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Meddling undermines US’ global credibility, analysts say

Washington urged to stop interfering in other countries' affairs

Active and retired public workers, including teachers, protest for better salaries and the rest of their vacation bonus which they say was paid partially, as they march to the Labor Ministry in Caracas, Venezuela,  Aug 2, 2022. (ARIANA CUBILLOS / AP)

Constant meddling by the United States in the domestic affairs of other countries, which disregards the UN's principle of noninterference, is undermining Washington's credibility on the world stage, according to analysts.

Although the US may often manage to avoid its liabilities, they said it should learn from history and stop the practice, as it frequently leads to tragic outcomes, including humanitarian disasters.

Last month, former US president Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton casually admitted in an interview with CNN that he helped plan coups overseas-citing Venezuela as an example.

In 2019, Bolton publicly supported Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who was calling for military support to oust the elected President Nicolas Maduro, who has accused the US of trying to orchestrate a coup against him. Bolton said blatantly that the US would continue with such practices.

Evo Morales, former president of Bolivia, tweeted soon afterwards that Bolton's remarks showed that the US was "the worst enemy of democracy and life".

David Castrillon, a research professor at Externado University of Colombia, said, "Unfortunately, we see a recurring pattern of the US government interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries when it deems it convenient."

He said that since the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine two centuries ago, the US' record of intervention in the region is "long and painful". Castrillon cited ongoing colonial practices in Puerto Rico, the invasions of Grenada and Panama, support for coups in Chile and Bolivia, and the continuing embargo of the Cuban economy as being part of a "grim record".

Afghankids beg on a side walk in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 24, 2022. (EBRAHIM NOROOZI / AP)

According to the National Archives Museum in Washington, the Monroe Doctrine was a policy put forward by US President James Monroe in his seventh annual message to Congress on Dec 2, 1823, when he said European powers were "obligated to respect the Western Hemisphere as the United States' sphere of interest".

In 2019, The Associated Press reported that since Monroe announced the doctrine, the US "has involved itself in the daily affairs of nations across Latin America", often on behalf of North American commercial interests, or to support right-leaning forces against leftist leaders.

The report listed some of the most notable US interventions in Latin America, ranging from territorial invasions to occupations and regime changes orchestrated by the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA.

The examples cited included the CIA-backed overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and the 1961 US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, which failed to overthrow Soviet-backed Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The report said Washington continued to launch attempts to assassinate Castro and dislodge his government.

In 1964, Brazilian President Joao Goulart was overthrown in a US-backed coup which installed a military government that held power until the 1980s, while in 1989, the US invaded Panama to oust de facto leader General Manuel Noriega, with whom it had a complicated relationship.

Taliban fighters stand guard in the Shiite neighborhood of Dasht-e-Barchi, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug 7, 2022. (EBRAHIM NOROOZI / AP)

Deep involvement

In September 2000, an article published by ABC News in Australia reported that the CIA had acknowledged for the first time the extent of its deep involvement in Chile, where it "dealt with coup-plotters, false propagandists and assassins".

Castrillon said: "The irony is that history shows that these policies have rarely had an effect-creating anxiety in the affected countries, and, in the long run, undermining US credibility. That is what has happened in past years with the US posture toward Venezuela."

He added that the US government is now seeking to re-engage with Venezuela "at a time of high oil prices".

Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Pakistan, said Bolton's admission speaks volumes about US actions overseas to bring down governments which it does not like or which it thinks run counter to its objectives, without accepting any liability.

In a website article headlined "Our dangerous ally could drag us into war with China", John Menadue, an Australian businessman and commentator, said: "The US is the most aggressive and violent country in the world. It is addicted to a belief in its exceptionalism, grounded in aggression and violence both at home and abroad, and finds it hard to admit mistakes."

Menadue said the US has a military and business complex that "depends on war for influence and enrichment". He added, "The overthrow or interference in foreign governments is diverse," citing examples ranging from Honduras to Indonesia, from Iraq to Syria.

In 2016, an analysis by The Washington Post found that from 1947 to 1989, the US tried to change other nations' governments 72 times-66 covertly and six overtly. The newspaper did not state in detail where these operations took place.

The Global Policy Forum, an independent policy watchdog that monitors the UN's work and scrutinizes global policymaking, has listed US Military and Clandestine Operations in Foreign Countries from 1798 to the present, excluding Washington's operations in the two world wars.

The list from 1947 to the late 1980s includes Greece, Italy, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Lebanon, Indonesia, Cambodia, Angola and Nicaragua. In recent years, the US has also had a hand in the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Ukraine.

In March 2003, the US invaded Iraq based on false intelligence, claiming that Baghdad was developing weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.

Then-UN Secretary-General KofiAnnan termed the war illegal, saying it "was not in conformity with the UN Charter". The New York Times also reported that Annan raised questions about the legitimacy of the US and the United Kingdom's actions in going to war without specific authorization from the Security Council.

Handout picture released on July 20, 2022 by the Venezuelan Vice-Presidency of Economy showing damage after an explosion of a gas pipeline in Aguasay, Monagas state, Venezuela. (VENEZUELAN VICEPRESIDENCY / AFP)

Salman Bashir, a former Pakistani ambassador to China, said: "Undoubtedly there have been huge consequences for people in places such as Libya, Iraq and Syria. But for large and self-respecting states, it may only be a wish list of some aberrant thinking. In principle, the international community would view this as a grave transgression of law and morality."

Recently, there have been calls to investigate the US' role in conflicts in the Middle East. In December, The New York Times made public the Pentagon's confidential assessments of reports of civilian casualties from US-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

The newspaper said these documents lay bare how the war in the air was marked by "deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, many of them children."

In June, a report by the US Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Defense and the Department of State "have not fully determined the extent to which US military support has contributed to civilian harm in Yemen".

Even as the US imposed sanctions on Syria, there were allegations that US troops stationed in that country had been plundering Syrian oil and grain. In May, a UN Special Rapporteur focusing on the impact of unilateral sanctions urged the US to lift its embargoes on Iran, as these measures violated international law.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, estimates that by the end of last year, some 89.3 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide-more than double the 42.7 million forcibly displaced a decade ago-and the most since World War II.

It said these displacements were the result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, or events seriously disturbing public order, with many such incidents occurring in countries with US-orchestrated chaos.

The UNHCR also estimates that more than two-thirds of the refugees under its mandate come from just five countries-Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar. Analyses have pointed to US policies against the first four countries on the list that led to local people becoming refugees.

Amina Khan, director of the Centre for Afghanistan, Middle East and Africa at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, said Afghanistan and Iraq are glaring examples of how US foreign policy went wrong.

People are seen on a road in Kandahar city, southern Afghanistan, Aug 31, 2021. (SANAULLAH SEIAM / XINHUA)

Problems created

After the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001, the US invaded Afghanistan in the name of fighting terrorism, toppling the Taliban regime. Yet 20 years later, the US signed an agreement with the Taliban, paving the way for it to take power, Khan said.

In August last year, the Taliban returned to power by taking over Kabul, the Afghan capital. Washington later withdrew its troops, an operation that ended chaotically.

Khan said: "I think it just shows that, at times, there's a realization within many policymakers in Washington that they need to step back and let countries function or develop organically without undue interference, because every time there is external interference, it creates problems."

According to a report by US broadcaster CBS News, US citizens could owe $6.5 trillion in interest alone as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the United Arab Emirates, Ebrahim Hashem, AsiaGlobal Fellow at the University of Hong Kong's Asia Global Institute, who is based in Abu Dhabi, said it is common knowledge, especially in the Arab world, that some US establishment politicians will go to any lengths just to "achieve their hegemonic goals", even if this means coups with disastrous consequences for other people.

He said the "democracy and agenda" announced by then-US President George W. Bush, along with the approach to the "Arab Spring" by the Barack Obama administration, were essentially regime change programs to "reshape the politics of the Arab region".

Hashem said Arabs will not abandon their neutrality, adding that the Arab Spring approach was the last desperate attempt to seize their sovereignty and strategic autonomy.

"A more balanced international system with institutionalized multipolarity is the best hope for the world-it can help control the US' propensity to act unilaterally and with impunity," Hashem said.

Xinhua News Agency contributed to this report.

Contact the writers at jan@chinadailyapac.com