Imperialists in Democratic Clothing
October 8, 2005
By Ken Sanders
his ratings in the tank and desperately in need of a boost, not
to mention a distraction from the sudden impotence of his administration,
this week President Bush fell back on what worked so successfully
for him in the past: fostering fear and promoting war.
Originally scheduled to mark the anniversary of 9/11, but postponed
so that Bush and his cronies could ignore Hurricane Katrina, Bush
delivered his latest pro-war screed to the ludicrously misnamed
National Endowment for Democracy. A government-funded, semi-private
organization (which happens to be free of Congressional oversight),
the NED is a darling of the neo-conservatives and shares membership
with the Project for a New American Century. Created by Reagan in
the 1980s, ostensibly to promote "free market democracies" through
"the magic of the marketplace," the NED's interests and practices
are anything but democratic. As can be gleaned from its stated goals,
the NED's notion of "democracies" are countries friendly to U.S.
corporate interests. If a country isn't "democratic" enough already,
the NED uses U.S. taxpayer money to subversively fund and instigate
Examples abound of the NED's fondness for interfering with the
elections and democratic processes (however imperfect) of other
nations. In the 1980s, the NED funded militaristic and dictatorial
candidates in Panama, as well as opposition candidates in such stable
democracies as Costa Rica (the opposition candidate in Costa Rica
also had the endorsement of that champion of democracy, Manuel Noriega).
In the 1990 elections in Haiti, the NED provided significant funding
to former World Bank official Marc Bazin in a failed attempt to
oust the leftist Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Bazin, seen by most Haitians
as a "front man for military and business interests," received only
12% of the vote. Displeased with that result, the NED funded anti-Aristide
groups, culminating in the violent political instability in Haiti
that left dozens dead and ultimately resulted in Aristide's exile.
In the 1990s, the NED supported Skender Gjinushi, speaker of the
Albanian parliament and former member of the Stalinist Politburo
in Albania. Gjinushi was a principle organizer of the unrest that
led to the 1997 fall of the democratic government in Albania, not
to mention the death of over 2,000 people. In Slovakia, the NED
funded several initiatives that ultimately resulted in the defeat
of Slovakia's freely-elected government. The NED-backed "reformers"
who took over in Slovakia were largely leading officials in the
Communist regime of then-Czechoslovakia.
And then there was the aborted coup against Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez in 2002. Determined to install a pro-U.S. leader in
Venezuela, the NED funded a subsequent recall referendum and then
forged exit polls declaring Chavez' defeat. Venezuela, like Iraq,
possesses huge oil reserves estimated at 78 billion barrels, making
it the world's seventh largest oil resource. Chavez, however, is
staunchly anti-American and even publicly called Bush an "asshole."
The NED's motivation to "democratize" Venezuela should be abundantly
Regardless of how one feels about Chavez or Aristide or any other
leader or government of a sovereign nation, it is antithetical to
the principles of democracy to interfere with and influence the
election processes of other nations. It is particularly appalling
when the goal is not to foster democracy so much as to further enrich
At any rate, speaking before the NED, Bush preached to the converted
his sermon of a never-ending and self-perpetuating war on terror.
Invoking a romanticized vision of the 9/11 attacks ("... a proud
city covered in smoke and ashes ... a fire across the Potomac ...
passengers who spent their final moments on Earth fighting the enemy"),
Bush once again pimped the war in Iraq as a glorious exercise, necessary
for making America safe from the scourge of terrorism.
A nice thought, but completely without foundation. Aside from
the fraudulence of Bush once again tying Iraq to 9/11, it was utterly
false for Bush to claim that the invasion of Iraq was ever necessary
for protecting America's national security. In fact, all indications
are that our glorious invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq
have only managed to increase the threat of terrorism, not only
to the U.S., but to the rest of the world, as well. By invading
and occupying Iraq, the U.S. has managed to radicalize the Arab
and Muslim worlds to join the terrorist cause. As revealed by a
recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies,
the occupation of an Arab nation by non-Arabs has radicalized hundreds
of previously non-militant Saudis, prompting them to join the anti-American
insurgency in Iraq. In other words, in direct contradiction to Bush's
claim that "[t]he hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was
an issue," the invasion and occupation of Iraq has converted non-militant
Muslims to jihad and terrorism.
Bush attempted to refute this fact by reminding those who believe
"that our presence in [Iraq] has somehow caused or triggered the
rage of radicals," that "we were not in Iraq on September 11th,
2001, and Al Qaeda attacked us anyway." Touche'.
That's right. We weren't "in Iraq" when Al Qaeda attacked on 9/11.
We were, however, starving Iraqis through sanctions, and had been
for a decade. Additionally, while we weren't "in" Iraq, we were
"in" Saudi Arabia, which we now know was particularly offensive
to Osama bin Laden and a primary motivation for the 9/11 attacks.
In addition to U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden and
other Muslims deeply resented the U.S. for staging a proxy war against
the Soviets in Afghanistan, relying almost exclusively on Muslims
to do its fighting, and then abruptly abandoning Afghanistan and
its "freedom fighters" once their purpose had been served. Thus,
Bush is correct: terrorists' hatred of the U.S. did not begin with
Iraq. It merely grew.
In a similar vein, Bush argued that "Russia did not support Operation
Iraqi Freedom, and yet militants killed more than 180 Russian school
children in Beslan." While Bush's facts may be right, his logic
is specious. The horrible events in Beslan were carried out by Chechen
terrorists as part of their war against Russian occupation of oil-rich
Chechnya. Thus, while the atrocities in Beslan had nothing to do
with Iraq, they also did not occur in a vacuum.
What was most notable about Bush's speech to the NED was his tacit
admission that his so-called war on terror is really a war for imperial
dominance. Bush accused the terrorists of seeking to "overthrow
all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic
empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia." Is that not precisely
what the U.S. seeks and has long sought to accomplish both overtly
through force and surreptitiously through groups like the NED? Does
not the U.S. seeks to establish a military-corporate empire that
spans the globe?
How else to explain the hundreds of U.S. military installations
around the world? How else to explain subversive groups like the
NED, which deliberately interfere in other countries' affairs with
the goal of creating regimes friendly to U.S. business interests?
What other explanation is there for orchestrating coups in oil-rich
countries like Iran (successful) and Venezuela (unsuccessful)? What
other explanation can there be for installing and/or supporting
tyrannical regimes in Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, El Salvador,
Guatemala, and Chile (to name but a few)? What other reason is there
for the invasion and occupation of a nation that never did the U.S.
any harm and had absolutely no proven ability to do so?
Why? Whether anyone really wants to admit it, the U.S. has committed
and continues to commit such irrefutably undemocratic acts to establish
and protect its hegemony. Its empire. How appropriate, then, that
Bush celebrated his Iraqi venture before a crowd of like-minded
champions of "free market democracies." How appropriate, considering
that both the speaker and his audience advocate spreading "democracy,"
but only through such undemocratic means as war, coups, and illicit
Ken Sanders is a writer in Tucson whose publishing credits include
Op Ed News, Z Magazine, Common Dreams, Democratic Underground, Dissident
Voice, and Political Affairs Magazine, among others.