"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Return of the Assassins

Obama’s primary imperial mission is to reinstate U.S. dominance in those areas where it has waned in recent years due to movements of popular resistance. Today this drama is playing out primarily in Latin America and portions of the Middle East. His strategy, likely to be effective, is to subtly manipulate the framing of events so that the result will reinforce corporate domination while appearing to support “democracy” in those countries. The following article is a speculative reading of recent events in Honduras based on the study of previous U.S.-orchestrated coups in Central and South America.

The coup in Honduras may well become a model for the re-imposition of control by the military and their corporate sponsors in Latin America. Rather than openly denouncing the coup, Obama and Clinton have framed the crisis as contending concepts of legality - on one side the legality of the electoral process and on the other side, the contested legality of the call for a constitutional referendum. Ostensibly standing above the warring sides, Obama calls for “negotiations”, an irreproachable moral stance. But, as Eva Gollinger puts it so well, “The question still remains as to why negotiations - imposed by the United States - are even taking place. By giving the coup government equal participation in a ‘dialogue’ to find a solution, their illegal actions are being legitimized. This creates a dangerous and unacceptable precedent for other undemocratic groups seeking to remove their elected leaders from power and then ‘negotiate’ a resolution, gaining ground politically and weakening the democratic system.” – Postcards from the Revolution, July 8, 2009. Note carefully how well Obama has positioned himself politically by this call for negotiations. Notice also how adroitly it sets up his next move, which will likely be the gradual silencing of Zelaya and the legitimizing of the coup-based government. And the coup de grace to Zelaya will be accompanied by passionate protests against violations of democracy.

By framing the two parties as political equals, whereas in fact one party’s only claim to legitimacy is an act of blatantly illegal violence while the other side has all the force of international and national law supporting him, Obama has provided strong, though tacit, support to the coup leaders. Now that the other countries of the region and Zelaya himself have accepted this imposed equality, much will have been accomplished. In addition to confirming their political power, the coup leaders’ violence will have been recognized as a path to political leverage which will be implicitly supported by the Obama administration. This lesson will be carefully absorbed by closely watching military leaders in other Central American countries. Like Reagan, Obama has discovered the secret of keeping his glory bright while promoting U.S. interests through unrelenting violence. As savvy political observers might have expected, nothing came of the much ballyhooed “negotiations” on Thursday, July 9 which were supposed to occur between Zelaya and the coup leaders. In fact, no direct negotiations took place between Zelaya and the coup leaders at all. Zelaya met with Oscar Arias and then Roberto Micheletti met with Arias. The political reality is that such “negotiations”, in which neither side directly bargains with the other, but merely states their non-negotiable positions to a “neutral” third party, is merely a delaying tactic. They lengthen the time that Zelaya is out of power and allow the coup leaders to establish facts on the ground which will strengthen their political leverage.

At this point, everything depends on framing. As Reuters reported it, “The stumbling block is that the de facto government accepts the return of the constitutional government," [Organization of American States chief] Insulza told reporters in Washington. ‘Everything else is negotiable.’” Note the phrase, “de facto government”. This “de facto” government has been placed in the decision-making position regarding the return of Zelaya. Whether it does or does not, “everything else is negotiable”, which, of course, includes all of Zelaya’s reforms, such as providing a livable wage for the poor.

Another purpose of the “negotiations” strategy, is to place Zelaya in the humiliating position of having to debate the lies perpetrated by the coup leaders and enthusiastically repeated by the corporate media that he was trying to extend presidential term limits. The big lie technique has been very successful in this regard. Zelaya in fact proposed a constitutional referendum that made no mention whatever of presidential term limits. The true story is provided by Eva Gollinger, “Major international media are still reporting the reason behind Sunday's coup as an alleged ‘reelection’ attempt by President Zelaya. But in reality, Sunday's scheduled opinion poll was not a reelection bid by Zelaya, it was a non-binding consultation with the people of Honduras, backed by more than 800,000 signatures from Honduran citizens that would merely consider the possibility of adding a 4th issue to the election ballot this coming November, when presidential elections are to be held. The question posed for Sunday's poll was: ‘Do you agree that, during the general elections of November 2009 there should be a fourth ballot to decide whether to hold a Constitutional Assembly that will approve a new political constitution?’” Nothing about term limits was mentioned.

During the face-to-face meetings with the de facto government which will ensue, Zelaya’s return to the presidency will likely be contingent on his willingness to abandon the substance (though maybe not the “style”) of these reforms, along with his renunciation of membership in ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). If he clings to these positions, he will be castigated in the international press as an “ideologue”, or a tool of Chavez, which will frame him as unworthy of his position as President (a “dictator”) and therefore justifying the action taken by the coup leaders. If, on the other hand, he becomes “reasonable” and abandons his mild reforms, he will be praised for his “statesmanlike” behavior. If sufficiently obedient to the neoliberal agenda, he may then be returned to power, but having abandoned his base, he will be so weakened that when elections take place, the candidate supported by the coup leaders will likely win, thus accomplishing the primary political goal of the coup by the Obama administration. Obama will then praise the triumph of “democracy” in Central America.

The beauty of this strategy is that all Obama and Clinton have to do to accomplish it is to make lots of vague statements condemning the coup and cutting off token amounts of military aid. Simply by neglecting to perform any act that would actually accomplish his return, which they can justify as a non-interventionist policy, they ensure that neoliberal policies will be enforced while keeping their hands clean. If Senor Zelaya finds himself unable to land in his country’s airports because of U.S. funded air power, that’s unfortunate, but the result of an internal struggle that the U.S. has no right to interfere with. The corporate media can be relied on to frame the story as the attempted return of a dangerous leftist to power, one supported by Chavez, Ortega, and Castro. Obama can then continue to claim the moral high ground while letting the situation drift in the coup leaders’ favor. The social forces that now support Zelaya will be worn down with time. Gradually, the Honduran people will get used to dictatorship and the de facto will morph into the constitutional, though not without “controversy”.

Thus the first step in the reversal of recent gains in Latin America for economic justice will have been accomplished.

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