The recent U.S. and New York performance of Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, has led to conniption fits by the chattering classes, sending some right-wing stations into overdrive.
I am always amused at times like these, for, because I have some limited knowledge of U.S.-Latin American history, I sense where Chavez is coming from, and can honestly say, if I were looking at the world from a Latin American perspective, I'd feel pretty damn strongly that norte americanos behaved toward their southern neighbors like devils.
Since at least 1823 (when U.S. president James Monroe announced his 'Monroe Doctrine'), Latin America has been little more than a colonial playground, or perhaps more fitting, basement for the United States.
The Monroe Doctrine essentially was a threat against Europe that any intervention in *any* country in the Americas, would be perceived as a threat to U.S. security.
Although pitched to the Europeans, it of course involved Central and Latin America, which was said to be the U.S.'s 'backyard.' In 1927, New York Times columnist Walter Lippman kicked it straightup when he wrote that the US had imperial claims over the Latin South:
"All the world thinks of the United States as an empire, except the people of the United States. ... We shrink from the word 'empire,' and insist that it should not be used to describe the dominion we exercise from Alaska to the Philippines, from Cuba to Panama, and beyond. ... [W]e control the foreign relations of all the Caribbean countries; not one of them could enter into serious relations abroad without our consent. We control their relations with each other. We exercise the power of life and death over their governments in that no government can survive if we refuse it recognition. We help in many of these countries to decide what they call their elections, and we do not hesitate, as we have done recently in Mexico, to tell them what kind of constitution we think they ought to have. Whatever we may choose to call it, this is what the world at large calls an empire, or at least an empire in the making."**
There it is.
And what of U.S. allies? We've just heard reports of how the U.S. acquired Pakistan as an 'ally' in the so-called 'War on Terror.' According to published reports, U.S. officials gripped up President-General Pervez Musharraf, and told him, "If you don't support us, we'll bomb Pakistan back into the stone age!"
Whoa! Now that's gangsta!
This is less a 'coalition of the willing', than a 'gang of the bullied.' The Mafia could learn from these dudes!
As Chavez might say, 'That sounds like the devil!'
Nor should we delude ourselves into thinking that this is a Bush thing, or a Republican thing.
No. It's an imperialist thing!
The late President Lyndon B. Johnson, during a political dispute with the Greek ambassador, told him, "F--- your parliament and your constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching the elephant, they may just get whacked by the elephant's trunk, whacked good ... If your Prime Minister gives me talk about democracy, parliament, or constitutions, he, his parliament and constitutions may not last very long."**
So this is not a new thing. It is an old thing, that people all around the world know about.
That old thing is imperialism. It is the U.S. exercising a choke-hold over much of the world for their resources.
It's this strong-arm, imperialist arrogance that resulted in U.S. President George W. Bush getting modest, polite applause, and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez receiving prolonged applause, even a standing ovation by some delegates. They recognized that the Venezuelan leader was doing something that perhaps they wished they could do -- speak truth to power.
Empire always makes enemies, for oppression breeds resistance.
It has resulted in false allies, and real resistors.
The lessons of Rome are lost in this new age of arrogance.
**[Sources: Nieto, Clara. Masters of War: Latin America and U.S. Aggression (from the Cuban revolution Through the Clinton Years) (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003), p. 22.; Zepezauer, Mark. The CIA's Greatest Hits. (Tucson, AZ: Odinian Press, 1994), p. 33.]
Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal