Friday, June 27, 2008

Only The Hand of Moscow

In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer ponders why American Presidential administrations found it so easy to believe that the Soviets were behind nationalization programs in Iran, Guatemala and Chile, even though little evidence existed to back that up. (Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, in fact, was staunchly anti-Communist; he simply wanted to take control of Iran's oil back from foreign interests.)

The answer, says Kinzer, lies in these American administration's Eurocentric view of the world. He quotes Kissinger, who was accused by Chile's foreign minister, Gabriel Valdes, "of knowing nothing about the Souther Hemisphere."
"No, and I don't care," Kissinger replied. "Nothing important can come from the South. History has never been produced in the South. The axis of history starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, crosses over to Washington and then goes to Tokyo. What happens in the South is of no importance."

This attitude made it easy for powerful Americans to misunderstand why nationalist movements arose in Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam, and Chile. Behind these movements, they saw only the hand of Moscow. That made intervention seem almost a form of self-defense. (p. 198)
These countries and their people, in the minds of our leaders, were merely puppets. This marginalization and dehumanization made it easier for people like United Fruit's William Merriam, vice president for Washington relations (whose company's Chilean assets were under threat of nationalization) to outline an 18-point plan for plunging Chile into "economic chaos." And plunge it they did - straight into the waiting arms of General Augusto Pinochet, who ultimately killed more people than died in the attacks of September 11th.