These are troubling times for the men who claim to run the world’s greatest democracy. They have meddled so much in other countries’ democratic systems and undermined so many overseas elections that their treachery is beginning to backfire. I am talking about the United States of America, which has been behind more than a dozen regime changes in seven decades, including Iraq in 2003, as well as significant covert coups such as in Iran in 1953, Guatemala the following year, and Congo in 1960.
The sixties was a busy decade for America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) which meddled in the Dominican Republic, South Vietnam and Brazil before switching to focussing on regime change in Chile in 1973 when General Augusto Pinochet led a military coup against Salvador Allende, the socialist president elected three years earlier. Disgraced US President Richard Nixon ordered the CIA to “make the economy scream,” according to documents released from secret archives nearly ten years ago. I wonder if current US President Joe Biden said something similar about today’s Afghan economy. The CIA disrupted Chile’s economy until Pinochet seized power on 11 September 1973, and then the agency backed the brutal regime with a propaganda campaign in support of the dictator, despite knowing about his regime’s serious human rights abuses, including the murder of political dissidents.
Apologies to those of you already aware of such treachery, but perhaps we need the history lesson to be reminded of what the US is capable of because it is, yet again, meddling in other countries and history could repeat itself. Take Pakistan, for example. Its leader Imran Khan became an enemy of Washington when he said “absolutely not” when the US hinted that it might want to move some of its military bases from Afghanistan to those being used by the Pakistan army and air force on the border. Khan’s close relationship with countries like China, Russia and Turkiye also troubled Washington.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the unrest in Pakistan earlier this year to destabilise Khan’s government and ultimately engineer its downfall bears all the hallmarks of CIA meddling. The operation to unseat Khan was working extremely well until the cricketer turned politician cried foul and exposed the dirty tricks that he had encountered, as I wrote recently in MEMO.
Disgruntled Pakistan voters were happy to see Khan go until they realised that they had been duped by America into believing that their prime minister was worse than useless and the person to blame for their economic woes. The backlash, when it came last weekend, proved unstoppable as Khan’s party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won an unprecedented 20 of the 25 seats in the by-election for the Punjab Assembly. Now Khan is calling for national elections, and despite its meddling in the Punjab vote, the game is up for the US.
“I want to first thank our PTI workers and voters of Punjab for defeating not just PMLN candidates but the entire state machinery, esp harassment by police, and a totally biased ECP [Election Commission of Pakistan],” Khan wrote on Twitter. “Thank you to all our Allies, PMLQ, MWM and Sunni Ittehad Council.”
He pointed out that the only way forward is to hold fair and free elections under a credible commission. “Any other path will only lead to greater political uncertainty and further economic chaos.” Now the hand of devious dark US forces is seen at every turn in Pakistan, whether it’s there in reality or not.
Sadly, it seems that many US citizens have no idea what is being done in their name. As on previous occasions, Washington has been able to launch large or modest covert operations without the American public being aware until years later when secret archives are available for scrutiny. If there are reports of US involvement today it’s usually just a passing reference that Americans have been groomed and conditioned to dismiss out of hand as fake news. Regrettably, the mainstream media rarely follow up on these events when they do come to light.
Flicking through the news channels yesterday I came across American neocon and warmonger John Bolton casting a critical view on Turkiye’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and raising the issue of the 2023 presidential election. Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor, who has held many influential security roles in various US administrations, even called on the Turkish people to get rid of Erdogan.
Speaking on Sky News to host Mark Austin he was critical of Erdogan’s trip to Tehran where he held a trilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi. This was just days after Biden had concluded his visit to Iran’s enemies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Describing the cordial relations on show in Tehran critically, especially between Putin and Erdogan, Bolton opined: “Erdogan is playing his own game. I think he has what could kindly be called neo-Ottoman Empire aspirations in the region.” Referring to next year’s election in Turkiye he called on it to be “free and fair” and added that the UN “could help press on that” and make sure the Turkish people have “more sense than to re-elect Erdogan to another term because at some point if it is the will of the Turkish people — and I don’t think that’s clear at this point — but if it is, to pursue Erdogan kinds of policies, I think we’ve then got to work with whether they relate as legitimate partners in NATO.”
This set alarm bells ringing in my head, and so I did some research on Bolton’s recent activities. They show a clear anti-Erdogan agenda through a series of carefully placed tweets, stories and opinion pieces.
Moreover, Bolton made some astonishing remarks on CNN on Tuesday during the congressional hearing into the 6 January, 2021 riots at the US Capitol. Former President Donald Trump was accused of inciting violence to remain in power after losing the 2020 presidential election, but Bolton told CNN anchor Jake Tapper that Trump was not competent enough to pull off a “carefully planned coup d’état.”
He then went on to say — “as somebody who has helped plan coups d’états” — that planning a coup “takes a lot of work. And that’s not what he [Trump] did.” Tapper immediately asked Bolton which coups he was referring to, but he declined to go into detail. However, he was right in front of the right-wing Fox TV microphone as the failed 2016 coup attempt unfolded in Turkiye. He gloated at the time: “I have no charity in my heart for Erdogan, if he goes down I’m not shedding any tears.”
Considering Turkiye’s strategic relations with Iran, Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan, as well as its status as a US ally in NATO, it would be madness for the US to attempt another coup or meddle in the 2023 presidential election to get rid of Erdogan. That being said, though, some crazy decisions have been taken in the Oval Office in years gone by, the effects of which are still reverberating around the world today.
Back in December 2020, Biden was interviewed at length by the editorial board of the New York Times, ahead of its Democratic primary endorsement on 19 January 2021. He was asked about his relations with Turkiye, especially after the US removed the country from the F-35 joint strike jet fighter programme when Erdogan upset NATO by buying the S-400 air defence system from Russia.
Biden was Vice President when Erdogan opted to buy the Russian system in 2017, and told the NYT panel: “But I’m still of the view that if we were to engage more directly like I was doing with them, that we can support those elements of the Turkish leadership that still exist and get more from them and embolden them to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan. Not by a coup, not by a coup, but by the electoral process.” In other words, he was suggesting that the US should meddle in Turkish elections.
Quite how Biden attempts to reach out to Turkish voters next year remains a mystery, but perhaps the CIA has already been “making the economy scream”. What else should we make of this week’s headlines in the Western media about the Turkish economy? As inflation reaches a 24-year high, should we look upon the country’s troubled financial situation as a glitch or something more sinister?
Of course, the US isn’t the only dirty tricks player in town. Russia also has a shameful record, mainly in Europe, but when it sought to interfere in the 2016 elections in America, the world ended up with Trump in the White House after Russian hackers apparently undermined Hillary Clinton’s election campaign. Propaganda was also spread on social media.
Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin is credited with saying: “It’s not who votes that counts. It’s who counts the votes.” Now it seems that all manner of coups and rigged elections are being brought about through fake news, malicious propaganda, manipulated economies and hacked voter databases.
Russia is up to its eyes in voter meddling and election rigging while America is guilty of subversion to destabilise countries, and install puppet governments, usually with dire consequences. All of these actions are bringing about the decline of democracy around the globe. Remember this the next time we hear the claim that the US is the world’s greatest democracy. It’s arguably the greatest myth in history, but it’s repeated around the world ad nauseam, to the extent that people now believe it to be true.
The big winners in this are authoritarian leaders, including those in the West. The big losers are the voters, because they are being denied free and fair polls in elections that are rigged from start to finish. American democracy has been turned into an illusion, and that affects us all, no matter where we live.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.