The Chocolate Box Of Shit
Lets talk history for a wee second. Fifty Years ago today, the world was faced with revolution, repressive dictatorships and a lot of the things that seem so unprecedented now (particularly with he world — including Libya, Qatar, Syria and the rest — being so calm and uneventful). It is perhaps of some use then, to take a fresh look at these through the filter of the past. It will, hopefully, help us not to make the same mistakes again.
In 1961 two major events took place in the sunny old Caribbean. The first was the botched April invasion of Cuba by the United States. The next month, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, was assassinated in a CIA-orchestrated plot (perhaps an attempt by the CIA to rescue their reputation after the Bay of Pigs?).
To take the last event first, General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (1894-1961), aka ‘El Jefe‘, was a grade A bastard. His career took off during the US invasion of the Dom-Rep of 1916-24 – because they threatened to default on loans – Trujillo rose through the military ranks to become a general. In 1930, after a rebellion he failed to quash, he stood when new elections were called. After a fraudulent vote, he became president and outlawed all political parties apart from his own. A hurricane later that year was used as a pretext for imposing martial law, something he became increasingly partial to. His repressive policies and pro-US agenda made sure his regime was safe, allowing him to crush opposition, rig elections and for his family to steal everything that wasn’t nailed down. Then, as Shakespeare might have written it, hubris set in. Trujillo felt the need to try and earn the respect of his peers via international politics.
A racist anti-Haitian policy culminated in the Parsley Massacre (c. 20,000 Haitians murdered), furthermore, in 1960 Trujillo attempted to assassinate Venezuelan president Romulo Betancourt with a car-bomb. That was possibly the last straw for his regime. Who did he think he was, assassinating foreign presidents? The USA? So Kennedy’s goons acted. In 1961, Trujillo was shot dead
And perhaps that should serve as some sort of a happy ending, no? Horrible dictator dead? Well, perhaps. Problem is, that once a superpower starts messing with your body politic, it just can’t help itself… it has to keep going. Cue the coup against Juan Bosch in 1963 (for daring to suggest land reform) and a number of other interventions besides. The result? A venal, useless Dom-Rep political class forever bleating to Washington to support their own particular grouplet against so-called Communists/Terrorists etc. A mess, in other words. Will the same fate befall Libya once we dislodge Gadaffi? What if we fail to dislodge him? Well, glad you asked me that…
Because 1961 will forever be remembered for the Bay of Pigs fiasco. President Kennedy, symbol of a new, youthful America, decided to behave like an old, cold warrior and invade Cuba to thwart the Revolution. Obviously a believer in the Big Society, he got Cuban exiles to plan their own invasion themselves (no big government telling them what to do, woohoo!!) but promised to add some air support, training etc by the US military – just like we’re offering the Libyans. Two days after the invasion proper (April 17th), all the invaders were dead, captured or routed.
The Bay of Pigs episode boosted the Castro regime rather than undermined it. Che Guevara later wrote to the Organization of American States thanking Kennedy for the attack, as it had helped strengthen Communism in Cuba (Enough to drive anyone to Dallas in an open-topped car, I would have thought).
So, what has any of this got to do with Libya or Afghanistan or Sierra Leone or any of a hundred places where shit is happening right now? Would not intervening cost more lives than piling in without a strategy as we are doing? Not sure I know to be honest, but here’s a rule of thumb for you; foreign policy is like a box of chocolates, and oil-producing chocolates leave a nasty taste in the mouth. If you possibly can, leave them in the fucking box.