Neo-Cons Pushing for Regime Change in
Warhawks targeting leaders pushing populist agendas
Still inebriated by President George W. Bush’s
apparent reelection, a number of neo-conservative strategists have begun
designing a game plan of further interventionism and foreign policing missions
for the U.S. armed forces.
figuring among their targets is a region that has
so far been neglected in the so-called “war on terror,” albeit not because of a
lack of lobbying by Washington’s top hawks. Latin America was recently signaled
by neo-con Frank J. Gaffney Jr. (above) as one of several foreign policy
“priorities” to be dealt with by the Bush administration in order to make “the
world less dangerous for America.”
Writing for the National Review Online, Gaffney,
president and CEO of the highly influential Center for Security Policy (CSP) in
Washington, laid out a “checklist of the work the world will demand” of Bush,
including everything from the destruction of Fallujah in Iraq, “regime change”
in North Korea and Iran, “keeping faith with Israel,” and adopting “appropriate
strategies” for dealing with “the emergence of a number of aggressively
anti-American regimes in Latin America.”
It is likely that the American public is already
used to the fire and brimstone rhetoric of the neo-cons, many of whom are
armchair warriors blathering from the safety of their Internet columns. Gaffney
and his CSP, however, are difficult to dismiss.
A list of some of the CSP members over the years
reads like a neo-con who’s who: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Chairman of
the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Douglas Feith and National Security Council member Elliot Abrams.
Gaffney’s Nov. 5 column predictably stirred some
waves throughout Latin America, leading Mexican newspaper La Jornada to
approach him in order to find out which of the region’s governments he
considered as threats to America’s security.
According to Gaffney, these include not only
communist Cuba but also such South American nations as Venezuela, Brazil,
Ecuador, Uruguay and Argentina.
In Gaffney’s view, the Cuban communist regime of
Fidel Castro “is first on the list” based on the fact that it has perpetuated
itself for nearly 45 years. It seems to have escaped Gaffney that ever since
the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cuban regime has been nothing but a petty
authoritarian government with an ever-weakening economy and, most importantly,
posing no serious threat to the United States.
Closer to first place in Gaffney’s list of
regional enemies is Venezuela and its president, Hugo Chavez. Although the
analyst tangentially alluded to the fact that Venezuela supplies the United
States with nearly 15 percent of its oil needs, he insisted on accusing Chavez
of fostering a “rabid anti-American sentiment.”
Gaffney conveniently hides the fact that several
neo-cons, including Abrams, were directly involved in the short-lived April
2002 coup against Chavez. The U.S. embassy in Caracas knew two months in
advance about plans to oust the Venezuelan head of state.
To make matters worse, the Bush administration
dropped any pretense of neutrality by immediately endorsing the new government
of businessman Pedro Carmona, an administration that lasted a mere 48 hours as
Chavez was swiftly reinstated.
In addition, Gaffney stated that he was worried
about “the aggressive anti-American sentiment of [Brazilian President Luiz
Inacio] Lula da Silva,” in spite of the fact that he disguises it under what he
called “pro-market policies.”
Summing up his assessment of the alleged threat
posed by Latin America, the analyst, possibly concerned about the region’s turn
to both populist and left-wing governments after a decade of disastrous free
trade policies and International Monetary Fund-mandated “structural
adjustments,” stated that the region was following a “wrong” course.
Even though leaders such as Ecuador’s Lucio
Gutierrez—also on Gaffney’s checklist and presently immersed in a corruption
scandal—are hardly the answer to Latin America’s problems, they are not threats
to U.S. security.
This has not deterred other neo-cons, however,
from recommending harsh measures against the region’s governments.
As the recent 9-11 commission report revealed,
only a few days after the 9-11 terrorist attacks senior Pentagon officials were
proposing South America as a potential target for military action. The
rationale behind “hitting targets outside the Middle East” was, as stated in a
top-secret Pentagon document, to deliver “a surprise to the terrorists.”
The 9-11 panel’s report indicates that the author
of the unsigned memo is in all likelihood Feith, who apparently sought to catch
the terrorists off guard by attacking a region completely unrelated to the
Nonetheless, Gaffney is but the latest neo-con in
warning of the imaginary threat posed by Latin America in the “war on terror.”
His paranoid tirade neatly dovetailed with revived fear mongering about alleged
terrorist activities in the so-called tri-border area where Argentina, Brazil
and Paraguay meet.
Home to thousands of Muslims, many of whom have
resided there for decades, the area is periodically signaled by the State
Department as a potential hub for terrorism. But after three years of
monitoring the area in conjunction with the police forces of the three South
American countries and placing a special eye on financial outflows from Muslim
businessmen, U.S. intelligence has been unable to find any link to
international terrorism or Al Qaeda.
Interpol crime intelligence officer John Newton
had stated in early October that there were “indications” that Al Qaeda could
possibly derive some of its income from smuggling operations originated in the
region. Newton’s assertion, however, added nothing new to accounts from both
U.S. security officers and news articles over the last few years, all of which
fail to identify any source or provide solid facts to back up these claims.
U.S. Ambassador to Paraguay John F. Keane stated
in early November that the White House was concerned about the area’s financing
flow “toward groups in the Middle East that sponsor terrorism.”
Keane’s remarks came only a few months after the
local press waged a campaign requesting the U.S. State Department’s internet
web page to stop issuing an “alert” over the dangerous nature of the area.
According to Brazil’s Ambassador to Paraguay
Valter Pecly Moreira, whose government has similarly been active in monitoring
terrorism, “there is no indication of terrorism in these regions.”