carnage, resigned in protest.  In their joint report, "Iraq: The Hostage Nation," (CounterPunch.com, December 6, 2001), Von Sponeck and Halliday write:

The most recent report of the UN secretary-general, in October 2001,
says that the US and UK governments' blocking of $4bn of humanitarian
supplies is by far the greatest constraint on the implementation of
the oil-for-food program The report says that, in contrast, the Iraqi
government's distribution of humanitarian supplies is fully
satisfactory (as it was when we headed this program). The death of
some 5-6,000 children a month is mostly due to contaminated water,
lack of medicines and malnutrition. The US and UK governments' delayed
clearance of equipment and materials is responsible for this tragedy,
not Baghdad.

Commenting on this humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq, US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, was recently quoted as saying, "The price is worth it." In the cases of Yugoslavia and Iraq therefore, we have a clear indication of the ruthlessness with which the US, even today, routinely pursues its global political and economic objectives. This is the belligerent superpower that the Cuban Revolution has miraculously held at bay for over 40 years, beginning with the crushing defeat of the CIA-trained-and-financed mercenary invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.


It is interesting to contrast the roles of Cuban and the US interventions on the world stage. From writer/film-maker, Saul Landau's essay, "Cuba's role in Africa," on Cuba's role in Angola, for which it was roundly condemned by all capitalist governments of the day and even subject to sanctions, we have: 

Unbeknownst to the public, [US Secretary of State, Henry] Kissinger, had previously launched a covert military action to prevent the pro-Soviet and pro-Cuban MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) from assuming power. The United States was paying two rival Angolan factions.

The CIA plan involved coordinating US actions with the South African defense force, which would invade Angola from the South, pretending-- so that it didn’t look like an official apartheid white army invading a black country again -- that the troops were working with an anti-MPLA, tribal-based group called UNITA, which supposedly had recruited a mercenary force of white irregulars. Jonas Savimbi took both South African and CIA money as he and his rag tag UNITA troops latched on to the disciplined apartheid army....

Thanks to Cuba’s effort, Angola won its independence. But a decade later, Cuban troops again play the key role in the second defeat of South Africa’s military in the 1987-88 battles of Cuito Cuanavale--battles that eventually led to the apartheid government’s decision to abandon a military strategy and negotiate with the African National Congress.

I remember watching Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as South Africa’s first black president and him shaking the hands of heads of state until he came to Fidel. Mandela grabbed the Cuban President in a bear hug and whispered, audibly, “You made this possible.” 

Further reading

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