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Twenty Years After End Of The Cold War: Pentagon's Buildup In Latin America

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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H2 11/10/09

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This year began with Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visiting Colombia in mid-January and meeting with that nation's defense minister and top military commander. While in Bogota, Mullen railed against the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas and accused the government of Venezuela of conniving with them.

Less than two months and the inauguration of a new president later, America's top military commander returned to Colombia, the third largest recipient of U.S. military assistance in the world, as part of a Latin American tour that also took him to Brazil, Chile, Peru and Mexico. Upon returning to Washington Mullen said that "The U.S. military is ready to help Mexico in its deadly war against drug cartels with some of the same counter-insurgency tactics used against militant networks in Iraq and Afghanistan" [1] and "the Plan Colombia aid package could be an 'overarching' model for Pakistan and Afghanistan...." [2]

He was then speaking for the Barack Obama and no longer the George W. Bush administration but Mullen, like his superior, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who nominated him for his current post in 2007, was advocating a military and geostrategic policy to be pursued, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office.

Military commanders and former CIA directors like Mullen and Gates have seen a succession of presidents and secretaries of state pass by, during their professional careers and these have not affected plans for international military and intelligence expansion. Elected officials and their civilian appointees are to be humored, cajoled or ignored as the situation requires, but have never stood in the way of the creation and maintenance of a 65-year-old military-security-intelligence state with its tentacles extended into every latitude and longitude of the planet.

The role of American elected officials on the federal level - and what the nation and the world politely pretend to consider its diplomatic corps - is to issue a steady stream of imprecations against "rogue regimes" and frighten the domestic populace with inflated claims of other, non-Western, nations' military threats, the better to give the Pentagon (which may play the part of a coy and hesitant ingenue for public consumption) what it wants.

Witness the false alarm sounded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on May 1st of this year when she, striking the pose of a modern Paul Revere, warned that Washington's backyard was besieged by specters of the Cold War once thought long laid to rest and spoke of the need to "counter growing Iranian, Chinese and Russian influence in the Western Hemisphere," lamenting that "Republican President George W. Bush's policy had been counterproductive, allowing leftist leaders like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega to promote anti-U.S. sentiment and rely on aid from China, Iran and Russia." [3]

The fact that the three heads of state identified by Clinton as a New World Axis of Evil irrationally bent on contaminating their neighbors with an "anti-U.S. sentiment" were popularly elected, is of no concern to Washington. Central and South American electorates have voted before in ways displeasing to the U.S. - Guatemala in 1951, Guyana in 1953 and 1961, Chile in 1970 - and Washington successfully reversed the outcomes through subversion and coups d'etat.

The month after Clinton's statement U.S.-trained commanders in Honduras ordered troops to storm the residence of President Manuel Zelaya, abduct him and fly him to exile in Costa Rica. The leader of the coup, School of the Americas-trained General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, also dispatched troops to assault the ambassadors of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, as though he had studied Hillary Clinton's comments and taken them to heart.

Following the armed overthrow of the Honduran government on June 28, a state of affairs still not reversed after four months - notwithstanding the U.S.'s decisive leverage over the ringleaders in Tegucigalpa - media coverage was rife with allusions to a return to the era of Latin American coups staged and backed by Washington during the Cold War.

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This November 9th will mark the twentieth anniversary of the event that more than any other is acknowledged as having signaled the end of the Cold War: The opening of the gates along the wall dividing East and West Berlin. The fall of the Berlin Wall.

At the time much of the world breathed a collective sigh of relief and in some quarters emitted a whoop of triumph, expecting that the end of the decades-long U.S.-Soviet conflict would issue in a golden age of global harmony, disarmament, the elimination of nuclear weapons and a massive peace dividend to fund civilian needs long given short shrift during the preceding forty three years.

Those hopes turned out to be so many vain opium reveries.

Warning signs were evident even at the time.

The former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was abruptly and without a referendum absorbed into the Federal Republic (West Germany) - and into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a U.S.-dominated military bloc - and the 1990 Western armed buildup in the Persian Gulf and the next year's war with Iraq followed almost immediately.

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One didn't have to wait that long, however, to discover that the fruits of a Western victory in the Cold War were sour.

Less than a month following the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, on December 2, 1989 U.S. president George H.W. Bush and his Soviet counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev led respective national delegations to the Mediterranean island nation of Malta for a summit described as "the most important since 1945, when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed on a post-war plan for Europe at Yalta." [4]

The American delegation, incidentally, included two officials who weren't familiar to many observers at the time but would become so over a decade later: Then Director for Soviet and East European Affairs at the National Security Council Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at:

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