The witty Chinese revolutionary Zhou Enlai once said, “One of the delightful things about Americans is that they have absolutely no historical memory.” I am reminded of this statement by the astonishing credulity of most mainstream liberal Americans. These supposedly sophisticated individuals apparently swallow the latest self-serving imperialist narrative, which castigates the elected Maduro government of Venezuela as an undemocratic dictatorship. One might think that the imperialist calamities in Korea, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, Palestine, Panama, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and many more would provoke strong skepticism about imperialist efforts to demonize other countries.
William Blum, a critical historian of U.S. imperialism, identifies four consistent goals of American foreign policy: (1) making the world hospitable for transnational corporations; (2) enhancing the wealth of United States defense contractors; (3) destroying any society that tries to build an alternative to capitalism; and (4) extending U.S. political, economic and military hegemony all over the globe (“Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower,” 2002). Blum argues, persuasively, that virtually all important U.S. foreign policies can be explained by these four imperialist objectives.
Vijay Prashad, director of the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research and another prominent critic of U.S. imperialism, takes Blum’s argument several steps further. Prashad identifies a 12-step process by which U.S. imperialism attempts to eliminate Third World governments it considers unacceptable (like the Maduro government in Venezuela). Step one: Induce an underdeveloped colonial-style economy with single-commodity production, import of food and other basic necessities, cheap labor, and export of economic surplus to foreign corporations. Step two: Defeat efforts to create a more diversified and self-sufficient economy. Step three: Destroy indigenous agriculture by putting small farmers in competition with industrialized corporate agribusiness.
Step four: Under the rubric of neo-liberal economics, establish a culture of plunder in which transnational corporations disregard law, resist taxation and wreck the environment. Step five: Pressure countries of the Global South into massive debt, thereby enriching international finance capital but handcuffing governmental action on health care, education and housing. Step six: Suffocate public finance, making it impossible for the target government to operate in a normal manner. Step seven: Compel deep cuts in social spending undermining food sovereignty, economic diversification and environmental remediation. Step eight: Create intense social distress causing massive migration, thereby enervating the economy and injuring relations with neighboring countries.
Step nine: Use corporate media to control the political narrative and represent anti-imperialist leaders as brutal dictators and common people as their helpless hostages. Step 10: Impugn the legitimacy of the objectionable government, assert its elections to be undemocratic and recognize alternative (puppet) governments. Step 11: Use various forms of economic aggression and outright sabotage to create a full-scale economic disaster (i.e. “make the economy scream”). Step 12: If the unacceptable government remains in power, intervene militarily either directly with U.S. armed forces or through a compliant proxy regime (e.g. Columbia or Brazil in the case of Venezuela).
The sequence of these 12 regime-changing steps can vary, as can the emphasis the imperialist establishment places on the different steps. However, the first 11 of Prashad’s 12-step sequence describe U.S. behavior towards Venezuela rather closely. We who care about peace and justice must work hard to prevent the ominous 12th step (military intervention) from ever happening.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.