By Tania Bhattacharya
Throughout the Cold War, the two opposing power blocs of the Soviet Union and the United States, had sought to expand their spheres of influence through direct and proxy methods with a view to bringing as much of humanity as possible, under their respective wings. The Soviet Union’s meddling may have been as annoying as the US’, however, the Russians tried to offset their deleterious manoeuvrings by making constructive contributions to the nations they were targeting. Had it not been for Soviet and Cuban influence and military aid, many colonized countries in sub-Saharan Africa may have never lived a day under national sovereignty. Well-documented accounts exist of Cuban-Soviet contributions in the decolonizing of Angola, Congo, and Namibia. Fighting against the prevailing odds, in circumstances where American-backed apartheid regimes in South Africa and Zaire were attempting to restrain self-determination in subjugated African colonies, Congo, Angola, and Namibia, had rid themselves of their west European colonial masters.
The resurgence of a saffron wave in India may have bolstered the underlying anti-Left sentiments of the Indian populace; but it remains a historical fact, that the man responsible for moving the motion for India’s independence from Great Britain, Prime Minister Clement Attlee, was someone who was a leading figure of the British Labour Party, an organization with a Leftist outlook on political and social affairs.
Most of us can associate the US administration with Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, and Iraq, where the country fought conventional wars with the locals. Few though can do so pertaining to Syria, Indonesia, and Guatemala.
In 1967, in a BBC interview, CIA agent Miles Copeland admitted, that the organization had been attempting regime change in Syria, for a long time. The balkanization of the country and indeed the entire Middle East, was a policy goal of the United States, whose beneficiaries would be the US and its West Asian ally, Israel. By creating social unrest and civil war in West Asian societies, which were peaceful, if not content, under self-rule; America could then prop up its own puppet premiers to rule the disparate entities that would have emerged from the disintegration of the mother state. With this aim in mind, regressive Islamist political outfits like the Muslim Brotherhood, were patronized and funded by the CIA.
Copeland tells us, that Husni al Zaim, a Syrian army commander, had sought US help in dismantling the stable Syrian regime of Shukri Quwaiti, who had been the Syrian head-of-state, following the liberation of that country from French rule. King Abdullah of Jordan, has been a long-time, trusted ally of the CIA. Whenever the latter has wanted to ship arms to the forces it shores up, Jordan volunteers for the onus of routing those arms. Once Muammar Gaddafi – the West’s bete noir – had been removed from power in 2011, the US Secret Service transferred the arms found in the late dictator’s arsenal, to Syria. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has reported on the US administration’s dealings with Islamist forces in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar; which were instrumental in funnelling weapons to the Islamist anti-Assad forces inside Syria.
Recruits have poured in from far-flung places like Afghanistan, and even Europe, not to mention Turkey, which despite being a NATO ally, has an Islamist President – Erdogan – at the helm. American neo-Conservative Senator John McCain, had successfully attempted the feat of entering Syria without a passport to meet the CIA aided rebels who were furthering the American cause. Aleppo’s FSA – Free Syrian Army – under the garb of ‘democratizing’ their motherland, had been recruiting foreign Jihadists to fight for the cause of toppling Assad. It is now known, that by 2012, the CIA had firmly established a base of operations in Turkey, from where they could access Syrian rebels, by using Turkey’s border with Syria.
The CIA has set up an intelligence service for the FSA and has been providing them with satellite imagery of the movement of Syrian troops. US interest in the balkanization of Syria, began way back in the late 1940s, after the democratically elected Syrian parliament, refused American suggestions of opening oil pipelines in their country. According to an official US government document released in 2012, Islamist forces like the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda, are at the forefront of deposing Assad, with the intention of effecting a Salafist regime in Syria, which will, undoubtedly, be helped to power, by the ‘benevolence’ of the United States.
One of the Cold War’s greatest strategies, was to defame, and decimate, the Communist Party of Indonesia. Indonesia’s President Sukarno, its first Premier after the country was decolonized from French rule, had sworn in Suharto as a cabinet member with no inkling of what was to follow. But why was Indonesia important enough for the United States? John Rossa, who is an Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, has written a seminal tome on the significance of Indonesia in the US scheme of things, and why bringing the country into the American orbit, was sought on a war-footing. Indonesia has the world’s fourth largest population. Back in the day, it’s Communist Party or KPI, was the world’s third largest Communist Party, right behind its counterparts in China, and the Soviet Union.
When US pilot Allen Pope had been apprehended by Indonesian security, while he was bombing Indonesian civilians under orders from his government, with the agenda of destabilizing the rule of democratically-elected President Sukarno, the CIA had been forced to cease its operations in the country. But it would resume its untoward activities, there, soon after.
A 1966 New York Times article monikered ‘A Gleam Of Light’ and penned by American journalist James Reston, opined “The savage transformation of Indonesia from a pro-Chinese policy under Sukarno to a defiantly anti-communist policy under General Suharto is the most important of these [hopeful] developments. Washington is being careful not to claim any credit … but this does not mean Washington had nothing to do with it.”
He had been referring to the 1965 purge of the KSI by President Suharto. It is estimated that more than one million Indonesians, including civilians, government officials, and members of the armed forces, had been interned, brutally tortured, and executed, on charges of treason. They were indicted – sometimes falsely – for collusion with the KSI, and imprisoned. Indonesia’s KSI was, unlike the Marxists of Vietnam, a legitimate and peaceful entity, that had developed a following among the people through a hands-on approach to social and economic issues.
It was only following the KSI mass murders, that President Suharto would assume power in Indonesia, as a US-installed ruler. The Americans must have patted themselves on the back. After all, it was going to be their one and only successful regime change, in East Asia.
Long before the Iran-Contra scandal, and the rise of the Sandinista to power, the South American nation of Guatemala, had deposed its cruel dictator in 1944. The new government was a nationalist one, much like the current Indian administration. Its policy was aimed at self-sufficiency in the economic sector, much as India’s Modi has been advocating his ‘Make In India’ over the past half decade. Guatemala’s self-contained economic success, and rapid advocacy of social reforms, had been found unsettling by the hawks in Washington. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Director of Central Intelligence Agency, Allen Dulles were near-hysterical at the progress Guatemala was making. A memorandum produced by the CIA in 1952, stated that what was happening in Guatemala, was “adverse to US interests” because of the “Communist influence…based on militant advocacy of social reforms and nationalistic policies.”
Meanwhile, the US Capitalist venture, the United Fruit Company – which continues to carry on under the name of Chiquita Brands International – had virtual monopoly over the banana trade in the Caribbean and Latin America. It’s impact on the politics of the region, gave rise to the axiom of ‘banana republic’. With an eye to protecting US interests in South America, especially the well-performing United Fruit Company – which incidentally had been mistreating its workers – America supported dictatorships in Guatemala, for four decades. These dictators have been responsible for genocide of the indigenous Mayan Native Americans of that country. It is believed that more than two hundred thousand innocent civilians have been murdered, not only in cases where they opposed their US installed leaders, but also when they had little to do with activism. US interference and regime change in the country, has led to Guatemala being called ‘America’s backyard’.
ISRAEL IN GUATEMALA
US interest in Guatemala has been documented under the previous section, but what is less discussed, is, its ally and friend, Israel’s, presence in the South American state. Since the 1980s, Israel has provided intelligence and military aid to the ruling dictatorships of Guatemala. This was formally acknowledged by former ruler Efrain Rios Montt. He spoke fondly of the forces that had helped him come to power in 1982. The said military coup had received surreptitious aid from Israeli intelligence. In the book Dangerous Liaisons: The Inside Story Of The US-Israeli Covert Relationship, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, have quoted Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Amatzai Shuali as saying “I don’t care what the Gentiles do with the arms. The main thing is that the Jews profit.” Shuali was an advisor to the Guatemalan dictatorship.
Under the Carter administration, aid to Guatemala’s ruler was restricted. This was done after several allegations of grave Human Rights violations had surfaced. In the scenario, Israel had found a ripe opportunity to make its presence felt in the South American country, with an eye to fill its own coffers. This was unabashedly stated by Yaakov Meridor, who was the Israeli Economic Minister, in the early 1980s. Wherever the Americans were hesitant to exert their influence through political geography, and weapons technology, Israel was willing to step in. Meridor’s exact words were “We will say to the Americans: Don’t compete with us in Taiwan; don’t compete with us in South Africa; don’t compete with us in the Caribbean or in other places where you cannot sell arms directly. Let us do it … Israel will be your intermediary.”
Indeed, Israeli war technology was not being used for the first time, when it helped the Guatemalan dictator retain power. Israel had already displayed what it was capable of doing in terms of proxy damage, during the internecine
Lebanese Civil War, that had lasted from 1975 till 1990. Among the factions that were party to the internal disintegration of Lebanon, was the Christian Phalangists, lead by the Maronite militia commander Bashir Gemayel. Soon after his assassination, the Israeli military had occupied southern Lebanon, in a bid to avenge the murder, a time during which, it actively aided and abetted the infamous Sabra and Shatila massacres of helpless Muslim Palestinians, in downtown Beirut.
It seems the Guatemalan top brass had been impressed with Israel’s ‘performance’ in war-torn Lebanon. Israel’s liaison with Guatemala dates back to the 1960s. Since then, it has contributed military intelligence, weaponry and political advice to the junta that remained in power in the Latin American nation, treating the beneficiary nation’s Mayan natives, as it treats its Palestinian citizens back home; as vermin, worthy of exploitation, and ultimate creaming. Ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt, otherwise a genocidal war criminal, was one of the beneficiaries. Guatemalan citizens, rightfully harbour a deep resentment for Israel, because they relate it with their own decades old misfortune.
What lesson does the expansionist hubris of the world’s only superpower, and its strategic buddy, Israel, have for India? Of late, India has swerved Right to an extent, where India’s foreign relations with both these powerful nations have made us blind to the pitfalls of courting them, incessantly. The US with its changing global interests, had once been an ally of our north-western neighbour, Pakistan. After 9/11, Pakistan was left in the lurch, and the latter had to find out the hard way, that it was never a wife, but a mere, one-time mistress of the mighty US. India would be advised to avoid such a loss of face. Forging a comradeship between fellow nations with similar interests, like Russia, Iran, and Brazil, would be an intelligent move. As proved time and again, History does not forgive those who ignore its lessons.
Tania is a freelance writer with a Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies who has a wide range of interests.