In law school, I took a course on Latin American legal systems.
In this class, students spent a week or two considering truth commissions: commissions established by some Latin American countries to examine (recently) bygone bloody regimes.
Was it better, my professor asked, to have full truth examined and revealed via committee, without official consequences to those who’d perpetrated terror? Or was it more important to attain justice via courts? There wasn’t one correct answer, of course; as I read, I saw that many people whose loved ones were killed in plain sight, tortured and returned, or disappeared completely answered this question many different ways.
I don’t recall discussing why these bloody regimes appeared. I’d taken from childhood a sense that lawlessness prevailed in Latin America. I was lucky, I felt in childhood and this course alike, to live in a land where law–and sometimes even justice–prevailed.
Naomi Klein addressed the question of context in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. She examines contributing factors with nuance, as well as exploring why those tasked with researching the atrocities removed them from all context. One hard-to-forget reason is that the U.S. would have been implicated if task forces moved from researching “what” to “why” and “how.”
How would the U.S. have been implicated? That’s a question for many books, so I’ll focus on the U.S.’s role in home countries of two people I’ve loved.
My godsister was adopted from Guatemala in the early to mid-1980s. Just a couple years before I met her, wrote Noam Chomsky, President Reagan’s national security team’s goal for her home country “was to supply military aid to the right-wing regime in Guatemala in order to exterminate not only ‘Marxist guerrillas‚’ but also their ‘civilian support mechanisms‚’ which means, effectively, genocide.” Atrocities carried out by “Guatemalan security forces and closely linked paramilitaries” were committed “with vigorous U.S. support and participation.”
General Montt led these brutal efforts for two years. His forces “killed tens of thousands of Guatemalans, mostly Mayans, in the year 1982 alone.” At the end of that same year, Reagan praised Montt, concluding, “My administration will do all it can to support his progressive efforts.”
What about Honduras, the home country of my first love? In 2004, President Bush named John Negroponte U.S. ambassador to Iraq, horrifying many and inspiring this Chomsky essay about Negroponte’s reign of terror in Honduras.
“The Bush administration claims to want to bring democracy to Iraq, using the same experienced official as in Central America,” wrote Chomsky. He concluded the essay, “Several days after Negroponte’s appointment, Honduras withdrew its small contingent of forces from Iraq. That might have been a coincidence. Or maybe the Hondurans remember something from the time when Negroponte was there that we prefer to forget.”
Thanks to violent U.S. acts, two people I’ve loved were deprived of everyone they loved.
Why did the U.S. use and sponsor such brutal force against Honduras, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries? The stated goal was to “bring democracy,” a term that makes me shudder after reading half of Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-Opted Human Rights. (I couldn’t finish the book; though it’s excellent, I’m sick to my stomach even thinking of how I was misled by U.S. pretext of promoting human rights–by gruesome act–across the world.)
Klein spends many pages exploring the why of U.S. democracy-bringing in Latin America. One particular paragraph sums it up with incisive clarity:
The idea that the repression and the economics were in fact a single unified project is reflected in only one major human rights report from this period: Brasil: Nunca Mais. Significantly, it is the only truth commission report published independently of both the state and foreign foundations. It is based on the military’s court records, secretly photocopied over years by tremendously brave lawyers and Church activists while the country was still under dictatorship. After detailing some of the most horrific crimes, the authors pose that central question so studiously avoided by others: Why? They answer matter-of-factly: “Since the economic policy was extremely unpopular among the most numerous sectors of the population, it had to be implemented by force.”
To understand why the U.S. government now protests “fake news,” a U.S. citizen need only look at violent U.S. actions to “bring democracy” around the globe.
In short, the U.S. spread “democracy” for profit, not human rights. It used force to obtain what it could not gain by persuasion alone.
It’s all about money.
If the U.S. government can’t obtain consent to strip resources from other countries for its own corporations’ gain, it will install dictators to achieve that.
If the U.S. government can’t expect citizens to freely fork over their money to corporations and corporate leaders, it must find ways to do so covertly, ensuring that its citizens can’t see clearly how or why their wealth is being quietly transferred from them.
And then, if the public begins catching on and seeing through “news” that hasn’t really been news for many years, “fake news” must be attacked … for all that “fake news” makes it ever so much harder for corporations to plunder from people and planet.
The U.S. can’t persuade its citizens this wealth transfer from citizen to corporation is good for citizens, because it isn’t. Instead of bothering to persuade, then, it uses force. It implements “policy … extremely unpopular” by use of subtle force: telling citizens what is and isn’t news, and implicitly threatening them against pursuing facts not given governmental blessing.
I don’t share this to depress you. I share this to confront injustice, for I truly believe that when “you support independent media, media not sponsored by one of the half-dozen conglomerates that now control almost all U.S. media outlets, you’re also confronting injustice everywhere.”
The U.S. has wrought great horror upon the world. It’s up to U.S. citizens to confront that injustice and say, “No more!”
You are mighty when you seek, mighty when you cry to understand, mighty when you find true fact and embrace it.
You are mighty, and the more you show that might, the better off the whole world will be.