When a President Lies

Photograph Source: Kremlin.ru – CC BY 4.0

“Did you, too, O friend,
suppose democracy was only for
elections, for politics, and for a party name?”

– Walt Whitman, “Democratic Vistas” (1871)

Joe Biden received much media praise for his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin on June 16th. However, little attention has been paid to an issue posed by an Associate Press reporter in a press conference following the meeting: “U.S. intelligence has said that Russia tried to interfere in the last two presidential elections, and that Russia groups are behind hacks like SolarWinds and some of the ransomware attacks you just mentioned.”

In response, Biden answered:

Let’s get this straight: How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries, and everybody knew it?  What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he is engaged in?

He concluded, “It diminishes the standing of a country that is desperately trying to make sure it maintains its standing as a major world power.”

Sadly, Biden was lying, whether intentionally or out of false claim of ignorance.

It appears that NBC News was the only mainstream media outlet that raised concern about Biden’s assertion. It noted, “the United States does interfere in foreign elections. We’ve done it for decades.” It added, “denying this basic historical reality does us no favors with the rest of the world; indeed, it hampers our ability to continue to champion democracy and human rights.” It follows outlining numerous incidents in which the U.S. intervened in the domestic electoral affairs of other countries.

A quick search for information about U.S. backing of coups and military interventions in foreign elections is revealing. Wikipedia identifies 77 “U.S. involvement[s] in regime change” from the late-19th century through the 2010s; William Blum identifies 57 “instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War.” The political scientist Dov Levin notes, “between 1946 and 2000, the United States and the USSR/Russia intervened in this manner 117 times, or, put another way, in about one of every nine competitive national-level executive elections during this period.” In a 2013 study, Foreign Policy magazine detailed seven CIA orchestrated coups in the post-WW-II era.

The follow list details some of incidents when the U.S. – to use Biden’s words — “interfering with the elections directly of other countries” since World War II.

Syria, 1949 – as reported by Time magazine, it is “’one of the first covert actions that the CIA pulled off,’ since it had been created in 1947, according to Douglas Little, professor of history at Clark University.”

Iran, 1953 — CIA orchestrated a coup against Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh; according to the CIA: “It was the potential … to leave Iran open to Soviet aggression — at a time when the Cold War was at its height and when the United Sates was involved in an undeclared war in Korea against forces supported by the U.S.S.R. and China — that compelled the United States [REDACTED] in planning and executing TPAJAX [the code name of the coup operation].”

Guatemala, 1954 – the U.S. State Department moved against Guatemalan Pres. Jacobo Árbenz after he introduced land reforms that threatened the holdings of the U.S.-owned United Fruit Company; the coup forced Árbenz from power.

Cuba, 1959-present – the U.S. government supported Fulgencio Batista, a former soldier and Cuban dictator from 1933 to 1944, who seized power for a second time in a 1952 coup. On January 1, 1959, the 26th of July Movement, led by Fidel Castro, forced Batista to flee the island. In April 1961, the U.S. launched the Bay of Pigs invasion, an unsuccessful attempt to remove Castro from power. The U.S. followed with an embargo of the island that lasted 60 years. In 1983, Pres. Ronald Reagan labeled Cuba a “terrorist state” and, in 1996, the Helms-Burton Act was adopted, further tightening the embargo. In 2009, Pres. Barack Obama eased some of the restrictions but, in 2017, Pres. Donald Trump reinstated the embargo.

Congo, 1960 – the U.S. Senate’s 1972 Church Committee found that the CIA “continued to maintain close contact with Congolese who expressed a desire to assassinate [Patrice] Lumumba,” and that “CIA officers encouraged and offered to aid these Congolese in their efforts against Lumumba.”

Dominican Republic, 1961 — the Church Committee found that the CIA backed the assassination of the dictator, Rafael Trujillo, through the provision of “[m]aterial support, consisting of three pistols and three carbines, was supplied to various dissidents…. United States’ officials knew that the dissidents intended to overthrow Trujillo, probably by assassination…”

South Vietnam, 1963 – following the defeat of French forces in Dien Bien Phu in 1954 to Vietnamese nationalist forces led by Ho Chi Minh, the U.S. military sought to contain communist from the North; as detailed in the Pentagon Papers, in 1963, South Vietnamese generals — with CIA support — seized and assassinated country’s leader, Ngo Dinh Diem.

Brazil, 1964 – U.S. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon feared that Brazilian Pres. Joao Goulart would “make Brazil the China of the 1960s” and Pres. Lyndon Johnson told CIA officials planning the coup, “I think we ought to take every step that we can, be prepared to do everything that we need to do.” President Lyndon Johnson told his advisors planning the coup,

Chile, 1973 – the CIA backed the Chilian military’s violent overthrowing of the democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende, paving the way for the brutal — and U.S.-friendly — Augusto Pinochet

Afghanistan, 1979-present — during the 1980s, the CIA funded military operations to frustrate the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Fighting between CIA-funded Afghans and the Russians continued through 1988 when the Russians decided to withdraw, and the CIA ended its aid in 1992. However, the attacks of September 11, 2001, led the Bush administration to conduct operations against terrorists throughout the world.  Osama bin Laden, the apparent mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, was based in Afghanistan where a U.S. military occupation will last until September 11, 2021.

Nicaragua, 1981-1990 – in November 1981, Pres. Reagan signed National Security Directive 17, authorizing the CIA to back “democratic” leaders and take actions against the Sandinistas to stop the spread of “communism” in Nicaragua; in October 1986, Congress approved $100 million in funds for the Contras; the following year, after the discovery of private resupply efforts orchestrated by the National Security Council and Oliver North, Congress ceased all but “non-lethal” aid in 1987. The war between the Sandinistas and the Contras ended with a cease-fire in 1990.

Russia, 1996 – as originally reported in the Los Angeles Times, “a team of American political strategists who helped Gov. Pete Wilson with his abortive presidential bid earlier this year said this week that they served as Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin’s secret campaign weapon in his comeback win over a Communist challenger.” Following the recent Biden-Putin summit, The Guardian notes,” without the chaos and deprivation of the US-backed Yeltsin era, Putinism would surely not have established itself.”

Venezuela, 1998-present — since Hugo Chavez was elected president in 1998, the bipartisan Washington establishment has been out to put an end to what has been dubbed Latin America’s “pink tide” of socialism. As The Intercept reported, “In 2002, the Bush administration encouraged and supported a (failed) coup against Chavez. … In 2015, the Obama administration made the absurd decision to formally declare Venezuela an ‘unusual and extraordinary threat’ to U.S. national security.” In 2019, the Trump administration called Nicolás Maduro, “illegitimate” and recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the interim president.

Presidents lie – it goes with the job. If Biden lied about the U.S.’s role in innumerable coups and regime changes, one can only wonder what else he is lying about. More troubling, with the exception of NBC News and The Guardian, the mainstream media chose to ignore or avoid challenging Biden, thus reenforcing their role as echo chambers of Democratic-corporate establishment agenda.

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.