"Insubordinate elites," as the distinguished American foreign policy historian Alfred W. McCoy calls them, have long been a problem for the United States empire. They privilege their own personal interests and/or concept of serving their own nations above fealty to the United States, its allies and the Western-based multinational corporate and financial interests that reign behind the shield of U.S. power.
Over the years, these disobedient foreign leaders have come in different forms. Some have been men of the socialist, populist and nationalist left -- actors like Mohammad Mossadeq (Iran), Jacobo Arbenz (Guatemala), Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Fidel Castro (Cuba), Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Sukarno (Indonesia), Salvador Allende (Chile), Michael Manley (Jamaica), Maurice Bishop (Grenada), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) and Hugo Chavez (Venezuela). Washington has responded to the defiance of these and other "left" Third World and "developing nation" actors with assassinations, assassination attempts, coups, coup attempts, invasions, counterinsurgency campaigns, espionage, propaganda and the cultivation of political and military opposition and influence within the noncompliant states.
But you don't have to be on the anti-imperial left to become what the U.S. ruling-class and imperial establishment considers an insubordinate elite and get put on Washington's sh*t and target lists. The South Vietnamese dictator Ngo Dinh Diem was considered Washington's man in Saigon until his refusal to roll back corruption and make any concessions to reform turned him into an embarrassing obstacle to U.S. control. The John F. Kennedy administration approved a CIA-assisted coup that murdered Diem and his powerful brother.
Panama's dictator Manuel Noriega was on the CIA payroll during most of the 1980s. After he stole yet another election in 1989, however, he faced withering criticism from Washington and the U.S. media. "In the interim," Noam Chomsky observed five years later, "Noriega had shown improper signs of independence, offending the master by lack of sufficient enthusiasm for Washington's terrorist war against Nicaragua and in other ways." The U.S. invaded Panama, killing thousands and taking Noriega away to rot in a federal prison.
Saddam Hussein ceased to be Washington's good friend in Baghdad when he got cocky and invaded oil-rich Kuwait, challenging a U.S.-sponsored petro-state and threatening to become an excessively powerful new force in the oil-rich Middle East. A vicious U.S. assault (the so-called Persian Gulf War, a one-sided imperial slaughter) ensued, followed by years of mass-murderous U.S.-led economic sanctions and a full U.S. invasion and occupation (leading to Saddam's death, along with that of more than a million other Iraqis) in 2003.
Another example is the long U.S.-sponsored Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "Despite the billions in aid lavished on Karzai," McCoy notes in his new book "In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power," U.S. calls for him to be an effective U.S. ally by being less openly corrupt "led to public tantrums" and "inflammatory outbursts from Karzai." The George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations "found it impossible to control Karzai. " With Washington's reform initiative effectively neutered, much like Diem had done decades earlier, Karzai was free to spend the next four years presiding, as the sardonically dubbed 'mayor of Kabul,' over the growth of the Taliban resistance movement."
Yet another case is the Philippines' thuggish president, Rodrigo Duterte. He turned against the United States, breaching his country's 70-year alliance with Washington, and cozied up to China last year. The rupture came after President Barack Obama had the gall to weakly criticize Duterte's extrajudicial murder of thousands in the name of the war on drugs. "Who does he think he is?" Duterte responded, adding: "I am no American puppet. I am the president of a sovereign country, and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people. Putang ina mo [Your mother's a prostitute], I will swear at you."
Which brings me to another violent and mean-spirited Obama-hater: Donald Trump. Incredible as it might seem, the United States, the global superpower itself, has been plagued by the presence of an insubordinate, dysfunctional, corrupt and excessively nationalistic elite in its own top "democratically elected" position -- the U.S. presidency.
Trump is no leftist people's champion, obviously. Think Diem, Noriega, Karzai and Duterte -- not Fidel, Lumumba, Allende, Ho or Hugo. He's a malignantly narcissistic real estate baron whose basic missions in life are to advance his own wealth and glorify his personal image and brand. He is venality and ego on steroids -- too commercial and selfish to be an actual fascist, but an ugly epitome of the worst excesses of the capitalist, plutocratic, racist, sexist, militaristic and ecocidal American system.
The problem for the U.S. ruling class is that the American system and empire is compelled to sell itself as humanitarian, multicultural, peaceful, democratic, benevolent and wise. "The United States," then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in 1999, channeling the establishment conventional "American exceptionalist" wisdom, "is good. We try to do our best everywhere."
"If we have to use force," Albright had explained one year earlier, "it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us."
"Our security," Obama intoned in his first inaugural address, continuing the exceptionalist mythology as he prepared to commit new war crimes, "emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."
It's hard to match such nationally and imperially self-congratulatory rhetoric and marketing with the history, persona and conduct of "Prima Donald." As a candidate with a long record of sexual harassment and racial insult, "Trumplethinskin":
-- Gave his fellow ruling-class presidential contenders juvenile and nasty nicknames ("Little Marco," "Low Energy Jeb," "Crooked Hillary") and even insulted the looks of one candidate and other candidates' wives.
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