Democracy, Dictatorships & Empire
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
There is a profound contradiction at the heart of Americanpolitical life: the claim to a democracy, and the bitter struggle to deny it to almost everyone else in the world, *all in the name of 'bringing democracy' to the world!*
If there is one constant in American past and present history, it is the determination of the powerful elites in this country, to impose their will upon those of other nations, against the wishes of the majority of people in foreign nations.
The American Empire utilizes force, brutal and terrifying, to intimidate the populations of other nations, and this, when alloyed with the mesmerizing power of the corporate press, serves to whitewash what is actually taking place.
When one looks at the present situation in Iraq, when the US (on behalf of the whole world, we are assured) invades a sovereign nation, *which has not attacked the US*, topples its government, bombs cities, and installs a puppet regime, we are assured (once again!) that this is done for the Iraqis, *not American corporations!*
We have been here before -- scores of times!
In 1915, the U.S. invaded nearby Haiti, ostensibly to deal with 'violence' on the island. It dealt with it, by bringing more. The U.S. Marines forced the Haitian Legislature to select the candidate the US invaders wanted as president. When Haiti refused to declare war against Germany, the Americans dissolved the Haitian legislature! The Americans then pushed a sham referendum for a new Haitian constitution -- one far less democratic than the instrument it replaced. As for the so-called 'referendum'; under US bayonets it passed, by a ridiculous 98,225 --to -- 768.
When Haitian nationalists rose up to oppose the northern invader some years later, the US let loose a bloodbath, killing some 3,000 Haitians in the infamous Cacos Rebellion. George Barnett, a US Marine general, would complain, "Practically indiscriminate killing of natives has gone on for some time." Barnett found this violent episode "startling" [See James Loewen's *Lies My Teacher Told Me* (Touchstone, 1996), p. 25-6].
American troops put these proud people who fought two European powers (France and England) to surrender, in shackles on road crews, and dismantled Haitian homesteads to make room for large plantations. As Piero Gleijesus observed, "It is not that [President] Wilson failed in his earnest efforts to bring democracy to these little countries. He never tried. He intervened to impose hegemony, not democracy" (Loewen, p. 25).
Indeed, this is not a Haitian tale alone; for the US invaded Cuba 4 times, Nicaragua 5 times, Honduras 7 times, the Dominican Republic 4 times, Haiti twice, Guatemala once, Panama twice, Mexico 3 times, and Colombia 4 times -- this, in the 36 years between 1898 to 1934 alone!
They went, not to plant democracies, like it's some kind of tobacco plant; but to *remove* democracies, to prop up dictators, and to support repression.
Iraq is an inheritor to a grim and dark history, that began in the Americas, spanned the Caribbean, and touched the region before. It brought the ignominious reign of the Shah to the 'peacock throne' of Iran, tossing out a democratically-elected president, Muhammed Mussedegh. Mussedegh's great offense? He dared to nationalize the vast oil resources of Iran. For this affront to the American oil merchants, the US imposed the brutal and repressive dictatorship of the Shah - Reza Pahlevi, who turned the nation into a private fiefdom, and a torture chamber. Indeed, it was hatred of the Shah that launched the Iranian Revolution, and put the Ayatollah Khomeini in power there.
Similar forces are mobilizing in the Persian Gulf today, to wipe out the Western-backed dictatorships that sit above unhappy, and unstable quasi-states.
Americans, if they have any inkling of history, can no
longer claim ignorance, when it happens again.
Copyright 2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal
[Mr. Jamal has written widely about war and other issues.
His latest work, *Faith of Our Fathers* (Africa World Press, 2003) was named one of "The Most Remarkable Books of 2003" by *Black Issues Book Review* (Nov/Dec '03).]
Check out Mumia's NEW book:
FAITH OF OUR FATHERS: AN EXAMINATION OF THE SPIRITUAL
LIFE OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN PEOPLE
Mumia Abu-Jamal is also the author of three other books:
'Live from Death Row', 'Death Blossoms', and
'All Things Censored'.
When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is just, yet refuse to defend it--at that moment you begin to die. And I have never seen so many corpses walking around talking about justice."
- Mumia Abu-Jamal
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