As Trump ponders a coup in Venezuela, report says 165 military coups since ’70 involved DoD trainees

Calls for a US backed military coup in Venezuela have emanated from the Trump White House. Meanwhile, NPR has given coup advocates a platform to advocate for a coup, positioning it as “humanitarian intervention”.

It’s worth discussing the history of coups the US has been associated with. Last week, new documents revealed that the UK government had repeatedly asked the US to foment a coup in Iran in 1952. This is from the NSArchive project at GWU:

1953 Iran Coup: New U.S. Documents Confirm British Approached U.S. in Late 1952 About Ousting Mosaddeq

State Department Temporarily Declined, in Part Because U.S. Was Still Hoping to Reach Oil Deal with Iranian Prime Minister

Paul Nitze Proposed Targeting Ayatollah Kashani and Tudeh Party as Test before Attempting Full-blown Coup

Just-Declassified Documents Were Withheld from Foreign Relations of the United States Volume on Iran Coup Published in 2017

— nsarchive.gwu.edu/…

Note that the State Department only “temporarily declined” to sponsor a coup. Eventually, the US did participate in the coup against the democratically elected Mossadegh. We delayed because there was a possibility the democratically elected government might sign an oil deal. When they didn’t we initiated a coup.

Now, think how people in the region, who are intimately familiar with this history, might feel about the invasion of Iraq, or any other country. They might be a bit skeptical about our intentions. Worse yet, that invasion was a president (Bush) and vice-president (Cheney) deeply involved in the oil industry (and the war industry). For an American, this should raise alarm. Was our country and our armed forces “captured” and used by a particular industry to further its interests? Is that happening today?

When Trump comes out and says “We should take their oil”, no one in the Middle-East is particularly shocked, because they’ve just assumed (rightly) that this is what we were after all along. Our claims that we are spreading democracy and liberalism are met with justified skepticism. After all, if we are so interested in human rights, why are we Saudi Arabia’s staunchest allies? The KSA is a toxic monarchy that executes and tortures anyone who challenges the ruling kleptocracy. It is waging a war on the poorest nation in the Middle East, Yemen, which has cost the lives of tens of thousands of innocents. And KSA is only the worst example, there are many other repressive, regressive regimes supported by successive US governments.

A lengthy investigation has revealed that foreign officers trained in Dept. of Defense programs go on to engage in coups twice as frequently than those who have not.  Foreign military personnel trained by the US have been involved in 60% of the military coups attempted since 1970.

Caverley and Savage identified 275 military-backed coups that occurred worldwide between 1970 and 2009. In 165 of them, members of that country’s armed forces had received some IMET or CTFP training the year before the coup. If you add up all the years of such instruction for all those countries, it tops out at 3,274 “country years.” In 165 instances, a takeover attempt was carried out the next year. “That’s 5 percent, which is very high, since coups happen rarely,” Caverley told TomDispatch. “The ratio for country-years with no US training is 110 out of 4101, or 2.7 percent.”

While US training didn’t carry the day in The Gambia in 2014 (as it had in 1994 when US military-police-training alumnus Yahya Jammeh seized power), it is nonetheless linked with victorious juntas. “Successful coups are strongly associated with IMET training and spending,” Caverley and Savage noted. According to their findings, American trainees succeeded in overthrowing their governments in 72 of the 165 coup attempts. […]

Indeed, it’s a truism of US military assistance programs that they instill democratic values and respect for international norms. Yet the list of US-trained coup-makers—from Isaac Zida of Burkina Faso, Haiti’s Philippe Biamby, and Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia to Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, and the IMET-educated leaders of the 2009 coup in Honduras, not to mention Mali’s Amadou Sanogo—suggests an embrace of something other than democratic values and good governance. “We didn’t spend, probably, the requisite time focusing on values, ethics, and military ethos,” then chief of US Africa Command, Carter Ham, said of Sanogo following his coup. “I believe that we focused exclusively on tactical and technical [training].”

— www.thenation.com/…

Our country is in an uproar over the possibility that Russia may have spread propaganda and leaked damaging information to influence an election. Imagine how Gambians or Hondurans or Iranians feel when militia or rogue units trained by the US attempt honest to goodness military coups. The damage and distrust lasts for generations.

As alarming as the frequency of coups is, it gets worse. Personnel trained by the Department of Defense have also been implicated in human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture and murder.

The Defense Department trained at least 17 high-ranking foreigners at some of its top schools who were later convicted or accused of criminal and human rights abuses in their own countries, according to a series of little-noticed, annual State Department reports to Congress.

Those singled out in the disclosures included five foreign generals, an admiral, a senior intelligence official, a foreign police inspector, and other military service members from a total of 13 countries, several of which endured war or coups.

Several officers committed crimes within a few years of their training. Others committed crimes more than a decade later. Many of the officers were described in the reports as leaders or participants in high-profile scandals and conflicts in their countries — including extrajudicial killings in Colombia, torture during Nepal’s conflict against Maoists, and murder during a Bolivian internal conflict, according to the State Department reports. — www.publicintegrity.org/…

The number of trainees implicated in human rights abuses is almost definitely much higher. The Dept. of Defense and State are supposed to report statistics to Congress, but these were not found to be comprehensive.

By law, the programs are meant to teach  “basic issues involving internationally recognized human rights”. However, the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation found very few trainees received such training as separate courses.

@subirgrewal

Why are there so few brown and black faces in ‘Dunkirk’?

Soldiers from the French African colonies holding a position at Boucle du Doubs, near Besancon, France, winter of 1944.

135,000 Senegalese troops fought in Europe during World War I and over 30,000 died. De Gaulle’s Free French Army in World War II was largely composed of troops from the French colonial empire, including conscripts and volunteers from among the colonized populations. The Nazis executed several thousand French colonial POWs from Africa, driven by their racial animus towards black peoples.

Over a million Indian troops served overseas during World War I. Undivided India (most of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal) was part of the British Empire at the time. During World War II, the Indian Army expanded to include 2.5 million troops in uniform. The bulk of the force was deployed in Asia to stop the Japanese advance into Burma, but numerous divisions served in the Middle East, Africa and in Europe. Six of the fourteen Allied divisions in North Africa were from the Indian army.

So why are there so few black and brown faces in the new movie about Dunkirk?

In the film, we see at least one French soldier who might be African. In fact, soldiers from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and elsewhere were key to delaying the German attack. Other African soldiers made it to England and helped form the nucleus of the Free French forces that soon took the fight to the Axis.

There were also four companies of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps on those beaches. Observers said they were particularly cool under fire and well-organized during the retreat. They weren’t large in number, maybe a few hundred among hundreds of thousands, but their appearance in the film would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war. Their service meant the difference between victory and defeat. In fact, while Britain and other allies were licking their wounds after Dunkirk, the Indian Army picked up the slack in North Africa and the Middle East.

— www.slate.com/…

Sunny Singh, writing in the Guardian writes that these omissions have a broader impact. White-washing the two world wars (and colonial history more generally) aids right-wing ethno-nationalists by erasing the sacrifices other peoples made to ensure French, British and American freedoms.

[…] it erases the Royal Indian Army Services Corp companies, which were not only on the beach, but tasked with transporting supplies over terrain that was inaccessible for the British Expeditionary Force’s motorised transport companies. It also ignores the fact that by 1938, lascars – mostly from South Asia and East Africa – counted for one of four crewmen on British merchant vessels, and thus participated in large numbers in the evacuation.  […]

A vast, all-white production such as Nolan’s Dunkirk is not an accident. Such a big budget film is a product of many hundreds of small and large decisions in casting, production, directing and editing. Perhaps Nolan chose to follow the example of the original allies in the second world war who staged a white-only liberation of Paris even though 65% of the Free French Army troops were from West Africa. […]

Why is it so important that the covering fire be provided by white French troops rather than North African and Middle Eastern ones? Those non-white faces I mentioned earlier – they were French troops scrabbling to board British boats to escape. The echoes of modern politics are easy to see in the British-first policy of the initial retreat that left French troops at the mercy of the Nazis. In reality, non-white troops were at the back of the queue for evacuation, and far more likely to be caught and murdered by Nazi soldiers than their white colleagues who were able to blend into the crowd.

— www.theguardian.com/…

Oh, and that insistence on a whites-only liberation force for Paris? It was part of a policy called ‘blanchiment’, literally “whitening” of the liberating units.

In January 1944 Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, was to write in a memo stamped, “confidential”: “It is more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel.

“This would indicate the Second Armoured Division, which with only one fourth native personnel, is the only French division operationally available that could be made one hundred percent white.”

At the time America segregated its own troops along racial lines and did not allow black GIs to fight alongside their white comrades until the late stages of the war. […]

In the end, nearly everyone was happy. De Gaulle got his wish to have a French division lead the liberation of Paris, even though the shortage of white troops meant that many of his men were actually Spanish. […]

For France’s West African Tirailleurs Senegalais, however, there was little to celebrate. Despite forming 65% of Free French Forces and dying in large numbers for France, they were to have no heroes’ welcome in Paris.

— news.bbc.co.uk/…

@subirgrewal | Cross-posted at NotMeUs.org & TheProgressiveWing.com