However much they war on the domestic political front, Washington’s Democrats and Republicans are on the same page when it comes to the imperial war on democracy and social justice in Latin America.
No Partisan Warfare on Honduras (2009)
In 2009 and 2010 Republicans were in a partisan tizzy over everything Barack Obama and Democratic Party, from health insurance reform to economic stimulus, bank bailouts, auto bailouts, and climate policy. The “Tea Party” rebellion arose, replete with a heavy dose of white herrenvolk racism.
But the Teapublicans offered no complaint when Obama’s Secretary of State Hilary Clinton aided and abetted a right-wing business and military coup that overthrew Honduras’ democratically elected left-populist president Manuel Zelaya in the spring of 2009. Washington’s two major parties were united in opposition to Zelaya’s alignment of Honduras with Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia in attacking poverty and inequality and redirecting Latin American regional development away from U.S. control. Democrats and Republicans agreed that the independent and egalitarian Latin American trend needed to be checked.
The Honduran coup and the Obama administration’s critical role in supporting it was just peachy keen as the GOP was concerned. Never mind that the regime-change in Honduras produced bloody repression and increased misery in that desperately poor country.
No Impeachment for Backing a Venezuelan Coup Attempt (January 2019)
Flash forward ten years. The Obama-backed right-wing coup in Honduras helped fuel Central American migrant streams that the demented fascist oligarch Donald Trump railed against during his successful and Nativist presidential campaign. “Donito Assolini” has been mired in partisan turmoil since the beginning of his cancerous, white-nationalist presidency. The two major parties and their constituents disagree sharply over whether the tiny-fingered, tangerine-tinted, Twitter-tantruming tyrant Trump should be impeached and removed for trying to trade arms to Ukraine in exchange for political dirt on the ludicrous right-wing Democratic-presidential clown-car candidate Joe Biden. Washington and the U.S. electorate are torn by fanatical partisan polarization. Nine in ten Democrats think Trump committed an impeachable offense regarding Ukraine but just 18.5% of Republicans, less than one in five, agree.
Impeachment is nearly certain in the U.S. House of Representatives since the House is controlled by Democrats. Removal is unlikely in the U.S. Senate because the upper chamber of Congress is run by Republicans, who will argue that Trump’s abuse of power does not rise to the level required for defenestration. The neofascistic “heartland” Trumpenvolk is ready to respond to removal and perhaps even to impeachment with armed attacks, encouraged by a malignantly narcissistic and authoritarian president who has “warned” of (threatened to spark) “Civil War…. If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office.”
Trump’s well-documented and ham-fisted attempt to bribe and extort political assistance from Ukraine is worthy of impeachment and removal. But by focusing narrowly on Biden-Burisma-Gate, the Democrats are essentially exonerating Trump on numerous other graver, impeachment- and removal-worthy offenses including the separation of migrant children from their parents at the southern U.S. border, the detention of tens of thousands of migrant children and families in for profit concentration camps, the instruction for the U.S. Border Patrol to violate the law, the breach of international asylum law, the declaration of a fake national emergency to criminally divert taxpayer funds to the building of a widely hated Nativist Wall, the acceleration of Ecocide (the biggest issue of our or any time), and – of special relevance to this essay and current events in Bolivia (see below) – the eager support Trump granted an attempted right-wing coup to overthrow the democratically elected left-populist (Chavista-socialist) Maduro government in Venezuela last Winter. Regarding the last transgression, here is a thoroughly reasonable Article of Impeachment, one of many drafted by the activist group Roots Action:
“In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States …On the evening of January 22, 2019, following years of damaging U.S. sanctions against Venezuela, which followed an unsuccessful 2002 U.S.-supported coup attempt, Vice President Pence called Juan Guaidó and told him that the United States would support him if he were to seize power in Venezuela. The next day, January 23, Guaidó attempted to do so. That same day, President Trump issued a statement recognizing Guaidó as the President of Venezuela, despite the fact that Venezuela had an elected president and that Guaidó had no legitimate claim to the presidency. On January 24, 2019, the Trump-Pence administration attempted unsuccessfully to persuade the Organization of American States to recognize Guaidó as president…In the above and related actions and decisions, President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael Richard Pence…are guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.”
Sadly, it is unthinkable that the Democratic Party establishment would give a second thought to impeaching Trump for his support of a criminal right-wing putsch in Venezuela. That’s because top Democrats are on board with Republicans in believing that independent and socialist-leaning governments representing the interests of poor and working-class Latin Americans need to make way for regimes more compliant to the commands of Washington and Western financial institutions and corporations.
Bolivia Right Now: “We Can’t Botch This Like We Did Venezuela”
Few Democrats beyond a handful of progressive outliers like Bernie Sanders have had the basic human and democratic decency to denounce the vicious racist and neofascist coup that removed Bolivia’s democratically elected socialist and Indigenous president Evo Morales from power eleven days ago. Anyone with Internet access can see graphic footage of a massacre in which peaceful Indigenous protesters in Cochabamba were murdered by snipers in military helicopters defending a “transitional government” headed by an evangelical neofascist who has tweeted the following: “I dream of a Bolivia free of indigenous satanic rituals, the city is not for the Indians send them to the high plains or to the Chaco!”
True to his own racist, neofascistic, and oligarchic colors, Trump grotesquely hailed the gruesome Bolivian coup for bringing the world “one step closer to a completely free, prosperous, and democratic Western hemisphere.”
Where have the Ukraine-Russia- and impeachment-obsessed Democrats been on the Trump-backed fascist-racist Bolivian coup? Missing in action, for the most part, beyond the progressive margins occupied by Sanders et al. “Since Morales’ forced resignation,” the left commentator Jacob Sugerman notes, “the response of leading Democrats and presidential hopefuls has been one of almost total silence, even among the party’s putative progressives.” Liberal Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) chillingly tweeted that “the U.S. needs to support a civilian-led transition of power at a perilous moment. We can’t botch this like we did Venezuela.’’ A hideous statement given the fact that the United States recently backed yet another failed right-wing coup in Venezuela, as it did in 2002!
“The Western Media Can Barely Conceal Their Adulation”
The “liberal media” hasn’t been much better. “For all the supposed threat Trump represents and the enthusiasm sparked by his possible impeachment,” Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR) reports. “Western media continue to march lockstep behind his administration’s coups in Latin America. Bolivia has a new US-backed puppet leader,” FAIR notes after surveying the “liberal” U.S. and European press, “and the Western media can hardly conceal their adulation.” (emphasis added) The New York Times, the Guardian, and other leading Western papers portray to the coup regime as merely “conservative,” downplaying its fascist essence and the horrific violence it is employing while purveying the coup regime’s false claim that Morales corruptly stole his re-election last October 25th.
While the major television networks have kept millions of U.S. eyeballs glued to the House Democrats’ often compelling Biden-Burisma impeachment drama (“Insane in the Ukraine”), a U.S.- backed fascist coup regime in the Americas – in Bolivia – is massacring people in plain sight with bipartisan U.S. approval. What percentage of US-Americans know about this atrocity? (probably less than 0.3%). Like so many other hideous crimes at home and abroad, the neofascist coup and repression are not considered newsworthy on US television. The Indigenous Bolivians being shot through the skull by fascist forces in military helicopters are classic examples of what Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman called “officially unworthy victims” in U.S. mass media. They are insidiously invisible to all but a few U.S.-Americans.
“Two Wings of the Same Bird of Prey”
It is all so very neo-Cold War. While the “liberal” U.S. media and political class claims to care passionately about liberty and democracy in Eastern Europe (though never explains what right Washington has to meddle in the political and military affairs of Eastern Europe, on the historically explosive western border of nuclear-armed Russia), it couldn’t care less about freedom, democracy and social justice in its own hemisphere, where Latin Americans are expected to take direction for Washington and its allies among the most reactionary sections of the Latin American ruling class — or face bloody repression.
This is not merely a matter of bad information and oversight or distraction by impeachment. It’s about the imperialist Democratic Party’s longstanding opposition to true national independence, social justice, and democracy in Latin America (and in other “Third World” locations) since the Woodrow Wilson presidency and before. As far as Latin American independence and social justice fighters have long been concerned, the Democrats and Republicans are very much as Upton Sinclair described them in the original Appeal to Reason version of The Jungle: “two wings of the same bird of prey.” For all their partisan tumult in the imperial “homeland” today, Sinclair’s metaphor still fits U.S. policy towards Latin America and indeed the rest of the world – Ukraine included.
1. The fake-progressive corporate imperialist Barack Obama summarized part of the bipartisan U.S. foreign policy establishment consensus in his nauseating, stealthily right-wing 2006 campaign book The Audacity of Hope. There Obama ripped “left-leaning populists” like “Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez” for daring to think that developing nations “should resist America’s efforts to expand its hegemony” and for trying to “follow their own path to development.” Such supposedly dysfunctional “reject[ion] [of] the ideals of free markets and liberal democracy” will only worsen the situation of the global poor, Obama claimed (p. 315), ignoring a preponderance of evidence of showing that the imposition of the “free market” corporate-neoliberal “Washington Consensus” had deepened poverty across the world for decades.
2. The United States Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is helping end doubt about the likelihood of Trump’s impeachment as I am writing this essay on the morning of Wednesday, November 20th, 2019. Sondland is testifying to the House that Trump conditioned arms shipments to Ukraine on Ukraine’s new president publicly announcing an investigation into Biden and the Ukrainian gas company Burisma in the spring and summer of this year. Sondland is also noting numerous efforts by the Trump administration to criminally obstruct the House impeachment inquiry.
3. Trump is being impeached (though probably not removed) for interjecting his personal political interests into U.S. imperial policy in Eastern Europe. But, with all due respect for Trump’s strange and suspicious attraction to Vladimir Putin, the two major U.S. political parties share the brazen imperial notion that the Superpower United States has some special God- and/or history-ordained global-exceptionalist entitlement to be centrally involved in political and military affairs on nuclear-armed Russia’s volatile western border, on nuclear-armed China’s borders, in the super-volatile Middle East, and indeed in practically every part of the planet.
Paul Street is an independent radical-democratic policy researcher, journalist, historian, author and speaker based in Iowa City, Iowa, and Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of seven books to date: Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004); Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York: Routledge, 2005); Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: a Living Black Chicago History (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007); Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008); The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Paradigm, 2010); (with Anthony DiMaggio) Crashing the Tea Party: Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics (Paradigm, 2011); and They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014). Paul writes regularly for Truthdig, Telesur English, Counterpunch, Black Agenda Report, Z Magazine and Dandelion Salad.
Previously published on Counter Punch, Nov. 22, 2019
from the archives: