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Demonstration Elections and the Subversion of


Democracy *

By Kenneth E. Bauzon, Ph.D. (KBauzon@sjcny.edu)

Abstract

One of the presumed components of liberal democracy is the principle of


pluralism. This principle is presumably premised on the idea that political power in
society is dispersed, that it is not concentrated in one group or class, that
relationship among groups – regardless of size -- is constantly shifting, that the
citizenry make choices freely, that citizens from all walks of life and from all sectors
of society participate openly and responsibly, and that the outcome of the electoral
contest is legitimate and valid. This paper tests these assumptions and arrives at
quite different, often opposite, set of conclusions. By deploying the concept of
“demonstration elections” originally used by Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead in
a 1984 book of the same title, this paper finds that, in the cases examined herein,
pluralism often means elite-led for it is the elites – social, economic, and military --
that have the most resources and, therefore, the most at stake in the outcome of
the political contest. Often, it is they – with their control over means of
propaganda to sway public opinion in their favor – who dictate the political agenda
of the country and, further, define the terms and format of democratic discourse,
indeed even the meaning of democracy itself. A further question is examined, and
this pertains to the impact of the foreign policy of a powerful country whose
national interest is no respecter of political boundaries and which, therefore, seeks
to predetermine the outcome of domestic political processes of smaller and
vulnerable countries. The case examined here is that of the United States whose
foreign policy demeanor warrants a critical look inasmuch as it presents itself at
every opportunity as a model and champion of democracy. This paper finds a
remarkable consistency and constancy of US interests over time, and these
contrast with a remarkable lack or absence of consistency and constancy in US
adherence to democratic principles, also over time. This explains to a significant

*
This is an excerpted version of a paper prepared for presentation at the Fourteenth
Annual Meeting of the Global Awareness Society International (GASI), held in Rome, Italy,
May 26-29, 2005. The author wishes to thank the Saint Joseph’s College for its assistance
under the Small Grants Program which enabled the presentation of this paper at this
Conference. Comments welcome. Author may be contacted at Kbauzon@sjcny.edu.

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degree the varying attitudes of the US towards the electoral processes of


diffferent countries under different sets of circumstances. As examined here, these
attitudes may pertain to the following sets of circumstances: a. Elections that have
to take place by all means (Show Elections); b. Elections that could not be alllowed
to take place by all means (Preempted Elections); and c. Elections that could not be
prevented and whose results could not be accepted by all means (Illegitimate
Elections). In repeated instances among the cases examined, what is found most
lethal to democracy is the combination of domestic elite interest with the foreign
policy interest of the US in predetermining the outcome of the political process.

I. Introduction

Nearly fifteen years ago, this author noted certain signs that pointed to the
apparent reversal of democracy in the Third World. 1 This observation was in stark
contrast to the clearly manifest sense of triumphalism among mainstream
academics and political leadership in the West in the wake of the collapse of the
former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. This sense of triumphalism,
represented at the extreme by Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the
Last Man, left no doubt as to which ideology prevailed at the end of the Cold War,
and which superpower has prevailed. 2 These commentators, mainly in the West
and in North America, were effusive about what they saw as a triumphant victory
and superiority of the Western industrial countries and their liberal democratic
ideology in the battle for the hearts and minds of the peoples of the world. In that
piece, I wrote in response:
It is ironic that in Third World countries where
democracy was proclaimed to have returned (e.g.,
Argentina, Chile, Pakistan, the Philippines, Nigeria, and
Uganda, among others) democracy has, in fact, seen a
reversal. What happened in these countries is merely a
reflection of a persistent pattern throughout the rest of
the Third World in which civilian populations are
progressively marginalized and governments lose their
ability to defend national sovereignty vis-a-vis
powerful external forces. 3

From that same article, I also wish to quote Herman E. Daly and John B.
Cobb, co-authors of the book, For the Common Good; Redirecting the

1
Please see “Democratization in the Third World – Myth or Reality,” in Kenneth E. Bauzon,
ed., Development and Democratization in the Third World; Myths, Hopes, and
Realities (Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis/Crane Russak, 1992), pp. 1-31.
2
(New York: Free Press, 1992), 418 pp.
3
Bauzon, loc. cit.

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Economy Toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future,


who demonstrated that powerful forces claiming to advance democracy were, in
fact, eroding it. 4 According to Daly and Cobb, “the globalization of the economy has
resulted in the destruction of the balances among government, market, and
society.” It has likewise led to “the rise of institutions that have no loyalty or
accountability to any nation or government.” In the words of Daly and Cobb: “free
traders, having freed themselves from the restraints of the community at the
national level and having moved into the cosmopolitan world, which is not a
community, have effectively freed themselves of all community obligation.”

II. Democracy: Neoliberalism’s Pet Word

But before I elaborate on the continuing reversal of democracy in the Third


World, I would also like to review in particular the conventional wisdom concerning
the presumed progress of democracy in the Third World. In that same article that I
referred to, written nearly fifteen years ago, I cited in particular a mainstream
political scientist, Larry Diamond, who was effusive then about the collapse of the
socialist experiments in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and he
concluded: “After all, democracy is the only form of government that commands
widespread and deep legitimacy in the world today.”
When probed more deeply, the democracy that Diamond was referring to
was largely in terms of the formal process of competition among presumably equal
political parties and groups vying for power, influence, and control over a
presumably neutral and politically disinterested state apparatus. In cases where
this atmosphere of competition is still not the norm, particularly in countries
emerging from authoritatianism outside of Western Europe and North America,
Diamond was not aversed to the idea of inducing democracy in a deliberate,
calculated, and systematic fashion, first, by working with domestic political actors
to either engage in a political conseensus, including the exertion of “popular
pressure” on rulers that may be reluctant to go along with the consensus; and,
second, by involving external actors, e.g., foreign governments or international
lending agencies, to intervene. According to Diamond, such an intervention may
not be such a bad idea so long as it is oriented around “democratic objectives.”
Specific measures that Diamond advocated, included 1. the refocusing of
international assistance in a manner that fosters “pluralism and autonomy in
organizational life and flow of information,” and, 2. the development of legal
institutions so as to strengthen the rule of law. In both of these strategies,

4
(Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1989), 482 pp.

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Diamond assumed that pluralism was always assumed to be democratic and,


hence, desirable even when, in fact, it may be elite-led and elite-manipulated. And
he assumed, further, that organizations such as the National Endowment for
Democracy (NED) and the United States Agency for International Aid (USAID) may
assume a prerogative to define for much of the Third World where they operate
what democracy is, and then proceed to promote it as a foreign policy agenda.
Nearly fifteen years later, Diamond emerges with credentials that include
the title as Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s premier conservative Think Tank,
the Hoover Institution, and as a Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional
Authority in Baghdad from January to April 2004. In the Winter-Spring issue of the
journal The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations,
which he coedits, published out of Seton Hall University in New Jersey, Diamond
wrote an article, entitled “The State of Democratization at the Beginning of the 21st
Century.” 5 Before going into his more detailed assessment of specific areas of the
world, Diamond offers his broad view that: “Since the mid-1990s, the global
democratic revolution has stalled in some respects while deepening in others.
Several things have been striking about global trends in democratic development
over the past decade. The first has been the relative stability of democracy as a
system of government in the world. This has been true in two senses. First, the
overall number of democracies in the world has remained relatively stable since
1995. By the end of 2002, the number of democracies in the world (as rated by
Freedom House) has increased slightly from 117 in 1995 to 121 in 2002, but it fell
back to 117 at the end of 2003. In recent years, democratic breakthroughs have
been counterbalanced by democratic setbacks or by changes in scoring, as several
countries oscillate on the margins of electoral democracy and electoral
authoritarian rule.”
In regions of the world that have experienced a democratic breakdown, e.g.,
in “relatively small African states,” or where (as in Peru) there was an “ambiguous
executive seizure of power,” Diamond has noted what he termed “triple crisis of
governance,” namely: “1. the lack of accountability and the rule of law, as
evidenced in pervasive corruption, smuggling, criminal violence, personalization of
power, and human rights abuses; 2. the inability to manage regional and ethnic
divisions peacefully and inclusively; and 3) economic crisis or stagnation, stemming
in part from the failure to implement liberalizing economic reforms and the failure
to raise the levels of integrity, capacity, and professionalism in the state
bureaucracy.”

5
pp. 13-18. All quotations from Diamond are from this source.

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In rendering, further, his observation about the apparent “slow political


descent into ambiguous or ‘hybrid’ status of some regimes that continue to have
multiparty, competitive elections and other constitutional trappings of democreacy”
during the late period of the “Third Wave” of democratization, Diamond cites in
particular, the cases of Russia under Vladimir Putin, and Venezuela under Hugo
Chavez. Referring to Russia, Diamond writes that “this has been the most
prominent instance of a major country slowly, steadily deteriorating from a
democracy to semi-democracy.” But Diamond reserves his most negative criticism
against Chavez whom he describes as “autocratic and demagogic, a former army
officer who tried and failed twice to seize power by force in the mid-1990s,” and
then concludes that, under Chavez’s rule, Venezuela is “headed in the same
direction” as Russia. Diamond then spells out what he believes democracy is, which
both Russia and Venezuela are not:
The indispensable requirement for a country to be a
democracy is that all its principal positions of political
power be decided by regular, meaningful, free and fair
elections. This means that it must be possible to turn
the incumbents out of power if the majority (or
plurality) of voters prefer a different party or coalition
of rulers, and that whoever is elected must have real
power to rule. It also requires the freedom of all
parties and candidates to campaign and solicit votes,
and thus some considerable freedom of speech,
movement, assembly and association in political life, if
not entirely in civil society. To be fair, elections must
also be impartially administered in a way that prevents
or counteracts fraud in voting and vote counting,
assures the secrecy of the ballot, enables virtually all
adults to vote, and resolves disputes in a transparent
manner.

Using this minimal measurement of electoral democracy, Diamond considers


various regions of the world. Thus, in his estimation, the industrialized countries of
the West, including North America, Australia and New Zealand, deserve his most
favourable assessment concluding without qualification that all of them are “liberal
democratic.” As for Latin American countries, his verdict is that half of them are
liberal democratic while the other half is not. Among the fifteen former states of the
defunct Soviet Union, Diamond asserts that only the Baltic states qualify as liberal
democratic while the rest of them are in some form of authoritarianism. In South,
Southeast, and East Asia, only half of the twenty-five countries qualify as liberal
democratic. In contrast, Diamond continues, eleven of the twelve microstates in
the Pacific are liberal democratic. As for sub-Saharan Africa, Diamond contends
that while two out of every state are democratic, they are not of the liberal variety.
And, finally, insofar as the Middle East and North Africa are concerned, Diamond

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notes that the only democratic countries are Israel and Turkey, and notes that
“[t]his region has by far the lowest average freedom score (5.5) of any region of
the world, compared with 4.4 in Asia, 4.3 in Africa, 3.4 among the postcommunist
states, and 2.5 in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Diamond also wonders about the compatibility between democracy, on one
hand, and Islam, on the other. His observation appears to validate Samuel
Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” thesis when he notes that “[o]f the 47 Muslim
majority countries in the world, only nine are democracies (and only one, Mali, is a
liberal democracy.” Among Arab countries in particular, Diamond notes that, as
evident to him over the last two decades, “political liberalization has proven to be
no more than a tactic of political survival and one element in a type of regime that
combines ‘guided pluralism, controlled elections, and selective repression.’”
Despite his dire assessment about the prospects of liberal democracy in
various regions and countries around the world, Diamond ends with a note of
optimism. At least insofar as ideology is concerned, he notes that “democracy
appears to remain the only legitimate form of government in the world.” He
observes that even in places where resentment towards the United States and
other industrialized countries appears to be intense, peoples in those places have
“no broad preference for a non-democratic form of government.” Diamond notes
further that, “[I]ndeed, much of the current criticism of American ‘hegemony’ in
the world, or of conditionality by the International Monetary Fund, stems precisely
from the belief in many societies that their own elected governments do not enjoy
sufficient sovereignty and that decisions at the international level should be made
in a more consultative, democratic fashion.”

III. Democracy as a Public Relations Strategy

To any critical reader of Diamond’s work, a number of ironies are readily


apparent. First, his conceptualization of democracy remains as formalistic and as
mechanical as nearly fifteen years ago when he constricted the definition of
democracy to pertain only to the competitive process, assuming that he would even
be faithful to democracy’s formalistic rituals. Never has he made allusions to
democracy’s relationship to substantive issues of justice that are of social and
economic in nature. One need not go much beyond the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights that, as a basic document of democracy, which seeks to guarantee
not merely an individual’s right to participate in the political process but also to
enjoy the inherent right to social and economic justice. An overwhelming number of
the countries whom Diamond has cited as undemocratic, or as democratic but not

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liberal, and which are found in the Third World, were countries that have either
been subject to colonial rule and exploitation, or have remained poor and
undemocratic or even authoritarian, as the case may be, often with the
encouragement and support of the leading industrialized countries to suit their
particular political, economic, diplomatic, or military expediency and, furthermore,
through the use of supranational organizations like the World Bank (WB), the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
A second irony may be noted in that while Diamond appears obsessed with
using electoral politics as a gauge of democracy, it has not occurred to him to note
and observe that this particular feature of democracy has, historically, been an
object of manipulation to suit the convenience of the imperial powers. In a
pioneering study by Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead, entitled Demonstration
Elections; US-Staged Elections in the Dominican Republic, Vietnam and El
Salvador, 6 US foreign policy interests have virtually determined or predetermined,
as the case may be, whether (a.) elections should be held (Show Elections); (b.)
elections should be cancelled (Preempted Elections); and c. the results of elections
– regardless of whether or not they were free, fair, and constitutional – should be
nullified (Unacceptable Electoral Results). According to Herman and Brodhead, each
of these conditions offered its own set of justification, clichés, and symbols for US
intervention including but not limited to:
A claim to “natural right” to intervene and “set things straight”;
Righteous opposition to “foreign interventionism”;
Greater threat to “national security” by standing idly by;
The preservation of the country’s “good name” as a champion of
“freedom”, “democracy”, and “human rights”;
Righteous opposition to “terror” and “violence”;
Righteous opposition to “armed minorities” that are out to seize
power undemocratically; and
Righteous opposition to “Marxists”, “communists”, and “Leftists” out
to impose an “alien ideology”

To understand more fully these assorted justifications and clichés, it is


instructive to review
briefly a number of historical cases from around the Third World. These cases are
organized along the typology suggested by Herman and Brodhead as follows.

A. Show Elections
To the category of “show elections” may be included those held in Iraq and
Afghanistan in 2005 and 2004, respectively, in which the outcome was predictably
favourable to the US with the desired effect of validating the US military invasions

6
(Boston, Mass.: South End Press, 1984), 270 pp. Hereinafter cited as Demonstration
Elections.

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of those countries. Had a country other than the US invaded those countries, and
which had sponsored similar elections for comparable reasons, the US would
certainly have loudly denounced the results as illegitimate. But the US is
determined to show the world that its invasions and virtual military occupation of
Afghanistan and Iraq – despite their nominal independence -- were not a mistake
and that US President George W. Bush’s commitment to bring democracy to these
countries remains genuine. Contributing to the legitimacy of this democratic project
has been the United Nations (UN), allowing the US to invoke the support of the
“international community.” UN participation, as well as those by civilian non-
governmental organizations (NGOs), was particularly crucial in the planning,
management, and control of the elections held in these countries since the
invasion. Recalling a principal thesis in the book by Herman and Brodhead cited
earlier, they expressed their doubt about the role of the mainstream media to
articulate any critical voice, much less to expose demonstration elections as
fraudulent components of a counter-insurgency or military pacification campaign in
the Third World. Herman and Brodhead concluded with prescient anticipation:
[W]e see the free election-pacification strategy
as a powerful one, likely to be successful in disarming
or limiting opposition to U.S. intervention or U.S.
support for fascist clients in the Third World…. [S]uch
elections are designed to appeal to the most idealistic
strains in the U.S. political culture, including the right
of all peoples to self-determination through peaceful
political processes. That such freedoms have been
transformed into tools of pacification and chains of
enslavement by the intervention strategies of the last
two decades needs to become part of the common
currency of our opposition political culture.
Unfortunately, both for ourselves but even more so for
the rest of the world, we haven’t even come close. 7

The mainstream media as well were unanimous in their editorial praise for
the October 2004 elections in Afghanistan without giving the slightest hint that this
electoral exercise may be nothing but “demonstration elections.” Comparing these
elections to those held in El Salvador in 1982, US Vice President Dick Cheney was
effusive in the thought that these elections were being held at all. He said: Twenty
years ago we had a similar situation in El Salvador. We had a guerrilla insurgency
[that] controlled roughly a third of the country, 75,000 people dead, and we held
free elections. I was there as an observer on behalf of the Congress. The human
drive for freedom, the determination of these people to vote, was unbelievable. The
terrorists would come in and shoot up polling places; as soon as they left, the

7
Ibid.

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voters could come back and get in line and would not be denied the right to
vote.” 8 Sample banner headlines from some leading US newspapers bear this out:
“It Must Not Be the Last,” Los Angeles Times, October 11; “Afghanistan’s Proud
Day,” Chicago Tribune, October 12; “”Afghanistan Votes,” New York Times,
October 12; “Afghanistan’s Anti-Fear Vote,” Christian Science Monitor, October
12. The “demonstration elections” character of the Afghan vote is betrayed by a
number of significant factors most important of which is that the country remains
under virtual foreign military occupation. Timed to appeal to and influence domestic
US voters in the November elections in favor of Bush’s candidacy, the outcome of
the Afghan election itself was essentially predetermined to ensure the victory of the
US-annointed candidate, Hamid Karzai. One may note further that Karzai, who was
a former employee of a US oil company, faced little or no opposition with many
would-be candidates having been barred from running. To the US, the choice of
Karzai was a logical one in that, as one observer keenly notes, has already served
as the “titular President of the various incarnations of militarily occupied
Afghanistan for at least 34 out of those 36 months.” 9 To the Afghan electors,
intimidation by warlords was a daily reality to which was added the fear for how the
US might react if the results proved negative to US expectations.
The electoral experience in Iraq in January 2005 parallels that of
Afghanistan. As Herman wrote prior to these elections, “A truly free election would
result in the ouster of U.S. forces and bases and a repudiation of the numerous
contracts with friends of the Bush administration, as well as the string of de facto
laws (“Orders”) and rules imposed by the U.S. like tax policies, open-door rights to
foreign companies, and exemptions of foreigners from the rule of law that serve
U.S., but not Iraqi, interests.” Herman continues, “But the occupation forces will
prevent this, unless they are driven out of the country or the costs of pacification
are so great that, as in Vietnam, there is a voluntary exit based on compelling
political pressures and/or a negative calculus of the costs and benefits to the
occupying power.” 10 Predictably, following these elections, President Bush heaped
high praises for these elections, noting that “the Iraqi people value their own
liberty.” The First Lady, Laura Bush, contributed her own spin when she remarked:
“It was so moving for the President and me to watch people come out with purple

8
As quoted in Edward S. Herman, “The Afghan, El Salvador, and Iraq Elections,” published
originally in Z Magazine (December 2004). Available online at:
www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Herman%20/Afghan_ESal_Iraq_Elections.html.
9
David Peterson, “Demonstration Elections III.” In:
http://blog.zmag.org/indexphp/weblog/entry/afghanistan2/.
10
Herman, “The Afghan, El Salvador, and Iraq Elections,” op. cit.

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fingers [denoting that one had already voted].” 11 And, columnist Mark Brown of
the Chicago Sun-Times, echoing the sentiment of the mainstream media, wrote
that the elections were “the first clear sign that freedom really may mean
something to the Iraqi people,’ implying that freedom never meant anything to the
Iraqis prior to this exercise.
Contradicting the Bush administration and corporate media spin, Canadian
journalist Naomi Klein cautions that “[I]n looking at democracy in Iraq, we first
need to make the distinction between elections and democracy. The reality is the
Bush administration has fought democracy in Iraq at every turn. Why? Because if
genuine democracy ever came to Iraq, the real goals of the war – control over oil,
support for Israel, the construction of enduring military bases, the privatization of
the entire economy – would all be lost. Why? Because Iraqis don’t want them and
they don’t agree with them. They have said it over and over again….” 12 Which is
why, Klein asserts, the Bush administration was eager to “lock in” the future of Iraq
during the provisional period, particularly during the virtual proconsulate of Paul
Bremer, noted, among others, for issuing over a hundred decrees intended to bring
about what Klein describes as an “extreme makeover” and granting what The
Economist describes as “the wish list of foreign investors.” “There was no role for
the Iraqis in this process,” Klein notes. She notes further: “It was all foreign
companies modernizing the country. Iraqis with engineering Ph.D.s who built their
electricity system and who built their telephone system had no place in the
reconstruction.” 13
As though criticisms against the transparent motives by the Bush
administration pertaining to the elections were not bad enough, multiple Pulitzer
Prize recipient and investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reveals in a July 2005
issue of The New Yorker magazine clandestine efforts by the Bush administration
and its surrogates to predetermine the outcome of these elections. Hersh writes:
“As the election neared, the Administration repeatedly sought ways – including
covert action – to manipulate the outcome….” 14 Despite existing congressional ban
on the use of federal funds for the purpose of intervening in and influencing
elections in Iraq, the Bush administration had determined as early as the spring
2004 that this clandestine action be taken and to do so by recruiting former CIA
operatives and enlist the cooperation of certain NGO, e.g., the National Democratic

11
Naomi Klein, “Getting the Purple Finger,” originally published in The Nation, February
11, 2005, now available online at: www.commondreams.org/cgd-
bin/print.cgi?files/views05/0211-24.htm.
12
Naomi Klein, “How to End the War,” in the In These Times online at
www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/2103.
13
Ibid.
14
Please see his “Annals of National Security: Get Out the Vote,” The New Yorker, July
27, 2005. Available online at: www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/050725fa_fact.

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Institute, the International Republic Institute, and the National Endowment for
Democracy, though which funds were funnelled while presumably serving as non-
partisan election monitors. Promulgating a classified “finding,” a legal maneuver to
allow the CIA to use certain funds without incurring congressional opposition,
according to Hersh, the “process” turned over for management and control of the
CIA and the Department of Defense. In preparing this expose, Hersh noted one
recurring theme: “…the Bush Administration’s increasing tendency to turn to off-
the-books covert actions to accomplish its goals. This allowed the Administration to
avoid the kind of stumbling blocks it encountered in the debate about how to
handle elections: bureaucratic infighting, congressional second-guessing,
15
complaints from outsiders.”
Two other examples under this category may include the numerous
elections and referenda held in Indonesia under the dictatorship of Suharto since
he came into power in the wake of the bloody coup in 1965, and the elections held
in Nicaragua in 1988 leading to the defeat of the Sandinistas.
In the case of Indonesia, despite the atmosphere of repression and the
killing of several opposition candidates and workers by the Indonesian military and
paramilitary agents, the US has hailed these elections and referenda as “victory” of
Suharto’s brand of democracy euphemistically called the “New Order.” Suharto’s
“show” elections began in 1967 when the country’s provisional parliament formally
elected him to his first five-year term. This routine was repeated in1978, 1983,
1988, 1993, and 1998. Suharto’s façade of democracy was, of course, intended to
shape an image before the international community as a moderate and a benign
leader. Reflecting the success of this public relations campaign, a prominent
Australian academician, Heinz Arndt, has gone so far as to offer his fawning
description of the Suharto regime as being “genuinely and desperately anxious not
to be thought undemocratic, militaristic, dictatorial. It wants to educate and
persuade, not to run roughshod over anyone….” 16 In fact, the opposite was true
the whole time.
As for US role in the 1965 coup, US investigative journalist Kathy Kadane
wrote in 1990: “They [i.e., former US embassy officials] systematically compiled
comprehensive lists of communist operatives. As many as 5,000 names were
furnished to the Indonesian army, and the Americans later checked off the names
of those who had been killed or captured.” 17 And as to whether or not there was
any concern or remorse on the part of these officials about the arrests, torture, and
executions during and subsequent to the coup, Howard Federspeil, who served as

15
Ibid.
16
H.W. Arndt, “A Comment,” Australian Outlook, 22, 1 (April 1968), pp. 92-95.
17
San Francisco Examiner, May 20, 1990; and Washington Post, May 21, 1990.

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the Indonesia expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and


Research, said: “No one cared, as long as they were communists, that they were
being butchered. No one was getting very worked up about it.” 18
The effect of this apparently laid-back attitude described by Federspiel was
the condoning of the continued authoritarianism in Indonesia as well as the
continued illegal invasion and subsequent occupation by the Indonesia military of
East Timor for nearly two-and-a-half decades. The repressive government of
General Suharto, flowing out of the bloodbath in 1965 which toppled the
government of President Sukarno, was sustained by more than two decades of US
military and financial assistance. Award-winning Australian investigative journalist
John Pilger writes in his acclaimed book, The New Rulers of the World 19 ,
Indonesia was to be moulded into a “Model Pupil” for how the Asia’s economy had
to be globalized.

B. Preempted Elections
Examples of the category of pre-empted elections may include the
scheduled elections in Vietnam in 1956, and in the Philippines in 1972. In the case
of Vietnam, the envisioned elections in 1956 were a vital component of the Geneva
Accords of 1954 that would have peacefully ended French colonialism (after French
capitulation at Dien Bihn Phu , and which would have led to the political
reunification of Vietnam and returned the country to its people. However, with
serious misgivings about the Accords and sensing French weakness, the US decided
to back Ngo Dinh Diem, a militant anti-communist, in his power struggle with the
more traditional Emperor Bao Dai favored by the French. Confident of US support,
Diem then proceeded to stall, then altogether cancel, further consultations with the
Hanoi-based Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam particularly on the
issue of elections. US motives were quite apparent: it feared that “free, fair and
democratic elections” in accordance with the Geneva Accords might lead to the
election of popular resistance leader Ho Chi Minh into political leadership, realizing
that Ho’s political movement, the National Liberation Front, was admitted even by
US officials to be the only significant popularly supported party particularly in rural
South Vietnam. Its exclusion through electoral pre-emption, therefore, was
essential to US policy agenda. Thus, the US, having effectively succeeded the
French as the principal sponsor of the government south of the Seventeenth
Parallel, gave its full consent to Diem’s decision to cancel the envisioned elections

18
San Francisco Examiner, May 20, 1990.
19
(London: Verso, 2003), 254 pp.

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intended to bring about a political reunification of Vietnam. 20 No doubt this


cancellation played a huge role in the militant resistance to what the Viet Minh
forces saw as US imperialism in Vietnam. No matter how much the US tried to
“pacify” and win the “hearts and minds” – notably through its notorious Phoenix
Program – of the people of Vietnam, the lesson of betrayal at the hands of the US
was bitter and costly, hardening resistance leader Ho Chi Minh and his forces until
final victory.
In the case of the Philippines, one might wonder about the meaning of the
so-called “special relations” between the Philippines and the US following World
War II. To many students of the history of US-Philippine relations, however, the
situation is more transparent. In a 1948 document labelled “Top Secret”, entitled
“PPS/23: Review of Current Trends in U.S. Foreign Policy,” a report by the Policy
Planning Staff submitted to the Secretary of State, its principal author, George F.
Kennan, put down in candid words the characteristic hardcore realism that
undergirded US policy during the Cold War:
[W]e would be better off to dispense now with a
number of concepts which have underlined our
thinking with regards to the Far East. We should
dispense with the aspiration to be liked or to be
regarded as the repository of a high-minded
international altruism. We should stop putting
ourselves in the position of being our brothers’ keeper
and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice.
We should cease to talk about vague and, for the Far
East, unreal objectives such as human rights, the
raising of the living standards, and democratisation.
We should recognize that our influence in the
Far Eastern area in the coming period is going to be
primarily military and economic…. It is my own guess…
that Japan and the Philippines will be found to be the
corner-stones of such a Pacific security system and if
we can contrive to retain effective control over these
areas there can be no serious threat to our security
from the East within our time. 21 (Italics added)

In this context, one may understand the series of unequal bilateral treaties, e.g.,
the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Parity Rights Agreement, between the US and
the Philippines all of which had the cumulative effect of rendering the latter as a
neocolony of the former. Part of the contrivance alluded to by Kennan was the
constant meddling in Philippine domestic political affairs, including the clandestine

20
As revealed in the Pentagon Papers, the US rationale was oriented around the doctrine of
containment. Rightly or wrongly, the US perception that “the Soviet-controlled expansion of
communism both in Asia and in Europe required, in the interests of U.S. national security, a
counter in Indochina. The domino thesis was quite prominent.” Please see The Pentagon
Papers, Gravel Edition (Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1971), Vol. 1, Chap. 4, pp. 179-214.
21
Foreign Relations of the United States, Vol. 1 (1948): 509-529.

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support for pro-US candidates, political parties, and governments. This was
particularly true in the April 1946 elections in which the US backed the candidacy of
Japanese collaborator Manuel Roxas. The pro-US forces needed “strong men”
including collaborationists like Roxas, recalled Luis Taruc in his autobiography,
Born of the People 22 , in order to carry out their “ruthless policies.” “They were
allowed by MacArthur and McNutt,” Taruc writes, “to seize control of Congress and
the army….” 23 Especially so that the Philippine Congress would be taking up
important pieces of legislation including the enactment of the Bell Trade Act and
the requisite amendment to the Philippine Constitution, Roxas schemed the
expulsion from Congress -- based on trumped-up charges -- of the duly elected
opposition candidates, six congressmen from the Democratic Alliance (including
Taruc himself who won by a landslide over his opponent), and three Senators-elect
from the Nacionalista Party. Taruc recalls this event which he deemed to be a
betrayal:
There was, of course, a reason for the haste of Roxas
to have the DA Congressmen unseated. Approval of
the Bell Trade Act and its parity provision necessitated
an amendment of our Constitution, requiring a two-
thirds vote of the Philippine Congress. After we had
been unseated, the resolution to amend the
Constitution was approved by only a one-vote margin
in the lower house. In that naked way was the will of
the people frustrated. 24

The most enduring – and notorious -- of the US-backed governments in the


Philippines was that by Ferdinand E. Marcos who was first elected in 1964 and then
reelected in 1969. Nearing the end of his second term, and constitutionally barred
from running for office for the third consecutive time, Marcos decided to declare a
state of martial law in September ahead of the regularly scheduled presidential
elections in November of 1972. Assured of a meek reaction from the US and
convinced of a more lasting US support, Marcos announced to the nation that his
action was taken to “save the Republic”, defeat the twin insurgencies from the
Marxist guerrillas and the Muslim separatists, and to “build a new society.” Thus,
the 1972 elections were never held, political parties and the Legislature having
been disbanded, and leading opposition figures, prominently Benigno (Ninoy)
Aquino, having been rounded up and detained in jails.
For nearly fifteen years, Marcos ruled the country with an iron fist and,
having in effect declared the country open for business to foreign, particularly US,
corporations, he garnered unwavering US political, diplomatic, military, and

22
(New York: International Publishers, 1958), 286 pp.
23
Ibid., p. 220.
24
Ibid., p. 227.

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economic support. What the US received, in turn, were liberalized trade and
investment policies which allowed US corporations to rake in as much $5.00 in
profits for every dollar invested, access to the Philippine consumer market, and the
ability to enter the agricultural and extractive industries such as in mining, logging,
oil exploration, and food processing and export. Further, the US military gained
access to Philippine territory to host a number of significant military installations
including the Clark Air Force Base, reputed to be the largest outside of continental
US, and the Subic Naval Base, a support facility for repair and refuelling used by
the US Seventh Fleet which patrolled, and continues to patrol, the western Pacific.
Even up to the waning years of the Marcos dictatorship, US support for
Marcos was unwavering as when the US Vice President George Herbert Bush, on a
brief stop-over visit with Marcos in Manila in 1981, offered a toast that would earn
a niche in what Asiaweek described as a “pantheon of American diplomatic
mealtime blunders,” in which Bush praised Marcos for his “adherence to democratic
principles” when it was universally known, as borne out by a series of reports by a
number of independent human rights organizations including Amnesty International
and no less than the US State Department, that the Marcos regime has engaged in
systematic and sustained violation and abuse of human rights. 25 And even during
Marcos’s last hours in power, when it was evident that Marcos had stolen the “snap
elections” in 1986, following the brutal murder of popular opposition leader Ninoy
Aquino on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, then US President Ronald
Reagan would only concede, and indeed, insisted, at a press conference that
violence was “on both sides” when it was unmistakable to any independent
observer that violence was overwhelmingly on the side of the Government and the
thugs that were working on its behalf.

C. Unacceptable Electoral Results


Finally, examples of the category of unacceptable results would have to
include the parliamentary elections in Iran in 1951, and the presidential elections in
Guatemala in 1954, and the Dominican Republic in 1964. In all of these cases, the
citizens have freely chosen, in accordance with their respective Constitutions and
political processes, a candidate or a party whom they felt would represent their
wishes and sentiments but not necessarily the interests of the US. Suffice it to
state that regarding each of these cases, the US public has been profoundly
ignorant. Even a major mainstream history text on US diplomacy could only offer a

25
Alejandro Reyes and Tim Healy, “Shattered Summit,” in
www.cgi.com/Asianow/asiaweek/98/1127/nat1.html.

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scant paragraph on the Anglo-American coup in Iran. In this book, the author
writes:
There had been troubles even before 1955. The
prime minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh,
had precipitously nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil
Company in 1951 and raised a large row with Great
Britain. But eventually things came back under control
in Iran, the shah abdicating in August 1953, then
returning and appointing a new prime minister who
jailed Dr. Mossadegh. The new government negotiated
a settlement with the British oil company. 26

This text does not discuss the social, political, and economic conditions surrounding
Mossadegh’s popularity and ascension to the position as Prime Minister, much less
a discussion of his political platform supporting the 1951 law enacted by the Iranian
parliament nationalizing the oil industry. It does not deal with covert plans by the
US-Anglo intelligence and security operatives that overthrew Mossadegh’s
government in August 1953, and it does not explore the US-Anglo motivations for
wanting to return to power the Shah and how he was supplied with massive
amount of arms and money to carry out his so-called White Revolution until he was
deposed by the revolution of 1979. 27
The apparent lack of scholarly interest in this event may not be quite
accidental. In the US, the CIA apparently engaged in an unauthorized destruction
of “an unknown quantity of materials” related to the coup. Although CIA Director
James Woolsey claimed that the destruction was “routine,” an investigation by the
National Archives and Records Administration, published in March 2000, affirms
that “no schedules in effect during the period 1959-1963 provided for the disposal
of records related to covert actions and, therefore, the destruction of records
related to Iran was unauthorized.” 28 The National Security Archive (NSA), a non-
profit research organization dedicated to security and foreign-policy issues, reveals

26
Robert H. Ferrell, American Diplomacy; A History, Third Edition (New York: W.W.
Norton & Co., Inc., 1975), p. 745. A more recent book on US foreign policy, William H.
Chafe’s The Unfinished Journey; America Since World War II (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1999), does not even have word on the coup in question.
27
A qualification herein needs to be made. The present category of “undesirable electoral
results” does not simply pertain to the election of a specific head of state. As in the case of
Iran, it also refers to the election of members of a legislative body the majority of whom
enacted the oil industry nationalization law in 1951, and supported by Mossadegh whose
appointment by the Shah to the position of prime ministership was in recognition of his
popularity as a nationalist leader. But the nationalization law was seen by the British as a
clear challenge to their hegemony over the country’s oil resource through the Anglo-Iranian
Oil Company. Hence, the plot – now with the active complicity of the US government – was
not simply to remove Mossadegh but also to overthrow an elected government.
28
Please see ”The Secret CIA History of the Iran Coup, 1953,” at the website of the
Washington-based National Security Archive at
www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB28/ More more in-depth analysis, please see also
Mark Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, eds., Mohammad Mossadeq and the 1953 Coup in
Iran (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2004), 408 pp.

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the existence of the so-called “Wilber history” prepared in 1954 by Donald Wilber,
one of the coup’s chief planners. In this document, Wilber discusses the history of
the CIA’s clandestine Operation TPAJAX, code name for the coup. The document
posted in the NSA’s website is introduced by Mark Gasiorowski, noted scholar on
the coup and member of the advisory panel of the NSA’s Project on Iran-US
Relations. In his introduction, Gasiorowski offers his “take” on the meaning and
significance of the document. Thus, he writes, in part:
These contain a wealth of interesting information. They
indicate that the British played a larger—though still
subordinate – role in the coup than was previously
known, providing part of the financing for it and using
their intelligence network (led by the Rashidian
brothers) to influence members of the parliament and
do other things. The CIA described the coup plan as
“quasi-legal,” referring to the fact that the shah legally
dismissed Mossadeq but presumably acknowledging
that he did not do so on his own initiative. These
documents make clear that the CIA was prepared to go
forward with the coup even if the shah opposed it.
There is a suggestion that the CIA use counterfeit
Iranian currency to somehow show that Mossadeq was
ruining the economy, though I’m not sure this was
ever done. The documents indicate that Fazlollah
Zahedi and his military colleagues were given large
sums of money (at least $50,000) before the coup,
perhaps to buy their support. Most interestingly, they
indicate that various clerical leaders and organizations
– whose names are blanked out – were to play a major
role in the coup.
….
Perhaps the most general conclusion that can be
drawn from these documents is that the CIA
extensively staged-managed the entire coup, not only
carrying it out but also preparing the groundwork for it
by subordinating various important Iranian political
actors and using propaganda and other instruments to
influence public opinion against Mossadeq…. In my
view, this thoroughly refutes the argument that is
commonly made in Iranian monarchist exile circles
that the coup was a legitimate “popular uprising” on
behalf of the shah. 29

To this day, US attitude towards Iran is as though 1953 never happened,


illustrating not only lack of remorse but more importantly the perpetuation of the
kind of imperial arrogance that has placed economic and strategic considerations
above and beyond considerations of law and justice. In his so-called war on terror,
President Bush identified Iran in his January 2002 State of the Union address as
part of what he termed the “axis of evil.” Iranians hearing him speak this way most

29
Ibid.

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probably could not believe their ears, for they would think that this president
could not see the mote in his own eye and recognize the evil of flagrant US
interventionism and two-and-a half decades of US support for the Shah’s repressive
regime that has killed more innocent victims than Bush would care to count!
A year later, flushed with the Iranian success story, the CIA once again tried
its hand – and succeeded in a “dandy” coup (to use retired CIA officer Kermit
Roosevelt’s recollection of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s term), this time in
Guatemala. This coup overthrew Arbenz’s presidency which ended what historians
refer to as the “Ten Years of Spring.” This period began with the popularly backed
overthrow of the hated dictator, General Jorge Ubico in 1944. Ubico’s overthrow
was inspired and organized by the “October Revolutionaries,” a group of
progressive-minded dissident military officers, student activists, and liberal sectors
in the broader society who wanted to emulate in their country what they saw at the
time as the flowering of free speech and political freedom in such countries as
Venezuela, Cuba, and El Salvador. Among the young officers that led the coup
against Ubico were Jacobo Arbenz and Francisco Javier Arana. In a surprise move
that was popularly welcomed, Arbenz and Arana paved the way for free elections
and set aside any concerns that they might want to keep power to themselves.
Thus, general elections were held in 1945 wherein a civilian candidate Juan Jose
Arevalo was elected president. Arevalo served until the next scheduled elections in
1951.
In the 1951 elections, Arbenz ran for president and was elected in a
landslide victory wherein his problem with the US became more manifest. He ran
on a platform of progressive agrarian reform. After assumption into office, he
began to implement this platform; he also removed restrictions that have until that
time restrained the activities of labor unions, including the left-leaning Guatemalan
Party of Labor. These developments fed into the McCarthyist paranoia among
influential Washington politicians and corporate lobbyists who feared, albeit with no
basis, that Guatemala was becoming a “Soviet beachhead” in Latin America. What
galled these leaders was the nationalization of agriculture which meant, in effect,
the confiscation of significant landholdings which were not under cultivation as well
as other assets of the United Fruit Company (UFC). Up until this time, the UFC
owned and controlled as much as 40 per cent of the country’s best agricultural
lands, and a de facto control of the country’s sole commercial harbor. Additionally,
UFC also owned significant shares in the country’s transportation, communications,
and utilities industries. To the progressive-minded leaders of the country,
therefore, the nationalization measures were a logical and a justifiable action to
conserve the country’s resources for its largely peasant population.

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Nationalist by inclination, Arbenz was admittedly inspired by former US


President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Program which called for, among
others, some kind of wealth redistribution. To the US political and corporate
leadership, however, emulation of this type of social program did not necessarily
earn US respect or sympathy for it ran counter to their economic and financial
interests. Hence, the UFC approached then President Eisenhower and lobbied for
the removal of this “communist threat.” The Eisenhower administration
subsequently responded by authorizing the CIA to hatch and carry out Operation
PBSUCCESS, code name for the covert operation against Arbenz and his
government. Needless to say, this operation achieved its objective. Folllowing
Arbenz’s overthrow, the plan called for the installation of a renegade Guatemalan
army colonel, Carlos Castillo Armas, to the presidency who, in the course of the
coup, was to lead a fictitious “liberation” invasion force consisting of dissident army
officers based in Honduras. Opposition forces were made larger and more fearsome
than they were through propaganda. In their critically acclaimed book, Bitter
Fruit; The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, Stephen Schlesinger and
Stephen Kinzer write:
The United States organized, financed, and equipped
the invasion forces. U.S. personnel flew the rebel
aircraft and filled the airways with bogus transmissions
suggesting a much larger force had invaded.
Unrelenting U.S. diplomatic and political pressure
encouraged treason and demoralized supporters. CIA
assets in the officer corps and the administration
worked actively to undermine President Arbenz’s
authority and block efforts to move against the
rebels. 30

Why Schlesinger and Kinzer chose to entitle their work “Bitter Fruit” is not
hard to understand. It suggests not only the country’s predominantly agrarian
economy which is the major prize in itself in the struggle between the hapless
people of Guatemala, on one hand, and that giant of a country, the US. The
bitterness comes not only because of a sense of betrayal by the US of the
Guatemalan people and their leader who naively trusted the US government to
come to their succor. As it turns out, the US would install a new leader – Castillo
Armas -- who would, during his short three years preside over the murder and
assassination of Arbenz supporters and those suspected of harbouring communist
thoughts. But the worse is yet to happen. As one author explains:
Castillo Armas was then followed by a succession of
U.S.-approved Guatemalan military regimes, regimes

30
Revised and Expanded Edition (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005), 358
pp.

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whose military men, over the years, would be trained in torture,


assassination, and counter-insurgency techniques at the Pentagon’s
infamous School of the Americas. The CIA-induced
Guatemalan coup and the four decades of brutal,
torturous, U.S.-government-supported military rule
that came with it precipitated a civil war in Guatemala
that would last some 40 years and ultimately take the
lives of more than 200,000 Guatemalan people. 31

Schlesinger and Kinzer offer their reasoned hindsight to the past four
decades of Guatemalan history, and offering important lessons in democracy. They
write:
Had Arbenz served out his term, the opposition might
well have been strong enough to contest and even win
the [scheduled] 1955 elections. Although a distinct
minority, the conservative opposition had both money
and organized religion on its side…. In short, the
democratic option – however uncertain its results –
was still open to Guatemalan conservatives in 1954.
The U.S. intervention gave them an opportunity to win
by opting instead for the security of authoritarian
repression. In taking this path, they condemned their
country to four decades of unremitting brutality and
violence. 32

Any lesson that may have been learned from the Guatemalan experience
appears to be lost to the US government. Nearly ten years later, in 1963, the US
was again out in its mischievous ways to frustrate the will of the people in yet
another small country, this time in the Caribbean. Juan Emilio Bosch Gavi was the
first democratically elected president of the Dominican Republic following the
assassination of President Rafael Trujillo, ending his 31-year dictatorship in 1961.
For his opposition to Rafael Trujillo, Bosch was forced into exile in 1937. In 1939,
while still in exile, he founded the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). The PRD
dedicated itself to a platform which included distribution of land to the peasants,
the breakup of large landholdings, restrictions on land ownership by foreigners, and
the establishment of a secular educational system. Much of these programs
understandably provided the bases for an eventual collision with important landed
aristocracy, the religious establishment, and commercial and trading interests
many of whom had powerful foreign connections. Collectively, these elements
comprised the core of what became the opposition.
Nonetheless, the Consejo de Estado, the transitional government
established after Trujillo’s assassination, went ahead with plans to organize and
prepare the country for its first free elections, scheduled in 1962. Juan Bosch

31
Please see Jacob G. Hornberger, “An Anti-Democracy Foreign Policy: Guatemala,”
available online at www.fff.org/comment/com0502f.asp. .
32
Schlesinger and Kinzer, loc cit.

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decided to run for the presidency campaigning on the PRD’s populist platform. The
people responded by electing him with 60 per cent of the popular votes. Unable to
accept their electoral defeat, the reactionary conservative forces mobilized and,
with the complicity of right-wing elements within the Dominican military, removed
Bosch from office in a coup in 1963 thereupon a military dictatorship was
established. The ascension of this dictatorship stimulated political organization and
mobilization at the grassroots level. Many of the organizations were cultural in
nature, and were called Cultural Clubs. Because of what was generally seen as the
disruptive impact on the democratisation process in the country of the rude
removal of Bosch from office and the subsequent establishment of a military
dictatorship, many of these clubs were agitated and became actively involved in
the political process. As noted by a writer, these clubs became “the focus of
significant power struggles among the various political and ideological currents
prevalent in Dominican society at the time.” 33 Allied with constitutionalist elements
within the military, these forces engaged the conservative forces in what came to
be a full blown civil war culminating in the April 1965 in the overthrow of the ruling
military junta, the restoration of constitutional government, and the return of
Bosch into the presidency.
This might have been a happy ending for Bosch, but with US President
Lyndon B. Johnson watching events unfold from his White House office, he decided
that it was time for the US to weigh in. He authorized the dispatch of some 20,000
troops to defeat what he termed as a “revolt” against the rogue military elements
that illegally seized political power to begin with! In sending the expeditionary
force, Johnson rationalized that his action was necessary in order to “prevent the
mergence of a second Cuba in Latin America,” to “save American lives,” and to
“protect commercial interests” in the Dominican Republic.
The US intervention left no choice for the Bosch supporters but to capitulate
and agree to US-sponsored elections to be scheduled in June 1965. With US
military forces in virtual occupation of the country, with over 300 leaders and
members of Bosch’s party having been assassinated during the campaign, and with
the US media trumpeting the “return of democracy” to the country, the outcome of
these elections was never in doubt. The US-backed candidate, Joaquin Balaguer,
standard-bearer of the right-wing Reformist Party, won. Balaguer was to prevail
again in the elections of 1970 and 1974 giving him a twelve-year streak in office
until 1978.

33
Please see Cesar Perez, “4. Popular Organizations in the Dominican Republic: The Search
for Space and Identity” in Michael Kaufman and H. Dilla Alfonso, eds., Community Power
and Grassroots Democracy; The Transformation of Social Life (London, England: Zed
Books, 1997), 300 pp. Available online at www.idrc.ca/en/ev-54438-201-1-DO_Topic.html.

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What happened since the coup and counter-coup in the mid-1960s


particularly during Balaguer’s reign is the subject of a book by Daniel Hellinger and
Dennis R. Judd. Entitled The Democratic Façade, 34 Hellinger and Judd provide an
in-depth analysis of the deepening of US stranglehold of the Dominican economy.
They take the broad view that the US intervention in 1965 could not be regarded in
isolation from the broader context of US economic domination of the Caribbean and
Central and South American regions throughout much of the 20th century. Hellinger
and Judd note in their book:
In the Caribbean and in Central and South America,
the United States has acted as an imperial power for
more than a century, and during that time U.S.
political and business elites have exerted a guiding
influence in the establishment of political systems. The
portrait that comes into focus through the lens of
empire reveals that the elites who manage U.S. foreign
policy have no attachment to democracy except as a
device to legitimate their political and economic
domination. For this purpose the symbols of
democracy are useful indeed, and this explains why
elections in the nations south of the U.S. border have
been sponsored by the United States both as
instruments for managing client states and as a means
to influence American public opinion. Such elections
are carefully staged media events designed to
“demonstrate” the worthiness of U.S.-supported
regimes. 35

The US economic penetration of the Dominican economy is exemplified by


the rise of Gulf&Western to become what it has once boasted as “model for
American companies in Latin America.” Coming into the country in 1966, made
easy by a significant tax break granted by the Balaguer government to foreign
investors, Gulf&Western’s annual revenues became greater than that of the entire
Dominican Republic’s gross national product (GNP). In the words of Hellinger and
Judd , Gulf&Western became “a state within a state.”
How Gulf&Western reached such a status, Hellinger and Judd offer a telling
description as follows:
Immediately on entering the country,
Gulf+Western broke the sugarcane workers’ union,
Sindicato Unido. Denouncing the union as communist
controlled, the corporation fired the entire union
leadership, annulled its contracts, and sent in police to
occupy the plant while the American Institute for Free
Labor Development (an agency financed in part by the

34
(Pacific Grove, Ca.: Thomson Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., 1991), 262 pp. Excerpts
available online at
www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Democracy_America/Exporting_Façade_TDF.html.
35
Ibid.

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CIA) formed a new union that obtained immediate acceptance from


the Dominican president. The possibility of free unions on Gulf’s
sugar plantation disappeared (along with dozens of
labor leaders), with the result that of the country’s
20,000 cane cutters, only one out of ten is Dominican.
Most of the cane workers are Haitian immigrants paid
$1.50 to $3.00 a day to do what Dominicans call “slave
work.” 36

Hellinger and Judd also describe how Gulf&Western made fashionable what is
known today as “Free Trade Zones” designed to host what are popularly known as
“runaway shops.” “Such zones,” write Hellinger and Judd,
Offer a low-wage labor force, government subsidies,
and freedom from taxes and environmental
regulations. Unions are not permitted in these zones,
and thus in the mid-1980s 22,000 workers earned an
average of 65 cents per hour working in factories
surrounded by barbed wire and security guards.
Dominican Law 299 grants corporations a 100 percent
exemption from Dominican taxes and also provides
then a 70 percent government subsidy of plant
construction to set up business in the zones. 37

In the long run, such a business model, even though commended in US


business circles as “good,” it was anything but that to the vast Dominican
population. This comes as no surprise to Hellinger and Judd who concluded:
Because investment benefits a tiny upper class in the
Dominican Republic, the living conditions of
Dominicans are grim. In 1985, 90 percent of
Dominicans suffered from malnutrition and 20 percent
lived in “absolute poverty.” Illiteracy stood at 54
percent, with 1 million school-age children not
attending school. The Dominican Bishops’ conference
issued a report stating that 63 percent of Dominicans
received an income of less than $58 a month and that
within the country 400,000 Haitians worked under a
system of “virtual slavery.” 38

A third and final irony which I wish to point out in my discussion of


Diamond’s brand of democracy has to do with his reference to the IMF and the
World Bank. As quoted earlier, Diamond notes that even in countries where policies
of these institutions are unpopular, or even vigorously resented, he has tended to
blame more the respective governments in these countries which apparently “do
not enjoy sufficient sovereignty” without so much acknowledging that in virtually all
of these governments sovereignty has been grossly undermined by the very

36
Ibid.
37
Ibid.
38
Ibid.

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policies, in particular, the conditionalities, imposed by these institutions which


apparently Diamond sees nothing wrong about. The requirements to deregulate
business, commercial, and financial enterprises; to privatise public services and to
make these services available to citizens on a “pay-as-you-go” basis; and to
liberalize trade, abandon protection to local producers and open the domestic
economy to virtually all foreign competitors. In almost every case, national
patrimony over land, water, and other resources has eroded while labor standards
in these countries have deteriorated, environmental regulations ignored, and
government has become more and more repressive.

IV. Conclusion

Over the past century or so, proponents of liberal democracy have touted
the supposed victory over totalitarianism and fascism in Europe, and militarism in
East Asia. More recently these proponents have also felt triumphant over the
collapse of the socialist experiments in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet
Union. They have also celebrated the supposed “wave of democratization”
sweeping across the Third World in the wake of the downfall of a number of
authoritarian regimes in the Third World.
What many of these proponents – particularly those of the neoconservative
variety -- fail to acknowledge or recognize is that democracy ultimately has to be
expressed in terms of the indigenous characteristics of a situation by people
indigenous to a location expressing their own unique aspirations borne out of their
own historical experience. It could not be imported or exported, and it could not be
turned on and off at the will of another. Furthermore, it could not be introduced at
the barrel of a gun especially to a people imbued with the spirit of resistance and
independence. In this light, interventionist policies – legitimated by the US
Congress through a series of “democracy acts” leading ultimately to a program of
destabilization and regime change – are in essence an affront to and a corruption
of democracy, and are bound to fail.
Another failure of these proponents is their lack of distinction between
democracy as a political principle and capitalism as an expansionist and an
acquisitive economic system. As the cases examined show, when democratic values
clashed with capitalist objectives, the latter always prevailed. This was true during
the halcyon days of slavery when the supposedly enlightened liberal countries of
Europe became the progenitors of the slave trade. And this is true today as
corporations race each other to the bottom in their promotion of global sweatshops
and mega-profits. This explains why the US has had no compunction in repeatedly

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overthrowing and/or undermining democratically elected governments – or any


government for that matter -- whose domestic programs conflicted with US
political, economic, and strategic interests as well as the profit motives of its
corporations. What the US does now in behalf of its corporations -- including the
provision of low-premium insurance through the Overseas Private Insurance
Corporation, and of low-interest loans through the Export-Import Bank, among
others – is no different from what the British government did in behalf of the British
East India Company in pushing drugs on the Chinese people during the infamous
Opium Wars of the mid-1800s. The British argued then just as the US argues now
that any and all action(s) taken in behalf of their corporations is(are) only in the
interest of “free trade”. 39
The claim to promote democracy worldwide is one that needs a particularly
critical scrutiny. As borne out in this paper, the promotion of democracy is
particularly appealing to such organizations as the US-funded National Endowment
for Democracy (with funds funnelled through the US Agency for International
Development), and the respective democracy institutes of the two major political
parties – the International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic
Institute for International Affairs. 40 These are in addition to the work being done by
such other organizations as the privately-funded International Foundation for
Election Systems (IFES) and the Open Society Institute funded by the Soros
Foundation. The activities of all of these and similar organizations have come to
complement, whether one realizes it or not, the clandestine work already being
done by the Central Intelligence Agency in its various covert operations all over the
globe. 41 Leaders of these organizations want the world to believe and trust that

39
Please see monograph on this subject by Kenneth E. Bauzon, Political Forecasting;
History, Theory and Practice (Manila, Phil.: University of the Philippines, College in
Manila, 2000).
40
Please see “International Republican Institute, in: www.sourcewatch.org, and “National
Democratic Institute for International Affairs,” in www.sourcewatch.org.
41
Commenting on the work of the IFES, Tom Griffin, a human rights attorney, wrote in a
report for the National Lawyers Guild, “They [i.e., IFES representatives] went down [to Haiti]
as part of a USAID package, with a multi-million dollar plan to, basically, fix the judicial
system -- that was what they operated under. It was really a plan to oust Aristide. The IFES
workers I was able to isolate and talk to in confidence, completely take credit for ousting
Aristide. They started with this theory that the judicial system was corrupt in Haiti, and that
it had to be turned around and cleaned out. From that premise came that if the judicial
system was corrupt, Aristide, who is controlling them is most corrupt, and he must go.”
Please see “International Foundation for Election Systems,” in www.sourcewatch.org. And,
on the Open Society Institute, its website describes it as dedicated to “the common goal of
transforming closed societies into open ones and protecting and expanding the values of
existing open societies.” Please visit www.soros.org. However, Ralph McGehee reports that
the Russian Federal Counterintelligence Service has reported in 1995 that “American
research centers, institutes and aid organizations, were in fact spying on Russia and working
to undermine it as a competitor to the U.S.” McGehee quotes from the said Report: “Through
their special services [CIA] and scientific centers, the U.S. is penetrating deeply into all
spheres of our country’s life, occupying strategic positions and influencing the development

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their activities are benign, that the interests of the US and those of the peoples of
the countries where they interfere in are one and the same, and that the only true
version of democracy is the one being promoted by the US. They, in turn, expect
the world to accept, say, an elite-led pluralism even as we witness the gross
manipulation by the elites of the electoral process; and they also expect the world
to accept US interventionism as being motivated only by a high moral purpose
even as we witness the disappearance of sovereignty and self-determination by
others. Activities of these organizations, clandestine or not, makes one wonder
whether the problems of democracy lie with the peoples of the countries that are
the targets of intervention, or whether these interventions and the organizations
carrying them out are themselves the problem.
In retrospect, one may discern that, in realist terms, the concept of
“national interest” as championed by the US epitomizes what has gone awry in
modern and contemporary international relations for it has become an overarching
justification for anything that the US decides to do. This has superseded any claim
to the same – no matter how meek or modest -- by any other country, and has
effectively rendered meaningless any notion of international law, much less the
implementation of it. One may further realize that the US claim to its interest in
bound up with the perception of itself as exceptional in world affairs as exemplified
most famously by its claim to manifest destiny. Ultimately, however, any notion of
exceptionalism is antithetical to and incompatible with democracy. It provides a
basis for the US expectation that the rest of the world should conform to its own
image of itself, and the justification to subjugate if it does not. In a manner of
speaking, this notion of exceptionalism provides the necessary intoxicating effect
that opium provides in the sense that Marx used in describing religion. As an astute
observer of post-colonial culture explains, “”U.S. nationalism – that the United
States is superior to any society or that Western Civilization as embodied in the
institutions of the U.S. has privileged position over others – has operated as the
means of exacting consent from the majority of citizens. Of course, it operates
subtly. It does not proclaim itself as such. When anyone speaks of how U.S.
representative democracy should be the pattern in other countries, there you have

of political and economic processes in Russia…. The use of scientific centers in intelligence
and sabotage activities against Russia acquires a total character.” McGehee, then, explains
that the Report has named the Soros Foundation along with dozens of other organizations in
that the Report claims are exploiting “Russia’s open atmosphere to engage in subversive
activity designed to steal secrets or restrain Russia as a competitor to the ‘one and only
superpower’.” Please see his “CIA Past, Present and Future, Part II,” in
www.serendipity.li/cia/ciabase/ciabase_report_2.htm.

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an example of the ‘opium’ working.” 42 It goes without saying that the sooner the
US realizes and accepts the folly of exceptionalism, and the greater the rejection of
it by the world community, the better the prospect for global democracy during our
time.
Under the current atmosphere generated by the US crusade on terror,
however, the world has seen a reassertion of the claim to exceptionalism. This is
manifested in various ways including the preference for unilateralism over
multilateralism, preemption over deterrence, non-proliferation for others and
rearmament for itself and its allies, and intimidation and coercion over diplomacy
and cooperation. It is not accidental that the war on terror is occurring alongside
the push for corporate globalization under the neoliberal agenda. 43 For under the
war on terror have opponents of corporate globalization been conveniently branded
as allies of terrorists, and subjected to harsh repression by proto-fascist police in
cities where WTO or World Bank meetings, and the like, are held. This, so that the
foundations of global popular democracy, e.g., the concept of commons secured as
part of government services, could be eroded, undermined, and ultimately
privatized for the benefit of a few. 44 Indeed, there is ample empirical evidence for
peoples of the world to be wary and for them to run and duck for cover whenever a
stranger greets with offers of democracy, for this has come to mean the
privatization of their commons, the erosion of public services, the unleashing of
corporate greed through deregulation, and the commodification of just about
everything that a human being needs to survive on this planet. Unfortunately,
these are the logical end of the endless façade of demonstration elections, and an
extension of the Cold War between democracy and socialism except that now, the
war is on democracy itself.

***

42
Please see Michael Pozo, “Political Discourse – Theories of Colonialism and
Postcolonialism: A Conversation with E. San Juan, Jr..” Available online in
www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/landow/post/poldiscourse/sanjuan.html.
43
More able authors have pursued this point some of whom are as follows: Maude Barlow
and Tony Clarke, “Making the Links; A People’s Guide to the World Trade Organization and
the Free Trade Area of the Americas,” available online in:
www.citizen.org/documents/Making_the_links.pdf; Noreena Hertz, The Silent Takeover;
Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy (New York: The Free Press, 2002), 247
pp.; David C. Korten, When Corporations Rule the World (West Hartford, Ct./San
Francisco, Ca.: Kumarian Press, Inc./Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1995), 374 pp.; John
R. MacArthur, The Selling of “Free Trade”; NAFTA, Washington, and the Subversion
of American Democracy (New York: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000), 388.
44
On the corporate threat to commons, please see the trenchant essays by: Naomi Klein,
“Fences of Enclosures, Windows of Possibility,” available online in:
www.nologo.org/newsite/essay.php; and Mary Zepernick, “The Impact of the Corporations
on the Commons,” available online in: www.poclad.org/articles/zepernick02.html.

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