In the 1980s the Sandinista government in Nicaragua was attracting wide attention with achieving very significant improvements in health, education and small peasant based farming cooperatives. Some of the development achievements it recorded could not be achieved by the Somoza dictatorship, a US client state, in the previous four decades.
While the people of Nicaragua were very happy and hopeful with the achievements of the new government, the USA government was upset that this would spread a strong message regarding the superiority of the socialist model over the capitalist model. Hence the CIA and President Reagan launched a huge campaign to harm not just the Sandinista government but also the symbols of its success such as health centers, hospitals, schools and cooperatives. For this purpose various right-wing groups called contras (counter revolutionaries) were mobilized, armed and trained by the CIA in an operation costing several million dollars. In addition the CIA arranged for explosions at ports, refineries and pipelines.
America Watch, which subsequently became part of Human Rights Watch, accused the contras of targeting health care clinics and assassination of health workers, attacking and killing civilians, torturing them, raping women and burning civilian homes.
Human Rights Watch stated in a report (1989), “The Contras were major and systematic violators of the most basic standards of the laws of armed conflict, including by launching indiscriminate attacks on civilians, selectively murdering non-combatants and mistreating prisoners.”
When concern grew at the Contras’ indiscriminate aggressions and the US Congress stopped their funding, the CIA arranged illegal funds for the Contras including money from drugs trafficking and sale of arms.
50 years back in September 1973 the CIA planned to oust another socialist government committed to the welfare of people—the Popular Unity government led by President Salvador Allende in Chile, a very popular leader who was expected to prove the superiority of the socialist path of progress. Following Allende’s election the CIA director had a meeting with President Nixon and a note from this meeting, later declassified, stated–$ 10 million available, more if necessary, full time job, best men we have, game plan make the economy scream, 48 hours for plan of action.
However before Allende could be removed, it was found necessary to get rid of General Rene Schneider who was committed to the constitution of the country and was a man of great integrity. Big money and weapons to get rid of him were provided by the CIA. Attempts to kidnap him were made in the course of which he was eventually killed. Then came the CIA-assisted attack against Allende in the course of which the presidential palace was bombed and Allende died. This led to the Pinochet dictatorship for several decades characterized by huge corruption, corporate plunder and inequalities on the one hand and the most terrible torture, executions and disappearances on the other hand, inflicted on tens of thousands of opponents including women. The Pinochet regime which tortured and killed opponents for decades got full support from the USA and the Chilean model was held out for emulation by a leading group of US economists the Chicago boys.
In 1961 the people of the newly independent Republic of Congo had high hopes of progress under the leadership of their very popular leader and freedom fighter Patrice Lumumba, but the democratically elected Prime Minister was ousted in a coup supported by Belgium and USA, and killed in a very cruel way. Here again this ouster was followed by Mobutu led dictatorship for decades, characterized by glaring abuse of human rights including large-scale torture, cruel suppression of opponents, plunder of economy and massive corruption. For the most part this dictatorship was supported by the USA.
In 1964 USA assisted efforts led to a coup to bring down the democratic government of Brazil led by President Joao Goulart. This led to a dictatorship characterized by death squads, torture and human rights violations.
Mohammad Mossadegh was a popular leader and Prime Minister of Iran, elected democratically in elections, keen to get more resources for helping his people by curbing the profits of oil multinationals. This led to a coup by the combined agents of the USA and Britain in 1953, so that the unpopular Shah of Iran could be brought in again for monarchical rule, suppressing the democratic aspirations of the people. While Mossadegh was jailed and many of his supporters were jailed or executed, a secret police called SAVAK was set up which became notorious for its gruesome torture and repressive activities.
In Guatemala around the same time a CIA-assisted coup led to the ouster of the democratically elected government of President Jacobo Arbenz that was known to be devoted to the welfare of people. This was followed by nearly four decades of military rule with its death squads, disappearances, torture, and mass executions, claiming over 150,000 victims.
The Church Committee of the US Senate had investigated the allegations relating to the assassination and attempted assassination of almost a dozen foreign leaders by the US intelligence agencies like the CIA. Other books on this subject have mentioned close to 40 prominent foreign leaders who are likely to have been targeted with assassination or grave harm. In addition many disturbing questions have been raised in the context of the circumstances of the death of three prominent leaders of the USA at a young age—President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy Sr. All three were involved in trying to find a path for the USA which is closer to the precepts of peace and justice.
In the case of Fidel Castro, the most popular leader and former President of Cuba, dozens of assassination and serious harm attempts were made but he survived them all. In addition there have been several other terrorist aggressions aimed at Cuba causing immense harm. There is an even longer history of disruptive and sabotage efforts by the USA and close allies against the Soviet Union and Russia.
In Indonesia the popular President Sukarno survived assassination and blackmailing attempts but was finally ousted around 1965 in a regime change that is widely believed to have been assisted by the USA. This was accompanied by a bloodbath aimed at particularly the communists and using religious fanatics as aggressors. The number of those who were killed was stated to be around half a million, although some estimates also mention a higher figure.
In Iraq the total number of those killed in all the hostile activities of the USA and its close allies exceeds one million. Some of the most deadly new terrorist groups based on sectarian and fundamentalist ideologies were created as a result of the hostile actions of the USA and its allies here and in Syria (which too has experienced extensive devastation due to the various hostile activities of the USA).
Earlier the USA mobilized sectarian, fanatic militants from many Islamic countries and armed them heavily with the help of Pakistan to fight the Soviet army and the communist regime in Afghanistan. Over 15,000 of these armed militants later spread violent conflict in many other countries as well, while also attacking several US and western targets.
In Libya in 2011 USA, Britain and France again armed and used such militants for regime change in very violent ways, supported by thousands of air bombing raids. These militants again later troubled and destabilized several neighboring countries.
Even within European allied countries like France, Italy and Greece there were reports of US interference to check the spread of leftist groups, including the use of gangster violence and other illegal methods for this. Even mainstream leaders like former President Charles de Gaulle in France felt badly threatened at times.
Several Cuban exiles who have taken shelter in the USA have been involved in terrorist activities against Cuba including hijacking but have continued to find shelter and help in the USA. Similarly several other dictators or their henchmen used in serious human rights violations and crimes against their people have been finding safe haven in the USA from time to time.
We may conclude with a quote from a report of Amnesty International —“Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or ‘disappeared’, at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame.” ( Washington Office of Amnesty International, Human Rights and US Security Assistance, 1996, page 1).
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine, A Day in 2071, Earth without Borders and Protecting Earth for Children.