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Op-Ed

Make Russia Great Again

August 5, 2022

What Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine today bears striking resemblance to what the United States has done for years, under the rubric of the Monroe Doctrine.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

I despise Vladimir Putin for what he’s doing in Ukraine, and hope his underlings deal with him the way Khrushchev dealt with Stalin’s hitman, Lavrenty Beria: Drag him out and shoot him. But the United States has been doing the same thing as Putin for more than a century.

Mark Twain laid down a marker in 1900 after we slaughtered more than 40,000 Filipinos in the Spanish-American War, half of them civilians. “I have read carefully the Treaty of Paris,” Twain wrote in the New York Herald of Oct. 15, 1900, “and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.”

Actually, the United States has acted like Putin for two centuries, since our fifth president warned Europe and the world in the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.

Here’s a quick rundown on how the United States has treated the Western Hemisphere — half of planet Earth — the way Putin is treating Ukraine.

Under Ronald Reagan, whom Republicans revere as one of our greatest presidents, we armed, trained and funded military death squads who killed 250,000 people in El Salvador and Guatemala, most of them civilians, often after torture, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. A quarter of a million people: Not as bad as Hitler or Stalin, but gettin’ up there.

U.S. troops killed 50,000 Nicaraguans during our occupation of that country from 1912 to 1933, a war we started for the same phony reason as Putin did in Ukraine: to “protect” our citizens (actually our acreage). We left Nicaragua in 1933 due to the Great Depression and FDR’s good sense. Then after propping up the murderous Anastasio Somoza until 1979, we killed another 30,000 people during Reagan’s ridiculous Contra War.

During what is charmingly known as the Banana Wars, from 1899 to 1933, we also occupied Cuba, the Dominican Republic, parts of Mexico, Haiti, Panama (and again in 1989), Honduras and Puerto Rico.

Ancient history, you say? Not really. Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s support for the 2009 military coup in Honduras helped transform that country into a narco-state, with the highest murder rate in the world today. Their ex-president (from 2014 to 2022), Juan Orlando Hernández, sits in a U.S. jail accused of abetting the transport of tons of cocaine to the United States. His brother, Tony, is serving life in prison on those charges.

Hillary Clinton’s role in the coup that ushered in their narco-state proved so embarrassing that she removed it from the paperback version of her memoir, “Hard Choices.”

CIA-backed coups in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954 ushered in dictatorships that tortured and murdered tens of thousands of their own citizens for years, with our support.

Guatemala today is one of the most corrupt and violent governments in the world. And Iran? Umm … Sorry! Just tryna help!

Augusto Pinochet oversaw the murder and torture of more than 30,000 Chileans after his CIA-abetted military coup of 1973 — simply because Chileans chose a socialist president in a free and fair election. This inspired Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to declare: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” Thanks, Henry! Who elected you?

We also backed bloody military coups in Brazil in 1964; in Argentina in 1976 — Kissinger again; and funded Paraguay’s military dictator Alfredo Stroessner with hundreds of millions of dollars during his 35 years in power (1954-1989).

Then there’s Cuba, which, for no reason at all, Donald Trump declared a “sponsor of state terrorism,” a ridiculous claim today.

I could go on — Indonesia, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq — but enough.

Does any of this excuse Vladimir Putin’s wars against Ukraine, Crimea, Georgia and Chechnya? It does not excuse any of them.

It does, however, illustrate that when Putin says the United States has no business criticizing his foreign policy — call it the Putin Doctrine — any serious student of history must acknowledge that the United States has no moral legs to stand on. We have no moral legs at all — just a massive injury ward full of other people’s bloody stumps, and some of our own.

And don’t get me started on Viet Nam.

That said, I say again: I wish Putin’s staff would drag him out and shoot him. A first step to Make Russia Great Again.

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