The Man Who Wasn’t There

It’s a dangerous precedent for the people of Latin America when President Barack Obama sides with coup-mongering oligarchs, as he did in recognizing the tainted presidential elections in Honduras. But it’s an even more dangerous precedent for the world, because it shows how easily he caves in to right-wing extremists in Washington.

If Reagan was Teflon, and George W. Bush was rocks, Obama is cardboard. People who need help can’t lean on him; conservatives roll right over him.

The character flaw illustrated in the microcosm of Honduras is flowering into the macrocosm of Afghanistan as Obama pours troops into a right-wing delusion of “victory” there.

Obama’s instincts after the June 28 coup in Honduras were a welcome break from a long history of U.S. support for dictators in the hemisphere. The day after the coup, he said, “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President [Manuel] Zelaya remains the president of Honduras.” The administration later said it wouldn’t recognize the results of the Nov. 29 election unless Zelaya was first restored to power.

The United Nations and the Organization of American States took the same stance: no Zelaya, no elections. The global consensus held that coup leaders cannot hold a fair election.

This junta had cracked down on freedom of speech in the five months after seizing power. Roberto Micheletti and his gang had arrested hundreds of protesters and killed perhaps more than a dozen. Most media outlets are owned by six families entrenched in the oligarchy, but Micheletti closed some independent ones (Canal 36, Radio Globo and El Libertador) and stole their studio equipment. The head of the electoral tribunal threatened to jail anyone calling for a boycott. On the night before the election, soldiers shot a 32-year-old driver at a checkpoint in Tegucigalpa, injuring several bystanders as well, in an act condemned by Amnesty International.

Suddenly this fall, Obama shifted. The administration began hailing the elections as the first step toward restoring democracy.

What happened? According to Jim DeMint, conservative firebrand senator from South Carolina, Obama caved. DeMint is one of the domino-minded Republicans who seem to live in fear of the spread of Chavez’s social programs. Zelaya had begun helping the poor, such as raising the minimum wage 60 percent and offering discounted energy. DeMint sees that and thinks Stalin.

After the coup, DeMint went to Honduras to declare Micheletti the rightful president. With the two main presidential candidates part of the business elite, Micheletti and DeMint knew that if they held on till Nov. 29, they’d win. Micheletti could not have survived without U.S. support. He got it.

To protest Obama’s apparent support of Zelaya at the time, DeMint held up two State Department nominees. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed to recognize the election results with or without the reinstatement of Zelaya, DeMint withdrew his hold on the nominees. This is a deal reported by DeMint himself and not disputed by Clinton.

“They have left us in the middle of the river,” Zelaya said from his hideaway inside the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital, where he has been living since sneaking back into the country in September. “The two U.S. parties negotiated behind our back and left our house a mess in order to fix their own.”

Coup supporter and wealthy landowner Porfirio Lobo is said to have won a majority of the vote, yet no election monitors were sent by the UN, OAS, or the Carter Center. The 300 international observers were invited by coup leaders and included the reactionary anti-Castro set. U.S. mainstream media regurgitate the junta claim that 60 percent of people voted, yet we have no way to know without independent observers. Anti-coup groups say the figure is closer to 35 percent.

Obama has managed to divide the Americas in only his first year in office. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez called the Honduran elections “almost a sham,” since they were held “within the framework of the most absolute democratic illegality.” Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva said, “If this state of affairs is allowed to remain, democracy will be at serious risk in Latin and Central America.”

The June coup followed a vote by the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice that Zelaya’s rule was finished after he tried to hold a non-binding referendum on whether to revise the constitution. But the U.S. State Department’s own website says that the Honduran judiciary is “subject to corruption and political influence.” A 2008 mission of the International Commission of Jurists and the Due Process of Law Foundation found that the Supreme Court has little public trust because of political influence over the selection of justices. Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs said the Honduran court is “one of the most corrupt institutions in Latin America.”

Zelaya had touched a nerve in his nation’s business oligarchy because he wanted to reform the constitution to better reflect the interests of the majority. Changing a constitution sounds radical in the United States, where one charter has guided us for 234 years. Honduras, on the other hand, has drafted a new constitution every decade or two over the past two centuries. The current document was drafted under the military regime that stepped down in 1982, and this is the longest the country has gone without a new constitution. An October poll by Greenberg found that 54 percent of Hondurans want a constitutional assembly to resolve the crisis.

The specter of constitutional reform leaves the privileged few chomping at the bit. The supreme court’s spokesman, attorney Danilo Eyzaguirre, sounds bloodthirsty. He said a U.S.-brokered deal that rejected amnesty for Zelaya “condemned him to the gallows.” It “put a noose around his neck” and “sent him to the slaughterhouse,” he said, running out of murderous imagery.

But perhaps most haunting of all in this mess is the man in the White House. He showed that while he has better instincts for democracy than his predecessor, the results are the same because he doesn’t act on them. What good is a quarterback who can find the open receiver if he can’t pass the ball?

BRENDAN COONEY is an anthropologist living in New York City. He can be reached at: bcooney50@gmail.com

More articles by:
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes