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The National-Security State’s Tradition of Embracing Dictators

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The New York Times editorial board is outraged and indignant that President Trump has invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to the United States to meet with Trump. In an editorial entitled “Donald Trump Embraces Another Despot,” the Times points to Duterte’s dictatorial practices, including his alleged state-sponsored murders of drug-law violators. The editorial also points to the “friendly reception” that Trump extended to President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, the brutal military dictator of Egypt, and to Trump’s praise for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently convinced Turkey’s parliament to expand his dictatorial powers.

Why is the Times so indignant and outraged over these actions? Because, the paper says, Trump’s actions go against America’s long time role as “a beacon of democracy and a global advocate of human rights and the rule of law.”

Is that funny or what?

It’s funny in two ways: One, after the U.S. government was converted from a limited-government republic to a national-security state after World War II, America abandoned its role as a beacon of democracy and global advocate of human rights and the rule of law. And, two, ever since then, many Americans have chosen to live a life of the lie and a life of delusion, falsely and deceptively convincing themselves that America was still serving as a beacon of democracy and global advocate of human rights and the rule of law.

Let’s go back to 1953, to the coup that the CIA engineered in Iran. The CIA ousted the democratically elected prime minister of the country in a violent coup. And then it installed a brutal unelected dictator in his stead. And then it trained his domestic police force — the SAVAK — in acts of torture and oppression in order to maintain his grip on power.

Or 1954, when the CIA orchestrated the coup in Guatemala that ousted the democratically elected president of the country and installed a succession of brutal unelected military dictators in his stead.

How about the 1950s, when the U.S. government supported the unelected dictatorial regime of Cuba’s brutal tyrant, Fulgencio Batista, a corrupt dictator who was partnering with the Mafia and whose forces were delivering young Cuban girls to well-heeled casino customers to be raped.

How about the CIA’s formal program of assassination in the 1950s and 1960s, the one which targeted people who had never attacked the United States, including the dictator who ousted Batista from power, Fidel Castro, and Congo’s elected president, Patrice Lumumba? How about the CIA’s acts of sabotage inside Cuba, a country that has never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so? How about the U.S. embargo against Cuba, which squeezes the lifeblood out of the Cuban people as a way to effect regime change in their country? How about the sanctions against the people of Iraq, North Korea, Iran, and others who have suffered the same economic brutality at the hands of U.S. officials?

How about the CIA’s regime-change operation in November 1963 that succeeded in ousting the democratically elected president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, who was threatening to end the national-security establishment’s Cold War plans for  America, and replacing him with Lyndon Johnson, who was committed to continuing such plans, including embroiling the United States in the Vietnam War, which brought the meaningless deaths of more than 58,000 American servicemen?

How about the CIA’s plot to kidnap and assassinate Rene Schneider in 1970, the commanding general of Chile’s armed forces, simply because he refused to go along with the CIA’s regime plan for that country? How about the CIA-orchestrated coup in Chile in 1973, which succeeded in ousting the democratically elected president of the country and replacing him with a brutal unelected military dictator, whose forces then proceeded to round up, kidnap, incarcerate, torture, rape, execute, or disappear some 60,000 innocent people, including two Americans, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, all with the support of the U.S. national-security establishment?

How about the CIA’s infamous program MKULTA, whose files the CIA intentionally destroyed so that Americans couldn’t learn what they had done to innocent people?

How about the U.S. invasions and undeclared wars of aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan? How about the regime change operations in Libya and Syria?

How about the racial bigotry of the drug war and its programs of mass incarceration, warrantless searches and searches, mandatory minimum sentences, and asset-forfeiture programs?

How about those immigration highway checkpoints in the American Southwest that are undoubtedly modeled on those in totalitarian countries?

How about the CIA’s and Pentagon’s torture program, their rendition-and-torture program, and their indefinite incarceration program? How about the CIA’s intentional destruction of their torture videotapes? How about Abu Ghraib and the intentional hiding of the Abu Ghraib photos and videos? How about Gitmo and its regime of secrecy, torture, military tribunals, indefinite detention, denial of due process and trial by jury, and the use of coerced confessions, hearsay, and evidence acquired by torture? How about the NSA’s secret surveillance schemes and its illegal telecom activity? How about the U.S. government’s longtime partnerships with some of the most brutal dictatorships in the world, including those in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Bahrain?

Pray tell, editorial writers at the New York Times: How is all that consistent with America as a beacon of democracy and advocate of human rights and the rule of law?

Want to know why they’re mad at Trump? No, not because he is playing nice with dictators. He’s doing what U.S. officials have done ever since the end of World War II (or even during the war, when President Roosevelt partnered with Soviet communist dictator Joseph Stalin). It’s because Trump is doing it openly and publicly. That’s his real crime. He supposed to downplay America’s longtime partnerships with dictatorial regimes and preach that America continues to be a beacon for democracy and an advocate for human rights and the rule of law. They are mad at Trump because he refuses to be a hypocrite too.

Postscript: Also see “Trump’s Support and Praise of Despots Is Central to the U.S. Tradition, Not a Deviation from It” by Glenn Greenwald.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.