If one was looking for a template for discussing/describing post WWII Cold War US imperialism, Guatemala would be the perfect example.
After years of oppression and exploitation, Guatemala enjoyed a period of reform (known as “The Ten Year Spring”) between the years 1944 to 1954 in which two different democratically elected governments following one another instituted key reforms modeled on FDR’s New Deal which brought America out of the Great Depression….Some examples of these reforms were free expression, a multi-party political system, the creation of unions to safeguard worker’s rights, and land reform.
The last part was very important because Guatemala was/is a country with gross economic inequality….The descendants of the Mayan Indians are the majority but are for the most part very poor and treated like second class citizens whereas the lighter skinned descendants of Spanish colonialists are the ones who own everything including land which they got for next to nothing….A plan was put into effect whereas the largest plantations were required to sell small portions of their land back to the government which in turn sold it at reduced cost to poorer citizens….The amount paid for the land was equal to the value listed on the plantations’ tax returns which was funny because they had been undervaluing the amount of their property from their inception in order to get out of paying taxes.
Unfortunately, the United Fruit Company was also a very large landowner in Guatemala and also greatly undervalued its holdings to the Guatemalan government to get out of paying taxes….The UFC executives scurried to Washington and screamed “communism” which resulted in the creation of a CIA trained and backed military force which overthrew the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz and installed a military dictatorship which massacred thousands….Many fled the country including an Argentinean doctor who was so disgusted by what he saw that he became permanently radicalized by the experience….His name was Che Guevera.
Fast forward to the 1970’s….Demands for reform were growing in an unfair system that enslaved the majority….small rag tag groups of guerillas began opposing government policies….Mayan Indians launched a peaceful protest in the Spanish Embassy….The government’s response?....Burn the embassy to the ground killing all the employees and the protestors.
This, Guatemala’s version of Kristellnacht, was the beginning of what has been called “The Silent Holocaust”….Up until 1986, under the pretense of fighting communism, the Guatemalan military launched a genocidal campaign against the Mayan Indians killing more than 200,000 people and eradicating 440 Mayan villages from the maps….Basically, they employed mass murder and rape filling up mass graves with bodies and burning every down every town they came to….Torture was also common place.
In 1999, a United Nations truth commission agreed that genocide had been committed against the Mayans by the Guatemalan military and that up to 97% of war crimes during this period had been committed by the Guatemalan military….Unfortunately, a law passed in Guatemala makes it very hard to go after perpetrators as they have been granted a form of amnesty against prosecution for crimes against humanity….The only people prosecuted so far in the Silent Holocaust are relatively low level soldiers.
So what was the United States involvement in all of this?
Well quite a lot it seems….In addition to the original coup that eliminated democracy in Guatemala, America had trained many Guatemalan military leaders in the fine art of torture and mass murder at that wonderful institution the School of the Americas….Millions of dollars were pumped to the Guatemalan military especially during the Reagan years to help with oppression….The newest armaments were also shipped there to be used against women and children and the overall slaughter of large groups of civilians….But worst of all, there have been a number of reports that US forces(of a CIA covert type) were on the ground during the Silent Holocaust and contributed to the mass murder in some occasions.
This cannot be excused by the argument that there was a global war against Communism….Most of the people killed in Guatemala were civilians….Considering that land theft of the poor Mayans was also part of the deal, I think this was actually a war of capitalist oppression.
Why talk about this now?....Because in this day and age of over simplification (good vs. evil for examples) it’s time to obliterate America’s patriotic marketing b*llsh*t….America is NOT the overriding force for good in the world….America relies on the exploitation of poorer countries in order for its citizens to enjoy their lifestyle.
IMO there’s no good and evil in the world as it applies to the behavior of Western nations….There’s only evil and more evil….America lies somewhere between the two.