On the Capitol Assault

Image: Christiana Carvalho


This is not third-world politics. It is the policy that Washington has promoted in the Third World.

“We wanted to be really good. We wanted to respect everyone, including bad people. But we're going to have to fight a lot harder," said Donald Trump, as his presidency was fading away. I was thinking what follows when he threatened, as he left the White House, “we’ll get back somehow!”

What is certain is that, somehow, he is not gone. With more than 70 million votes in the last elections, last December, 140 Republican representatives – senators and deputies – supported him in his intention to review the voting in the states where the results of the 2016 elections were reversed. Fourteen senators, led by Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas, spearheaded this initiative. Thousands of Trump supporters, including heavily armed militias, vowed to rise up against what they saw as election fraud.

The story is told in Luke Mogelson's article in the last January issue of The New Yorker. Mogelson, witness to the invasion of the Capitol, tells in the first person in the article “Among the insurrectionists”. “In front of me,” he says, “a middle-aged man, wearing an American flag for a cape, says to a young man standing next to him, “There's going to be a war!” The tone is resigned, as if finally accepting a reality he had resisted for a long time. “I'm ready to fight,” he added. Mogelson goes on to recount what he hears: “If we can't have legitimate processes in a country worth living in, we might have to start exploring some other options. Our founding fathers would take to the streets and take this country back by force if necessary. And that's what we have to be prepared for."

It was no longer a question of reversing the result of the last elections, but of preventing any representative form of government that would allow the democrats to come to power. Mogelson's account is long and we will return to it in this story. But now we have to look further and further back to understand it.

The “Kissinger Doctrine”: There Have Been Many Wars

This is an old story. QAnon-type doctrines have deep roots in the United States: that of ignoring, harassing and, if possible, overthrowing governments that Washington does not like. Always under the pretext of democracy and freedom. As in the case of the “Kissinger Doctrine”. Let's look further back.

Allende had triumphed in the September 4, 1970 elections in Chile. He had just taken power, in November, after complicated political negotiations, as the result had to be ratified by the Senate, where he did not have a majority. Six days after taking office, things were already moving in Washington. “The example of a Marxist government elected at the polls would certainly have an impact on the rest of the world. If it were to spread, it would significantly affect the world balance and our position in it.” That was what the secretary of national security, Henry Kissinger, said at the time in a “top secret” memo entitled “Policy towards Chile”. His proposal was that “the United States should try to maximize the pressures on the Allende government to prevent it from consolidating and limit its ability to implement policies contrary to the interests of the United States…”. With some modesty, the note added: “…and from the hemisphere”.

It was about coordinating actions with the military dictatorships of Argentina and Brazil (also imposed with the enthusiastic support of Washington) and, to discreetly block loans from multilateral banks, promoting the withdrawal of US corporate investments from Chile and “manipulating the price on international markets of Chile's main export, copper, to further damage the country's economy. The directive – which can be read today in pages where Kissinger's initiative is analyzed – “made no mention of any effort to preserve Chile's democratic institutions, nor any guidance to try to defeat him in the 1976 elections, as was later affirmed by the official discourse, constructed by Kissinger himself in his biography”. On the contrary, President Nixon's instruction was: “If there is a way to overthrow Allende, do it!

We already know the result of that effort. A success later added to by “Operation Condor”, with which neighboring dictatorships collaborated to decimate the political opposition, murdered in torture chambers or thrown alive into the river, with a rail tied to their feet. Nixon was ousted after the Watergate scandal, and his vice president, Gerald Ford, took office. He also gave his version of events: "the efforts we made were to help the survival of opposition newspapers and electronic media and to preserve opposition parties" to Allende. The intervention to preserve democratic institutions in Chile was in "the best interests of the people of Chile and certainly our best interests." If you don't like the government, overthrow it! Fifty years later, the “Kissinger Doctrine” is still alive. Only now it is applied at home.

long fermentation

The attack on the Capitol was the apotheosis of something that had been brewing for months, says Mogelson in his article in The New Yorker. But it's not like that. As we have seen – and we will return to the details –, it was fermented much longer. But the American press has often been quite parochial. See the world from the shores of the Potomac. Jacob Chansley (the “Qanon shaman” who invaded the Capitol with a two-horned cap on his head), took a step and stopped. A policeman had asked him – in good manners – to leave. But Chansley kept quiet. He propped his spear in Vice President Pence's office and wrote something on a piece of paper.

The policeman told him that he was pulling the rope too tight. Chansley didn't care. Mogelson then went to see what the Qanon shaman had written. On a list of senators' names he had scribbled: "its only a matter of time/justice is coming!” Kissinger could have signed. It was just a matter of time, justice was coming! Mogelson goes on to tell, now in another scenario. On the outskirts of TCF Center, in Detroit, he met Michelle Gregoire, a 29-year-old school bus driver. Her shirt sleeves were rolled up, revealing the phrase tattooed on her arm: “We the people. Like – perhaps – on Kissinger's arm, when he sentences the government he doesn't like. All inspired by the constitution of his country.

It's an old story. “Claiming a conspiracy to steal the election makes sense for people who see Trump as a warrior against the wiles of the deep state,” says Mogelson. “Down with the deep state!” shouts one. Or the rogue state, Kissinger would say. The fight against Islamic barbarism, says disgraced Trump adviser Stephen Bannon. Or against communism. Always for democracy and freedom, like Kissinger. Or Nixon. Or Ford. Will this campaign against the democratic process turn into a lasting insurgency? Or into something worse? Today we know it well: into something much worse, from which we still haven't been able to get out. Chile is a good example. Another is Brazil. Campaigns against the democratic process, whose consequences are more than half a century old.

other wars

We remember the Chilean coup organized by Kissinger in 1970. But there were precedents. Five years earlier, American troops invaded the Dominican Republic on April 28, 1965. It was President Lyndon Johnson's turn to speculate about the communist threat. Five years ago – when the invasion celebrated its 50th anniversary – Abraham Lowenthal, a prominent American academic and politician, founder of the Pacific Council on International Policy and the Inter-American Dialogue, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, spoke on the subject. “The intervention in the Dominican Republic reduced the likelihood of success for the peaceful reforms that many US officials wanted to see in Latin America. Some Latin American conservatives – especially in Central America – concluded that the United States would not allow reformist movements to succeed,” said Lowenthal in an article published in April 2015 by Brookings Institute in Washington.

The intervention had serious consequences in the United States, he says. “The Johnson administration's scandalous lack of transparency deepened mistrust between the administration and many opinion leaders, contributing to the credibility crisis that ultimately inspired the US response to Vietnam. But “where the most serious intangible costs occurred in the Dominican Republic. The intervention intensified political fragmentation and dependence on the United States, making it more difficult to develop effective political institutions”.

Fifty years after that intervention, says Lowenthal, “as a result of Washington's obsession with Fidel Castro, the time has come not only to have a relationship of mutual respect with Cuba, but also to challenge other ingrained mindsets and find more creative responses to the persistent interdependence between the countries of the Caribbean basin and the United States”. Has that time come?

Birthdays multiply. In December 2019, the 30th anniversary of the invasion of Panama was completed, which took place on December 20, 1989. “They dropped bombs in popular areas of The Chorrillo – a neighborhood in the center of the capital, a stronghold of the military regime of Manuel Antonio Noriega – destroying everything in its path”, says a note from the BBC. “They used artillery and aviation to bomb the most densely populated areas of the capital, where there were a large number of people living in old wooden houses”, tells the Panamanian sociologist and writer Guillermo Castro to BBC Mundo. “Operation Just Cause” – which left an undetermined death toll – “continues to be remembered by many, 30 years later, as an open wound in Panama's history”.

There is another important anniversary. In a few years, it will be 40 years since the invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada on October 25, 1983. President Ronald Reagan called it Operation “Urgent Fury”. About 7.000 soldiers deployed on the small island put an end, in a matter of hours, to any thoughtless resistance. Washington disliked the "New Gem" government and Reagan considered it a potential threat to the United States. Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and other members of his cabinet had been executed by coup forces a week before the US invasion. I believe their bodies never turned up.

Trump supporters carried guns, tasers, baseball bats or batons in the Capitol storming. “For six hours, Americans watched democracy hijacked in the name of patriotism,” recalls Mogelson. People sang "America first.They felt like they owned the streets. Which streets? From “their streets”. And “their” squares. Why not take them? Chansley thanked his heavenly father for allowing them to enter the Capitol and send a message to tyrants, communists and globalists. The rebels bowed their heads.

the power of power

The “Power of Power”: Restoring American Leadership. Show that the country is capable of solving problems. This is the task suggested to Biden by Harvard law professor Samantha Power, ambassador to the United Nations between 2013 and 2017, during the Obama administration, when she was also a member of the National Security Council. This means, in her opinion, “less emphasis on the abstract cause of the 'liberal international order' and more practical demonstrations of the ability of the United States to deal with issues currently important to the lives of hundreds of millions of people”.

In an article published in the January-February issue of the journal Foreign Affairs, Power suggests three critical areas for regaining American leadership: worldwide distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine, renewing opportunities for foreign students to be educated in the United States, and giving a high profile to the fight against corruption, at home and abroad. . “The United States”, recalled Samantha Power, “is the nerve center of the global financial system”. In less than 20 years, between 1997 and 2017, “at least two trillion dollars of resources linked to arms traffickers, drugs, money laundering, sanctions evasion and corrupt officials” moved there. And he adds: “in recent years, revelations that the powerful Brazilian construction company Odebrecht paid 788 million dollars in bribes across Latin America have brought about the downfall of important political figures and reversed the political situation in several nations in the region”.

They did it in Brazil, creating the conditions to bring Bolsonaro and the military to power, advancing the privatization of oil exploration, dismantling the state-owned company Petrobrás, liquidating Brazil's powerful construction companies and outraging – with the complicity of corrupt judges who presented themselves as defenders. in the fight against corruption – the most popular political leader in the country: former President Lula. The abuses of “Operação Lava Jato”, organized in Brazil in coordination with the US police, are now well documented. The main objective was to eliminate Lula's candidacy for the presidency of the republic, the only way to make captain Bolsonaro president of the republic.

That power was also used in Ecuador to eliminate troublesome candidates for Washington. Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón denounced the abuses committed there with the same judicial scheme, carried out by both the Attorney General's Office and the courts of law. A repressive action with names and surnames, including that of Vice President Jorge Glass and, above all, that of former President Rafael Correa, with the aim of eliminating him from the electoral competition. The most recent coup, in Bolivia, also revealed new forms of assault on the Capitol.

In other countries, actions are less covert. Cuba has been subjected to a relentless blockade for more than 60 years and Venezuela has been subjected to the most drastic measures to make any economic program unfeasible. In Nicaragua, sectors of the opposition make politics in Washington, asking for more sanctions against a government they consider illegitimate.

Then, one day, the QAnon suggesting that if they cannot get the country they believe they deserve, through processes they consider legitimate, they may need to explore other options. Why not try such a successful recipe at home too? It is necessary to look inside the house. Not to apply the recipes that have been applied in the Third World, but to avoid falling into similar standards of living, as Senator Bernie Sanders reminded us.

Amid the worst pandemic in a century, he said, 90 million Americans have no health insurance, or have one that doesn't cover their needs, so they can't see a doctor when they're sick. Half of American workers live "day to day", more than 24 million are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work, while hunger in the country has reached its highest levels in decades. And, against all evidence, tens of millions of people in the country really believe that Trump did very well in the election, but the victory was stolen from him.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.



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