Spreading Democracy, the American Way
By Larry Romanoff, April 07, 2023
This is a list of all the “democracies” the US has installed in other countries over the years:
That’s the entire list. You can see that it’s blank. But how can that be? We all know that the US has freed dozens of nations from their evil and repressive governments, and installed loving democracies where people lived happily ever after, swamped with freedoms and overwhelmed with human rights. We know this because we’ve read and heard it hundreds, or maybe thousands, of times. It’s in all the US history books. We’ve seen it in so many movies and even read it in comic books when we were kids. It must be true. So why is the list empty? How can that be? Sadly, the list is empty because everything we were told was a lie. It is often said that if you tell a lie five times, most people will believe it; the US as a “defender of democracy” is one of those lies.
In the West, we have for many decades been subject to an incessant barrage of high-sounding pronouncements about the US ‘saving the world from communism‘ and promoting democracy and freedom throughout the world. But that has been little more than an effective propaganda campaign levied at the uninformed and simple-minded, since even a casual glance at the facts on the ground reveal something quite different. In fact, rather than promoting democracy and freedom, the opposite is true. The US has instead been promoting dictatorships and serfdom, and with great success over 60 or 70 years. We have a list below of 42 countries where the US not only installed and financed a brutal dictator, but often and repeatedly sent in arms and troops to put down local rebellions and revolutions against those installed friendly dictators.
For all the talk about promoting democracy and freedom, there is no instance – NO instance – where the US has ever removed a dictatorship and replaced it with any kind of benevolent government, electoral democracy or otherwise. You may be aware of the statements by Major-General Smedley Butler who claimed that during his 33 years as a US Marine, he functioned simply as “a gangster for capitalism” and that all wars were bankers’ wars. On the topic of the US government installing democracies in the world, Butler himself denied such a thing had ever occurred, and said further, “The U.S. has routinely destroyed democracy throughout the globe while its leaders claimed to be spreading democracy.”
But if the US didn’t install “democracy” in all those places, what did they do? Well, while preaching democracy, freedom and human rights at home, the US government was actually running around the world installing dictatorships – about 50, at last count. Not only that, while boasting at home about defending democracy, the CIA and military were actually undermining and destroying functioning democracies and replacing them with dictatorships. There are many countries where the US military and/or CIA financed and led revolutions to depose electoral democracies and install a dictator, often by assassinating the incumbent president: Bolivia, Brazil, Haiti, Spain, Philippines, Zaire, Guatemala, Iran, Greece, Chile, Fiji, Nicaragua, Indonesia, The Congo.
Iran is one of the most obvious of these, where the CIA arranged the overthrow of the beloved leader of a perfectly-functioning electoral democracy and installed Shah Reza Pahlavi as one of the most brutal dictators in modern history. In 2000, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated: “In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran’s popular Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. The coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs”. Yeah. No kidding.
There is Nicaragua, where the US initiated a revolution and installed Somoza – a truly brutal man. When the population finally rose up in arms (shovels and pitchforks, actually), and overthrew Somoza and formed their own democratic government with proper elections, the US waged one of the most unconscionable secret wars in history against that poor country. The stated purpose was to “make the economy scream”, and Reagan accomplished that in spades. The standard of living in Nicaragua fell by 90%; hundreds of thousands died of poverty and starvation, or were simply massacred by US-funded military rebels. That was their punishment for evicting their US master, and that story has often been repeated. There is no shortage of documentation of CIA-trained and funded “death squads” in Central and South America.
Another typical example of American reverence for the sanctity of democracy is Greece, where in 1967 the US government arranged a CIA-backed military coup two days before the country’s elections. Papandreou’s government had been elected in 1964 with the first (and I believe the only) only majority government in the Greek history, but one that wasn’t sufficiently accommodating to American business and European bankers, and had to go. To the US, Greece was just another undeveloped property to be plundered. When the Greek Ambassador complained to President Johnson that the American CIA and military action was contrary to the Greek parliament and violated the Greek constitution, Johnson’s response was to say “F… your parliament and f… your constitution.” He added that US corporations had investment plans for Greece, and that “If your Prime Minister gives me any talk about democracy, parliament and constitutions, he, his democracy, his parliament and his constitution won’t last very long”. And in fact, the US not only destroyed the Greek electoral government system but forced the new military dictatorship to pass legislation outlawing every other form of government. That’s democracy, American-style.
Top Iranian military officials Hasan Toofanian and Bahram Ariana with some Israeli officers in headquarters of Israel Defense Forces in 1975 (State of Israel via Wikimedia Commons). Source
In the Philippines, US President Lyndon Johnson had the CIA arrange for Ferdinand Marcos to assume power as puppet-dictator, a man whose political career began at age 21 for killing the man who had beaten his father in a local election. In Iran, with the support of US President Eisenhower, the CIA toppled the elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and installed Shah Reza Pahlavi as dictator. With CIA encouragement, he forced all people to join his party or go to jail. Thousands were imprisoned or murdered. His agents raided a religious school and hurled hundreds of students to their deaths from the roof. The Shah’s secret police agency, SAVAK, was created in 1957 and managed by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad at all levels of daily operation, including the choice and organization of personnel, selection and operation of equipment, and the running of agents. Torture methods included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails. Iran under the Shah became a devoted US ally and a base for spy operations on the border of the Soviet Union.
An aerial shot of the Parwan Detention Facility in 2009 (a.k.a. the Bagram military prison). Source
This is where you go if you object to US-style ‘democracy’, the secret “black-ops” torture facility at Bagram in Afghanistan. No one ever leaves here without a proper appreciation of democracy and freedom. In fact, no one ever leaves here at all.
In Indonesia, Suharto was one of the most brutal dictators in history. US President Johnson authorised a CIA-organized coup that brought Suharto to power in 1965, supporting his rule for 32 years. Suharto continued his savage atrocities under the support of seven US presidents: Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton. Entire populations of towns and villages were herded to central locations and massacred. Under the guidance of the CIA, more than three million people were hacked to death with machetes, in the largest and most savage slaughter in modern political history. But Indonesia was now safe to be plundered by US multinationals.
In Pakistan, US and CIA-backed Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq executed his elected predecessor, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979, and by 1984 Pakistan was furnishing 70% of the world’s high-grade heroin. That same year, George Bush addressed a group of Pakistani officials and praised the government of President Zia for its anti-narcotics program. Henry Kissinger called Pakistan a “frontline state defending free people everywhere”, in spite of its record of narcotics and torturing dissidents. Pakistan under Zia was the largest recipient of US aid, over half of which was for weapons. But since US puppets are only “President for Life”, Zia died in a mysterious (CIA induced) plane crash in 1988. Still in Pakistan, another US-backed political ‘asset’ and dictator, Khan initiated a massive campaign of genocide, targeting Muslims, Hindus, Bengali intellectuals, students and political activists. While President Nixon looked the other way, three million people were killed in a few months along with another 400,000 women who were raped. Central and South America were not better in any respect, with the Somozas in Nicaragua and a long list of similar pathological killers.
The US has constantly interfered in Haiti’s internal affairs for well over 100 years, overthrowing elected governments and replacing them with dictators, invading Haiti six or seven times to seize government revenue on behalf what is now Citibank. More than once, US Marines invaded the country, broke into the nation’s central bank, and stole all its money, including all Haiti’s gold deposits. When Haiti refused to turn over its banks to Citibank and its railroads to an American company, the US launched a massive invasion during which it re-wrote Haiti’s constitution, turned over almost all industry to American firms, disbanded the country’s army and replaced it with a US military police force, slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians and enslaved hundreds of thousands of others to build a railroad that would carry Haiti’s resources to American ships. The US ran the country as a military dictatorship for decades and viciously suppressed all local resistance. In American history books and US government propaganda, the military was there only “to maintain order during threatened insurrection” and, of course, “to protect American interests”.
The CIA organized the overthrow of Guatemala’s elected government to install Ríos Montt, another US-financed pathological killer, and supported him during 40 years of CIA-trained and sponsored death squads. Montt specialised in torture, disappearances, mass executions, and unimaginable cruelty, resulting in more than 200,000 victims. This was one of the most inhumane events of the entire 20th century, much of it sponsored by US President Reagan. And not only sponsored, but praised; Montt attended Reagan’s Presidential Inauguration and was one of his good friends. But the US-supported dictator had given virtually all of his nation to the Jewish bankers and US corporations. At that time, the Rockefellers alone owned more than 40% of the arable land in Guatemala as well as the entire railroad network and telegraph system, and also the country’s only port. Earlier, when the US was preparing for its invasion of Guatemala, many of the planning documents were passed on to the Guatemalan government who published them in the media and demanded an explanation from the US. Of course, the State Department claimed the accusations were “ridiculous”, and added further, “It is the policy of the United States not to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations. This policy has repeatedly been reaffirmed.” And Time Magazine, always helpful, claimed that those documents were just a Russian plot to embarrass the US. And then the CIA continued with its plans for assassination and overthrow as if nothing had ever happened. Americans are not easily embarrassed.
In Peru, the people elected a socialist government who threatened the almost total control of commercial interests they received from the US-installed dictator. The US immediately sent in the CIA with a huge cache of weapons and funding, arranged an overthrow of the government and the appointment of a new dictator who immediately abolished all civil rights and re-embraced American style free markets, permitting US multinationals to continue freely plundering the nation’s resources.
Transfer of Getúlio Vargas’ body from Rio de Janeiro for burial in his hometown, São Borja, Rio Grande do Sul, 26 August 1954. National Archives.Source
In Brazil, the people replaced a US puppet dictator protecting US commercial interests with a man who began a program of reform and development, including the nationalisation of Brazil’s massive oil industry, thereby removing American firms like the Rockefeller-owned Standard Oil from their monopoly. He was very quickly assassinated by the CIA, and a new US puppet dictator appointed who again opened Brazil to unrestricted exploitation by US corporations. In Columbia, a new president planned land and corporate reform that threatened the criminal monopolies of the American corporate and banking elite, leading to immediate CIA-inspired violence, death squads and hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. The CIA still refuses to release its thousands of documents on these issues, claiming US national security interests.
By 1984 the SOA had been relocated to Fort Benning near Columbus in Georgia, already the site of a huge military base. Source
Men line up in the Fourth Division at Fort BenningCredit: AP:Associated Press
In El Salvador, the US government organised and encouraged the wholesale slaughter of civilians in attempts to maintain its brutal dictator in power, and repeatedly held fake elections with massive electoral fraud. Citizens holding protests or strikes were openly murdered. US President Reagan provided unlimited funds, weapons and other military aid and training that included the dreaded ‘School of the Americas’ where all US puppet dictators and their personnel were taught the latest techniques from CIA manual of civilian repression and torture. In one brief campaign, more than 75,000 civilians were massacred by the CIA-trained death squads which would become ubiquitous in the Americas. All social change was stalled while US corporations maintained their unhindered freedom to plunder the nation’s resources. In one event, when the citizens succeeded in a revolution and rid themselves of their US-appointed dictator, the US launched a military invasion to put down the rebellion and re-install its dictator. Again, democracy, American-style. And of course, American history books list the event as sending in the US military “to protect American interests during political instability”.
In 1970, Salvador Allende had been elected the President of Chile in a universally-acknowledged clean election, though the US mounted an immense effort to have the election declared void or “unconstitutional“. Edward Korry, the US Ambassador to Chile, reported to Henry Kissinger that, “Once Allende comes to power, we shall do all within our power to condemn Chile and the Chileans to utmost deprivation and poverty”. When that failed, Nixon demanded the CIA immediately organise a coup to replace Chile’s new President. The CIA assassinated Allende and installed Augusto Pinochet as puppet dictator to rule, terrorise, torture and slaughter his countrymen in great numbers, in order to make Chile comfortable for the US multinationals that were plundering its copper and other resources.
In so many countries, the US government fostered revolutions against legitimate functioning democracies for the purpose of installing a dictator who would be more compliant with US commercial interests – and it is commerce and subjugation, not freedom, that has been the driving ideology behind US foreign policy, an ideology that has been consistent for many decades. A country that is obedient and compliant with US foreign policy interests will generally be permitted to survive. But those countries acting outside that framework, in fact acting in their best interest rather than that of the US, will very quickly become a candidate for “regime change” – preceded by voluminous media attacks to sway the American public against that nation. In the old days, they used to be condemned as communists; today they are ‘terrorists’, but all else is the same. The US has been promoting dictatorships, poverty, misery and serfdom with great success for well over a century, and has not only overthrown governments but often and repeatedly sent in arms and troops to put down local rebellions and revolutions against those installed dictators.
The US has repeatedly proven it does not much care what kind of government is in power, so long as it is amenable to control and will grant free rein to US corporations. That has been true since the day more than 100 years ago that the US sent its navy to hijack Hawaii so that Bob Dole’s relatives could obtain control of the sugarcane and pineapple plantations. It was true with the Dulles brothers and the United Fruit Company in Central America, and it has continued to this day in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. By US thinking, the two best kinds of government are: 1) dictators that you install and control (Suharto, Somoza, Shah Reza Pahlavi) and (2) democracies you can influence, bully, subvert, and control (The UK, Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ukraine, Romania, The Czech Republic). The worst kind is China’s one-party system that doesn’t easily lend itself to outside meddling and subversion.
All the US blathering about democracy is just jingoistic hypocrisy for the masses. Rather than spreading democracy and freedom, the US has always propagated fear, repression and death, sowing dissent and overthrowing legitimate governments, a reality twisted by the media to label the victims with blame for their oppression. The US preaches democracy, but overthrows democracies and installs, finances, and supports dictatorships by the dozen. This has been true since the day more than 100 years ago that the US sent its navy to hijack Hawaii so that Bob Dole’s relatives could obtain control of the sugarcane and pineapple plantations. It was true with the Dulles brothers and the United Fruit Company in Central America, and it has continued to this day in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. As usual, American hypocrisy at its finest.
In its long determination to obtain global control for its masters, the US consistently removed by stealth or by military force many acceptable functioning governments, only to replace them with savage but compliant dictators. Any country that wanted to develop its economy by protecting local industries, by developing its own natural resources, by redistributing land to the poor, by initiating health care, education and social security programs, was labelled as “communist” or “socialist” and almost always overthrown. And in all of this worldwide “promotion of democracy and freedom”, countless millions have died at the hands of US troops, with the assistance of CIA and US military planning, or at least with the tacit permission of the US government. The most commonly accepted death estimate at the hands of the Americans is 30 million, with literally hundreds of millions reduced to poverty, misery and migration.
And it isn’t only the deaths but the brutality and torture, much of it done with specific training received from the CIA – which has been active in torture methods for at least the past 60 years. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay are not news; it’s just that the US can no longer control the dissemination of information as it once could. Even details of the ghastly and inhuman CIA torture manuals have become publicly available, as has the news of the infamous “School of the Americas” – the only university in the world dedicated to teaching the fine points of torture and civilian population suppression. In all of this worldwide promotion of democracy and freedom, countless millions have died at the hands of US troops. American actions in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Congo, Vietnam, Chile, Angola, and a panoply of countries around the world have directly or indirectly led to the deaths of tens of millions of people. “As an example, the CIA conspired with Belgian colonial forces in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the democratically elected but broadly pro-soviet leader of Congo, which led to the rise of a brutal dictator and eventually to a series of civil wars and famines which killed approximately 5 million people.”
In most cases, the US overthrew governments for the purpose of installing a dictator who would be more compliant with US commercial interests – and it is commerce, not freedom, that has been the driving ideology behind US foreign policy, an ideology that has been consistent for many decades. A country that is obedient and compliant with US foreign policy interests will generally be permitted to survive, but countries acting outside that framework, in fact acting in their best interest rather than that of the US, will very quickly become a candidate for “regime change” – preceded by voluminous media attacks to sway the American public against that nation. In the old days, they used to be condemned as communists; today they are ‘terrorists’, but all else is the same. Any country that wanted to develop its economy by protecting local industries, by redistributing land to the poor, by initiating health care, education and social security programs, was almost always overthrown because it threatened American corporate and banking profits.
It is not a secret that US imperialism has produced enormous profits and economic growth for the US while keeping those countries impoverished for more than a century. In fact, a major cause of US economic supremacy today is precisely its active military and political colonisation of so much of the world – the actual plundering of so many countries, guaranteed by the installation of so many brutal military dictatorships – and all under the propaganda guise of protecting democracy and freedom in the world.
This is all why the US has for so long been listed as the most hated nation in the world. Former US President Jimmy Carter said, “We sent Marines into Lebanon, and you only have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand the intense hatred among many people for the United States because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers – women and children and farmers and housewives – in those villages around Beirut. As a result of that, we became kind of a Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful”. And it isn’t only in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan; the US is bitterly hated throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South and Central America. There are few parts of the world today where Americans are welcome as a people, and for very good reason.
The US has always had a fond affection for repressive dictators, tyrants and corrupt puppet-presidents, who have been aided, supported, and rewarded handsomely for their loyalty to US interests. These men usually rise to power through bloody ClA-backed coups, and rule by terror and torture. Their troops receive arms, training and advice from the CIA and other US agencies. It is US military support that guarantees their hold on power – and the fact that they provide free access to US corporations to exploit their countries’ resources. There are no occasions where the US government has ever been held responsible in any way for installing, supporting and protecting some of the worst human rights violators in the world.
The US has, over the years, installed, financed, supported with cash and arms, about 50 bloody dictators. In many of those cases, the US hypocritically overthrew a democracy to install one of its own dictators who would be more pliable to US foreign policy. There are also many cases where the population of a country revolted and overthrew the US-installed dictator, upon which the US sent in its warships to put down the revolution and re-install its dictator to power. The Dominican Republic comes to mind as one of the more shameful episodes in US history. Even worse, the US has often sent in CIA hit squads to assassinate a democratically-elected leader who wanted to eliminate colonialism and free his country from US control.
Below is an incomplete listing of nations where the US has overthrown a government to install a dictatorship that was controllable and would permit US multinationals to freely plunder the resources, unrestrained by conscience or morality, and with an astonishing and hypocritical lack of concern for either ‘freedom’ or ‘human rights’. These are the nations that became subjugated military colonies of the US; financed, trained and controlled by the US government, the CIA and the State Department. This is only one act of a continuous play that has been on stage for well over a century, and these are all facts of history, not in dispute by anyone, not even the US State Department. The US not only installed, but in each case protected, both politically and militarily, and supported with arms, cash and military training, the corrupt dictatorships of:
Abacha, General Sani —————————-Nigeria
Banzer, Colonel Hugo —————————-Bolivia
Batista , Fulgencio———————————Cuba
Bolkiah, Sir Hassanal —————————-Brunei
Botha, P.W. —————————————South Africa
Branco, General Humberto ———————Brazil
Cedras, Raoul ————————————-Haiti
Cerezo, Vinicio ———————————–Guatemala
Chiang Kai-Shek ———————————Taiwan
Cordova, Roberto Suazo ————————Honduras
Cristiani, Alfredo ——————————-El Salvador
Diem, Ngo Dihn ———————————Vietnam
Doe, General Samuel —————————-Liberia
Duvalier, Francois ——————————–Haiti
Duvalier, Jean Claude—————————–Haiti
Fahd bin’Abdul-‘Aziz, King ———————Saudi Arabia
Franco, General Francisco ———————–Spain
Hitler, Adolf —————————————Germany
Marcos, Ferdinand ——————————-Philippines
Martinez, General Maximiliano Hernandez —El Salvador
Mobutu Sese Seko ——————————-Zaire
Noriega, General Manuel ————————Panama
Ozal, Turgut ————————————–Turkey
Pahlevi, Shah Mohammed Reza —————Iran
Papadopoulos, George ————————–Greece
Park Chung Hee ———————————South Korea
Pinochet, General Augusto ———————Chile
Rabuka, General Sitiveni ————————Fiji
Montt, General Efrain Rios ———————Guatemala
Selassie, Halie ————————————Ethiopia
Salazar, Antonio de Oliveira ——————–Portugal
Somoza, Anastasio Jr. ————————–Nicaragua
Somoza, Anastasio, Sr. ————————-Nicaragua
Smith, Ian —————————————-Rhodesia
Stroessner, Alfredo —————————–Paraguay
Suharto, General ———————————Indonesia
Trujillo, Rafael Leonidas ———————–Dominican Republic
Videla, General Jorge Rafael ——————Argentina
Zia Ul-Haq, Mohammed ———————-Pakistan
Here are some countries where the US military and/or CIA financed and led revolutions to depose electoral democracies and install a dictator, in several cases by assassinating the incumbent president: Bolivia, Brazil, Haiti, Spain, Philippines, Zaire, Guatemala, Iran, Greece, Chile, Fiji, Nicaragua, Indonesia, The Congo.
Mr. Romanoff’s writing has been translated into 32 languages and his articles posted on more than 150 foreign-language news and politics websites in more than 30 countries, as well as more than 100 English language platforms. Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He is one of the contributing authors to Cynthia McKinney’s new anthology ‘When China Sneezes’. (Chapt. 2 — Dealing with Demons): https://www.bluemoonofshanghai.com/politics/2187/.
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Copyright © Larry Romanoff, Blue Moon of Shanghai, Moon of Shanghai, 2023