The United States government has been involved in and assisted in the overthrow of foreign governments (more recently termed regime change) without the overt use of U.S. military force. Often, such operations are tasked to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Many of the governments targeted by the U.S. have been democratically elected, rather than authoritarian governments or military dictatorships. In many cases, the governments toppled were replaced by dictatorships, sometimes installed with assistance by the U.S.
No Bully Should Expect That People Would Like It
Regime change has been attempted through direct involvement of U.S. operatives, the funding and training of insurgency groups within these countries, anti-regime propaganda campaigns, coup d’états, and other, often illegal, activities usually conducted as operations by the CIA. The U.S. has also accomplished regime change by direct military action, such as following the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 and the U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Some argue that non-transparent United States government agencies working in secret sometimes mislead or do not fully implement the decisions of elected civilian leaders and that this has been an important component of many such operations. See Plausible deniability. Some contend that the US has supported more coups against democracies that it perceived as communist, or becoming communist.
Notwithstanding a history of U.S. covert actions to topple democratic governments and of installing authoritarian regimes in their places (see, e.g. Iran 1953, below), U.S. officials routinely express support for democracy as best supporting U.S. interests and as protecting human life and health.
“So why would anyone think the U.S. is an international bully? A bully is someone who attacks the weak, avoids fights with strong, and ignores the rules when it suites him.” The U.S. also looks like a bully because they have built a global military empire. They have troops all over the world. They spend more than $700 billion a year on military. China, the country with the next largest military budget, spends only $120 billion a year. The U.S. military expenditure alone is 43% from the global total. Can the Americans find better ways of wasting world resources and better ways of living and more acceptable policies?
Here is just incomplete list of regimes changed by America in less than a hundred years. It is a manifestation of how bully and unlawful is the U.S.
In 1918, the Allied powers including the United States began a military intervention in the Russian Civil War.
Communist states 1944-1989:
The National Endowment for Democracy supported pro-capitalist movements in the communist states and has been accused of secretly supporting regime change, which it denies.
The March 1949 Syrian coup d’état ended the initial civilian government.
The CIA worked with the United Kingdom to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran led by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh who had attempted to nationalize Iran’s petroleum industry. The 1953 Iranian coup d’état (known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup) was under the name TPAJAX Project. The coup saw the transition of Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi from a constitutional monarch to an authoritarian one who relied heavily on United States support to hold on to power until his own overthrow in February 1979.
The CIA armed an anti-Communist insurgency for decades in order to oppose the invasion of Tibet by Chinese forces and the subsequent control of Tibet by China. The program had a record of almost unmitigated failure.
The CIA participated in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala led by Jacobo Arbenz. The CIA claimed it intervened because it feared that a communist government would become “a Soviet beachhead in the Western Hemisphere”, it was also protecting, among others, four hundred thousand acres of land the United Fruit Company had acquired.
The largest and most complicated coup effort, approved at White House level, was the Bay of Pigs operation. Under initiatives by the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations, CIA-trained Cuban anti-communist exiles and refugees to land in Cuba and attempt to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. Plans originally formed under Eisenhower were scaled back under Kennedy.
Democratic Republic of the Congo 1960
Both Belgium and the United States actively sought to have Patrice Lumumba, the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo, killed. The CIA ordered his assassination but could not complete the job. Instead, the United States and Belgium covertly funneled cash and aid to rival politicians who seized power and arrested Lumumba. The Belgian government orchestrated a military coup to remove the Lumumba government from power. Lumumba was subsequently murdered in prison. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had said something [to CIA chief Allen Dulles] to the effect that Lumumba should be eliminated”. This was revealed by a declassified interview with then-US National Security Council minutekeeper Robert Johnson released in August 2000 from Senate intelligence committee’s inquiry on covert action. The committee later found that while the CIA had conspired to kill Lumumba, it was not directly involved in the actual murder.
In February 1963, the United States backed a coup by the Ba’ath Party against the government of Iraq headed by General Abd al-Karim Qasim, who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. The US was concerned about the growing influence of Communist Iraqi government officials under his administration, as well as his threats to invade Kuwait, which almost caused a war between Iraq and England.
A democratically-elected government headed by President João Goulart was overthrown by a CIA-supported coup in March 1964. Declassified transcripts of communications between US ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon and the U.S. government show that, predicting an all-out civil war, President Johnson authorized logistical materials to be in place to support the coup-side of the rebellion as part of U.S. Operation Brother Sam. President Joao Goulart was not favorably viewed in Washington. He took an independent stand in foreign policy, resuming relations with socialist countries and opposing sanctions against Cuba; his administration passed a law limiting the amount of profits multinationals could transmit outside the country; a subsidiary of ITT was nationalized; he promoted economic and social reforms.
Republic of Ghana 1966
On 24 February 1966, Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, was overthrown in a military coup backed by the CIA. Nkrumah was the first President of Ghana and the first Prime Minister of Ghana. An influential 20th-century advocate of Pan-Africanism, he was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity and one of the founding fathers of the Non-aligned movement. Nkrumah argued that socialism was the system that would best accommodate the changes that capitalism had brought, while still respecting African values.
President Abdul Salam Arif lost patience with the Ba’ath party due to factionalism, and the Party was ousted from government on 18 November 1963. 1963–1968, the Ba’th Party was forced underground and began to make sweeping changes in its leadership and strategy in order to recapture power. Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr became secretary of the Regional Command of the Ba’th Party in 1964. He was assisted in reorganizing the party by Saddam Hussein.
In 1967, the government of Iraq was very close to giving concessions for the development of huge new oil fields in the country to France and the USSR. Robert Anderson, former secretary of the treasury under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, secretly met with the Ba’ath Party and came to a negotiated agreement according to which both the oil field concessions and sulfur mined in the northern part of the country would go to United States companies if the Ba’ath again took power. The Baath Party toppled Abdul Rahman Arif, bringing Saddam Hussein to the threshold of power.
Former CIA Near East Division Chief James Chritchfield maintains that the CIA played no direct role in the 1963 coup, but that it viewed the Ba’ath Party favorably and offered support after they had taken over. He referred to the subsequent coups that brought Saddam to power as “counter-coups” that enabled the “radical” elements of the Party. The U.S. broke all relations with Iraq in 1967. After al-Bakr seized power in 1968, relations remained completely severed for 16 years and the U.S. made arms sales to Iraq illegal in a law passed by Congress. In June 1972, the Iraqi government nationalized the oil assets of British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, Compagnie Française des Petroles, Mobil Oil and Standard Oil of New Jersey.
The U.S. government hostility to the democratically-elected President Salvador Allende is unquestioned. This hostility was substantiated in documents declassified during the Clinton administration. The CIA, as recounted in the Church Committee report, was involved in various plots designed to remove Allende and then let the Chileans vote in a new election where he would not be a candidate; It tried to buy off the Chilean Congress to prevent his appointment, attempted to have him exiled, worked to sway public opinion against him to prevent his election, tried to foil his political aspirations during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, and financed protests designed to bring the country to a stand-still and make him resign.
To destabilise the Allende Government, the CIA paid some U.S. $8 million to right-wing opposition groups to “create pressures, exploit weaknesses, magnify obstacles” and hasten Allende’s deposition. The CIA report released in 2000 records some U.S. $6.8 million spent to depose Allende. Gen. Carlos Prats succeeded Gen. René Schneider after his assassination on 24 October 1970 by the groups of Gen. Roberto Viaux and Gen. Camilo Valenzuela, whom the CIA financed and logistically supported.
The 1973 Chilean coup d’état organised by the Chilean military and unofficially endorsed by the Nixon administration and the CIA was a watershed event of the Cold War and the history of Chile. A military junta led by Allende’s Commander-in-Chief Augusto Pinochet eventually took control of the government. After the coup, Pinochet established a military dictatorship that ruled Chile until 1990; it was marked by numerous human rights violations.
The CIA began offering covert backing to radical Islamist rebels in Afghanistan premised on the claim that the authoritarian government headed by Mohammed Daoud Khan might prove a likely instrument of Soviet military aggression in South Asia. U.S. secret backing of the Islamist rebels ceased following an abortive uprising in 1975.
In 1974, the Islamists plotted a military coup, but Daoud’s regime discovered the plot and imprisoned the leaders—at least those who did not escape to Pakistan. The following year, the Islamists attempted a failing uprising in the Panjshir Valley.
The CIA colludes with the Shah of Iran to finance and arm Kurdish rebels in an attempt to overthrow al-Bakr. When Iran and Iraq sign a peace treaty in 1975, the support ceases. The Shah denies the Kurds refuge in Iran, even as many are slaughtered. The U.S. decides not to press the issue with the Shah. “Covert action should not be confused with missionary work”, declares Sec. of State Henry Kissinger. Subsequently, Al-Bakr attempts in 1979 to demote the Vice-President, Saddam Hussein, to a position of relative obscurity. Saddam responds with a counter-coup, forcing al-Bakr to resign, conducting a ruthless purge of hundreds of Ba’athists and naming himself President.
The American betrayal of the Kurds was investigated by the Pike Committee, which described it as cynical and self-serving. It has been argued that it tarnished America’s image with one of the most pro-Western groups in the Middle East.
The democratically elected government of Argentina headed by Isabel Martínez de Perón was overthrown by a right-wing coup d’état in March 1976. It was headed by General Jorge Rafael Videla, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera and Brigadier Orlando Ramón Agosti. The junta took the official name of “National Reorganization Process,” and remained in power until 1983. U.S. planners were aware that the coup would be unlikely to succeed without murderous repression. Two days after the coup, Assistant Secretary for Latin America, William Rogers, advised Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that “we ought not at this moment rush out and embrace this new regime” because he expected significant repression to follow the coup. But Kissinger made his preferences clear: “Whatever chance they have, they will need a little encouragement… because I do want to encourage them. I don’t want to give the sense that they’re harassed by the United States.”
One of the CIA’s longest and most expensive covert operations was the supplying of billions of dollars in arms to the Afghan mujahideen militants. The CIA provided assistance to the fundamentalist insurgents through the ISI in a program called Operation Cyclone. Somewhere between $2–$20 billion in U.S. funds were funneled into the country to train and equip troops with weapons. The 2007 movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” celebrated the CIA’s involvement in the repulsion of the USSR troops from Afghanistan. Representative Wilson was awarded the Honored College Award by the CIA for his involvement.
Alleged U.S. green light for Saddam. According to Kenneth R. Timmerman, the “Islamic revolution in Iran upset the entire strategic equation in the region. America’s principal ally in the Persian Gulf, the Shah, was swept aside overnight, and no one else on the horizon could replace him as the guarantor of U.S. interests in the region.”
In 1979 Saddam allowed the CIA, which he had once so virulently attacked, to open an office in Baghdad.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Carter, “began to look more favorably toward Saddam Hussein as a potential counterweight to the Ayatollah Khomeini and as a force to contain Soviet expansionism in the region.” The U.S. also acted to defend Saudi Arabia, and lobbied the surrounding states not to become involved in the war.
The CIA planted mines in civilian harbors and sunk civilian ships in an attempt to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. The U.S. also armed and trained the Contra guerrilla insurgency to destabilize the Nicaraguan government. The Contras based in neighboring Honduras, waged a guerrilla war of insurgency in an effort to topple the government of Nicaragua and to seize power. The Contras’ form of warfare was one of consistent and bloody abuse of human rights, of murder, torture, mutilation, rape, arson, destruction and kidnapping.
El Salvador 1980-92
In the Salvadoran Civil War between the military-led government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a coalition or umbrella organization of five left-wing militias; the US supported the Salvadoran military government. America also supported the centrist Christian Democrats, who were targets of death squads. The security forces were split between reformists and right-wing extremists, who used death squads to stop political and economic change.
The Reagan Administration sought to apply the Reagan Doctrine of aiding anti-Soviet resistance movements abroad to Cambodia, which was under Vietnamese occupation following the Cambodian genocide carried out by the Communist Khmer Rouge.
The Reagan administration offered covert aid to a group of anti-Communist rebels led by Jonas Savimbi, called UNITA, whose insurgency was backed by South Africa.
The United States had for many decades coddled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, even as his regime abused human rights and his wife Imelda Marcos plundered their country of billions of dollars. The U.S. support was based on the U.S. military’s desire of Philippine territory for its naval bases. But some American presidents, such a Ronald Reagan, were genuinely fond of Marcos, calling him a “freedom fighter.”
The CIA orchestrated a bomb and sabotage campaign between 1992 and 1995 in Iraq via one of the insurgent organizations, the Iraqi National Accord, led by Iyad Allawi. The campaign had no apparent effect in toppling Saddam Hussein’s rule.
In 1993 the CIA helped in overthrowing Jorge Serrano Elías. Jorge then attempted a self-coup, suspended the constitution, dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court, and imposed censorship. He was replaced by Ramiro de León Carpio.
The United States is alleged to have made secret effort to topple the nationalist Slobodan Milošević in Serbia during and after the events of the Kosovo War. The 5 October Revolution removed Milošević and installed a pro-western government which permitted the extradition of Milosevic and other war crime suspects.
In 2002, Washington is claimed to have approved and supported a failed coup d’état on 11 April 2002 against the Venezuelan government that saw President Hugo Chávez ousted from office for 47 hours. Senior officials, including Special Envoy to Latin America Otto Reich and convicted Iran-contra figure and George W. Bush “democracy ‘czar’” Elliott Abrams, were allegedly part of the plot.
The insurgency against the government of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was allegedly supported by the United States, and Aristide claims he was physically removed from the country by U.S. personnel against his wishes.
Although the United States has had an ongoing interest in Somalia for decades, in early 2006 the CIA began a program of funding a coalition of anti-Islamic warlords. This involved the support of CIA case workers operating out of the Nairobi, Kenya office funneling payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism. As the power balance shifted towards this alliance, the CIA program backfired and the militias of the Islamic Court Union (ICU) gained control of the country.
President Bush secretly authorized the CIA to undertake black operations against Iran in an effort to topple the Iranian government. The Black Ops include a U.S. propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize the government, and disrupting the Iranian economy by manipulating the country’s currency and its international financial transactions. U.S. officials have been secretly encouraging and advising a Pakistani Balochi militant group named Jundullah that is responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran. Another claimed US proxy inside Iran has been the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK). Another terrorist group allegedly protected by the United States government that operates out of Iraq is the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, PMOI, known also as the Mujahedeen-e Khalq or MEK.
Nations and governments don’t like bullies and bullying. It is not a clash of civilizations, cultures or anything else.