These are troubling times for the men who claim to run the world's greatest democracy. They have meddled so much in other countries' democratic systems and undermined so many overseas elections that their treachery is beginning to backfire. I am talking about the United States of America, which has been behind more than a dozen regime changes in seven decades, including Iraq in 2003, as well as significant covert coups such as in Iran in 1953, Guatemala the following year, and Congo in 1960.
The sixties was a busy decade for America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) which meddled in the Dominican Republic, South Vietnam and Brazil before switching to focussing on regime change in Chile in 1973 when General Augusto Pinochet led a military coup against Salvador Allende, the socialist president elected three years earlier. Disgraced US President Richard Nixon ordered the CIA to "make the economy scream," according to documents released from secret archives nearly ten years ago. I wonder if current US President Joe Biden said something similar about today's Afghan economy. The CIA disrupted Chile's economy until Pinochet seized power on 11 September 1973, and then the agency backed the brutal regime with a propaganda campaign in support of the dictator, despite knowing about his regime's serious human rights abuses, including the murder of political dissidents.
Apologies to those of you already aware of such treachery, but perhaps we need the history lesson to be reminded of what the US is capable of because it is, yet again, meddling in other countries and history could repeat itself. Take Pakistan, for example. Its leader Imran Khan became an enemy of Washington when he said "absolutely not" when the US hinted that it might want to move some of its military bases from Afghanistan to those being used by the Pakistan army and air force on the border. Khan's close relationship with countries like China, Russia and Turkiye also troubled Washington.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the unrest in Pakistan earlier this year to destabilise Khan's government and ultimately engineer its downfall bears all the hallmarks of CIA meddling. The operation to unseat Khan was working extremely well until the cricketer turned politician cried foul and exposed the dirty tricks that he had encountered, as I wrote recently in MEMO.
Biden was Vice President when Erdogan opted to buy the Russian system in 2017, and told the NYT panel: "But I'm still of the view that if we were to engage more directly like I was doing with them, that we can support those elements of the Turkish leadership that still exist and get more from them and embolden them to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan. Not by a coup, not by a coup, but by the electoral process." In other words, he was suggesting that the US should meddle in Turkish elections.
Quite how Biden attempts to reach out to Turkish voters next year remains a mystery, but perhaps the CIA has already been "making the economy scream". What else should we make of this week's headlines in the Western media about the Turkish economy? As inflation reaches a 24-year high, should we look upon the country's troubled financial situation as a glitch or something more sinister?
Of course, the US isn't the only dirty tricks player in town. Russia also has a shameful record, mainly in Europe, but when it sought to interfere in the 2016 elections in America, the world ended up with Trump in the White House after Russian hackers apparently undermined Hillary Clinton's election campaign. Propaganda was also spread on social media.
Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin is credited with saying: "It's not who votes that counts. It's who counts the votes." Now it seems that all manner of coups and rigged elections are being brought about through fake news, malicious propaganda, manipulated economies and hacked voter databases.
Russia is up to its eyes in voter meddling and election rigging while America is guilty of subversion to destabilise countries, and install puppet governments, usually with dire consequences. All of these actions are bringing about the decline of democracy around the globe. Remember this the next time we hear the claim that the US is the world's greatest democracy. It's arguably the greatest myth in history, but it's repeated around the world ad nauseam, to the extent that people now believe it to be true.
The big winners in this are authoritarian leaders, including those in the West. The big losers are the voters, because they are being denied free and fair polls in elections that are rigged from start to finish. American democracy has been turned into an illusion, and that affects us all, no matter where we live.