Bernie Sanders Said Something We Weren’t Ready to Hear Last Night
Well, at least I lived long enough to hear a presidential candidate from one of the major parties refer to “the so-called Monroe Doctrine.”
It came during the most interesting passage in the debate Wednesday night between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sanders was asked if he regretted having once supported the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and having once paid some compliments to the Castro regime in Cuba.
Well, let me just answer that. What that was about was saying that the United States was wrong to try to invade Cuba, that the United States was wrong trying to support people to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, that the United States was wrong trying to overthrow in 1954, the government—democratically elected government of Guatemala. Throughout the history of our relationship with Latin America we’ve operated under the so-called Monroe Doctrine, and that said the United States had the right do anything that they wanted to do in Latin America. So I actually went to Nicaragua and I very shortly opposed the Reagan administration’s efforts to overthrow that government. And I strongly opposed earlier Henry Kissinger and the—to overthrow the government of Salvador Allende in Chile. I think the United States should be working with governments around the world, not get involved in regime change. And all of these actions, by the way, in Latin America, brought forth a lot of very strong anti-American sentiments. That’s what that was about.
A few minutes later, as an addendum to an answer about her solution to Puerto Rico’s crippling economic crisis, HRC pounced and pandered.
And I just want to add one thing to the question you were asking Senator Sanders. I think in that same interview, he praised what he called the revolution of values in Cuba and talked about how people were working for the common good, not for themselves. I just couldn’t disagree more. You know, if the values are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people or even kill people for expressing their opinions, for expressing freedom of speech, that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see anywhere.
OK, I wanted to yell, “What about the Saudis/Chinese?” at my TV, too, and it did occur to me that HRC might want to ask her lunch buddy Henry Kissinger about his human-rights record some time. But what most struck me is the depth of the denial still about the profound costs of U.S. intervention in the affairs of our closest neighbors, and our easiest proxies, in the various Great Games. The Monroe Doctrine might have made sense when England, France, Spain, and even Portugal still had imperial ambitions. But that was a very limited space in time. By the mid-1800’s, the Monroe Doctrine, and the philosophy behind it, was an excuse for land-grabbing. As one prominent American politician once put it,
“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable—a most sacred right—a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own, of so much of the territory as they inhabit. More than this, a majority of any portion of such people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, intermingled with, or near about them, who may oppose their movement. Such a minority was precisely the case of the Tories of our own revolution. It is a quality of revolutions not to go by old lines, or old laws; but to break up both, and make new ones.”
Of course, as we know, those remarks cost that Lincoln rube his seat in the House and ended his political career.
The 20th century was even worse. We insistently meddled in Cuba throughout it, even though our meddling came dangerously close to blowing up the entire world. Within our own hemisphere, we backed dictator after dictator, oligarch after oligarch. We armed terrorists. We financed coups. We allowed bombings and drug smuggling. We sold missiles to the mullahs in order to finance our terrorists. Somoza. Pincochet. Batista. Rios-Montt. To paraphrase John Quincy Adams, we did not go far abroad to find monsters to support.
These are just some of the people who did not live long enough to rebut HRC’s presumption of American innocence:
(But one of the architects of this atrocity, Orlando Bosch, died in a nice bed in Miami thanks to the intervention of influential Americans, including Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Jeb -!- Bush.)
(But one of the architects of the cover-up, the unspeakable Elliott Abrams, now has a cushy gig advising Young Marco Rubio’s crumbling presidential campaign.)
Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan, slaughtered by the US-backed Salvadoran national guard.
(But one of the architects of that cover-up, the late Jeane Kirkpatrick, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan.)
(Pinochet, of course, died under “house arrest.” And the boss of his Caravan of Death went straight to the depths of hell in a nursing home on Wednesday.)
Eight Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and her son, gunned to ribbons in El Salvador.
(But Roberto DeAubisson, the American-trained death-squad jefe who ordered the assassination, lived to die of cancer in what I am sure was a very nice hospital. He was a beloved figure among the Reagan foreign policy elite, until he became inconvenient and, yeah, Abrams again.)
This is only a partial list, of course. It doesn’t include the thousands of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, Hondurans, and citizens of other countries who got caught in the gears of the so-called Monroe Doctrine down through the centuries. (Hola, Vera Cruz!) The pundits are right that Sanders’ statements back in the 1980s are fertile ground for conservative ratfcking—look how easy it was for HRC to turn them around on him—and likely would be used to make a meal out of him in a general election. The biggest problem that Sanders has here, though, is that he told a truth that we’re still not prepared to hear. That Elliott Abrams has not been fitted with a leper’s bell yet is proof enough of that.