List of US-Installed Democracies, Worldwide, 1776-2019
That’s the entire list. You can see that it’s blank. But how can that be? We all know that the US has freed dozens of nations from their evil and repressive governments, and installed loving democracies where people lived happily ever after, swamped with freedoms and overwhelmed with human rights. We know this because we’ve read and heard it hundreds, or maybe thousands, of times. It’s in all the US history books. We’ve seen it in so many movies and even read it in comic books when we were kids. It must be true. So why is the list empty? How can that be?
Sadly, the list is empty because everything we were told was a lie. It is often said that if you tell a lie five times, most people will believe it; the US as a “defender of democracy” is one of those lies. Almost any American can put together a list of 20 or 30 instances where the US removed a dictatorship, “freed” the people and installed a democracy, and that entire list will be nothing more than a fabricated fairy-tale since even a casual glance at the facts on the ground reveal something quite different. For all the talk about promoting democracy and freedom, there is no instance – NO instance – where the US has ever removed a dictatorship and replaced it with any kind of benevolent government, electoral democracy or otherwise. You may be aware of the statements by Major-General Smedley Butler who claimed that during his 33 years as a US Marine, he functioned simply as “a gangster for capitalism” and that all wars were bankers’ wars. On the topic of the US government installing democracies in the world, Butler himself denied such a thing had ever occurred, and said further, “The U.S. has routinely destroyed democracy throughout the globe while its leaders claimed to be spreading democracy.”
But if the US didn’t install “democracy” in all those places, what did they do? Well, while preaching democracy, freedom and human rights at home, the US government was actually running around the world installing dictatorships – about 50, at last count. Not only that, while boasting at home about defending democracy, the CIA and military were actually undermining and destroying functioning democracies and replacing them with dictatorships. Iran is one of the most obvious of these, where the CIA arranged the overthrow of the beloved leader of a perfectly-functioning electoral democracy and installed Shah Reza Pahlavi as one of the most brutal dictators in modern history. In 2000, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated:
“In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran’s popular Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. The coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs”.
Yeah. No kidding.
Another typical example of American reverence for the sanctity of democracy is Greece, where in 1967 the US government arranged a CIA-backed military coup two days before the country’s elections. Papandreou’s government had been elected in 1964 with the first (and I believe the only) only majority government in the Greek history, but one that wasn’t sufficiently accommodating to American business and European bankers, and had to go.
To the US, Greece was just another undeveloped property to be plundered. When the Greek Ambassador complained to President Johnson that the American CIA and military action was contrary to the Greek parliament and violated the Greek constitution, Johnson’s response was to say “Fuck your parliament and fuck your constitution.” He added that US corporations had investment plans for Greece, and that “If your Prime Minister gives me any talk about democracy, parliament and constitutions, he, his democracy, his parliament and his constitution won’t last very long”. And in fact the US not only destroyed the Greek electoral government system but forced the new military dictatorship to pass legislation outlawing every other form of government. That’s democracy, American-style.
The US has repeatedly demonstrated it doesn’t much care what kind of government exists, so long as it is controllable and will do the bidding of the master. By US thinking, the two best kinds of government are: 1) dictators that you install and control (Suharto, Somoza, Shah Reza Pahlavi) and (2) democracies you can influence, bully, subvert, and control (The UK, Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ukraine, Romania, The Czech Republic). The worst kind is China’s one-party system that doesn’t easily lend itself to outside meddling and subversion.
All the US blathering about democracy is just jingoistic hypocrisy for the masses. Rather than spreading democracy and freedom, the US has always propagated fear, repression and death, sowing dissent and overthrowing legitimate governments, a reality twisted by the media to label the victims with blame for their oppression. The US preaches democracy, but overthrows democracies and installs, finances, and supports dictatorships by the dozen. This has been true since the day more than 100 years ago that the US sent its navy to hijack Hawaii so that Bob Dole’s relatives could obtain control of the sugarcane and pineapple plantations. It was true with the Dulles brothers and the United Fruit Company in Central America, and it has continued to this day in Afghanistan and Iraq. As usual, American hypocrisy at its finest.
The US has been promoting dictatorships, poverty, misery and serfdom with great success for nearly 100 years. We have a list below of about 50 countries where the US not only installed and financed a brutal dictator, but often and repeatedly sent in arms and troops to put down local rebellions and revolutions against those installed friendly dictators. An example is Nicaragua, where the US initiated a revolution and installed Somoza – a truly brutal psychopath. When the population finally rose up in arms (shovels and pitchforks, actually), overthrew Somoza and formed their own government, the US waged one of the most unconscionable secret wars in history against that poor country. The standard of living in Nicaragua fell by 90%; hundreds of thousands died of poverty and starvation, or were simply massacred by US-funded military rebels. That was their punishment for evicting their US master, a story that has been repeated in dozens of nations. There is no shortage of documentation of CIA-trained and funded “death squads” in Central and South America.
In most cases, the US overthrew governments for the purpose of installing a dictator who would be more compliant with US commercial interests – and it is commerce, not freedom, that has been the driving ideology behind US foreign policy, an ideology that has been consistent for many decades. A country that is obedient and compliant with US foreign policy interests will generally be permitted to survive, but countries acting outside that framework, in fact acting in their best interest rather than that of the US, will very quickly become a candidate for “regime change” – preceded by voluminous media attacks to sway the American public against that nation. In the old days, they used to be condemned as communists; today they are ‘terrorists’, but all else is the same. Any country that wanted to develop its economy by protecting local industries, by redistributing land to the poor, by initiating health care, education and social security programs, was almost always overthrown because it threatened American corporate and banking profits.
And in all of this worldwide promotion of democracy and freedom, countless millions have died at the hands of US troops. American actions in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Congo, Vietnam, Chile, Angola, and a panoply of countries around the world have directly or indirectly led to the deaths of tens of millions of people. “As an example, the CIA conspired with Belgian colonial forces in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the democratically elected but broadly pro-soviet leader of Congo, which led to the rise of a brutal dictator and eventually to a series of civil wars and famines which killed approximately 5 million people.”
And it isn’t only the deaths but the brutality and torture, much of it done with specific training received from the CIA – which has been active in torture methods for at least the past 60 years. Details of the ghastly and inhuman CIA torture manuals and prisons like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay are public because the US can no longer control the dissemination of information as it once could. Some of those US-installed dictators are now gone, having been replaced with some form of representative government – but none of that is to the credit of the US. In all cases, those compliant, if murderous, dictators were overthrown by their own people – against the wishes of the US and in spite of US military and other support for the existing dictatorship.
It is not a secret that US imperialism has produced enormous profits and economic growth for the US while keeping those countries impoverished for more than 200 years. In fact, the major cause of US economic supremacy today, is precisely its active military and political colonisation of so much of the world – the actual plundering of so many countries, guaranteed by the installation of so many brutal military dictatorships – and all under the propaganda guise of protecting democracy and freedom in the world.
And this is all why the US has for so long been listed as the most hated nation in the world. Former US President Jimmy Carter said,
“We sent Marines into Lebanon, and you only have to go to Lebanon, to Syria or to Jordan to witness first-hand the intense hatred among many people for the United States because we bombed and shelled and unmercifully killed totally innocent villagers – women and children and farmers and housewives – in those villages around Beirut. As a result of that, we became kind of a Satan in the minds of those who are deeply resentful”.
And it isn’t only in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan; the US is bitterly hated throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South and Central America. There are few parts of the world today where Americans are welcome as a people, and for very good reason.
Japan is the only quasi-exception to my empty list above, where the US did install a kind of participatory democratic government but, except for a recent brief period, Japan has functioned as a one-party state since the Second World War. And in any case, Japan is still very much a US military colony with less control over its domestic and foreign policies than most people imagine. More than one Japanese Prime Minister has attempted to force the US out of Okinawa, only to discover himself forced out of office instead. In Japan’s “democracy”, the Japanese are free to do whatever they want, so long as they do whatever the US orders them to do.
Many Americans today believe their government “saved” Iraq, setting the people free by removing a terrible dictator and bestowing real democracy. Sadly, that isn’t true, but let’s take a quick look. The so-called democratic government that was installed in Iraq is an irrelevant farce. One of the US government’s acts prior to forming this so-called democracy was to declare a succession of 100 laws called “Provisionary Orders” written by an American named Paul Bremer. These Provisionary Orders were written into Iraqi law prior to the US handover of the government, and they have the highest standing of all laws in Iraq. In fact, their standing is so high that they “cannot be removed by any subsequent Iraqi government”. They are perpetual.
In order to ensure that Iraq’s new “democracy” functions according to plan, Bremer’s Orders 57 and 77 ensure the implementation of all orders by placing US-appointed auditors and inspectors-general in every government ministry, with five-year terms and with sweeping authority over contracts, programs, employees and regulations. Bremer’s Orders stipulate that the US must approve every senior government appointment and must approve every candidate for elected government office. Senior US military officers are reported to frequently and freely enter cabinet meetings with demands or instructions on policy decisions to be made. There is no question of who actually exercises power in that country.
The world would be astonished to learn how commercial was the American invasion of Iraq. Bremer’s 100 Orders pave the way for US commercial control, permitting US multinationals to privatize the entire nation, a degree of foreign and private control that has not been witnessed since the days of the British East India Company and its extraterritoriality treaties. In one of his first acts, Bremer demonstrated US-style free enterprise by closing almost 200 state-owned businesses where the World Bank estimated 500,000 people were working, eliminated the jobs and turned the industry sectors over to American companies. His orders give American firms the right to purchase and control anything in Iraq, including the entire physical and social infrastructure. They allocate to American oil companies the exclusive right to control at least 65% of the country’s oil reserves, for both production and sales, and to determine the distribution of revenue and profit allocated to Iraq and the US multinationals.
Order 39 allows for the tax-free remittance of all US corporate profits. Order 81 stipulates that all Iraqi farmers must use Monsanto’s GM seed for all crops planted in the country, with the use of any heritage Iraqi seed stock now totally prohibited. The US government has given its GM seed companies total control of Iraq’s food supplies in perpetuity, while guaranteeing profits to Cargill and Monsanto in perpetuity. Order 17 grants foreign contractors immunity from Iraq’s laws and guarantees that Americans in Iraq will not be subject to Iraqi law. The orders state that “All trained elements of the Iraqi armed forces shall at all times be under the operational control of the American commander”. But if you ask almost any American you will learn that Iraq is now free and has democracy. It is necessary to point out that this is exactly the same kind of “freedom and democracy” the US wants for China.
The US has always had a fond affection for repressive dictators, tyrants and corrupt puppet-presidents, who have been aided, supported, and rewarded handsomely for their loyalty to US interests. These men usually rise to power through bloody ClA-backed coups, and rule by terror and torture. Their troops receive arms, training and advice from the CIA and other US agencies. It is US military support that guarantees their hold on power – and the fact that they provide free access to US corporations to exploit their countries’ resources. There are no occasions where the US government has ever been held responsible in any way for installing, supporting and protecting some of the worst human rights violators in the world.
The US has, over the years, installed, financed, supported with cash and arms, about 50 bloody dictators. In many of those cases, the US hypocritically overthrew a democracy to install one of its own dictators who would be more pliable to US foreign policy. There are also many cases where the population of a country revolted and overthrew the US-installed dictator, upon which the US sent in its warships to put down the revolution and re-install its dictator to power. The Dominican Republic comes to mind as one of the more shameful episodes in US history. Even worse, the US has often sent in CIA hit squads to assassinate a democratically-elected leader who wanted to eliminate colonialism and free his country from US control.
In the Philippines, US President Lyndon Johnson had the CIA arrange for Ferdinand Marcos to assume power as puppet-dictator, a man whose political career began at age 21 for killing the man who had beaten his father in a local election. In South Africa, US President Reagan gave US-installed President P. W. Botha extensive cash and military aid, even though Botha had some bad habits that Reagan ignored, which included cutting off the ears, noses, and limbs of civilians. Botha was famous for rounding up 10 year old boys, killing their parents in front of them, raping young women while they watched, then recruiting them to fight in his army. Precisely the kind of leader America admires. Just so it doesn’t go unsaid, Botha, on his 90th birthday, refused to apologise for his reign of horror and said he had “no regrets” about the way he had run his country.
In Iran, with the support of US President Eisenhower, the CIA toppled the elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq and installed Shah Reza Pelavi as dictator. With CIA encouragement, he forced all people to join his party or go to jail. Thousands were imprisoned or murdered. His agents raided a religious school and hurled hundreds of students to their deaths from the roof. The Shah’s secret police agency, SAVAK, was created in 1957 and managed by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad at all levels of daily operation, including the choice and organization of personnel, selection and operation of equipment, and the running of agents. Torture methods included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails. Iran under the Shah became a devoted US ally and a base for spy operations on the border of the Soviet Union.
In Indonesia, Suharto was one of the most brutal dictators in history. US President Johnson authorised a CIA-organized coup that brought Suharto to power in 1965, supporting his rule for 32 years. Suharto continued his savage atrocities under the support of seven US presidents: Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton. Entire populations of towns and villages were herded to central locations and massacred. Under the guidance of the CIA, more than three million people were hacked to death with machetes, in the largest and most savage slaughter in modern political history. But Indonesia was now safe to be plundered by US multinationals.
In Pakistan, US and CIA-backed Mohammed Zia Ul-Haq executed his elected predecessor, Zulfigar Ali Bhutto in 1979, and by 1984 Pakistan was furnishing 70% of the world’s high grade heroin. That same year, George Bush addressed a group of Pakistani officials and praised the government of President Zia for its anti-narcotics program. Henry Kissinger called Pakistan a “frontline state defending free people everywhere”, in spite of its record of narcotics and torturing dissidents. Pakistan under Zia was the largest recipient of US aid, over half of which was for weapons. But since US puppets are only “President for Life”, Zia died in a mysterious (CIA induced) plane crash in 1988. Still in Pakistan, another US-backed political ‘asset’ and dictator, Khan initiated a massive campaign of genocide, targeting Muslims, Hindus, Bengali intellectuals, students and political activists. While President Nixon looked the other way, three million people were killed in a few months along with another 400,000 women who were raped. Central and South America were not better in any respect, with the Somozas in Nicaragua and a long list of similar pathological killers.
Below is an incomplete listing of nations where the US has overthrown a government to install a dictatorship that was controllable and would permit US multinationals to freely plunder the resources, unrestrained by conscience or morality, and with an astonishing and hypocritical lack of concern for either ‘freedom’ or ‘human rights’. These are the nations that became subjugated military colonies of the US; financed, trained and controlled by the US government, the CIA and the State Department. This is only one act of a continuous play that has been on stage for well over a century, and these are all facts of history, not in dispute by anyone, not even the US State Department. The US not only installed, but in each case protected, both politically and militarily, and supported with arms, cash and military training, the corrupt dictatorships of:
Here are some countries where the US military and/or CIA financed and led revolutions to depose electoral democracies and install a dictator, in several cases by assassinating the incumbent president: Bolivia, Brazil, Haiti, Spain, Philippines, Zaire, Guatemala, Iran, Greece, Chile, Fiji, Nicaragua, Indonesia, The Congo.
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Larry Romanoff is a frequent contributor to Global Research.