Friday, June 19, 2009

5 Reasons Chavez is so Hostile to the US

Hugo Chavez just came out to publicly support Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Iranian elections, even though a toddler could see why the reported election results are falsified. This leads to the inevitable question of why. The answer is that the state of Iran, under Ahmadinejad, is an ally of Venezuela and right now Venezuela can't afford to lose any allies. Chavez broke the cardinal rule of South American heads of state and disrespected the right to unlimited private property through nationalization of the oil industry. If you've read or heard about this, you're probably confused as to why Chavez takes such an antagonistic stance against the US Government, and in particular the conservative administration of George Bush. What is kept under suspicious silence, however, are the very good reasons for his mistrust of American with regards to left leaning administrations. Let me give you just five examples (although the examples are quite literally too prodigious to enumarate in full). I'll list them chronologically

1954 Guatemalan coup- After winning the Presidency of Guatemala in the second election ever to sport universal sufferage in Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz siezed land from corporations. This land was prime for farming, but it was left completely unused in the hopes that the land itself would one day become more valuable and be able to be resold. Árbenz gave the land to Guatemalan peasants, at which point the CIA decided that Guzman was a communist, and needed to die. Operation PBSUCCESS was enacted to train 400 men to start a revolution in Guatemala. The coup succeeded, a non-democratic government was installed and Árbenz was exiled.

1964 Brazilian coup- João Goulart was the democratically elected Vice-President of Brazil until the President stepped down and he was elevated into the office. His reforms were deemed "too socialist" and Lyndon B. Johnson authorized Operation Brother Sam, which provided the coup with ammunition, gasoline and plane fuel. The coup succeeded, and plunged Brazil into a military dictatorship, rather than a constitutional democracy, until 1985, 21 years later.

1973 Chilean coup- Salvador Allende was the first democratically elected Marxist in the Americas. He pushed for Marxist reforms and was unapologetic in his support for Communism. While you may disagree with his beliefs, he was elected by a majority of Chilean citizens. Although US involvment in this coup is still classified, the Clinton administration declassified documents describing the insertion of CIA operatives into Chile with the goal of destabilizing the Marxist movement there. It's not a stretch to assume US involvment of the coup and Allende's murder, especially as 2 years before Nixon attempted to instigate a coup when Allende took office in 1970 (under the name Project FUBELT). General Augusto Pinochet assumed power after Allende, and established a military dictatorship that lasted until 1990.

4) 1976 Argentinian coup- Isabel Perón was the first female head of state in a democratically elected government in the west. As the Vice President in Argentina, she ascended to the presidency when the current president, her husband, died of heart complications. A military junta was installed with the help and approval of US interests. The Secretary of State at the time, Henry Kissinger, said of the Junta, "Whatever chance they have, they will need a little encouragement" and "because I do want to encourage them. I don't want to give the sense that they're harassed by the United States". The Junta lasted until 1983.

5) The School of the Americas- Perhaps the most striking example is the School of the Americas, what is now known as
The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC). This facility is located in Georgia and they focus on training South American natives into military personnel that specialize in overthrowing left leaning regimes. Among the alumnus you can count some of Augusto Pinochet's officers, the military dictators that overthrew the democratically elected Isabel Perón, the now-imprisoned military dictator Manuel Noriega, Hugo Banzer the military dictator from Bolivia and the international terrorist (not to mention ex-CIA operative) Luis Posada Carriles.

So, it's easy to see after even the most cursory look into the history of South America, why Chavez is defensive to a fault when dealing with America and desperate enough to ally himself with unsavory (though impotent in South America) nationstates for solidarity and protection.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Native American society was much better than it's European counterpart

The title of this post is pretty self explanatory, but it's also pretty subjective. First, let's define "better" in this context. I don't mean to say that the Natives of America were smarter or more scientifically advanced; quite the opposite. What I'm talking about is the standard of living of the average member of society, as well as the equality of it's citizens (with regards to gender and race). At the point during which the cultural exchange first began between Europe and America (16th century or so), European society was ingrained with an ultra-regressive mentality that included extreme sexism, racism (though in a different manner than 19th century American slavery), classism and extreme religious xenophobia. I'd like to compare and contrast those features with certain Native American cultures to illustrate how horrific the genocide against them was; it's honestly like watching a pulp serial villain ravage an entire continent of cultures.

Before I proceed, I want to be sure I'm not guilty of lumping all of the Natives into the same boat; there were over 150 Native Nations and over 175 Native Languages. Not all of these cultures are going to share traits. On some rare occasions, Natives of the American continent were guilty of atrocities like human sacrifice and slave labor (Aztec society in particular). Because of the diversity in cultures, when I say "Native American", what I mean are Native American cultures from the North and South East areas of modern day United States. Most of these cultures share certain characteristics that the European culture shed a good deal of blood to acquire. The first of these traits is religious tolerance, and it doesn't take very much explanation. Native American religions are not and have never been evangelical; this leads to the conclusion that such religious practice was not forced onto others, as it was in Europe. No Inquisitions, no Crusades, no genocides.

Native American class structure was drastically different as well; rather than a hierarchical system that was based off of feudalism, the class structure was based on group agriculture and tribal hunting and gathering. Although positions of authority existed (Chiefs, etc) they were more positions of arbitration (with regards to which resources are applied where) than positions of ownership; for instance, where a King would own all property on his Kingdom and could tax accordingly, a Chief would own very little (if anything) of his Chiefdom and simply arbitrate the distribution of resource to ensure the community as a whole thrived. Where a King would trade with neighboring kingdoms for personal profit, and tax trading between his denizens and neighboring nations through tariffs, the Chief would initiate and negotiate trade for the benefit of the entire community.

Racism was nearly non-existent in Native American society. Indeed, when Jamestown colonists began dying by the truck load during the Starving Times, many defected to live with the Natives rather than continue to live a harrowing existence for the profit of the Virginia Company. "Race" was not established as a societal construct in Native American culture, whereas within European society, it was already strongly established and used as a basis for cultural assessment. I could elaborate quite a bit about the racism in 16th century Europe, but I don't think anyone needs an explanation of that racism or why the Native American's alternative is superior.

Perhaps the most poignant difference between the two societies is their treatment of gender roles. This includes both male/female relations and homo/heterosexual interactions. I'm not going to imply or suggest that the Native Americans had no sense of gender roles; men were expected to hunt and women expected to gather. This wasn't set in stone, however, and anyone breaking gender norms was labeled a niizh manidoowag, or "Two Spirit" roughly translated (Europeans called such Natives "berdaches", a highly offensive term). It's clear that the Natives had a much more embrasive view of these members of society and often had four or five "gender roles", rather than the European roles which include Male and Female (with anyone not conforming to these norms being executed). It's clear that this threatened the European culture and was one of the first things that America targetted in it's attempt to assimilate or destroy all Native American culture (such as the Dawes Act which required Natives to declare a "head of household" and assemble in a European nuclear family, with a male as the sole property owner and the superior to his wife).

Put in the most general terms, Native Americans were much more flexible with thier social norms than the Europeans. Though they were systematically eradicated (by European use of superior scientific knowledge in the fields of warfare and naval navigation), Natives were much better suited for the average member of society to avoid exploitation and have a high standard of living. Modern day racism, classism, sexism and homophobia would be non-existant if not for the genocide committed against the Natives of this continent.