Tag Archives: USA

The Real Russian Interference in US Politics

If Russia were trying to interfere in U.S. domestic politics, it wouldn’t be attempting to change the U.S. system but to prevent it from trying to change Russia’s, argues Diana Johnstone.

The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was ostensibly a conflict between two ideologies and two socio-economic systems.

All that seems to be over. The day of a new socialism may dawn unexpectedly, but today capitalism rules the world. At first glance, it may seem to be a classic clash between rival capitalists. And yet, once again an ideological conflict is emerging, one which divides capitalists themselves, even in Russia and in the United States itself. It is the conflict between American unipolar dominance and a multipolar world.

The defeat of communism was brutally announced in a certain “capitalist manifesto” dating from the early 1990s that actually proclaimed: “Our guiding light is Profit, acquired in a strictly legal way. Our Lord is His Majesty, Money, for it is only He who can lead us to wealth as the norm in life.” The authors of this bold tract were Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who went on to become the richest man in Russia (before spending ten years in a Russian jail) and his business partner at the time, Leonid Nevzlin, who has since retired comfortably to Israel.

Loans for Shares

Those were the good old days in the 1990s when the Clinton administration was propping up Yeltsin as he let Russia be ripped off by the joint efforts of such ambitious well-placed Russians and their Western sponsors, notably using the “loans for shares” trick.

In a 2012 Vanity Fair article on her hero, Khodorkovsky, the vehemently anti-Putin journalist Masha Gessen frankly summed up how this worked:

The new oligarchs—a dozen men who had begun to exercise the power that money brought—concocted a scheme. They would lend the government money, which it badly needed, and in return the government would put up as collateral blocks of stock amounting to a controlling interest in the major state-owned companies. When the government defaulted, as both the oligarchs and the government knew it would, the oligarchs would take them over. By this maneuver the Yeltsin administration privatized oil, gas, minerals, and other enterprises without parliamentary approval.”

This worked so well that from his position in the Communist youth organization, Khodorkovsky used his connections to get control of Russia’s petroleum company Yukos and become the richest oligarch in Russia, worth some $15 billion, of which he still controls a chunk despite his years in jail (2003-2013).

His arrest made him a hero of democracy in the United States, where he had many friends, especially those business partners who were helping him sell pieces of Yukos to Chevron and Exxon. Khodorkovsky (image below), a charming and generous young man, easily convinced his American partners that he was Russia’s number one champion of democracy and the rule of law, especially of those laws which allow domestic capital to flee to foreign banks, and foreign capital to take control of Russian resources.

Vladimir Putin didn’t see it that way. Without restoring socialism, he dispossessed Khodorkovsky of Yukos and essentially transformed the oil and gas industry from the “open society” model tolerated by Yeltsin to a national capitalist industry. Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were accused of having stolen all the oil that Yukos had produced in the years 1998 to 2003, tried, convicted and sentenced to 14 years of prison each. This shift ruined U.S. plans, already underway, to “balkanize” Russia between its many provinces, thereby allowing Western capital to pursue its capture of the Russian economy.

The dispossession of Khodorkovsky was certainly a major milestone in the conflict between President Putin and Washington. On November 18, 2005, the Senate unanimously adopted Resolution 322 introduced by Senator Joe Biden denouncing the treatment of the Khodorkovsky and Lebedev as politically motivated.

Who Influences Whom?

There is an alternative view of the history of Russian influence in the United States to the one now getting constant attention. It is obvious that a Russian who can get the Senate to adopt a resolution in his favor has a certain influence. But when the “deep state” and the corporate media today growl about Russian influence, they aren’t talking about Khodorkovsky. They are talking about alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. They are seizing, for example, on a joking response Trump made to a reporter’s snide question during the presidential campaign. In a variation of the classic “when did you stop beating your wife?” the reporter asked if he would call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “stay out” of the election.

Since a stupid question does not deserve a serious answer, Trump said he had “nothing to do with Putin” before adding, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Many Trump opponents think this proves collusion. Irony appears to be almost as unwelcome in American politics as honesty.

When Trump revoked his security clearance earlier this month, former CIA chief John Brennan got his chance to spew his hatred in the complacent pages of The New York Times. Someone supposed to be smart enough to head an intelligence agency actually took Trump’s joking invitation as a genuine request. “By issuing such a statement,” Brennan wrote, “Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent.”

As America’s former top intelligence officer, Brennan had to know that (even if it were true that Trump was somehow involved) it is ludicrous to suggest that Trump would have launched a covert intelligence operation on national television. If this were a Russian operation to hack Clinton’s private server it would have been on a need-to-know basis and there is no evident need for Trump or his campaign team to have known.

Besides, Clinton’s private server on the day Trump uttered this joke, July 27, 2016, had already been about nine months in possession of the Department of Justice, and presumably offline as it was being examined.

Since Brennan knows all this he could only have been lying in The New York Times.

The Russians, Brennan went on, “troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters.”

But which Russians do that? And who are those “individuals?”

‘The Fixer-in-Chief’

To understand the way Washington works, one can focus on the career of lawyer Jonathan M. Winer, who proudly says that in early 2017 the head of the Carnegie Endowment, Bill Burns, referred to him as “The Fixer-in-Chief.” Let’s see what the fixer has fixed.

Winer served in the Clinton State Department as its first Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Law Enforcement from 1994-1999. One may question the selectivity of Bill Clinton’s concern for international law enforcement, which certainly did not cover violating international law by bombing defenseless countries.

In any case, in 1999 Winer received the State Department’s second highest award for having “created the capacity of the Department and the U.S. government to deal with international crime and criminal justice as important foreign policy functions.” The award stated that “the scope and significance of his achievements are virtually unprecedented for any single official.”

After the Clinton administration, from 2008 to 2013, Winer worked as a high-up consultant at one of the world’s most powerful PR and lobbying firms, APCO Worldwide. As well as the tobacco industry and the Clinton Foundation, APCO also works for Khodorkovsky. To be precise, according to public listings, the fourth biggest of APCO’s many clients is the Corbiere Trust, owned by Khodorkovsky and registered in Guernsey. The trust tends and distributes some of the billions that the oligarch got out of Russia before he was jailed.

Corbiere money was spent to lobby both for Resolution 322 (supporting Khodorkovsky after his arrest in Russia) and for the Magnitsky Act. APCO president Margery Kraus is a member of the Institute of Modern Russia, which is headed by Khodorkovsky’s son Pavel, with the ostensible purpose of “promoting democratic values” – in other words, of building political opposition to Putin.

When John Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, allowing Hillary to prepare her presidential campaign, Winer went back to the State Department. Winer’s extracurricular activities at State brought him into the public spotlight early this year when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) named him as part of a network promoting the notorious “Steele Dossier,” which accused Trump of illicit financial dealing and compromising sexual activities in Russia, in a word, “collusion” with Moscow.

By Winer’s own account, he had been friends with former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele since his days at APCO. Back at State, he regularly channeled Steele reports, ostensibly drawn from contacts with friendly Russian intelligence agents, to Victoria Nuland, in charge of Russian affairs, as well as to top Russia experts. Among these reports was the infamous “Steele dossier,” opposition research on Trump financed by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

But dirt seemed to pass the other way too. According to a Feb. 6 Washington Post story, Winer passed on to Steele the story of Trump being urinated on by prostitutes in a Moscow hotel with Russian agents allegedly filming it for blackmail material. The Post says the story was written by Cody Shearer, a Clinton confidante. A lawyer for Winer told the paper that Winer “was concerned in 2016 about information that a candidate for the presidency may have been compromised by a hostile foreign power. Any actions he took were grounded in those concerns.” Shearer did not respond to a request for comment from Consortium News. (Full disclosure: Cody Shearer is a member of the advisory board of the Consortium for Independent Journalism, which publishes Consortium News, and has been asked to resign.)

All this Democrat paid-for and created dirt was spread through government agencies and mainstream media before being revealed publicly just before Trump’s inauguration. The Steele dossier was used by the Obama Justice Department to get a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. 

Winer and the Magnitsky Act

Winer played a major role in Congress’s adoption of the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012” (the Magnitsky Act), a measure that effectively ended post-Cold War hopes for normal relations between Washington and Moscow. This act was based on a highly contentious version of the November 16, 2009 death in prison of accountant Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky as told to Congress by hedge fund manager Bill Browder.  According to Browder, Magnitsky was a lawyer beaten to death in prison as a result of his crusade for human rights.

However, as convincingly established by dissident Russian film-maker Andrei Nekrasov’s investigative documentary (blacklisted in the U.S.), Magnitsky was neither a human rights crusader, nor a lawyer, nor beaten to death. He was an accountant jailed for his role in Browder’s business dealings, who died of natural causes as a result of inadequate prison care. The case was hyped as a major human rights drama by Browder in order to discredit Russian tax fraud charges against himself.

By adopting a law punishing Magnitsky’s alleged persecutors, the U.S. Congress acted as a supreme court judging internal Russian legal issues.

The Magnitsky Act also condemns legal prosecution of Khodorkovsky. Browder, on a much smaller scale, also made a fortune ripping off Russians during the Yeltsin years, and later got into trouble with Russian tax collectors. Since Browder had given up his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes, he had reason to fear Russian efforts to extradite him for tax evasion and other financial misdeeds.

It was Winer who found a solution to Browder’s predicament. As Winer wrote in The Daily Beast:

When Browder consulted me, he wanted to know what he could do to hold those involved in the case accountable. As Browder describes in his bookRed Notice, I suggested creating a new law to impose economic and travel sanctions on human-rights violators involved in grand corruption. Browder decided this could secure a measure of justice for Magnitsky. He initiated a campaign that led to the enactment of the Magnitsky Act. Soon other countries enacted their own Magnitsky Acts, including Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and most recently, the United Kingdom.”

Meanwhile, Russian authorities have been trying for years to pursue their case against Browder (image on the right). Putin brought up the case in his press conference following the Helsinki meeting with Trump. Putin suggested allowing U.S. authorities to question the 12 Russian GRU military intelligence agents named in the Mueller indictment in exchange for allowing Russian officials to question individuals involved in the Browder case, including Winer and former U.S. ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, among others. Putin observed that such an exchange was possible under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty signed between the two countries in 1999, back in the Yeltsin days when America was posing as Russia’s best friend.

But the naïve Russians underestimated the craftiness of American lawyers.

As Winer wrote, “Under that treaty, Russia’s procurator general can ask the U.S. attorney general … to arrange for Americans to be ordered to testify to assist in a criminal case. But there is a fundamental exception: The attorney general can provide no such assistance in a politically motivated case (my emphasis). I know this because I was among those who helped put it there. Back in 1999, when we were negotiating the agreement with Russia, I was the senior State Department official managing U.S.-Russia law-enforcement relations.”

The clever treaty is a perfect Catch-22. It doesn’t apply to a case if it is politically motivated, and if it is Russian, it must be politically motivated. (The irony is that Mueller’s indictment of 12 GRU Russian military intelligence agents appears to be more a political than a legal document. For one thing, it accused the agents of interfering in a U.S. election but never charges them under U.S. electoral law.)

On July 15, 2016, Browder’s Heritage Capital Management firm registered a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice accusing both American and Russian opponents of the Magnitsky Act of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA); adopted in 1938 with Nazis in mind.

As for Russian lawyers attempting to bring their case against the Act to the U.S., the Heritage Capital Management brief declared:

While lawyers representing foreign principals are exempt from filing under FARA, this is only true if the attorney does not try to influence policy at the behest of his client. By disseminating anti-Magnitsky material to Congress, [lawyer Natalia] Veselnitskaya is clearly trying to influence policy and is therefore in violation of her filing requirements under FARA.”

Veselnitskaya was at the infamous Trump Tower meeting in the summer of 2016 to lobby a possible incoming Trump administration to oppose the Magnitsky Act. A British music promoter, not a spokesman for the Russian government, offered dirt on Clinton in an email to Donald Trump Jr. No dirt was apparently produced and Don Jr. saw it as a lure to get him to the meeting on Magnitsky. Democrats are furiously trying to prove that this meeting was “collusion” between the Trump camp and Russia, though it was the Clinton campaign that paid for opposition research and received it from foreigners, while the Trump campaign neither solicited nor apparently received any at that meeting.

The Ideological Conflict Today

Needless to say, Khodorkovsky’s Corbiere Trust lobbied hard to get Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act. This type of “Russian interference intended to influence policy” goes unnoticed while U.S. authorities scour cyberspace for evidence of trolls.

The basic ideological conflict here is between Unipolar America and Multipolar Russia. Russia’s position, as Putin made clear in his historic speech at the Munich security conference in 2007, is to allow countries to enjoy national sovereignty and develop in their own way. The current Russian government is against interference in other countries’ politics on principle. It would naturally prefer an American government willing to do the same.

The United States, in contrast, is in favor of interference in other countries on principle: because it seeks a Unipolar world, with a single “democratic” system, and considers itself the final authority as to which regime a country should have and how it should run its affairs.

So, if Putin were trying to interfere in U.S. domestic politics, he would not be trying to change the U.S. system but to prevent it from trying to change his own.

U.S. policy-makers practice interference every day. And they are perfectly willing to allow Russians to interfere in American politics – so long as those Russians like Khodorkovsky, who aspire to precisely the same unipolar world sought by the State Department. Indeed, the American empire depends on such interference from Iraqis, Libyans, Iranians, Russians, Cubans – all those who come to Washington to try to get U.S. power to settle old scores or overthrow the government in the country they came from and put themselves in power. All those are perfectly welcome to lobby for a world ruled by America.

Russian interference in American politics is totally welcome so long as it helps turn public opinion against “multipolar” Putin, glorifies American democracy, serves U.S. interests, including the military industries, helps break down national borders (except those of the United States and Israel) and puts money in appropriate pockets in the halls of Congress.

*

This article was originally published on Consortiumnews.

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. The memoirs of Diana Johnstone’s father Paul H. Johnstone, From MAD to Madness, was published by Clarity Press, with her commentary. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr. She is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization  (CRG). 

Why the current strategy by the West cannot win

Having studied World War II in depth and reflected on the difference between those times and these, I have come to some preliminary conclusions. What were the characteristics of those times that made that victory inevitable and what are the characteristics of these times that make the ‘failures’ inevitable up to this point and how can we swing the battle, as it were, in our favour?

The rise of Adolf Hitler was not democratic, unlike the elections of these times. He did however, bring about a kind of national unity after coming to power. Until May 1940, the Great Britain was not united but going through the dark days from September 1939 and then through the Battle of Britain in 1940 had the effect of uniting the whole country overwhelmingly behind the war effort. There was no alternative.

There was intensive lobbying by the Churchill government of unity of the U.S. to back their war effort against the Axis Powers, with resistance at first, but it was only after Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that the U.S. came on board fully. The tactics of Total War were used to the full, including a possible allowing of the Japanese to carry out the attack on Pearl Harbor, despite knowing beforehand that it was coming, precisely in order to bring the wider U.S. population onside. The techniques of information warfare were employed to the maximum because the possibility of an Allied defeat was unthinkable and untenable. Some of these techniques were perhaps of dubious ethical standards or, in hindsight, even advisable. I am thinking here of the bombing offensive against Germany, the betrayal of Norway.

Techniques of deception were used very cunningly and very successfully. However, towards the end of the war, it became clear to Churchill and broadly speaking to the Americans that the post-war situation would be a face-off between the western allies and the Soviet Union. The same techniques of deception, intervention in the media, in elections and economic warfare were used extensively against the perceived foe, the communist threat, usually equated with any left-wing or progressive government.

It was here that the West lost its way. Without the truth on their side, these techniques were used to oppress rather than to liberate, even though the people employing them were the same. With this, the positive effect of having whole populations behind the war effort was no longer active, and those populations became the target of those techniques, of Cointelpro, of Operation Mockingbird, of the almost total surveillance, monitoring and manipulation of the populations by avoiding talking about the truth, covering up the truth, of pushing lies, with the belief that they continued to be in the right, but which ceased to be true from about 1945.

With the political climate tending to go against state intervention in foreign conflicts, the response from the private sector has been, let us take over where the state is unable, for whatever reason, to intervene, whether that is private military or intelligence contractors. But that does not address the real legal and political questions of our time, of rights to truth and justice.

Once the field of truth had been abandoned, unity ceased to prevail, and increasingly desperate efforts and sense of unease leave the feeling of running into a swamp and of being bogged down, without that compass to steer towards a clear objective, trying to repeat the early success, using the same tactics and techniques endlessly. Unity has become a battlefield rather than of de facto existence. With that, the lies of having moral certitude pushed as ‘right’ have become increasingly ridiculous and are demonstrated every day both in the media and ordinary life.

There can be no successful satisfactory outcome without that unity or truth. The divisions and heated arguments within our societies are evidence of our disunity and lack of truth. The current engagements by the West in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria cannot be won as long as the preferred methods of deception and lies are held to, however useful or right they may have been until 73 years ago.

The strategy used by the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries is of soft power, of low-intensity warfare, because it worked during World War II. It has long ceased to be effective in solving problems and has become a liability and has to be dropped. It may work in the short term, but it can never work in the long term.

Current events are actually like growing pains

My apologies to the anti-Trumpistas and their similar equivalents in the various countries and regions, but please bear with me. One of problems has been the holding to fixed positions of what is best for us or for others, that we must be like this or that, we have to achieve this or that, although we are holding to an idea of something that is at best temporary, and it is urgent that we understand this and the perceptions of scale that are involved.

Taking a look at what is going on and the affect on people, I am drawn to the conclusion that we have misunderstood these difficult times, bemoaning the lack of resources, the withdrawal of so called rights, the lack of insight of this or that person, this or that group and so forth. There is an emerging pattern however.

As a wise man once said, opposition makes you stronger. However, it is worth reflecting that, although those opposing us are in fact helping us to grow stronger, that our opposition of another or others also makes that something or someone stronger, which may be an idea, a group, say the much vaunted elite, the cabal, the concept of the other, ‘them’.

The way I use it is that I see no point in opposing something that will be inevitable, and of course the question arises, what is not inevitable, what can be the positive influence brought to bear that will either bring about a learning situation or favour an outcome.

This was made apparent to me when I started my blog to raise awareness of the situation in Brazil as Dilma was being manoeuvred out of power. In a brash move, I repeated a phrase that was current at the time, “Não vai ter golpe’, or ‘There will be no coup’. However, events proved me wrong, but if one looks back at it and the stages of life and learning, one can see it as a process, and stop being attached to a preconceived idea of what should happen or what one must do.

There are benefits to be had from what we have taken as ‘bad’ and learning from what we have taken to be ‘good’. We have seen esteemed institutions and people being exposed as other than we thought, we have all felt disillusion at this or that. For myself, speaking personally about what I have felt and not about those I am speaking of, this has been the lack of fulfilment of the promises of Obama, the U.S. Supreme Court, the BBC, the apparent success of the bringing down of Dilma in Brazil, the exposure of widespread corruption in Brazil, and others. We are being forced to take a long hard look at our values.

However, disappointment in anything is the lack of fulfilment of an expectation that we have, and nothing more than that. It is not a reflection, necessarily in those people or institutions. That can only be ascertained after questioning, acceptance and only then deciding on how to approach something.

What we have seen is that people do not value something they have until they lose it, whether that be rights, privileges, gifts. Nor have we paid sufficient attention to that which is held to be good and already in place. We learn to value democracy when we thought it to be challenged. Was America great or any less great than before? Was it because we thought it was or it wasn’t? I suggest the answer is all of the above and none of the above, for various reasons and in different circumstances. Is he UK really united? I think these are good and useful questions to consider.

Trump is acting as a mirror for us, and to the extent that he provokes horror or a certain hope that this is for the better, we should take a more careful look at what we see and why we see it. He is showing buffoonery and dishonesty, using words that do reflect what we are like. He is like the medieval court jester, entertaining the king, but the court is also spellbound, but when those who are unable to bear what they see speak out against it, it is not that they are completely wrong, rather that the situation is so terrible that it must change, eventually finding some equilibrium and harmony.

The question of Brexit has been bothering me ever since it became obvious to some people that the bureaucracy was having a detrimental effect on the conducting of business in the broadest sense of the word, in my case about twenty years ago. However, the idea of being included in something with international scope will inevitably bring up complicated issues for many people, involving us in change, which can be uncomfortable and having to re-assess what we had taken to be true or ´right` and so forth.

I briefly celebrated the referendum decision, saying to myself or others that we, the Brits, have given the blighters a bloody nose, which we did, but a lot of people felt hurt or shocked by that result, and now we have to grow up and actually settle this like civilised people, if we are able, rather than on the school playground. Resentment is not a good basis for making decisions, although some people must see the reasons that brought the situation about.

We are in a learning situation, for the Brits that like it or not, we have a role to play in the world, for the Europeans that we have legitimate concerns, for the neoliberals and overly wealthy, that things must and will change into a more beneficially distributed system of doing things, for the anti-neoliberals, that the crystallised forms of thinking about national or class issues no longer work, for the Trumpistas, that America already is great, so why not learn that there is a whole other world out of real, actual people out there beyond the U.S. borders, for the anti-Trumpistas, that opposing something because it comes in the guise of your pet dislikes or hates does not mean that your knee-jerk reactions to it are correct or properly thought out.

On the question of national sovereignty, it is sobering to reflect that there is a kind of sovereignty already, that the Brits have the kind of government and balanced Parliament that reflects the current situation, and similarly for the U.S. and Brazil, leading us to recognise our crystallised way of thinking.

Impossible or unsustainable situations must be differentiated from the unthought of possibility that something has happened, is happening or will happen. These are often confused and although sometimes it is distasteful, we do not recognise good food unless we have known what bad food is like or its effects on us.

After I wrote this piece, I found this video by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, which echoes my thoughts.

https://www.periscope.tv/w/1OyKANQymwgGb

BRICS Under Attack: The Empire Strikes Back In Brazil

By Eric Draitser

Washington’s Dog-Whistle Diplomacy Supports Attempted Coup in Brazil

By Mark Weisbrot, on Huffington Post

The day after the impeachment vote in the lower house of Brazil’s congress, one of the leaders of the effort, Senator Aloysio Nunes, traveled to Washington, D.C. He had scheduled meetings with a number of U.S. officials, including Thomas Shannon at the State Department.

Shannon has a relatively low profile in the media, but he is the number three official in the U.S. State Department. Even more significantly in this case, he is the most influential person in the State Department on U.S. policy in Latin America. He will be the one recommending to Secretary of State John Kerry what the U.S. should do as the ongoing efforts to remove President Dilma Rousseff proceed.

Shannon’s willingness to meet with Nunes just days after the impeachment vote sends a powerful signal that Washington is on board with the opposition in this venture. How do we know this? Very simply, Shannon did not have to have this meeting. If he wanted to show that Washington was neutral in this fierce and deeply polarizing political conflict, he would not have a meeting with high-profile protagonists on either side, especially at this particular moment.

Shannon’s meeting with Nunes is an example of what could be called “dog-whistle diplomacy.” It barely shows up on the radar of the media reporting on the conflict, and therefore is unlikely to generate backlash. But all the major actors know exactly what it means. That is why Nunes’ party, the Social Democracy Party (PSDB), publicized the meeting.

To illustrate with another example of dog-whistle diplomacy: On June 28, 2009, the Honduran military kidnapped the country’s president, Mel Zelaya, and flew him out of the country. The White House statement in response did not condemn this coup, but rather called on “all political and social actors in Honduras” to respect democracy.

This dog-whistle signal worked perfectly; most importantly the coup leaders and their supporters in Honduras, as well as every diplomat in Washington, knew exactly what this meant, even as statements condemning the coup and demanding the restoration of the democratic government came pouring in from around the globe. Everyone knew that this was, in diplomatic code, a clear statement of support for the coup. The events that followed over the next six months, with Washington doing everything it could to help consolidate and legitimize the coup government, were pretty much predictable from this initial statement. Hillary Clinton later admitted in her 2014 book, “Hard Choices,” that she worked successfully to prevent the return of the democratically elected president.

Tom Shannon has a reputation among Latin American diplomats as an amiable fellow, a seasoned career foreign service officer who is willing to sit down and talk with governments that are at odds with U.S. policy in the region. But he has had a lot of experience with coups. Some of Hillary Clinton’s released emails shed additional light on his role in helping to consolidate the Honduran coup. He was also a high-level State Department official during the April 2002 coup in Venezuela, in which there is substantial documentary evidence of U.S. involvement. And when the parliamentary coup in Paraguay took place in 2012 — something similar to what is happening in Brazil but with a process that impeached and removed the president in just 24 hours — Washington also contributed to the legitimation of the coup government in the aftermath. (By contrast, South American governments suspended the coup government in Paraguay from MERCOSUR, the regional trading bloc, and UNASUR [the Union of South American Nations).] Shannon was ambassador to Brazil at that time, but was still one of the most influential officials in hemispheric policy.

The U.S. State Department responded to questions about Nunes’ meetings by saying, “This meeting had been planned for months and was arranged at the request of the Brazilian embassy.” But this is irrelevant. It merely means that Brazilian embassy staff were, as a matter of diplomatic protocol, involved in arranging the meetings. This does not imply any consent by the Rousseff administration, nor change the political message that the meeting with Shannon sends to the opposition in Brazil.

All of this is of course consistent with Washington’s strategy in response to the left governments that have governed most of the region in the 21st century. They have rarely missed an opportunity to undermine or get rid of any of them, and their desire to replace the governing Workers’ Party in Brazil with a more compliant, right-wing government is fairly obvious.


Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the new book “Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy“ (2015, Oxford University Press).