Monday, February 19, 2018

How Does It Feel? Election Interference Comes Home to Roost

Russia has polluted our elections, trying to suppress or increase the vote for particular candidates by planting false and inflammatory information in our media.  Another government stole our sacred right to choose our own leaders.  As Bob Dylan sang in Like a Rolling Stone, “how does it feel?” 

If it feels rotten, if you feel degraded, violated, and outraged, then remember what Malcolm X said about the “chickens coming home to roost” with the assassination of John Kennedy, whom he argued had accepted “a climate of hate” at home and “twiddled his thumbs” during the American assassination of our faltering ally, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, just three weeks earlier. 

The chickens have similarly come home to roost with today’s Russian interference.  The disturbing truth for Americans is that our government has made a career out of influencing and indeed stealing elections using the Russians’ media tricks and more, like funding candidates, stuffing ballot boxes, and then arming the phony electoral victors.  The crime of interfering in other countries’ right to choose their own leaders has been at the core of U.S. foreign policy for the past 100 years, and continues today.  

To extend Martin Luther King’s 1967 remarks about the violence of urban riots versus the violence of the U.S. invasion of Viet Nam, “the greatest purveyor of (election interference) in the world today is my own government.”

Throughout Latin America, U.S. money, fake news, and coups kept the people Franklin Roosevelt called “our bastards” in power throughout the 20th century.  There is probably not a single country in Latin America where the United States did not covertly pollute an election.  For example, when a looming right-wing electoral victory threatened U.S. Congressional support for the brutal but pro-U.S. military in the civil war in El Salvador in 1984, the United States stole the election for moderate figurehead Napoleon Duarte.  The brutal war, in which Duarte had little control over the slaughter by the Army, continued another five years and another 50,000 dead before Congress, disgusted with yet another massacre of church leaders, cut off the Army.  This led rapidly to a peaceful resolution of the ten-year conflict.  Guatemala 1954, Chile 1970, Nicaragua1990…CIA-planted fake news and CIA-spurred demonstrations destabilized elected democracies.     

In Africa, the CIA spread fake news to legitimate outlets when opponents of our favorite dictator Joseph Mobutu invaded Shaba province in 1978.  Mobutu was a brutal, corrupt dictator, but he gave the CIA free hand in staging military interventions in other African countries.  But who wouldn’t support President Carter flying in U.S.-armed Moroccan paratroopers when the rebels were forcing white women to dance naked on tables in Kolwezi bars before raping and shooting them?   Oh, sorry, that was fake news, planted in respected European media and picked up in American media.

Even the war in Viet Nam, in which the U.S. insistence on choosing the government of Viet Nam resulted in three million deaths over 30 years, came from our intervention in an election – in France!  

Few Americans know that we shipped French troops back to Viet Nam in 1945 to seize the country back from the Vietnamese liberation army after Japan withdrew, and even fewer know that we did it not because of any concern about Viet Nam, but because of an election in France.   Our ally Charles De Gaulle feared losing the December election to the Communist Party, which was pro-colonialism.  He convinced Harry Truman that without the resumption of colonial rule in Viet Nam, the Communists would win in France.  Since the United States was fixing elections in Italy to keep Communists out of power it was no great stretch to start a war in Viet Nam to keep Communists out of power in France.

All this begs the question, how should we respond to this attack on our country?  How about making a pledge not to back non-democratic “friends” who help us with our military, covert, and economic projects, and thereby letting other countries have the right we feel so keenly cheated of right now, the right to choose their own government.  That would mean the end of military and covert assistance to Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Afghanistan, Iraq, and scores of other governments.  In short, it means the end of what the Pentagon calls the Long War for control of the Muslim world, from West Africa to East Asia.  How does that feel?

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