Regime change, America’s pandora box

The US used the expression “regime change” to justify its incursion into Iraq in 2003, but the term has been around since the beginning of the 20th century and was used by Bill Clinton who like George Bush referred to it with regards to Iraq. In the language of geopolitics, or in other words raw power, regime change for the US means installing people in power who will place US strategic interests above their own country’s interests. The myth that regime change has something to do with democracy really is a lie when you look at those countries America has instituted regime change in which were at the time democracies, like 1953 Iran, 1960’s Republic of Congo, 1973 Chile and 1980’s Nicaragua just to name a few. Those are all examples where the overthrow of countries was attempted or done clandestinely by the US with results that were usually not democratic and in some cases autocratic and dictatorial. However the results were seen as favorable for long term US interests.

In the ’80s the methodology of regime change took a different direction as the US became an active, visible part in the dissolution of governments with the full might and power of the US military. Invasions with the insertion of US combat troops onto foreign soil to cause the overthrow of governments or the capture and/or arrest of government officials became the way by which regime change was done. Grenada and Panama are two prime examples arising from that time period. Elaborate excuses were advanced to the American public to win broad appeal for the invasion of these countries, and media outlets were used to put the spin on threats which were magnified to an extent that equaled existential threats to American security from mere banana republics. What is interesting is some of the people who were instrumental in trying to overthrow Iraq in the 21st century, Elliot Abrams, Doug Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle were honing their skills working in government, particularly the Pentagon, during the ’80s when America was overrunning small states, particularly in the “American sphere of influence” the Caribbean and Central America.

Of course we all know about the regime change which took place in Iraq where the Americans became an occupying power and conducted the plunder of Iraqi territory and the murder of many of its political figures. As in the recent past, rationale was given and the media was used to propagate that rationale to the satisfaction of the American public which gave its approval for grave violations of international law. Little if any consideration was given to world opinion and the rhetoric of the day made irrelevant bodies erected to maintain the rule of law, like the UN or Geneva Conventions, or opponents of American policy domestically or internationally were either belittled or completely ignored. Because America perceived itself, justifiably, as the only superpower in the world, there was no government strong enough to stop it and world opposition opinion was meaningless. What mattered to American lawmakers was instituting a policy which would insure American interests were given the highest priority of the newly installed government, even at the expense of American citizens. (Witness the kid glove approach the US Justice Department shows towards private contractors in Iraq who have committed crimes against American citizens in Iraq, and the extent to which the US wants these contractors to be immune from prosecution by the Iraqi government.) Little thought was given to the fact that this in your face behavior of the US would open the door for others to do the same thing, with the same behavior along the way and that’s exactly what has happened in the conflagration in the central Asian republic of Georgia.

Having lost its moral right to indignation because of its previous scorn for morality and international law, America is reduced to howling from the sidelines as Russia defines its interests in terms which are geopolitically correct with much more at stake. It is irrelevant for the sake of this discussion, who started the conflict that began in the late summer of 2008, what’s at issue is the unilateral military intervention of a superpower seeking to define its interests as it sees fit without regard to public opinion because there’s no one who can stop it, and more primordially, because it can! Russia’s conflict involved a neighbor on its border with whom it has had an almost two decade conflict, and this conflict is one of natural resources, oil. Under those circumstances it is understandable Russia would react to the slightest provocation, real or imagined. After all the “threat” exists on its borders. What is interesting is how quickly the US administration has forgotten this very principle it used to justify its own illegal acts merely months ago. It had to be reminded of its own transgressions when the Russian ambassador to the UN told that forum and the US directly that regime change was an American concept and therefore America had no right to use that as a pejorative term directed at Russia. Just as the US accused Saddam of gassing the Kurds and justified removing him from power because of that, the Russians accused the Georgians of ethnic cleansing and meant to remove Georgian insurgents from the disputed territories of Abkhaz and South Ossetia. They can also claim there was no shock and awe campaign designed to obliterate whole cities and neighborhoods which were of no military values, merely as an act of intimidation as was the case with the American invasion of Iraq. As we stand on what could be the precipice to world war, America ‘s disdain for Russian aggression is as meaningless as the world’s outcry against American aggression in Iraq. American policy wonks shouldn’t be allowed to forget they opened this box.

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