Democratic Underground  

They Shoot Leftists, Don't They?
October 30, 2002
Maureen Farrell

"Left wing President elected in Brazil - how long before a US led coup? Place your bets!" So began a topic for discussion on London's Guardian website. A few days later, Insider Magazine disclosed the contents of a Henry Hyde letter to President Bush, which targeted Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba as a new "Axis of Evil." Openly calling for the ouster of Hugo Chavez, Hyde stacked the odds in favor of yet another stab at a US-led coup. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, an American poster weighed in with views of his own: "Dolts who make comments that 'we overthrew a democratic socialist government in Chile thirty years ago and that's why there is so much anger in the Third World,'" he wrote, "have yet to come to grips with the exact nature of our enemy."

How can there be such disconnect between how Americans see our foreign policy and how others do? Is it truly just a matter of US citizens being woefully uninformed? Or do they choose to be? Chances are, even if the Dickensonian spirits of Howard Zinn, Studs Terkel and Charles Dickens visited this guy, his attitude would not falter. In his mind, destroying the enemy is what matters - even if his method actually creates more of them in the long run. Conveniently, in this myopic argument, U.S intervention merely amounts to something we did 30 years ago, certainly nothing we should presently rethink.

Yet intervention after intervention, it's always the same. If a democratically-elected leader of a third world country champions his people over American business interests, or if God forbid, a leftist government is elected, that government is doomed. The real, hidden history of U.S. foreign policy entails overthrowing legitimate governments and installing tyrannical puppets who do corporate bidding at the expense of democracy.

While many coups, like those in Iran, Vietnam and Iraq (the 1963 installation of Iraq's Baath party was reportedly the ClA's "favorite coup") eventually involve blowback, others, such as the overthrow of Guatemala's democratically-elected president Jacob Arbenz, involve horrors that span a generation. Conducted on behalf of the Rockefeller-owned United Fruit Company, this coup resonated for 40 years, and according to former State Department official William Blum, was "every bit as horrible as what was done to the Jews in Europe."

Given this, is it a leap to suggest populist, progressive leaders are at risk on the home front, too?

It's happened too often in this country, particularly when an immoral, unpopular war loomed large. The deaths of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King haunt this nation, and the mysteries surrounding their deaths add to our distrust. We've never gotten satisfactory answers, and in some cases, have been given explanations that defy rationality. And yet, we're made to feel foolish in the asking. But even Bill Clinton reportedly asked Webster Hubbell to find answers to two questions: "One, who killed JFK? And, two, are there UFOs? " He never found out. Odds are we won't either.

When Sen. Paul Wellstone's plane went down, many of us were seized by the gnawing uncertainty which has become far too commonplace, especially since the 2000 selection. That feeling in the gut that tells us, over and over, that something is wrong in George Bush's America, and that this is worse than anything we can remember.

Maybe it's because it's always the good ones, the ones who can save us, who are taken away. Wellstone was everything his detractors could never hope to be. Honest, self-made, kind and well-intentioned, he was as incorruptible as the other Mr. Smith who went to Washington. "Getting rid of Wellstone," reported the Nation last May, "[was] a passion for Rove, Dick Cheney [and] George W. Bush." Wellstone was George Bailey in a sea of sneering Mr. Potters. George Bush had no intention of attending Senator Wellstone's funeral. Dick Cheney was asked to stay away.

Moreover, our unease is fueled by the litany of plane crashes that plague American politicians and scandal mavens. Why don't Europeans seem to have the same problem? Wellstone's accident invokes Gov. Mel Carnahan's plane crash, just weeks before the 2000 election. Then, too, Israeli agent Amiram Nir's aircraft was shot down by a missile before he could testify in Iran/Contra proceedings; Iran/Contra investigative committee head Sen. John Tower perished in a plane crash and Pakistan dictator Mohammed Zia al-huk (also an Iran/Contra figure) died in an airplane accident under mysterious circumstances. Warren Commission member and dissident Hale Boggs also died while flying and Mrs. Dorothy Hunt, wife of Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt, died in an airline accident the same year. Her purse, found in the debris, contained $10,585 in cash, fueling speculation.

Of course, none of this proves anything. It never will. But, in 2000, after criticizing drug-war policy meant to disguise U.S involvement in Columbian counter-insurgency, Sen. Wellstone traveled to Columbia, where, according to an AP press report, he was reportedly a target in an assassination attempt. Like human rights activists before him, Wellstone was a champion of the people and a thorn in the side of corporate interests and the government officials who serve them. Former cop Mike Ruppert reports that at least two members of the House of Representatives have expressed concerns that Wellstone was murdered. As always, we'll never know.

In a recent interview, American icon Walter Cronkite shared concerns that Americans are learning less about what their government does, and don't seem to care. Noted author Mark Hertsgaard wondered, too, if people realized how "little information we Americans receive about our government's foreign policy." Citing the media's failure, both said that without an educated populace and a free press to inform them, democracy cannot thrive.

Yet Wellstone never lost hope. "This is race is going to be a case study of whether you can maintain liberal, progressive positions and win in this country in 2002," Wellstone said of the upcoming election. Regardless how one feels about the circumstances surrounding Wellstone's death, and no matter how many painful memories it invokes, one thing is certain: the underlying forces that cause us to question and give our feelings credence are very real. And we owe it to all that is good, true and just in America to fight back - and do everything we can to insure that Paul Wellstone's vision survives.

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