I just finished reading a very interesting book entitled Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA by Jefferson Morley. The book is a biography of Winston Scott, the head of the CIA’s Mexico City office from 1959 to 1969. Morley is a former columnist for the Washington Post whose articles have also appeared in such publications as the New York Review of Books, Reader’s Digest, Slate, and Salon.
According to Morley, the CIA recruited several high-level officials in the Mexican government as agents or informants, including Mexican presidents and many of their subordinates. Scott provided a valuable service for his Mexican operatives: He helped them secretly wiretap and monitor telephone calls made by their political enemies.
In return, Mexican officials would look the other way as the CIA used Mexico as a base of operations to achieve regime change in Cuba entailing the ouster or assassination of Cuban president Fidel Castro.
Here, in a nutshell, is the essence — and the rot — of U.S. foreign policy: Make sure that “our” people are in public office in countries all around the world, either through bribery, influence, assassination, coups, military training, military aid, or foreign aid. Do favors for them. Give them money. Do whatever is necessary to ensure that such officials will respond positively when the U.S. Empire needs a favor.
Do you remember the scene in the movie The Godfather when Vito Corleone says to the undertaker who has requested and been granted a favor by Corleone? The godfather responds with words to the following effect: One of these days, I will ask you for a favor and I will expect you to grant it quickly and without question.
That’s the way that the U.S. Empire works. Empire officials don’t really care how a particular regime treats its own people. All that matters is that when the Empire calls on the regime for a favor, it can rely on it to be granted.
Once one realizes that this how U.S. foreign policy operates, it becomes easier to understand how U.S. officials could support such brutal dictators as the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, and Pervez Musharraf. It also becomes easier to understand why the empire strives to oust or assassinate rulers, even democratically elected ones, who refuse to become agents of the empire, such as Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Allende in Chile, Castro in Cuba, and Chavez in Venezuela.
Some Americans might ask: What’s wrong with the U.S. government trying to get its people into public office around the world?
Well, how about if we ask the question another way: What would be wrong with foreign intelligence agents putting U.S. presidents and other federal officials on their payroll and ousting or assassinating those U.S. officials who refused to do so? Obviously, Americans wouldn’t be too happy with that type of foreign interference with their political system. Why should foreign citizens be happy with U.S. interference in their systems?
Moreover, when the foreign regime that is in the pockets of the CIA or the Pentagon commits human-rights abuses against its own citizens, the anger among the victimized citizenry is inevitably directed not just to their own government but also against the United States, especially when the CIA or the Pentagon has furnished the training or the weaponry for the regime. A good example of this phenomenon was the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when angry Iranians took U.S. diplomats hostage in anger over the CIA’s 1953 coup in Iran and the U.S. government’s ardent support of the brutal regime of the Shah.
Oftentimes U.S. officials must remain silent in the face of human-rights abuses by regimes it supports for fear of antagonizing their secret government operatives, especially when such operatives have embarrassing secrets about the CIA that could be leaked to the press.
Morley provides a good example of this in his book. In 1968, Mexican government officials opened fire on student demonstrators in a Mexico City plaza, killing several of them. When CIA Chief Scott asked his Mexican operatives for an explanation, they gave him a load of lies and deceptions that falsely blamed the massacre on the students, which Scott dutifully reported to his superiors in Washington. A week after the student massacre, Scott sent a thank you note to Mexican President Echeverria for an electronic time-zone clock that the president had sent him as a gift. As Morley succinctly put it, “The puppet master had become a puppet.”