Six Cold-War-era coup d’états that the Euromaidan leaders should know about

“They shall no more prevail than we give way to.”

 William Shakespeare, Henry VIII

 “King Henry the Eighth,
to six wives he was wedded.
One died, one survived,
two divorced, two beheaded.”

 English mnemonic device

 From the early 1950s until 2000 the United States supported a number of quasi-fascist regimes in the so-called “Third World.”  The US Department of State and its intelligence agencies funded right-wing opposition leaders in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Infusions of American money to military juntas around the world during the Cold-War era resulted in atrocities against labor movement and unions, widespread corruption, and decades of regressive social policy.

The logic behind these regimes was quite obvious, as they were all singing from the same old hymnbook.[1] It is a simple, not to say primitive, formula. First, a military junta with close ties to the US embassy would seize power by means of fascist coup d’état. Second, right-wing militants would “secure” all progressive political leaders. Finally, transnational US corporations would privatize all industrial assets and place them under the control of hand-picked national oligarchs.[2] After the population had been terrorized into submission and “taught a lesson,” the US authorities and media would quickly lose interest in such a remote part of the world. As Noam Chomsky noted, “Nicaragua was of no concern at all, as long as Somoza’s tyrannical rule wasn’t challenged.”[3]

What we have seen in Ukraine over the past three weeks is a flashback to this sinister pattern, a sort of historic knee-jerk reflex of American foreign policy after its failure in Syria. Alas, there is nothing new under the sun. The Brown Shirts in Kyiv are, however, hardly aware of the historic fact that coup d’états in developing countries never have a Hollywood-style happy ending. Such ignorance is excusable considering how young the leaders of Euromaidan are: fortified by their initial success, flush with religious fervor, and encouraged by the “big shots” in expensive suits and soutanes. There is nothing new here: presidents Truman, Nixon and Reagan, for example, all had the sentimental habit of having their picture taken with the counterinsurgency’s cannon fodder.

A closer look at US foreign policy in the Cold-war era shows that fascist juntas and guerilla forces are nothing but disposable elements. The leaders of rural militias are hired to do all the dirty work under the direct supervision of American advisors, and they never go down in history as “liberators”. Respectable oligarchs are much better suited than warlords to the role of US partners. This is why many ambitious politicians with military backgrounds and far-reaching ambitions almost never live to enjoy their golden years. Just like the six wives of that notorious English monarch Henry VIII, the fate of aboriginal counterinsurgency leaders under US control is sealed long before they begin to act. The only “wife” who was able to survive US political “aid” was Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. It is also common knowledge that at some point, Iraq’s President Saddam Hussain, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and Libya’s leader Muammar Qaddafi all boasted close ties with the US military establishment.

3. Husni coup 19491949 – Husni al-Za’im, the leader of the Syrian military junta, met at least six times with CIA operatives in the months prior to the coup to discuss his plan to seize power. Za’im requested American funding or personnel. Once in power, Za’im made several key decisions that benefited the United States. For example, he approved the Trans-Arabian Pipeline (TAPLINE), an American project designed to transport Saudi Arabian oil to Mediterranean ports. Husni al-Za’im was shot dead on August, 14 1949.

4. Carlos Castillo Armas - Guatemala1954 – Carlos Castillo Armas, a Guatemalan military officer seized power in a CIA-orchestrated coup in 1954. Castillo once visited Vice President Nixon in Washington and stated, “Tell me what you want me to do and I will do it.” Not surprisingly he received $90 million USD in financial support from the American government to crush labor unions and initiate witch-hunts against progressive politicians. Carlos Castillo Armas returned to the oligarchs of the United Fruit Company all the land that had been nationalized under the previous Guatemalan president, Jacobo Guzman. Castillo held the title of president of Guatemala from July 8, 1954 until his assassination in 1957. A US Marine Corps colonel (now retired) who participated in the overthrow, wrote later: “Our ‘success’ led to 31 years of repressive military rule and the deaths of more than 100,000 Guatemalans.”

5. Emmanuel Kwesi Kotoka1966 – Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka, a member of the US-controlled National Liberation Council, came to power in Ghana in a military coup d’état on Feb. 24, 1966. Kotoka was the key conspirator behind the first bloody coup d’état in Ghana on February 24, 1966, which brought an end to the first republic (“Operation Cold Chop”). Kotoka was promoted to major general and became a member of the ruling National Liberation Council, the commissioner for the Ministry of Health, and also  the general officer commanding the Ghana Armed Forces. On April 17, 1967, there was an abortive coup attempt involving junior officers of the reconnaissance regiment located at Ho in the Volta Region. It led to the killing of Kotoka by Lt. Moses Yeboah. Several informed commentators, including CIA officer John Stockwell, have confirmed the Agency’s involvement in the coup.

6. Savimbi1975 – In Angola Jonas Malheiro Savimbi fought the ruling party in the Angolan Civil War until his death in a violent clash. After surviving more than a dozen assassination attempts, Savimbi was killed on Feb. 22, 2002, in a battle with Angolan government troops along the riverbanks in the province of Moxico. During the firefight, Savimbi reportedly sustained 15 gunshot wounds to his head, throat, upper body, and legs.

It is known that Savimbi’s US-based supporters convinced the CIA to channel covert weapons and to recruit guerrillas for the counterinsurgency operation against Angola’s government, which greatly intensified and prolonged the civil war in the country. Many atrocities ensued.

7. Enrique-bermudez1983 – The US-backed warlord Enrique Bermudez Varela founded and commanded a brutal paramilitary unit known as the Nicaragua Contras. In 1983 the Contras began a campaign of economic sabotage and disrupted shipping by planting underwater mines in Nicaragua’s Port of Corinto, an action officially condemned by the International Court of Justice as illegal. The US refused to pay restitution and continued to incite civil war in this small Latin American country. On Feb. 16, 1991, Bermudez was assassinated in Managua. The aftermath of his actions was hideous: two decades of conflict and huge civilian casualties.

As history moves on, the list remains open. The leaders of Euromaidan, especially the members of the far-right “Svoboda” party known for their Nazi sympathies and criminal connections, should consider these scenarios. Becoming the latest wife of this modern Henry VIII ends in no merry fate.

[1] Daniele Ganser and Christian Nuenlist, eds. “Secret Warfare: Operation Gladio and NATO’s Stay-Behind Armies.”  29 Nov 2004.  Parallel History Project, ETH Zürich.

[2] See, for instance, John Perkins’s A Game As Old As Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption.

[3] Noam Chomsky. What Uncle Sam Really Wants (Berkeley, CA: Odonian Press, 1992).

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