Reflections on Regime Change
Gary Girdhari

"When I declare that I am for peace and not war, I believe that this is a righteous stance. I believe that this is a godly act, not unpatriotic. We must not assume that war is inevitable. If there is a war, it signals failure of the collective wisdom of humanity and condemns us, our civilization into abomination and oblivion." – Gary Girdhari

It was along time ago. I was little boy (the word ‘kid’ or ‘guy’ was not part of our lingo then) when I learned that the British soldiers had come. And I was happy because my father, being naive, had spoken gloatingly of the white (generic) people – the “bakra” (the preferred color). Why? I did not fully comprehend. But it was part of the village concept – that bakra was always better and superior, and hence to be emulated. They had been in Georgetown, Guyana for a while now, and had ‘protected’ and ‘secured’ the country. And when they drove in their British trucks in my tiny village, waving their hands as they looked at our gaunt and inquiring faces, we stared – ragged foolish urchins – in amazement and “awe”. We were not “shocked” but rather amazed at seeing these strange white (red-skinned in the Guyana heat) men – the first time ever in our lifetime. They did not throw candies or cigarettes in the usual patronizing fashion of invading soldiers. The adult folks, stupidly but in ignorance, spoke good-naturedly of the bakra soldiers, not altogether grasping the augury of their presence in our country, Guyana. After all, the scant and infrequent news informed that the soldiers had landed – to give us freedom! Just like the soldiers are doing in Iraq – operation freedom Iraq!

In 1953 the soldiers had arrived in Guyana to keep the peace after the British government suspended the Guyana constitution and arbitrarily replaced the duly elected PPP government. Although not yet a teenager I had recognized what was happening as a “regime change”. (In those days the hysteria and cry was “anti-communism”.) And a new subservient “interim Government” was appointed by Her Majesty’s Government in England through the local office of the Governor Sir Alfred Savage, that lasted till 1957. (There are always those locals in waiting, those that suit the purpose of the exploiting class.)

Except for the jailing of Cheddi Jagan and the deposed persons from the PPP, mainly at the infamous Sibley Hall and Atkinson, this was virtually bloodless. This ignominious period inspired the writing of Poems of Resistance by Martin Carter.

In 1957 the PPP once again won the elections, and once again there was an attempted “regime change”, this time by the coordinated efforts of the British and the American governments, aided by local lackeys. This time, 1962-1964, it was costly with loss of property and lives (and immeasurable and continuing polarization of the people), but which the CIA dismissed: that as coup go it was a relatively cheap operation.

For me as well as for others in the so-called Third World, regime change is not a new phenomenon. The most recent in the Caribbean occurred in Grenada with the murder of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop in 1983 – thanks to Ronald Reagan and his Caribbean Basin Initiative and the pretext of protecting American lives in Grenada. In this part of the world we have witnessed it, repeatedly, in South and Central America: the killing of President Allende of Chile in 1973; in Dominican Republic opposing the elected Juan Bosch; in Nicaragua; in El Salvador; and in Panama with the shameful humiliation and jailing of Noreiga. These however have all been accomplished through the courtesy of the United States. In South America the US, though ostentatiously championing democracy, have always sided with known dictators and the exploiting oligarchs. Why? You may well ask.

But the pattern of “regime change”, the support of dictators, and expansionism are widespread: the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddeq of Iran and installing the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, in 1960; the military coup in Indonesia overthrowing President Sukarno in 1965; the removal of Prince Sihanouk; the failed attempt in Vietnam; the invasion of Afghanistan and the setting up of a puppet government outside any democratic process. And now the latest – invasion of Iraq!
America has removed itself from the lofty ideals enshrined in its Constitution and etched on the Statue of Liberty. Its pages of history are littered with episodic gruesome and grotesque destruction of life – decimation of the Native peoples during the frontier movement, slavery of black people, and KKK and lynching that is immortalized by Billie Holiday in Abel Meeropol’s Strange Fruit.

This kind of cruelty has continued in subtler forms, insidious, but with self-aggrandized respectability, like unfair trade practices, manipulative monetary institutions and skewed financial ‘aid’ packages; and, sometimes when these are objected to and resisted, the duplicitous machinery operates in bold, direct highhanded manner such as invasion. (Note: This generalized economic pattern is typical not only of the US, but also of the G8 nations.) It is fairly obvious and transparent but is not easily recognized or made accessible to the public because the propaganda machinery of the press indoctrinates (rather than educates) in favor of the controlling class of ‘big business’. For example, in the current “Operation Freedom Iraq” the propaganda machinery, especially the TV stations, is “lying that is both crude and subtle, is now dispensed globally and marketed and controlled like a new niche product. Richard Gaisford, an "embedded" BBC reporter, said recently: "We have to check each story we have with (the military). And the captain, who's our media liaison officer, will check with the colonel, and they will check with Brigade headquarters as well."

And then the ‘news’ is read on TV by a smiling indifferent just-doing-my-job puppet on a string. John Pilger stated: “We have fallen victim to a big lie that reverses right and wrong. The truth they don't tell is that the British siege of Basra is strangling the civilian population, causing great suffering to innocent, men, women and children in their homeland.”

Stories of the war are told with a wryness, an equanimity, and matter-of-fact way that makes it appear OK and Rambo-esque, e.g., quoting Pilger: “We had a great day," said Sgt Eric Schrumpf of the US Marines last Saturday. "We killed a lot of people." And when referring to the gunning down of a woman, blurted, "But the chick was in the way."

The rare exception is C-Span.

In America especially, the overly mouthed notion of a ‘free’ society, egalitarianism, e pluribus unum, etc. have all gone with the wind; and new paradigms of human relationships are raging like wild fires devouring anything and everything in its path. One asks: Freedom for whom and from what? It is tempting to leave these accusatory remarks and continue with the story. However, it is not true that all American people are predatory. There are many, the majority, who understand the true meaning of freedom, egalitarianism, and e pluribus unum. Others, the controlling minority, are disingenuous, pretentious and hypocritical. An old classical example is related to one of the main framers of the constitution, Thomas Jefferson, who, while exhorting the glorious freedoms and rights, was himself an owner of slaves.

Learning from the lessons of history, it would appear that the present-day doctrines, edicts, domination by and worldview of the US are consonant with patterns of its past.

Prem Misir notes: “The problem of periodic capitalist crises, the hunt for more markets and increasing profits, and the call for a relief valve to stem the pressure and conflict generated by the unemployed and the poor, have all produced an increased tendency by advanced nations to exploit the developing world.” Further, quoting from Misir: “Senator Albert Beveridge in 1898, [said] thus: "American factories are making more than the American people can use. American soil is producing more than they can consume. Fate has written our policy for us; the trade of the world must and shall be ours... We will establish trading posts throughout the world as distributing posts for American products. We will cover the ocean with our merchant marine. We will build a navy to the measure of our greatness. Great colonies, governing themselves, flying our flag and trading with us, will grow about our posts of trade... And American law, American order, American civilization, and the American flag will plant themselves on shores hitherto bloody and benighted..."

Former American President Woodrow Wilson promoted the idea of imperialism, too, thus: "...Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused" (Parenti, p.40, quoted from Misir).

Nowadays the view takes on varying tints and the practice assumes covert and overt operations depending on the target country. It may be the simple and workable carrot and stick method, or economic blackmail, or direct threats, or economic strangulation (now being re-organized as globalization), political destabilization causing internal strifes, or jailing and assassination of troublesome leaders, or by invasion and war.

Good people look for the ‘common good’ and would never allow the many nefarious acts to take place. But there are many corrupt practices in the government offices, including the Congress and the Senate. The Congressmen and women and the Senators, the President and Vice President will come and go, but there is a permanent government in Washington, that controls everyone there and in the country as a whole. This permanent government is comprised of lobbyists, those who look after the interests of the big corporations. It is the big corporations, big business that run America, in the final analysis. They manipulate the system; they manipulate the politicians; they take a lot and give back a little. They are exceedingly greedy, and will even go to war and kill (old monied and powerful men using young men and women) to satisfy their greed.

Isn’t this why Iraq is being invaded and war is unleashed? (And wasn’t it the reason for the war in Afghanistan?) “We will not leave until we set the Iraqi people free!” is the touted battle cry from the White House. President Bush called the invasion of Iraq "a noble cause" using the exact words of his role model and icon Ronald Reagan of the “Iran-Contra” scandal. But most reasonable people and nations know that the invasion is not in any way related to freedom for the people; to the contrary, it is related to the freedom of others to go in and exploit the oil resources of Iraq.

At the time of writing, the “coalition” forces (i.e. US and Britain with a sprinkling of Aussies) have wreaked untold damage to the infrastructure of Baghdad and other areas of Iraq, and have killed hundreds, including civilians. (The war may be over when the reader reads this.) One writer describes a scenario: “Artillery fire makes the earth shake violently beneath your feet, sends jolts into your chest, spews up swirls of sand and dust that clog your eyes… Artillery fire that assaults your every sense, that you dread, even from a safe position behind it… to send a message of domination, a message that coalition troops are in charge.”

This scenario however aptly typifies the relationship between a bully and the beaten – the immense military, technical and propaganda power, the mightiest in the world, with the most advanced weaponry, bombarding Iraq weakened by economic embargo, food rationing, disease, and possessing World War II weapons. It is not a war! A war has to have at least two opposing forces of near similar strength. This is tantamount to genocide in the coalition approach. It reminds one of the proverbial “sharks and the sardines”. It is like shooting fish in a barrel!

In the usual typical fashion the dominant force shows “a racist contempt” for the people, which is a means of demonizing them. Recall, the Vietnamese were "gooks" and "slits". The Iraqi are terrorists, Islamists. Zealots of Christianity on TV (who are rightwing fundamentalists but no more than businessmen) also demonize the Iraqi people so as to help in the justification of the war. For example, Rev. Franklin Graham of the Samaritan’s Purse, in a TV interview, called Islam “a very evil and wicked religion.” Rev. Jerry Vines of the Southern Baptist Convention remarked last year in St. Louis that Islam’s Allah is not the same as the God worshiped by Christians. “I will tell you, Allah is not Jehovah. Jehovah’s not going to turn you into a terrorist.” Others including Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson especially seem pleased to talk about the US victory, smirking about the impending defeat of Iraq (justifying killing of others), and quoting chapter and verses.

Pre-emptive War
“I see that a man I know to be a ruffian is pursuing a young girl. I have a gun in my hand – I kill the ruffian and save the girl. But the death or the wounding of the ruffian has positively taken place, while what would have happened if this had not been I cannot know. And what an immense mass of evil must result, and indeed does result, from allowing men to assume the right of anticipating what may happen. Ninety-nine percent of the evil of the world is founded on this reasoning – from the Inquisition to the dynamite bombs.” Leo Tolstoy: The Kingdom of God is Within You.

Isn’t this the very raison d'être for waging war on Iraq? Or at least one of the reasons put forward by Bush and Blair? The justification of the pre-emptive strike – not simply to deter but to annihilate, to obliterate, invade, conquer, and free the people! Free! Freedom! A word that for many now connotes mixed meaning and sends convulsions and gut wrenching antipathy.

To prevent Al Qaeda terrorists from making their move on the US? But there was/is no evidence of this – even the CIA said so. Despite this, the emotional connection is being constantly perpetuated, without any admonishment or correction, to suggest that Iraq was linked somehow with 9/11.

To get Saddam Hussein to reveal his presumed WMD? Well, there is a possibility that Iraq may still have WMD since, as some have cynically said, the receipts, after the supplies were shipped to Saddam, are kept in the US. But where are the chemical and biological weapons? The UN Inspectors did not turn up anything, or anything of significance! And if the US and Britain knew of this because of their super intelligence, why didn’t they tell the Inspectors about them? (Don’t rely on Blair’s dossier – it’s full of lies.) The chief weapons inspector Mr. Hans Blix remarked that Unmovic did not find much at the sites pointed out by intelligence services – which challenged their credibility. Hans Blix was disappointed over US "impatience" (only allowing three and half months for inspection) to go to war with Iraq – and observed that Washington was not keen in peaceful methods from the beginning. Some of the statements made by the US regarding aluminum rods, were “fake”, and the allegation of importation of raw uranium from Niger was also false.

Is it for humanitarian reason? Certainly not, for this is the grossest of an overstatement. In the first place it was the US that directed an embargo on Iraq denying essential food and medicines that resulted in 500,000 to 1,000,000 deaths of those most vulnerable – the elderly and children. And as sure as the sun rises every day there will be a continuation and worsening of the conditions because of the tremendous onslaught by the coalition forces. In any case the US and other rich countries only posture. If there is any real and genuine concern they would not sit idly and allow the devastation of lives in countries such as Rwanda, Congo and other places where AIDS is also the major killer.

So what is/are the reasons for the war on Iraq? Several reasons, differing from those of the US and Britain, have been put forward: to emphasize US dominance in the Middle East by sending a no-nonsense signal to the world that the US is prepared to defend “American interests” whenever necessary, even with invasion and war, and preemptively; to enhance George Bush's popularity; to seek revenge, that is, to “get” Saddam since the senior Bush was not able to do so; to satisfy a mission – some believe that President Bush is of a religious persuasion, convinced that he is only a vehicle to carry out God’s work by waging a ‘holy’ war.

All or some of the above may apply. However, the primary reason still remains, namely, the conventional US foreign policy of intervention, domination and hegemony. Now being the only super power the US has taken a more decisive role in asserting its grip on the world.

The war on Iraq is not a new invention of Bush and Blair, and has nothing to do with 9/11. In fact, the brainchild of a war pre-dated 9/11. In 1997 a blueprint for US global domination exposed a plan Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century; the brains behind which were Dick Cheney (now Vice-President), Donald Rumsfeld (Defense Secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy), George W. Bush's younger brother Jeb Bush, Zalmay Khalilzad, William Kristol, Richard Armitage, Robert Zoellick, and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff). In part: “President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure 'regime change' even before he took power in January 2001,” (Sunday Herald) to establish a global “Pax Americana”. The document was presented by the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century in 2000. The think-tank proposed that “the United States should develop ‘bunker-buster’ nuclear weapons and make ‘star wars’ a national priority. This is happening. It said that, in the event of Bush taking power, Iraq should be a target.”

Many countries and prominent personalities knew of this Project for the New American Century and therefore, for this and various other reasons, did not support the war on Iraq. These include: France, China, Russia, Germany, former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, billionaire George Soros, ex-President Jimmy Carter, Pope John Paul II, US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, US Sen. Robert Byrd , Journalist Helen Thomas, Jessie Jackson, Nelson Mandela, India Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Hollywood actors Dustin Hoffman, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Woody Harrelson, Martin Sheen, Tim Robbins, Ed Asner, Marisa Tomei, and Danny Glover, among thousands.

Many others saw through the rhetoric and suggested that there should be a “regime change” in Washington. Some of these are: Senator John Kerry, Barbra Streisand, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Rep. John Conyers, Ramsey Clark, Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon.

Despite these and many anti-war protests in the US and worldwide, Bush and Blair rushed to war. They “faked” evidence. They ignored the UN Security Council. When the dust is settled Iraq will be reduced to shambles, disgraced and be a pawn. Geopolitics will be drastically altered. The big multinational corporations (oil, shipping, construction and others lying in wait like scavengers) will exploit the huge resources of Iraq. Large signboards will be scattered all over displaying Coco Cola, McDonald's and other such products that symbolize economic and cultural imperialism. The Iraqis of course will be free at last – free to work for their new masters, free to eat burgers, free to drink Coke, free to wear Levi, and certainly to watch American movies. They will be free from Saddam Hussein because the war is a foregone conclusion. They will be free to wear the heavy chains of their new masters?

This war is a sickening sad commentary of human civilization. Force seems to be always right. No amount of ‘sweet talk’ will change the harsh reality and pain. The map of the Middle East may be re-drawn. The fate of the UN, which was set up to prevent wars, is dangerously poised to topple and is uncertain. Many see the foreign invasion as expansionism, unprovoked and unjust. International Law will be revised. This will undoubtedly exacerbate the Palestinian problem.

Will the world be free from terrorism, or will there be many Saddams and bin Ladens in the future?

Further Reading
James Ridgeway's War Log: Rumsfeld's Dealings With Saddam. Were Trips to Iraq Meant to Secure Pipeline Deal? Village Voice. March 28th, 2003
Prem Misir: The War on Iraq. Guyana Chronicle. April 7 2002

By Gary Girdhari

Postscript: I am left with diminished faith in many politicians and world leaders, and little respect for many bible believing Christians.


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