BY MICHAEL DROHAN
In his 2002 State of the Union Address on January 29, George W. Bush called North Korea “A regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.” He also stated Iran “aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.” Of the three nations Bush cited, however, he gave the most criticism to Iraq. He stated, “Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror.” These were the fighting words of George W. Bush and gave an insight on how his presidency would unfold as he undertook the invasion of Iraq and the virtual destruction of that country. The evil genius behind this proclamation was John Bolton, who has spent a lifetime conjuring up demons around the world who supposedly endanger the US and civilization.
Now in the age of Trump, John Bolton is in the saddle again as National Security Advisor to the President. He was appointed to this position in April 2018, an appointment which does not demand Congressional approval. And so, on November 1, 2018, John Bolton identified a new threat to the civilized world, what he called a ‘Troika of Tyranny.’ The countries that he has now focused his sights on are Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. On the day he announced the new ‘troika of tyranny,’ he also announced economic sanctions that would be imposed on Venezuela. The sanctions were specifically imposed on Venezuela’s export of gold, a lifeline of the embattled economy of that country. It has to be kept in mind that such sanctions on a country which has in no way injured or attacked the US is an act of war, war by economic strangulation.
Bolton has been explicit in his reasons for targeting the countries of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. In the case of Cuba, he accuses it of sending medical personnel to Venezuela. In fact, Cuba has supplied doctors to dozens of poor countries throughout the world dating back to the 1960s. It is one of the most extraordinary acts of solidarity with poor countries, unparalleled by any other nation.
In addition, Cuba has opened a medical university to train doctors from all over the poorer parts of the world called Escuela Latino Americano de Medicina (ELAM). This university has also trained hundreds of medical doctors from the minority and poorer communities in the US. I attended the graduation of many of these young professionals several years ago in Havana.
What John Bolton finds repugnant is solidarity between the nations of the world, where the better off help the poor and the needy. Not that Cuba is a rich country. Largely because of the total economic embargo imposed by the US on Cuba, it is barely surviving. But that does not prevent it from helping the worse off. The rhetoric that Bolton uses is that Cuba is supposedly exporting “terror” to countries such as Nicaragua, Venezuela, Haiti and a host of others.
Nicaragua and Venezuela are very different from Cuba, but what they have in common is that they overthrew a very corrupt ruling class which was supported by the US, especially with military assistance. In the case of Nicaragua, the Sandanistas overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza on July 17, 1979. The US opposed the new regime and organized a war against them by arming and funding a group that became known as the “Contras”. For their efforts at liberation from tyranny, the US has never forgiven the Nicaraguan Sandanistas. Today the high principles that guided the Sandanista movement have largely evaporated and been undermined by corrupt bureaucrats, but US enmity remains.
Venezuela is a more tragic example of a revolution upended. Hugo Chavez came to power in that country through a democratic transition in 1999 without any guerilla or civil war. He instituted massive social programs to uplift the poor and redistribute wealth. He spoke vehemently against US influence and interference in his country. The wealthy elite in Venezuela, however, never accepted these progressive reforms and have largely succeeded in undermining Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro. US official policy has been to undermine and destroy the Chavez Revolution by economic embargoes and other means.
John Bolton demonizes these three countries with the accusation of being ‘socialist’ and spreading socialism around the world. This is the bogeyman he uses to frighten people. In practice, what socialism in these countries means is increasing equality and providing universal healthcare and free education. In Bolton’s book these policies are crimes. Bolton’s worldview is perhaps best described in the statement he made in 1994 on the United Nations: “There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that’s the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along.” This is the person who is defining US foreign policy today for the Trump regime. His guiding maxim is all for ourselves and to hell with others. What a specter.
Michael Drohan is a member of the Editorial Collective and of the Board of the Thomas Merton Center.
(TMC newspaper VOL.48 No.10 December 2018. All rights reserved)