Art of Regime Change

The USA practices the art and science of regime change with continued audacity.

By Mir Adnan Aziz | May 2022

Alice Roosevelt, daughter of President Roosevelt, described her father as the ultimate egotist “who always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening”. Confined to US seashores, this narcissism would not have bedevilled the world. It certainly did by becoming a hallmark of US foreign policy. Propping up pliant regimes, Washington’s favourites were referred to disparagingly as banana republics. Coined in 1901, William Porter mentioned a banana republic in Rouge et Noir, a story published in his book Cabbages and Kings. The setting was Costaragua, a republic with bananas as its prime commodity.

In 1953, President Eisenhower appointed John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State and his brother Allen Dulles as Director CIA. The duo would practice regime change to devastating consequences. President Jacobo Arbenz initiated a reform policy in Guatemala to distribute land to 90 percent landless farmers. This undermined the America-owned United Fruit Company’s (UFCO) banana monopoly. The Dulles brothers had remained UFCO board members. They initiated a coup leading to Colonel Carlos Armas seizing power. Washington sponsored regimes would rule over four decades of civil war. USA saw the death and disappearance of over 250,000 Guatemalans.

Reza Shah Pahlavi, a staunch pro-Washington monarch, was propped up in Iran. The deposed Prime Minister Mossadegh died under house-arrest. Kermit Roosevelt, the leader of the plot, was the grandson of President Roosevelt. Iran remains Washington’s nemesis to this day. Directed to remove Sukarno, CIA’s Deputy Director Frank Wisner remarked: “It’s time we held President Sukarno’s feet to the fire”. These words set in motion the ouster of Sukarno that would see 500,000 Indonesians perish in the propped up Suharto years; the latter would amass 35 billion dollars.

Regime changes in Central America and elsewhere led to genocides, the US backed rulers raked in billions. Stephen Kinzer writes in “The Brothers”: “The Dulles brothers helped set off some of the world’s most profound long-term crises”. The CIA supported Saddam’s rise to power as they viewed his competitor Abdel Karim Kassem a grave threat to US interests. The removal of Saddam saw the destruction of Iraq. Among others, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria faced the same fate.

Lindsey O’Rourke, Professor of Political Science at Boston College, writes in her acclaimed book “Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War”: “Regime change entails meddling in a country’s election, secretly aiding dissident groups, wooing away pro-government factions or sponsoring a coup and if all this fails having the non-complying leader assassinated”. O’Rourke’s evidence-based deduction is that regime change never delivers. Propped up rulers are seen as puppets, perpetually trying to do away with the inerasable image of being nothing but Washington’s vassals.

Melissa Willard Foster, author of “Toppling Foreign Governments: The Logic of Regime Change” asserts that “since Roosevelt, every American president has attempted to impose regime change in one form or another. Yet, no matter how disastrous the last attempt was, policymakers still believe it will work”. She elaborates that covert regime change can have disastrous consequences for the people as targeted countries are likely to experience anarchy, impoverishment or civil war.

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