The nickname is hardly used anymore, however it was ubiquitous during World War II, when from every wall, it seemed, a stern-looking white haired man pointed to passing young men with the words: ‘Uncle Sam Wants You!’. Wondering where the name had come from, I was informed by Wikipedia that it belonged to an actual person, Samuel Wilson, who supplied meat to the US Army during the War of 1812 against the British (who were fighting the French over influence in the new world).
During World War II, the nickname ‘Uncle Sam’ probably led to Joseph Stalin, at that time an ally of the United States, being dubbed ’Uncle Joe’. But times have changed, and Vladimir Putin has been declared an enemy of the US for having responded to US-led regime change in neighboring Ukraine by doing what he could to help Russian-speakers there. Uncle Sam’s mandate is no longer to ‘protect America’, but open-ended ‘American interests’ across the four corners of the globe, regime change in Moscow being one of them, in part via its neighbors, in part via NATO troops stationed on its western border.
It took the freak election (whether or not helped by Russia) of a man alleged to have the mind of a kindergartener to make Americans realize that Sam had become a cantankerous old man, fumbling pull-outs in Syria and Afghanistan and cursing the intelligence community. (The presence of Iran in Syria is a red flag in Washington, due to its continuing support for Israel; however, encouraging the Afghan government we put in place to make peace with the Taliban will project a more noble image of the US among the Russia-oriented ‘Stans’.)
Momentarily rescuing the US from this distraction, the French News Agency revealed has revealed that the US and its allies are behind the attempted coup in Venezuela. 2.3 million citizens are estimated to have fled Venezuela due to appalling economic conditions, leading Trump’s National Security advisor John Bolton to confirm that ‘all options are on the table’ when photographed carrying a pad with the note ‘5,000 troops to Columbia’.
The decision to impose sanctions on Venezuela’s national oil company will only make things worse for ordinary citizens suffering the consequences of poor economic management. But Trump appears determined to make up for his defense of Russia by giving the war-mongering Neocons a sizable bone to chew on: Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves.
Unlike what happened with the Cuban revolution, not to mention dozens of interventions in Latin America starting with the Mexican-American War of 1846, the Monroe Doctrine is encountering robust push-back by both Russia and China. While Russia’s presence in Cuba led to a missile crisis, when today’s main ‘authoritarian’ regimes take a stand on Venezuela, they are joined by Turkey in Europe and the Philippines in the Pacific.
Starting in the early nineteenth century, the twenty continental Latin American countries have had a succession of governments brought to power via military ‘golpes’. The idealistic Organization of American States, founded by Simon Bolivar in 1826, became the vehicle for American domination of the continent until, sixty years ago this month Fidel Castro and his ‘barbudos’ triumphantly entered Havana. The revolutionary government they established still rules the island today, its success largely due to the fact that it was composed of the same tightly knit group of men and women who fought together over several years to bring it to power. The second crucial but overlooked factor was the role played by Fidel Castro’s younger brother, Raul, who went to the Soviet Union for military training in the fifties and took his subsequent role as head of the Armed Forces seriously. I met him several times in 1964, and the key difference he identified between himself and his brother was their respective approaches to leadership. As he told me: “Fidel has an idea and immediately identifies the right person to implement it, whereas i follow, follow from its start to completion,” drawing a diagram to illustrate his point. (diagram?)
After the revolution, as head of the Cuban Armed Forces, Raul’s role was crucial to the successful implementation of government programs. During hurricane season, while Cuba’s neighbors suffer huge losses of life and damage, Cubans are efficiently evacuated by the army, as they have been since the Revolution came to power, causing me to ask be-nighted Americans whether they would rather be Cubans or Haitians during those times.
When Fidel died, Raul took over as President and oversaw the semi-reconciliation that took place under Barack Obama. Trump allowed that situation to lapse, and now his National Security Advisor John Bolton contemplates sending 5,000 troops to Columbia, which would put it on the ground in the world’s largest drug hub. Ironically, significant numbers of the million hungry Venezuelans who fled there have been recruited into the left-wing FARC guerrilla group.
As Venezuela is threatened with civil war over Trump’s recognition of a young ‘golpista’, Congress has been hearing testimony from the heads of the seventeen (!) intelligence organizations regarding the various ‘threats’ facing the United States. Never mind that in the eyes of the world, it is the US, the only country maintaining over eight hundred foreign military bases, that constitutes a threat to world peace: like all old folks, Uncle Sam sees enemies everywhere, but that’s because he is determined to remain the world’s hegemon. One prominent newscaster justified referring to Russia as an enemy by saying: “They don’t want us to succeed.”
As Donald Trump is excoriated for standing up to his intelligence organizations’ cries of ‘Wolf!’, insisting that we should cultivate good relations with other leaders, one is reminded of George W Bush’s anguished question after 9/11: “Why do they hate us?” Our foreign policy establishment has learned nothing since that attack, as we continue to insist that ‘America is a force (sic) for good….’ As contenders for next year’s presidential election present their programs, they cannot reveal to the American people that the majority of countries, no matter their financial situation, provide free medical care for all. Only the ‘extreme left’ claims that the wealthiest country in the world could easily afford to do this. But even America’s ardent reformers cannot admit that the limiting factor is the money it insists on spending to “spread democracy” at the end of a rifle, not only in Latin America, but around the world.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.