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“Iran Loves WikiLeaks”: An NYT Op-Ed’s Wild Claim

10:01 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Former assistant secretary of defense from 1993 to 1994 and the United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War, Chas Freeman, has published an op-ed in the Sunday, December 5th edition of the New York Times. The piece attempts to make an argument that WikiLeaks is a danger to America because Iran will be helped as a result of information that was revealed. While that may be an arguable possibility, the premise of the editorial – that “Iran loves Wikileaks” – is an outlandish premise ensures the op-ed is merely a sloppy attempt by a member of the Washington establishment to further smear WikiLeaks.

First off, Freeman might have been able to write an editorial that could provide insight on the impact of the hundreds of diplomatic cables that have been released so far as a result of WikiLeaks. Freeman, however, chose to not make that the thrust of his op-ed; instead, he went with “Julian Assange, has much in common with the anarchists of the early 20th century: he aims to disrupt the established order by impairing its alliances and violating its proprieties.”

A respectable op-ed could have been published given the fact that Freeman has a history of diplomatic experience in Middle Eastern, African, East Asian and European countries especially with Saudi Arabia. He serves as director of the American Iranian Council, which would lead one to assume he is knowledgeable on issues surrounding Iran and would at least be able to discuss the Washington Consensus on Iran openly. And, as president of the Middle East Policy Council, he published Professor John Mearsheimer and Professor Stephen Walt’s working paper, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” His open sympathy toward views on the influence of Israel over U.S. foreign policy made it impossible for him to survive the nomination process for chair of the National Intelligence Council in 2009.

But, Freeman opted to publish a fallacious editorial that displays utter contempt for WikiLeaks. One can surmise that this is probably a result of Freeman’s experience as a diplomat and a personal volley at WikiLeaks because  of a belief that this will hurt diplomacy in the Middle East. Why couldn’t he have just written that in an editorial?

The editorial operates on a Washington Establishment assumption: that prior to the release of cables it was not already known to Arab leaders what neighboring countries were thinking. If, as Freeman suggests, the U.S. is “deeply unpopular among Arabs” there might have already been an inability to get straightforward answers. The Bush Administration years probably had the effect of making Middle Eastern countries approach all talks or negotiations with caution. Even with the election of President Obama, they probably still have been overly cautious, preferring to say things they think U.S. diplomats want to hear instead of saying what they think.

There is little indication that Iran will gain prestige as a result of WikiLeaks. Iran hasn’t seen a concerted effort by Arab countries to unite in the country’s defense. And that’s probably because, as Freeman surely knows, Iran is more isolated than ever.

Finally, Press TV in Iran has not run any stories indicating the leadership of Iran is pleased with the leak. Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights Mohammad Javad Larijani said the documents were released to “save the face of the United States,” and Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast suggested the release was a “highly dubious scheme,” one that had taken place through cooperating with intelligence services of Western governments. Like all governments in the world, they have been leery of what might be revealed.

This editorial, therefore, appears to be a chance to remind Americans that healthy and effective diplomacy cannot take place if operations like WikiLeaks are allowed to enjoy legitimacy or freely release classified documents to people all over the world. That notion is part of a myth larger than the idea that “Iran loves WikiLeaks.”

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said the descriptions of possible harm from WikiLeaks to U.S. foreign policy were “significantly overwrought,” but don’t expect that to get in the way of former diplomats appearing on the pages of pro-Washington Establishment publications like the New York Times.

*Photo by Graphic Tribe. (,01.shtml) [GPL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Brazil Cables: US Upset Brazil Puts Interests of Activists Ahead of Counterterrorism

11:41 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Former President Lula of Brazil by Marlon Dutra

Cables from Brazil released by WikiLeaks reveal the United States has been pushing Brazil to take the threat of terrorism more seriously and institutionalize counterterrorism into their legal system. They reveal the U.S. has attempted to have Guantanamo detainees resettled in Brazil but has had no success and that sometimes law enforcement. And, they demonstrate that Brazil may be hesitant to charge suspects with crimes that amount to terrorism because it might become a playground for fighting the “war on terror.”

A cable sent on May 24, 2005, reads, the Government of Brazil (GOB) “still contends that it cannot accept Guantanamo migrants because it is illegal to designate someone not on Brazilian soil a refugee.” When a US diplomat tries to convince Brazil to take Cuban refugees at Guantanamo, Brazilian officials maintains that due to Brazilian legislation no migrants could be accepted from Guantanamo.

An “action cable” details a requested to resettle detainees at Guantanamo, specifically Uighurs. Marcelo Bohlke at Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations United Nations Division responds to the request with a demand for an explanation on why “Uighurs are not eligible for refugee status or resettlement” since they could not be resettled to Brazil unless designated as refugees.

A representative from UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR Luis Varese, explains the reason for Brazil’s position:

…refugee status in Brazil is usually granted after the refugee has been recognized by the host country (in this case, the U.S.). According to Varese, the GOB and CONARE believe that the migrants at Guantanamo Bay do not fit into this category because the USG has not “formally recognized” them as refugees. If they were formally recognized, CONARE believes, the USG would allow them to resettle in the U.S. so resettlement would not be an issue. Varese told PolOff that the “formal recognition” issue caused the GOB to reject the USG’s proposal in 2003…

The cable demonstrates that Brazil has a respect for the principles of the National Commission on Refugees (CONARE) and will not abandon them no matter how much pressure the US applies.

Pressure on increasing counterterrorism measures, especially implementing legal means for targeting terrorists, is met with great pushback. As one cable reveals, in November of 2007, the Presidency’s Institutional Security Cabinet (GSI), which had been working for years on counterterrorism, began to downplay the importance of passing such legislation. In the face of criticism from people like the Brazilian bar association president Cezar Britto, who characterized the legislation as a “thinly veiled move to criminalize the actions of social movements and those fighting for equality,” Brazilian political leaders abandoned the initiative. President Lula’s chief of staff “quashed the proposed legislation” that many believed could be used against activists and advocacy groups and political leaders determined it was “impossible to reach consensus within the government on how to define terrorism.”

Andre Luis Soloszyn, a Brazilian War College analyst on strategic intelligence and author of numerous articles on counterterrorism topics, tells a US diplomat, “leftist militants who had been the object of military dictatorship-era laws designed to repress politically-motivated violence, [were afraid Brazil] was going to put forth a bill that would criminalize the actions of groups it sympathizes with, such as the Landless Movement (MST), for “there is no a way to write an anti-terrorism legislation that excludes the actions of the MST”"

The fears of Brazilian activists are the same as the fears of many American activists, who still believe measures designed to fight terrorism can be (and are being) used to criminalize protest and activism. Environmental, antiwar and international solidarity activists have been hit with lawsuits that use U.S. anti-terrorism laws to suppress dissent (for example, the case of the RNC 8).

The cable shows the U.S. was (and likely still is) dead set on having Brazil pass measures like the U.S. PATRIOT Act and its expansions, which have irked organizations committed to defending American civil liberties, and that the U.S. firmly believed (and likely still believes) those legal measures are necessary in order to fight terrorism.

But, Brazil does not believe legal measures will ever deter terrorism. As an advisor, presumably with some connection to the Israeli Embassy, argues, “The success of any potential terrorist attack against the Israeli Embassy in Brasilia is not going to be determined by whether there is a law on the books outlawing terrorism.”

Moreover, the cable shows officials explaining that terrorism is not perceived as a daily threat. One official says, “Terrorism perpetrated by Islamic extremists is too remote for Brazilians to worry about.” Sure, Brazil could enlist its media to propagandize the public into thinking terrorists are hate Brazil for its freedom and manufacture consent for giving up rights through “counterterrorism legislation” but it appears that Brazil is confident it can combat terrorism without altering its laws.

The Brazil cables show the US is working closely, giving trainings to police and other law enforcement organizations who can use the training to secure what is called the Tri-Border Region, an area with a lot of illegal movement of arms, money, drugs, etc. They show law enforcement is using a “if you see something, say something” strategy as “moderate, second generation Arabs, many of whom were successful businessmen in Brazil, to keep a close eye on fellow Arabs who may be influenced by Arab extremists and/or terrorist groups.”

Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is the fact that the way U.S. has crafted itself as the top policeman on the terrorism beat may have countries like Brazil doing all it can to police itself but not arrest people under charges of terrorism. One might suppose the fear would be if Brazil was found to have an uptick in terrorism the U.S. might set its sights on Brazil as a country worthy of military or security intervention.

A cable reveals, “The Federal Police will often arrest individuals with links to terrorism, but will charge them on a variety of non-terrorism related crimes to avoid calling attention of the media and the higher levels of the government. Over the past year the Federal Police has arrested various individuals engaged in suspected terrorism financing activity but have based their arrests on narcotics and customs charges.”

This clearly shows suspects were framed for crimes they probably didn’t commit, but is it possible the U.S. is monitoring Brazil so closely that law enforcement is designating certain crimes other crimes to diminish the U.S. campaign to convince Brazilians to support greater counterterrorism efforts?

Throughout the Brazilian cables, there is a deep contempt for Brazil’s handling of terrorism (one might even say their commitment to civil liberties and the rule of law). US diplomats express disdain for how hard it is in Brazil for crimes to be classified as acts of terrorism. One official is even accused of “playing games” or attempting to “define terrorism out of Brazil,” which almost sounds like the diplomat is upset they are not using America’s definitions and descriptions of what constitutes “terrorism.”

Unlike certain Middle East or African countries, it appears Brazil wishes to keep its country safe autonomously and with little direction from the U.S. The election of former Marxist guerrilla Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first woman president, has likely renewed the U.S. struggle to convince Brazil it should alter its legal system and make it easier to wage a “war on terror.”

There is evidence individuals engaged in terror financing are present in Brazil, but Brazil does not want to stigmatize its large Muslim community (which has been a side effect of the U.S. “war on terrorism”). So, the US will continue to characterize Brazil as a country with little interest in terrorism issues, one where legislation against counterterrorism is impossible because of “leftists,” and it will seek to isolate the country until it can bully Brazil into waging a fight against terrorism in the way it wants Brazil to wage a fight against terrorism.

WikiLeaks Cables: CIA Ordered US Diplomats to Spy

2:58 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The CIA, which acts as the primary agency for collection of human intelligence (Humint), is implicated in the latest cables released by WikiLeaks, which reveal US diplomats took orders from the agency on what data to collect when spying on foreign officials at the UN and in countries around the world.

The Guardian has taken the lead on this story and is reporting, based on two cables they have cited, that not only were US diplomats asked to gather intelligence on Ban Ki-Moon and other senior UN staff, security council members and other foreign diplomats, but the directive to engage in spying, a possible violation of international, came from the CIA.

What is being referred to as “an intelligence shopping list” by The Guardian was drawn up annually by the manager of Humint, which was a post created by the Bush Administration in 2005 to help coordinate intelligence after 9/11. The manager set out “priorities,” which were sent out to the State Department on an annual basis. Intelligence analysts at the State Department provided input on what “priorities” should be listed.

Specifically, the cables indicate: “US diplomats at the embassy in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, were ordered to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American socialist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. The US is concerned about an increasing Islamist terrorist presence in Paraguay, and the influence of China.”

Diplomats are urged to provide if possible: “office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cell phones, pagers and faxes; compendia of contact information, such as telephone directories (in compact disc or electronic format if available) and e-mail listings; internet and intranet “handles”, internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information.”

A particular cable reveals the embassy in Paraguay was targeted because Washington believed Paraguay was harboring Iranian agents and Islamist terrorists. It specifically requested “information on the presence, intentions, plans and activities of terrorist groups, facilitators, and support networks – including, but not limited to, Hizballah, Hamas, al-Gama’at al-Islamiya, al-Qa’ida, jihadist media organizations, Iranian state agents or surrogates – in Paraguay, in particular in the Tri-Border Area (TBA).”

The intelligence gathering called for was intended to presumably help develop policy and actions around current issues facing the U.S. government, which are listed: UN Security Council Reform, Iraq, the Middle East Peace Process, Human Rights and War Crimes. UN Humanitarian and Complex Emergency Response, Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorist Threat to UN Operations, Burm and other issues.

Each issue in the cable has with it specific requests for information. For example: on Darfur/Sudan, views of UN member states on contributing troops and air transportation equipment to the UN mission in Sudan; on Afghanistan/Pakistan, plans and intentions of key UN leaders and member states on force protection in Afghanistan; on Somalia, UN views on deploying a maritime force to monitor piracy off of the coast; on Iran, plans and intentions of UN Secretary General and staff to address development, testing and proliferation of nuclear weapons in Iran.

In the case of North Korea, not only are the views of UN Security Council members requested but US diplomats are also urged to collect “biographic and biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats.” That means fingerprints, palm prints, or DNA, etc.

Given the work the US was engaged in to prevent Spain from prosecuting US officials for torture or war crimes, it is interesting that Humint called for “Plans and perceptions of member states toward establishment of new measures to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other systematic human rights abuses” and “plans and intentions of member states or UN Special Rapporteurs to press for resolutions or investigations into US counterterrorism strategies and treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo,” to be collected.

The cable also shows that, “Current technical specifications, physical layout, and planned upgrades to telecommunications infrastructure and information systems, networks, and technologies used by top officials and their support staffs.” The purpose of such information would likely ensure the US would have capabilities to spy on countries after they made adjustments to their telecommunications infrastructure and systems.

It was revealed earlier in the week that diplomats had been spying but who was giving the order was unknown. Then, U.S. Envoy to the U.N. contended, “Our diplomats are doing what diplomats do around the world every day, which is build relationships, negotiate, advance our interests, and work to find common solutions to complex problems.”

How collecting biometrics or very specific and often private biographical information is unclear. One idea is that the information could be used to blackmail individuals into taking certain actions or not taking action on things like investigating war crimes or signing a cluster bomb ban or halting rendition flights or choosing to not help the U.S. clean up its human rights mess and take a Guantanamo detainee.

Spokesman for the U.N, Farhan Haq, has pointed out that a “1946 treaty on ‘privileges and immunities’ of the U.N. states that its offices “shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action.”

All of this is not all that new although it does bring into focus a double standard. In May of 2003, the State Department expelled 14 Cuban diplomats who were accused of “inappropriate activities,” which included spying. The move appeared to be political since there was no specific espionage event. The charge was enough. The accused were not to be conducting diplomacy in the United States any longer.

On the other hand, that same year, when it was revealed that US diplomats were spying on countries in the UN Security Council, it was nothing to member countries. Ambassadors said, “It is life,” and, “It comes with the profession, with the job.” It wasn’t a surprise. So, the reaction was similar to the reaction unfolding now.

But, just because ambassadors are desensitized to the practice or don’t think it’s worth challenging because superpowers won’t stop spying doesn’t mean the practice of spying is acceptable. And, if the US is going to cite the practice as reason to expel diplomats (even when it can’t be proven spying took place), the United Nations leadership should be willing to expel US diplomats who violate world leaders and spy.

Wikileaks Cables: US Arms to Georgia Keep Tensions Between Russia, Georgia High

10:48 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

President Obama and President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev | Photo by poniblog

Cables from the U.S. embassies in Moscow, Russia and Tbilisi, Georgia reveal ever since a five-day war in Georgia, which erupted between Georgians and Russian-backed separatists in August 2008, the U.S. has been carefully assessing the implications of further arming Georgia. This assessment has required the U.S. to pay extra lip service to the idea that it is not arming Georgia for future provocations against Russia. And, the U.S. has had to show restrain and only make transfers Georgia can claim will be used for defense or to help the U.S. fight in Afghanistan and other parts of Eurasia as part of the “war on terror.”

[*For revelations on the August war, see The Guardian's story using details from WikiLeaks cables sent out during the conflict.]

The geopolitical maneuverings are revealed in a June 18, 2009 cable from Moscow titled, “Implications of Rearming Georgia for U.S.-Russian ‘Reset.” The cable summary explains, “A decision to move towards a more robust military relationship with Georgia will imperil our efforts to re-start relations with Russia, if it is not carefully calibrated and deployed. While Medvedev understands the strategic and personal benefits of crafting a productive partnership with the U.S., this impulse is trumped by the GOR’s ‘absolute’ priority placed on expanding Russian influence in the Eurasian neighborhood, preventing NATO enlargement, and demonstrating Russia’s great power status.”

The cable contends “Georgia’s territorial integrity” could be cost if a “lethal military supply relationship with Tbilisi” continues. The cable proposes a strategy of proving to Abkhaz and South Ossetians that autonomy with Tbilisi is better than submission to Russia.” It suggests Georgia work to establish itself as a “democratically vibrant and economically successful model for the region” instead of relying on military arms to gain advantage over Russia. And, further indicating how central Iran is to U.S. foreign policy, it adds that rearming Georgia openly could “lessen Russian restraint on weapons transfers to Iran.”

The flipside of the geopolitical strategy unfolds in another cable from Tbilisi, sent out the day after the previously mentioned cable from Moscow. It indicates the importance of properly adjusting and defining policy toward Georgia and Russia in the region is a result of a U.S.-Georgia Charter Commission on June 22 that will require a discussion over the future of “military cooperation” with Georgia. The cable titled, “The Importance of Continued Military Engagement with Georgia,” provides suggestions for why Georgia should be provided “a modest, transparent defensive capability” by the U.S.

Contending that Russia’s claims that the U.S. is rearming Georgia are based on propaganda, the cable surmises that Russian objections to arming Georgia would contradict U.S. policy in the region and give “Russian disinformation an undeserved voice in U.S. policy formation.” The cable urges the U.S. to not validate Russia’s objections to arming Georgia because it could be seen as a reward for Russia’s aggression in Georgia, “as well as its violation of international law and commitments, encourage a similar stance in Ukraine; and deal a body blow to [U.S.] credibility in Georgia, other Eurasian states, the [U.S.’] western partners – and ultimately Russia itself.”

It justifies two deliveries of “lethal military equipment” by noting they were purchased before the five-day August war and one in particular was for “coalition operations in Afghanistan.” It reveals that the U.S. has agreed to deploy a Georgian battalion for two years in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, RC-South.

The cable illustrates Georgia’s desire to “rebuild its native defensive capacity, which is currently insufficient to control its own airspace or hinder an invasion from any of its neighbors.” It says Georgia “needs sufficient anti-armor and air defense capability to stall a ground advance” and the “Georgian operational thinking is that if they can defend Tbilisi from occupation for 72 hours, then international pressure will force” any advance “to pause.”

The rationalization for ultimately going ahead with arming Georgia is as follows:

“…The development of this capacity is not solely equipment-based, but it will require the acquisition of new lethal defensive systems. If Georgia does not procure the equipment from the U.S., it will almost surely seek to procure it elsewhere, as it has done in the past. U.S. involvement would help ensure the transparency of the procurement process itself, as well as increase our control over the amount, type and location of the equipment…”

But, more important to the decision is the fact that ultimately Russia has no credibility when opposing a rearming of Georgia:

“…While Russia, as well as the de facto regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, may argue otherwise, it is Russia and its proxy regimes that have dramatically increased the militarization of Georgia over the past year. Russia has introduced at least 3,700 troops into sovereign Georgian territory, as well as heavy military equipment, such as tanks, artillery and anti-aircraft systems, into the area immediately adjacent to the administrative boundaries — in direct violation of the commitments President Medvedev made in the cease-fire agreement. It is Georgia that has lost 14 police officers since the war; kidnappings, cattle thefts, and detentions continue along the boundary, mostly on the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides. Russian helicopters make regular flights along the boundaries, sometimes crossing them, and Russian forces move large numbers of troops and heavy equipment along the boundaries at will…”

The cable from Tbilisi ends with the suggestion that Georgia make “public and/or written commitments about the exclusively defensive nature of its new military programs” and suggests inviting Russia to sign a “non-use of force agreement.” In contrast, the cable from Moscow concludes the U.S. cannot say “yes” to a “significant military relationship with Tbilisi” because Russia will increase tensions in the region and engage in “more active opposition to critical U.S. strategic interests.”

To further contextualize the two cables, on November 20th of this year President Obama met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and pledged to contiue U.S. support for Georgia’s bid to join NATO (which Russia opposes). Saakashvili said President Obama explicitly indicated support for Georgia’s “territorial integrity” and the White House press service said, “The two leaders discussed the Georgian government’s efforts to implement political, economic, and defense reforms and our shared interest in securing democracy, stability, and prosperity in Georgia,” which, because of the cables.”

“Defense reforms,” of course, is a euphemism for arming the country to defend its “territorial integrity,” which means being able to function as a democratic and economic model for other countries in Eurasia. (The cables allow people to understand the meaning of all this diplomatic jargon, which normally just flies over most Americans’ heads because they don’t know what the jargon is referencing. Now, one can know what Obama means by “territorial integrity”; it’s very comparable to the idea of a country having a “right to exist.”)

Overall, what this shows is that both ends are on some level being played against the middle. The U.S. knows its arming of Georgia will bring escalated tensions with Russia, but it can use the support from the country in prosecuting the “war on terror.” The U.S. knows respecting Russia’s wishes to not have the U.S. meddling in the region could be a win for Georgia in the long-term, but the U.S. does not want to be seen as letting Russian interests discredit the validity of U.S. interests in the region. So, the U.S. attempts to argue Russia is using propaganda when it suggests the US is arming Georgia, and the US attempts to convince countries that the military cooperation is purely aimed at helping Georgia defend itself and not wage war against its neighbors.

All this assumes Russia will allow Georgia to defend itself and not see an increase in defenses as a threat. If this were Iran, Israel would be allowed to legitimately argue that escalating defense spending was seen as preparing the country for war. After upping defenses, the country would be able to mount attacks and protect itself from repercussions. So, one can see why the U.S. might be suspected of turning Georgia into a country that will just create more trouble in the region; plus, clearly, U.S. is prepared to use Georgia as a proxy to advance its interests and that makes Russia leery of U.S. involvement.

Cable Leaked by WikiLeaks Reveals Honduras Coup Was Illegal

2:31 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

One of over two hundred and fifty thousand State Department cables leaked by WikiLeaks reveals the coup in Honduras, the forced removal of President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, was understood to be illegal.

The cable summary explains, “The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch, while accepting that there may be a prima facie case that Zelaya may have committed illegalities and may have even violated the constitution. There is equally no doubt that Roberto Micheletti’s assumption of power was illegitimate.”

Yet, in what might be construed as cover for the fact that it would be difficult to restore Zelaya to power, the cable summary concludes, “The constitution itself may be deficient in terms of providing clear procedures for dealing with alleged illegal acts by the President and resolving conflicts between the branches of government.”

According to Just Foreign Policy, this revelation means the U.S. should have cut off all aid to Honduras except “democracy assistance,” as required by U.S. law. But, the State Department chose to maintain matters were murky and who did what to whom was hard to discern. In a press conference, it chose to hide behind semantics and say that this was not a proven “military coup” and instead just a “coup” so that changed what laws the US had to follow.

The semantics are proven to be bogus when one reads the “Comment” section of the cable. The cable, while noting the reality that politicians in Honduras were trying to deal with a man they thought had abused power, states, “No matter what the merits of the case against Zelaya, his forced removal by the military was clearly illegal, and Micheletti’s ascendance as “interim president” was totally illegitimate.” And, it adds, “The coup’s most ardent legal defenders have been unable to make the intellectual leap from their arguments regarding Zelaya’s alleged crimes to how those allegations justified dragging him out of his bed in the night and flying him to Costa Rica.” [emphasis added]

In August 2009, the Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR) noted that typically the U.S. had “responded to other coups by cutting U.S. aid within days. In these cases – in Africa – there was no lengthy deliberation on whether a “coup” was a “military coup.”

Why would an African coup be treated differently than a coup in Honduras? Just Foreign Policy provided an explanation in their post on this cable:

“…A key difference was that Honduras is in Central America, “our backyard,” so different rules applied. Top officials in Washington supported the political aims of the coup. They did not nominally support the means of the coup, as far as we know, but they supported its political end: the removal of the ability of President Zelaya and his supporters to pursue a meaningful reform project in Honduras. On the other hand, they were politically constrained not to support the coup openly, since they knew it to be illegal and unconstitutional. Thus, they pursued a “diplomatic compromise” which would “restore constitutional order” while achieving the coup’s central political aim: removal of the ability of President Zelaya and his supporters to pursue a meaningful reform project in Honduras. The effect of their efforts at “diplomatic compromise” was to allow the coup to stand, a result that these supporters of the coup’s political aims were evidently content with…”

Zelaya was moving toward rejecting neoliberalism, an ideology that has come to define US actions in the global economy. Since the US had capabilities to guard against such a move and since political forces existed in Honduras that could provide cover for delegitimizing a leader favoring a shift toward a different way of economics or politics, the US ultimately opted to go along with the illegal coup.

Coups as they relate to US foreign policy are a live issue. They are especially a problem for countries in Central and South America. In addition to Honduras, the US has had involvement in coups in Venezuela in 2002, in Bolivia in 2008 and Ecuador in 2010. And recently, President Evo Morales of Bolivia publicly condemned the US for supporting coups against people they consider to be “left-wing leaders” in the region.

Photo by ¡Que comunismo!