Too Cute by Half on Honduras, Mr. President
By Al Giordano
The President of the country whose seal is emblazoned on your correspondent’s passport took some heat from the right during his 2008 presidential campaign when his bride, Michelle Obama, said, “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.”
The statement was far from a spontaneous gaffe: It was very smart politics and from the moment it happened I marveled at the genius of David Axelrod, the Obama advisor who I suspected had orchestrated it. Michelle’s admission was a clarion call to tens of millions of US citizens who knew their government had betrayed its founding principles more often than not in recent decades and who had generally stayed away from the ballot box over the past 28 years. If there’s anything the United States of America has fostered in so many of its citizens, it is a healthy ambivalence about a “democracy” that hasn’t usually walked its talk.
The higher voter turnout that allowed Barack Obama to overwhelm the Clinton machine in the primaries and achieve a punishing victory last November was largely the result of citizens that do not regularly vote – young people, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, community organizers and others that know what I’m talkin’ about here –turning out and doing so because Obama presented the possibility that we might be able to be proud again.
Many of the causes of that long national ambivalence by a significant swathe of the US population could be found in Washington’s historic behavior in this hemisphere: from the 1955 US-backed coup d’etat in Guatemala to the 2002 US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela (turned back in three days by the Venezuelan people), the global power of the North - the first land to lead the hemisphere an a wave of insurrectionist rebellions against European colonialism - had become the hemisphere’s colonizing empire, and utilized shamefully brutal and violent methods to do so.
In that context, President Obama ought to think twice before bandying about the word “hypocrisy” again in the way he did last weekend while in Mexico. Asked about the widespread perception in Latin America that Washington hadn’t backed its words against the Honduran coup d’etat with deeds, the President said:
“The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say that we're always intervening and the Yankees need to get out of Latin America. You can't have it both ways.”
“If these critics think that it's appropriate for us to suddenly act in ways that in every other context they consider inappropriate, then I think what that indicates is that maybe there's some hypocrisy involved in their -- their approach to U.S.-Latin American relations that -- that certainly is not going to guide my administration's policies.”
As with all falsehood, there is a kernel of truth in what the President said: It would be hypocritical to repeat the dastardly deeds of the past. Counting only the actions since Barack Obama was born, the list is long and shameful enough: The 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the 1965 US occupation of the Dominican Republic, the 1966 Green Beret intervention against rebels in Guatemala, the 1973 US-backed coup d’etat in Chile, the 1975 US launched Operation Condor to install and back military dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, the dirty wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s (which included well-documented official US cocaine-trafficking to pay for it), the 1983 US invasion of Grenada, the 1987 US military “drug war” intervention in Bolivia, the 1988 US-backed electoral fraud in Mexico, the 1989 US invasion of Panama, the multi-billion dollar US intervention of Plan Colombia launched in 2000 (which continues through the present), the 2002 US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela, the 2004 US-backed coup in Haiti, the 2006 US-backed electoral fraud in Mexico, and the 2008 US launch of Plan Mexico among them.
As you can see from the above (and partial) list, this is not a matter of ancient history. Some of this crap continues through to the present day.
When in April of this year the US President went to the Summit of the Americas and promised a new beginning in US-Latin American relations, his counterparts to the South took him seriously and gave him much benefit of the doubt. That the US voted with the rest of the Organization of American States (OAS) to lift the ban on Cuba’s membership, while its Justice Department finally indicted ex-Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles and Washington took its first baby steps to ease the embargo on the island, contributed to what could have been that new hemispheric order based on mutual respect that Obama waxed so poetically about.
US policy toward its closest neighbors had begun to turn the corner from dysfunctional to functional.
But suddenly, less than seven months into the Obama administration, all that promise of progress is now at risk, because of its ham-handed response to the June 28 military coup in Honduras.
I worry not for Latin America. As Narco News has documented for nine years, most of them while the US suffered under a tinhorn tyrant named Bush, the people of this hemisphere have been untying the colonial knot just fine even as Washington opposed them. And as I documented last week from distinct regions of Honduras, the civil resistance there will triumph sooner or later and topple the coup d’etat and its illegitimate regime with or without support or opposition from the United States.
What the US will get from its betrayal of its initial good statements against the Honduras coup will be a civil revolution that erases the institutions – executive, legislative and judicial – that existed until June 28 in Honduras and that replaces them with a more Latin American kind of democracy. I really don’t worry about Latin America. I’ve listened and learned too much to think that it needs Washington’s hand to do for itself what its majorities desire.
No, I worry for the United States of America.
Right now, the cadre of foreign policy bureaucrats to whom President Obama unwisely delegated hemispheric relations while he pursues lofty priorities like national health care have wrought their own special kind of coup d’etat in Washington. In the end, he can’t escape ultimate responsibility because he put them there. The buck stops at his desk. There’s no ultimate way for my fellow community organizer to wiggle around it. He’s the one that will stand for reelection in 2012 and perhaps be left wondering why folks like Michelle Obama who want to feel proud of their country may end up sitting on our hands and go back to our non-voting ways.
At the center of that coup in the United States is the Clinton machine that in some kind of macabre power sharing agreement has taken US policy in this hemisphere hostage and off the track of what the President promised when running against Secretary Clinton for president in 2008.
Not only have we now got Clinton attorney Lanny Davis lobbying on behalf of the Honduran dictatorship before an administration whose central promise was that it would end the undue influence of lobbyists, but as journalist Bill Conroy documented this past weekend for Narco News, the US-funded Millenium Challenge Corp. – whose board of directors includes Secretary Clinton – poured $17 million into Honduras oligarch interests between April and July of this year.
While DC apparatchiks told us they had cut almost $20 million (about ten percent) of US aid to Honduras and put the rest on pause, Clinton’s Millenium Challenge Corp. (MCC) has been quietly replenishing those funds through the back door.
A Narco News review of deposits to the Honduran Central Bank reveals that since the June 28 coup d’etat – in a little over a month – MCC has subsidized the coup forces in Honduras with $6.5 million dollars.
Those payments arrived on these dates and in these amounts:
July 9: $0.9 million
July 16: $0.3 million
July 23: $3.7 million
July 30: $1.6 million
While it’s possible that the US President doesn’t know about this sabotage of his stated policy – a small Central American nation with a population smaller than that of New York City might not exactly be front and center of his attention – his Secretary of State is on the frickin’ board of directors of the entity that, we now know, has been quietly funding the coup even after it was consummated.
So while I wholeheartedly agree with part of what the President said in Guadalajara this weekend – that it would be “hypocrisy” for the US to respond to the Honduras coup with military invasion, assassination, traditional covert black ops, electoral fraud, and the rest of the bag of tricks that have defined US-Latin American relations for all of Obama’s 48 years – the real hypocrisy at work comes, rather, when Washington tells us it has put funding for the coup regime “on pause” when it is now demonstrably true that it has not.
Last week, Obama told reporters that he couldn’t “push a button” and make the coup regime go away. That was also too cute by half, because there are buttons left unused through which it could do what it falsely claims it has already done: stop the flow of US dollars to the Honduran oligarchy and its coup regime.
At very least, his Secretary of State could make a motion on the board upon which she sits to stop that meddlesome anti-democracy funding.
The fact remains that giving that money to the regime or the private sector interests behind it are themselves the kind of US intervention that Latin American peoples have long struggled against.
Shutting down that money flow to the criminal enterprise that is the coup regime and its private-sector sponsors is not the kind of “Yankee intervention” that the region opposes: it is the continuance of that dollar spigot that constitutes the dirty intervention.
And that’s why the President’s statements – on hypocrisy and previously on the lack of a button to push – are too cute by half.
Again, I don’t worry or weep for Latin America or Honduras. The people united will never be defeated, and our authentic journalists, myself included, will be there alongside them reporting their every step in community organizing and civil resistance to win back what basic democratic principles establish is rightfully theirs. It really doesn't matter how much money or oxygen Washington gives to the Honduras coup regime: that baby is going down, and will go down hard, at the hands of an organized people.
But I’m looking at the faded gold ink on my 2001-issued US Passport and flipping through the pages right now: Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, the United States, multiple indentations and earmarks for most of them… I recently had to go to a US embassy to get additional pages woven into its book because the Brazilian consulate had demanded two blank pages to graffiti and the original ones had overflowed with entry and exit stamps. And I’m feeling sorry not for Honduras but for us, the pro-democracy citizens of conscience of the United States who, like Michelle Obama, want to be able to be “proud of our country for the first time in our adult lives,” but who see that dream slipping away once more.