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

Our bombs blew off this baby’s fingers. She is now learning to use the few she has left.

One year old Zuhoor, whose fingers were amputated after an airstrike in Yemen.

Our government sold the airplanes that dropped these bombs.

Our government refuels the planes on their sorties.

Our government makes and sells the bombs, including cluster bombs.

We share responsibility for these atrocities.

And please don’t believe any of the bullshit peddled to us about how our bombs bring “freedom” and “democracy”. The hands on the triggers are Saudi and we provide the political cover for the Saudis as they do this. The Saudi government is a brutal monarchy. They are about to behead 14 men for taking part in a pro-democracy rally. One of the men was under 18 and arrested on his way to attend college in Michigan. Another is a 23 year old man who is blind and deaf. They were tortured to obtain confessions, most have since recanted.

Meanwhile, in his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Trump did find the time to participate in an elaborate sword dance, but never brought up human rights violations.

US President Donald Trump joins dancers with swords at a welcome ceremony ahead of a banquet at the Murabba Palace in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The president who spends hours watching TV and tweeting can’t seem to comment on the fact that our close ally is planning to behead men and boys for the crime of attending a rally.

Mr Trump has not yet commented on the case of Mr al-Sweikat. In his speech to the Saudis in May, he said: “America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens.

“We are not here to lecture, we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.

“Instead, we are here to offer partnership, based on shared interests and values—to pursue a better future for us all.” — www.independent.co.uk/…

Perhaps torture and a penchant for bombing other countries the “values” we share with brutal monarchies?

— @subirgrewal

Yes, Neil Gorsuch is as terrible as you feared.

The Supreme Court announced today that they would hear Trump v. International Refugee Assistance Project. This is the Muslim ban, Travel ban case.

In it’s decision to hear the case, the court also lifted the temporary injunctions granted by the circuit courts against Trump’s Muslim ban:

We grant the Government’s applications to stay the injunctions, to the extent the injunctions prevent enforcement of §2(c) with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.

This means students, employees, spouses, parents, children etc. returning to the US should not be affected by the ban. But, those who do not have such a pre-existing relationship, can now be summarily prevented from entering the US by Trump’s order.

In practice, this likely means first-time visa applicants from the six countries will be rejected right away, and first time visitors turned away at the border (even if they have valid visas).

Refugees will almost certainly be turned away, since most won’t have a pre-existing relationship that would exempt them from the ban.

Hold on though, there’s a dissent…

JUSTICE THOMAS, with whom JUSTICE ALITO and JUSTICE GORSUCH join, concurring in part and dissenting in part.

“I agree with the Court that the preliminary injunctions entered in these cases should be stayed, although I would stay them in full…”

These three justices want the Muslim/Travel ban to go into effect exactly as Trump wants.

So yeah, Gorsuch is on the Alito/Thomas team.

He’s as dreadful as we feared he would be.

Hundreds of civilians reported killed in US airstrikes in Syria and Iraq this month.

On March 16, US forces bombed Idlib, Syria, apparently targeting an Al Qaeda meeting. Almost immediately after the strike, human rights organizations on the ground said roughly 50 civilians had died in the strike and it had demolished a mosque during prayers while 300 people were inside. There are other reports that US led airstrikes in Raqqa hit a school sheltering refugees, leading to 33 deaths.

Today, both the NY Times and Washington Post are reporting that the US army is investigating reports from Mosul, Iraq that coalition airstrikes have killed over 200 civilians in the past few days.

Iraqi rescue workers on Friday pulled dozens of bodies from the ruins of a building in Mosul, where residents allege a U.S.-led coalition strike killed 137 people a week ago.

If confirmed, the number would mark the biggest loss of civilian life in a single incident since the coalition’s air campaign began 2½ years ago. Equipped with a bulldozer and chainsaws, men in red overalls picked their way through the rubble of the large house in the city’s heavily bombarded neighborhood of Mosul al-Jadida.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed Mahmoud, Mosul’s civil defense chief, said families had gathered in the building because it was one of the few with a basement. His team had retrieved the bodies of 61 people, including two babies, from the rubble over the past two days. But he said he expected dozens more bodies to be found as the excavation continued, with rescue workers yet to reach the basement or other collapsed rooms. — Washington Post

Iraqi forces who called in the airstrikes have reportedly said there were snipers on the buildings and the strikes were called in to take them out. Airwars, a British organization tracking the airstrikes in Syria and Iraq has said over a 1,000 civilians are believed to have been killed in coalition airstrikes this month. In several cases, residents say dozens of bodies remain buried under the rubble. There are also reports that militants are intentionally keeping civilians in buildings and fighting from the rooftops.

Several children have died in the strikes, which have often annihilated entire families. Ten children also died in the failed Trump-authorized mission in Yakla, Yemen.

Another Iraqi special forces officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that there had been a noticeable relaxing of the coalition’s rules of engagement since President Trump took office.

Before, Iraqi officers were highly critical of the Obama administration’s rules, saying that many requests for airstrikes were denied because of the risk that civilians would be hurt. Now, the officer said, it has become much easier to call in airstrikes.

Some American military officials had also chafed at what they viewed as long and onerous White House procedures for approving strikes under the Obama administration. Mr. Trump has indicated that he is more inclined to delegate authority for launching strikes to the Pentagon and commanders in the field. — NY Times

Civilian casualties on this scale have happened before. Last July, a US airstrike in Manbij, Syria killed 150 civilians which we discussed on Daily Kos then.

Tom Cotton got over $2.1 million in campaign ad support from pro-Israel donors

The NY Times is running a story on how contributions from a small group of single-issue mega-wealthy donors is impacting the Republican party’s stance on Israel.

GOP’s Israel Support Deepens as Political Contributions Shift

Donors say the trend toward Republicans among wealthy, hawkish contributors is at least partly responsible for inspiring stronger support for Israel among party lawmakers who already had pro-Israel views.

Cough. No shit Sherlock. Cough.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, led by William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, spent $960,000 to support Mr. Cotton. In that same race, a firm run by Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire from New York and a leading donor to pro-Israel causes, contributed $250,000 to Arkansas Horizon, another independent expenditure group supporting Mr. Cotton. Seth Klarman, a Boston-based pro-Israel billionaire, contributed $100,000 through his investment firm.The political action committee run by John Bolton, the United Nations ambassador under President George W. Bush and an outspoken supporter of Israel, spent at least $825,000 to support Mr. Cotton. That PAC is in part financed by other major pro-Israel donors, including Irving and Cherna Moskowitz of Miami, who contributed 99 percent of their $1.1 million in 2012 races to Republican candidates and causes.

In other news Senator Cotton’s spokesman denied his letter writing campaign was in any way quid pro quo for this support.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, said this relatively small group of very wealthy Jewish-Americans distorted the views among Jews nationwide who remain supportive of the Democratic Party and a more nuanced relationship with Israel.“The very, very limited set of people who do their politics simply through the lens of Israel — that small group is tilting more heavily Republican now,” he said, adding, “But it is dangerous for American politics as too many people do not understand that of the six million American Jews, this is only a handful.”

Which brings me to the real news in this story. The portion of the liberal establishment that is Jewish (including enough NY Times editors to matter) seems to be breaking big time from the current Israeli administration’s policies.

Uh, did I mention the story’s going to be on the first page of Sunday’s paper?

Or that J Street gets top billing in the story? Looks like the Times is ready to help them boost their profile.

“Israel did not traditionally represent that kind of emotional focus for any element of the Republican Party,” (Geoffrey Kabaservice, a Republican Party historian) said. “But the feeling now is that it is a winning issue, as it helps them to appear strong on foreign policy.”

“Appearing strong” as opposed to being sensible. I’m glad to hear both houses of Congress have majorities who’re focused on appearances rather than substance.

Over all, the most significant contributor by far to Republican supporters of Israel has been Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, who with his wife has invested at least $100 million in conservative causes over the last four years. A large chunk was spent on the 2012 presidential campaign, but Senate Republicans also benefited, and could soon again, particularly those considering a run for president.

The shift has also meant the Republican Party today accepts little dissent on the topic of Israel, said Scott McConnell, a founding editor of The American Conservative, an outcome he believes is in part driven by the demands of financial supporters.“Republicans interested in foreign policy used to understand that it was not in America’s national interest to ignore entirely Arab claims against Israel,” he said. “Now, there is a fanatical feeling of one-sidedness.”

“I know there has been all this fervent speculation that Tom Cotton and Bill Kristol and Sheldon Adelson were at some private room at the Venetian cooking this up,” said Noah Pollak, the executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, referring to Mr. Adelson’s casino in Las Vegas, where many prominent Republicans and Jewish leaders will gather this month. “But Tom is a smart guy and has a long record of thinking about the Middle East, and he is entrepreneurial. Tom wrote this letter.”

In other words, it may not be in the country’s interest. And it may not even be in the Republican party’s long-term interest. But it sure as shit was in Tom Cotton’s interest to write the letter.

Also, he’s an “entrepreneur”. Which is funny, I thought he was a United States Senator. But apparently lobbyists know him as an “entrepreneur”, and presumably one who knows you’ve got to watch that top-line sales/revenue number. But to have sales you’ve got to be selling something. So what exactly does Tom Cotton have that’s for sale?

Meanwhile, Chemi Shalev reminds us in Haaretz that “The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference”. In that Netanyahu faces new danger in U.S. following Iran deal: Being ignored. That’s in reference to Bibi’s demand that no nuclear deal with Iran be signed till Iran recognizes Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel introduced a new demand Friday for the final phase of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, saying the completed deal must include an “unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist.”

Asked on Friday about Mr. Netanyahu’s new demand, a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, told reporters in Washington that the negotiations with Iran on the agreement were “only about the nuclear issue.”

I guess that is State Department speak for “It’s our policy not to feed the trolls”.

And lastly, Peter Beinart looks at The three benefits of ending the U.S.’s cold war with Iran

First, it could reduce American dependence on Saudi Arabia. Before the fall of the shah in 1979, the United States had good relations with both Tehran and Riyadh, which meant America wasn’t overly reliant on either. Since the Islamic Revolution, however, Saudi Arabia has been America’s primary oil-producing ally in the Persian Gulf. After 9/11, when 19 hijackers—15 of them Saudis—destroyed the Twin Towers, many Americans realized the perils of so great a dependence on a country that was exporting so much pathology.

As many have noted, Iran is in many ways our natural ally in the region. For instance, as Beinart pointed out earlier, unlike the Saudis, Iran’s ayatollahs actually permit elections that involve quite vigorous debate.

It could empower the Iranian people vis-à-vis their repressive state. American hawks, addled by the mythology they have created around Ronald Reagan, seem to think that the more hostile America’s relationship with Iran’s regime becomes, the better the United States can promote Iranian democracy. But the truth is closer to the reverse.
[…]
As Columbia University Iran expert Gary Sick recently noted, Iran’s hardline Revolutionary Guards “thrive on hostile relations with the U.S., and benefit hugely from sanctions, which allow them to control smuggling.” But “if the sanctions are lifted, foreign companies come back in, [and] the natural entrepreneurialism of Iranians is unleashed.” Thus “if you want regime change in Iran, meaning changing the way the regime operates, this kind of agreement is the best way to achieve that goal.”

Finally, ending the cold war with Iran may make it easier to end the civil wars plaguing the Middle East. Cold wars are rarely “cold” in the sense that no one gets killed. They are usually proxy wars in which powerful countries get local clients to do the killing for them. America’s cold war with the U.S.S.R. ravaged countries like Angola and El Salvador. And today, America’s cold war with Iran is ravaging Syria and Yemen.

I think Beinart makes the last two hugely complex issues seem too neat. But at least he’s bringing them up, so he should get points for enriching the discourse. Seems to be doing a better job than some of our Senators

UN says Saudi airstrike hit refugee camp in Yemen, Houthi forces attacked hospital

The NY Times reports: U.N. Warns of ‘Total Collapse’ in Yemen as Houthis Continue Offensive

Mr. al-Hussein said he was shocked by a Saudi airstrike on Al Mazraq, a camp in northern Yemen for people displaced by the conflict, which caused scores of civilian casualties.
[…]
The United Nations rights office said an armored division of the Yemeni Army, together with Houthi forces, had attacked three hospitals in the southern city of Al Dhale, causing an unknown number of casualties. “We condemn all attacks on hospitals and call on all sides to protect civilians from harm,” the United Nations office said in a statement.The International Committee of the Red Cross also expressed concern at the high number of civilian casualties, reporting that a Yemeni volunteer for the Red Crescent, Omar Ali Hassam, had been shot to death on Monday in the southern province of Al Dhale while evacuating wounded people.

The Guardian is reporting the story: Air strike on Yemeni refugee camp by Saudi-led coalition kills at least 40

As is al-Jazeera: Many dead in ‘airstrike on refugee camp’ in north Yemen

and the Washington Post: Dozens killed in airstrike at refugee camp in Yemen

The Yemeni Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, accused the Saudi-led coalition of hitting the camp, located in an area under the control of the insurgents. Saudi officials did not confirm that. But, asked about the bombing, Saudi Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, a coalition spokesman, asserted that the rebels were setting up positions in civilian areas and said that coalition warplanes had taken fire Monday from a residential area, forcing a “decisive response,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Sounds a bit like Netanyahu’s response to Gaza civilian casualties. Once again, US made weapons in action.

The complete UN statement is here and ends:

“The killing of so many innocent civilians is simply unacceptable,” the High Commissioner said. “The principles of proportionality, distinction, and precaution fully apply in this context. International human rights law and humanitarian law should be fully respected.”