Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015: Pinochet offered a Nobel

Egypt's Al Sisi: 'I accept this award for all the death-squad-captains who couldn't be here'
It might be hard to understand how a dictator responsible of crimes against humanity, and even liquidating democratic institutions, can be promoted for a Nobel Peace Prize. Understanding the place  of dictatorships in geopolitics and propaganda provide a succinct, grim rationality for the absurd, Orwellian tactic.

In 2001, Augusto Pinochet - former general and dictator of Chile - was ruled "mentally unfit" to face trial over his role in anti-leftist death squads responsible for scores of killings. Pinochet was a neoliberal dictator who ascended in a CIA coup in 1973 against the democratic Chilean government, and the popular marxist Salvador Allende. Just 5 years after the ruling - a major blow to human rights, reconciliation and the rule of law - Pinochet's death eliminated any chance of a trial.

Allende was known for popular programs which gave children free milk and barred them from deadly mine work; forced child mining had persisted since the Spanish colonial era. In accordance with popular will, Allende nationalized the Copper mines, though against the wishes of his party (and popular opinion) he acquired the mines in stages, and fully compensated investors. Despite this, the US had active regime-change programs, crucially in the form of military aid to the faction that would overtake Allende.

The same strategy was successful in securing a pro-US, pro-Israeli, anti-democratic regime in Egypt. After the first democratic elections in Egypt resulted in the ascension of - unsurprisingly - the most popular political party in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Sisi led a military coup that enthroned him and imprisoned Mohamed Morsi. Morsi has been given a death sentence, and many other Brotherhood members were subsequently arrested, tortured and killed.

Allende's and the Muslim Brotherhood's credentials are actually unimportant to criticism of Pinochet, Al-Sisi and the CIA.While it seems less likely that the US played an active role in the Egyptian coup, longstanding US policy - which persists to this day - has still prevailed: the dominant force is the pro-US military, and this dominance means that there is not democracy, but dictatorship.

Illegitimate states

I'll admit that I was hopeful that the MB would take a softer approach to Gaza and be more resistant to Israeli demands to strangle them, but that is not my decision to make. It is also not for the US to make. It is ultimately for the Egyptian people to decide. A government whose policies sharply contrast with the interests or positions of its people has serious explaining to do, and short of legitimate, legal and humane reasons, governments have a responsibility to carry out the wishes of their constituents. It is certainly not legitimate to oust the president (whose power could have easily been countered), purge society of a political party (the most popular one, at that) and carry out killings to that end.

That is not advocacy of democracy. That is destabilization, criminal, on a massive scale. It promotes dictatorship, delegitimizes the state, and will likely make democratic reforms impossible for decades. The military can and will overthrow the government, and the "cat is out of the bag" - don't expect any leader to challenge them any time soon.

The electoral system in both states could have legitimized and stabilize the states, and created more pluralist systems. Those are among the stated, politicized goals of US foreign policy (though technical and internal documents usually disregard them). Overthrowing those systems and installing Juntas, is incredibly deleterious to society, creates illegitimate regimes, and their subsequent crackdowns involve murder. Continued US aid to the murdering regimes make the US complicit in those crimes, those dictatorships, and US diplomatic cover proves the ill will that the US government has toward people in those states.

Also note that illegitimate Arab dictatorships, powerful from US military aid, are frequently cited for their anti-Iranian government policies (though their populations frequently oppose these policies). It is an Orwellian embarrassment that in the Middle East, US-backed unpopular states and their unpopular policies are cited in defense of decades of crimes against Iranians. 

The Muslim Brotherhood had very little power even though it carried the democratic elections. The courts, firmly in the hand of Old Regimists, could have been selective in their rulings. They could have enforced a secular state to the hilt. They could have balanced with the MB to make sure that communities had the right to organize and operate based on tradition (so to satisfy Islamists somewhat) while insuring the rights of individuals, and other communities who have their own standards, or few standards at all.

What was chosen was not surprising - it is something Chomsky has pointed out to resonate effect. "If you want to overthrow a state, fund their military." You can see similar things in Thailand & Pakistan, and probably a lot of other states (Colombia, Turkey, S. Arabia) where "softer" revolutions have more quietly enthroned a pro-US clique with massive arms and dollar backing from the same. It can even be like a hostile corporate takeover.

Somewhere, somehow, a military coup could be a legitimate tactic if it somehow meant forcing a government to be more democratic or stop committing war crimes. It is plausible that there are situations where democratic institutions want to commit crimes against humanity, and it takes pushback from the international community, or other government cliques, to block those crimes. But the goals of these pro-US coups are aligned in precisely the opposite direction.

Death squads which have been fed CIA information are responsible for hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of deaths (see Suharto in Indonesia for a stark example; Colombia and Vietnam are also robust examples). The broader policies including those death squads (including the maligned counterinsurgency) are certainly responsible for deaths in the millions. The collateral damage of these campaigns even include US military personnel - be they addicted to CIA-transported Heroin from US-backed Laotian rebels to Vietnam, or the military dead involved in securing an undemocratic state which has given up key elements of its sovereignty.

Today's announcement would have one believe that these criminal, undemocratic policies are even worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize:
In a Sunday statement, the UNARTS office for Africa Middle East said the nomination comes as “President Sisi has been battling terrorism and combating the threat of violence in the region by changing the ideology of extremists and uprooting every idea leads to sectarian strife.” (Cairo Post)1
Crimes against humanity that go unpunished are laurels to be repackaged by the guilty party. Shamefully, this organization is undercutting its credibility by citing precisely those crimes as meritorious of a Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps this can explain away the indignity of such proclamations: The Act of Killing - a film which documents the utter pride that death squad members express about their involvement in the Indonesian politically motivated killings.

But then again, there is also such a victory in US foreign policy politics - these very tactics are usually packaged as democracy promotion. I wonder how many Prizes for the promotion of democracy would be on tap if the Canadian intelligence services gave the FBI information on every Republican Party member, and they were systematically rounded up and executed (like the Indonesian communists were with CIA intelligence). I'm sure the Canadians would at least support their government's "benevolent" meddling. They could at least justify the threat that US political parties can pose internationally on more legitimate grounds - US bases are uniquely ubiquitous across the globe.

Pithy observers might note that Obama actually received a Peace Prize - long before the Iran deal and Cuba detente, which, though multilateral, are the only acts of his that seem worthy of the prize. But I don't think this is simply the case of "smaller" criminals being treated with more nuance. There are two lessons to be learned from this absurd nomination: Big lies work better and Some human beings are not human beings. A good observer can parse this text to find reference to the Orwellian lies, and the Orwellian dehumanization is sadly documented to the magnitude of millions - daily updates can be found where the missiles fall.


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