|I read with interest Pat Buchanan's latest column for the fast-failing Human Events (they keep sending me increasingly desperate fundraising emails, meaning they're either on death's door or mimicking those electronic stores that stage "Going Out of Business" sales every week for years on end...)
In his column, the wonderfully entertaining (and occasionally on point) Buchanan lambastes President Obama for being too cudly with leftist LatAm leaders and for not walking out on Daniel Ortega's 50-minute anti-Western and anti-American (and let's face it, for Pat, anti-white) diatribe during the recent Summit of the Americas (for the record, Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson took President Obama to task for not "slapping back" at Ortega's rant, too.) Pat's beef:
Pat goes on to defend America's role in Latin America as one of a "liberator." But here's the problem. Ortega is the same guy Buchanan and Company's favorite president, Ronald Reagan, tried to oust in a CIA-sponsored coup, in which the "rebels" were a gang of thugs paid for with drug money, and with clandestine U.S. sales of armaments to of all people, Iran. Around here, we call it "Iran Contra," and if Congress and the Independent Counsel had had any cojones, it would have resulted in the impeachment of the then-president and vice president, and charges against several officials under the Trading with the Enemy Act, not to mention the fact that Oliver North would be in prison instead of working for Rupert Murdoch. Back to the speech. As Murdoch's Fox News reported it:
For 50 minutes, Obama sat mute, as a Marxist thug from Nicaragua delivered his diatribe, charging America with a century of terrorist aggression in Central America.
After Daniel Ortega finished spitting in our face, accusing us of inhumanity toward Fidel Castro's Cuba, Obama was asked his thoughts.
"I thought it was 50 minutes long. That's what I thought."
Ortega, meanwhile, droned on about the offenses of the past, dredging up U.S. support of the Somoza regime and the "illegal" war against the Sandinista regime he once led by U.S.-backed Contra rebels in the 1980s. Ortega was a member of the revolutionary junta that drove Anastasio Somoza from power in 1979 and was elected president in 1985. He was defeated in 1990 by Violeta Chamorro and ran unsuccessfully twice for the presidency before winning in 2006.
Of the 19th and 20th centuries, Ortega said: "Nicaragua central America, we haven't been shaken since the past century by what have been the expansionist policies, war policies, that even led us in the 1850s, 1855, 1856 to bring Central American people together. We united, with Costa Ricans, with people from Honduras, the people from Guatemala, El Salvador. We all got together, united so we could defeat the expansionist policy of the United States. And after that, after interventions that extended since 1912, all the way up to 1932 and that left, as a result the imposition of that tyranny of the Samoas. Armed, funded, defended by the American leaders."
Ortega denounced the U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro's new Communist government in Cuba in 1961, a history of US racism and what he called suffocating U.S. economic policies in the region.
And while Ortega isn't exactly a paragon of virtue, he is the twice-elected president of Nicaragua, unlike what the Contra regime would have been (a U.S. installed government by coup.) Buchanan and other righties like to caricature him, and Brazil's Lula de Silva, Bolivia's Evo Morales and especially the Venezuelan boogeyman, Hugo Chavez, as "left wing dictators," ignoring the fact that all were democratically elected. Does Chavez want to be president for life? Signs point to yes. But his elections have yet to be questioned as false, and the plain fact is that the spread of socialist government across Latin America is in many ways a reaction to generations of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, where we have participated in coup after bloody coup, and supported dictator upon dictator, from Cuba's noxious Batista regime (which turned that country into America's Caribbean gambling whore house) to Somoza, to the ruthless, U.S. installed dictator Agusto Pinochet of Chile. Between that and the failed attempts, including the Bay of Pigs and what sure looked like a Bush Team action against Chavez in 2002, it's not all that hard to understand why so many Latin American leaders aren't fond of the U.S. As the BBC's LatAm correspondent put it back in 2006:
In pursuit of American interests, the US has overthrown or undermined around 40 Latin American governments in the 20th Century. The reporter goes on to describe, via a case study of Nicaragua, how to lose a hemisphere:
As a young reporter I travelled across Nicaragua witnessing the fall of the left-wing Sandinista government led by the revolutionary Daniel Ortega.And there you go.
For years Mr Ortega was Washington's Enemy Number One, the ultimate bogeyman.
President Bush's father, George Bush senior, was a key player in undermining Mr Ortega and the Sandinistas.
Mr Bush senior had been Director of Central Intelligence and Ronald Reagan's vice-president before he became president of the United States in January 1989.
During the Reagan administration money was channelled - illegally Democrats said - to the Nicaraguan "Contra" guerrillas, a motley crew of CIA trained anti-communists, paramilitaries and thugs.
The resulting scandal - known as "Iran-Contra" - almost brought down the Reagan administration. George Bush senior survived the scandal, and as president managed to see his policies finally work when Nicaragua's own people threw out the Sandinistas in a democratic election in 1990.
After the polls closed in the capital, Managua, I stood in a counting station next to a young Sandinista woman in green military fatigues. Shaking with emotion she brushed away a tear as the voting papers piled up for the Washington-supported opposition candidate, Violeta Chamorro.
"Adios, muchachos," the Sandinista girl called out to her defeated comrades, "companeros de mi vida!!!" (Goodbye boys, comrades of my life.)
That was then. This is now. The young Sandinista revolutionary, Daniel Ortega, is back. He may well be re-elected president of Nicaragua.
Can you imagine it? The man who survived CIA plots and Contra death squads, who relinquished power peacefully to Washington's candidate, Violeta Chamorro, sweeping back into the Nicaraguan presidency?
It will be a huge embarrassment for George Bush junior, a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with American foreign policy in the hemisphere. And guess who predicted it would go wrong? Violeta Chamorro herself.
The night before her election victory over Mr Ortega I was invited to dinner at the walled compound of Mrs Chamorro's house in Managua. She told me that Washington politicians could always find money for wars in Latin America - but rarely for peace in Latin America.
She said even a slice of the money used to back the anti-communist Contra guerrillas could build a new Nicaragua - but she predicted that if she won the election Washington would declare victory - and then cut off the money supply. She was right.
Labels: history, Latin America, Pat Buchanan, U.S. foreign policy disasters