During a recent trip to the United States, I encountered friends who defended US intervention in Syria as “humanitarian.” Bashar Assad is a terrible dictator, they said, and he very badly mistreated some segments of his population. Therefore, according to this vocabulary of motives, US president Barack Obama has every right to demand that Mr. Assad “must go.”
These “humanitarian motives” are highly suspect. In the first place, the government lies. In the second place, the US has not only supported terrible dictators over the years, but also installed several terrible dictators.
The examples are many; Shah of Iran, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, several “regime changes” in Vietnam, and even Saddam Hussein, who was good buddies with the US for several years and received arms, cash and chemical weapons. The CIA coup against Allende in Guatemala in 1951 overturned a popularly elected government with a military junta, and for the next 30 years Guatemala was ruled by a succession of military dictatorships – by most estimates, killing over 100,000 people, many of them Mayan Indians.
The Shah of Iran ruled for over 20 years, helped by his deadly secret police SAVAK, which tormented, tortured and murdered all political opposition. Pinochet in Chile not only repressed and tortured his own population, but initiated the multi-country secret terrorist organization “Operation Condor” that murdered or “disappeared” an estimated 60,000 people.
These were terrible dictatorships, and all were supported by the US. It’s possible that Bashar Assad is also a terrible dictator. But that’s not his real crime. His real crime is that he’s an independent dictator – beyond the influence and power of the United States of America. And this is intolerable.