During the Cold War, the U.S. national security state — i.e., the military and CIA — used the dire threat of communism and socialism as a justification for its assassination program and its pro-coup program in Latin America and other parts of the world. Two notable examples were Guatemala and Chile. In both countries, the U.S. national-security state helped oust the democratically elected presidents from office and helped install brutal right-wing military dictatorships in their stead.
The idea was that if the citizenry of Guatemala and Chile made what the U.S. national-security state considered to be a mistake with their election of a communist-socialist, it was up to the U.S. national-security state to correct the mistake with a coup, one by which the pro-U.S. standing army within the country, which had been trained at the U.S. School of the Americas, would take charge and make things right.
The national-security establishment viewed Latin American elections within the context of “national security,” the doctrine that was embraced with America’s Cold War against its World War II partner and ally, the Soviet Union. Communism and socialism were so scary to the national-security establishment that its officials feared that the success of these two issisms, either in the political sphere or the economic sphere, might spread to the United States, whereby the American people might decide to elect a member of the Communist Party as president or adopt a socialist economic system. By stamping out democratically elected communists-socialists in Latin America, the hope was that the communist-socialist infection would be less likely to reach the minds of the American people.
And let’s face it: The communist-socialist idea was attractive to many people all over the world. And why not? Under communism and socialism, the government takes care of people, not only the poor but everyone in society. Who’s against that, other than libertarians? Moreover, communism and socialism reject the so-called dog-eat-dog environment associated with the capitalist system, a system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and a system in which owners exploit workers, or so we are told by the communists-socialists.
In fact, one of the fascinating aspects to the national-security state’s Cold War regime-change operations in Latin America was the fact that the American people themselves were embracing the socialist concept—that is, the notion that it is the responsibility of government to take care of the citizenry. After all, isn’t that what Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, food stamps, education grants, public schooling, and all other welfare-state programs are all about?
So, here you had the CIA and the U.S. military ousting democratically elected Latin American presidents from office for subscribing to communism and socialism while, at the same time, the American people themselves were electing people who subscribed to socialist principles.
Of course, one might say that American presidents weren’t as flagrant as, say, President Arbenz in Guatemala. He simply seized large amounts of land from United Fruit Company, the U.S. company that dominated economic life in Guatemala, a company, interestingly enough, to which many U.S. officials, including the head of the CIA and the U.S. Secretary of State, had close connections.
But how is that different from, say, President Franklin Roosevelt’s seizure of gold belonging to American citizens?
Of course, one might respond that Arbenz intended to give the property he seized to the poor while FDR intended to keep all that gold for the benefit of the government. Okay, fair enough, but then what about Social Security, the socialist program that originated among German socialists and which Roosevelt imposed on the American people? Didn’t it seize money from people to whom it belonged in order to give it to people to whom it did not belong?
And what about food stamps? Doesn’t that program involve seizing people’s income in order to give it to the poor? How is that different in principle from what Arbenz was doing with his seizure of property belonging to United Fruit?
Indeed, just this week the New York Times reports that President Obama has just signed a new farm bill in which organic farmers are now becoming major recipients of welfare-state farm largess.
Like I say, people everywhere (except libertarians) love socialism. They love the idea of government taking care of them. After all, isn’t that what Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid are all about? Isn’t that what medical licensure is all about — protecting people from quack doctors? Isn’t that what the FDIC is all about — protecting depositors from bad banks? Isn’t that what health inspections of restaurants are all about — protecting people from eating bad food?
In fact, consider Cuba, which has been the principal Latin American regime-change target of the U.S. national-security state for some 50 years. Is what Castro did in Cuba any different in principle from what Americans have done here in the United States? America’s income-tax, welfare-state system is based on taking from the rich and giving to the poor. That’s precisely what Castro did, only he carried the principle to its logical conclusion. Rather than simply soaking the rich, as is done in the United States, Castro took everything from the rich, including their homes and businesses. What’s the difference, in principle?
And don’t forget that in Cuba, the government takes care of people with free education and free healthcare. What American is against those things (except for libertarians, of course)? Indeed, don’t forget that Cuba, like the United States, has strict drug laws because Castro, like Obama, Bush, and other like-minded people, believes that it’s the role of the government to protect people from their own irresponsible decisions.
One of the fascinating aspects of this phenomenon is that U.S. officials were able to convince Americans that their brand of welfare-state socialism constituted “freedom” while that of Arbenz, Allende, Castro, Chavez, and other Latin American socialists constitutes communism and socialism. Even to this day, most Americans (libertarians being the notable exception) honestly believe that FDR’s New Deal revolution “saved” America’s free-enterprise system and that America’s welfare-state system constitutes a “capitalist” system.
Another fascinating part of this is whether America’s embrace of welfare-state socialism was actually contributing to the deep fear that was inciting U.S. national-security state officials to try to stamp out communism and socialism in Latin America. It seems that many U.S. officials viewed communism and socialism as some sort of Siren’s song or political heroin that was beckoning the American people into trying it. And U.S. officials could tell that once people tried socialism, they weren’t likely to let go of it.
The U.S. national-security state’s efforts to smash communism and socialism in Latin America were, of course, all for naught. Communist-socialist Cuba is still standing. And today communist-socialist regimes keep spreading throughout Latin America—Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Nicaragua, and others. And, of course, welfare-state socialism remains alive and well here in the United States. Why, I’ll even bet that many of those U.S. military and CIA Cold War officials are now living in splendid retirement on their fat federal pensions that are being funded by the monies seized from the pockets of the young people of America.