US Electoral Meddling in 45 Foreign Countries? Would You Believe 81?
July 7, 2017
Nina Agrawal / The Los Angeles Times & Claire Bernish / MintPress News
Ask an average American who makes a habit of following government-mouthpiece corporate media about interference in national elections and you'll likely elicit a nebulous response concerning Russian hackers and a plan to install Donald Trump in the White House -- but you probably won't hear a single syllable pertaining to United States government's actual attempts to do the same.
The US Is No Stranger to
Interfering in the Elections of Other Countries
Nina Agrawal / The Los Angeles Times
One professor's database cites 81 attempts by the United States to influence elections in other countries, notably in Iran, Guatemala and Chile.
(December 21, 2016) -- Update: President Obama on Thursday slapped Russia with new penalties for meddling in the US presidential election, kicking out dozens of suspected spies and imposing banking restrictions on five people and four organizations the administration says were involved.
The CIA has accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 presidential election by hacking into Democratic and Republican computer networks and selectively releasing emails. But critics might point out the US has done similar things.
The US has a long history of attempting to influence presidential elections in other countries -- it's done so as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000, according to a database amassed by political scientist Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University.
That number doesn't include military coups and regime change efforts following the election of candidates the US didn't like, notably those in Iran, Guatemala and Chile. Nor does it include general assistance with the electoral process, such as election monitoring.
Levin defines intervention as "a costly act which is designed to determine the election results [in favor of] one of the two sides."
These acts, carried out in secret two-thirds of the time, include funding the election campaigns of specific parties, disseminating misinformation or propaganda, training locals of only one side in various campaigning or get-out-the-vote techniques, helping one side design their campaign materials, making public pronouncements or threats in favor of or against a candidate, and providing or withdrawing foreign aid.
In 59% of these cases, the side that received assistance came to power, although Levin estimates the average effect of "partisan electoral interventions" to be only about a 3% increase in vote share.
The US hasn't been the only one trying to interfere in other countries' elections, according to Levin's data. Russia attempted to sway 36 foreign elections from the end of World War II to the turn of the century -- meaning that, in total, at least one of the two great powers of the 20th century intervened in about 1 of every 9 competitive, national-level executive elections in that time period.
Italy's 1948 general election is an early example of a race where US actions probably influenced the outcome.
"We threw everything, including the kitchen sink" at helping the Christian Democrats beat the Communists in Italy, said Levin, including covertly delivering "bags of money" to cover campaign expenses, sending experts to help run the campaign, subsidizing "pork" projects like land reclamation, and threatening publicly to end US aid to Italy if the Communists were elected.
Levin said that US intervention probably played an important role in preventing a Communist Party victory, not just in 1948, but in seven subsequent Italian elections.
Throughout the Cold War, US involvement in foreign elections was mainly motivated by the goal of containing communism, said Thomas Carothers, a foreign policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "The US didn't want to see left-wing governments elected, and so it did engage fairly often in trying to influence elections in other countries," Carothers said.
This approach carried over into the immediate post-Soviet period.
In the 1990 Nicaragua elections, the CIA leaked damaging information on alleged corruption by the Marxist Sandinistas to German newspapers, according to Levin. The opposition used those reports against the Sandinista candidate, Daniel Ortega. He lost to opposition candidate Violeta Chamorro.
In Czechoslovakia that same year, the US provided training and campaign funding to Vaclav Havel's party and its Slovak affiliate as they planned for the country's first democratic election after its transition away from communism.
"The thinking was that we wanted to make sure communism was dead and buried," said Levin. Even after that, the US continued trying to influence elections in its favor.
In Haiti after the 1986 overthrow of dictator and US ally Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the CIA sought to support particular candidatesand undermine Jean-Bertrande Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest and proponent of liberation theology.
The New York Times reported in the 1990s hat the CIA had on its payroll members of the military junta that would ultimately unseat Aristide after he was democratically elected in a landslide over Marc Bazin, a former World Bank official and finance minister favored by the US
The US also attempted to sway Russian elections. In 1996, with the presidency of Boris Yeltsin and the Russian economy flailing, President Clinton endorsed a $10.2-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund linked to privatization, trade liberalization and other measures that would move Russia toward a capitalist economy.
Yeltsin used the loan to bolster his popular support, telling voters that only he had the reformist credentials to secure such loans, according to media reports at the time. He used the money, in part, for social spending before the election, including payment of back wages and pensions.
In the Middle East, the US has aimed to bolster candidates who could further the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In 1996, seeking to fulfill the legacy of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the peace accords the US brokered, Clinton openly supported Shimon Peres, convening a peace summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik to boost his popular support and inviting him to a meeting at the White House a month before the election.
"We were persuaded that if [Likud candidate Benjamin] Netanyahu were elected, the peace process would be closed for the season," said Aaron David Miller, who worked at the State Department at the time.
In 1999, in a more subtle effort to sway the election, top Clinton strategists, including James Carville, were sent to advise Labor candidate Ehud Barak in the election against Netanyahu.
In Yugoslavia, the US and NATO had long sought to cut off Serbian nationalist and Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic from the international system through economic sanctions and military action. In 2000, the US spent millions of dollars in aid for political parties, campaign costs and independent media.
Funding and broadcast equipment provided to the media arms of the opposition were a decisive factor in electing opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica as Yugoslav president, according to Levin. "If it wouldn't have been for overt intervention . . . Milosevic would have been very likely to have won another term," he said.
Government's Own Data Shows
US Interfered In 81 Foreign Elections
Claire Bernish / MintPress News
(March 22, 2017) -- On Monday, FBI Director James Comey confirmed for the first time publicly that the bureau is officially investigating hotly contentious allegations of Russian meddling in the US election -- but, even if proven true, such geopolitical escapades better characterize the routine behavior of accuser than of accused.
"The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election," the director announced, adding the bureau would conduct a probe to discern whether Trump's associates had contact with Russian officials.
Despite that the US has hypocritically exerted influence over foreign elections in all corners of the globe -- in fact, it has arrogantly done so a whopping 81 times between 1946 and 2000, alone -- with just one-third of those operations undertaken overtly.
For months, mainstream media parroted murky accusations hurled by politicians -- keen to point a finger of blame for the apparently stultifying victory of a former reality television host on someone -- that The Russians had somehow surreptitiously undermined the election-centric foundation of American Democracy.
While that has yet to prove true, this new Red Scare constitutes a duplicitous attempt by the pot to call the kettle . . . an election meddler.
Researcher Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University's Institute for Politics and Strategy -- an expert on the topic at hand -- discussed the lengthy but incomplete list of times the US government has interfered in other nations' elections with NPR's Ari Shapiro.
Listen to the NPR segment below:
Asked for examples where this tampering tangibly altered results, Levin stated,
One example of that was our intervention in Serbia, Yugoslavia in the 2000 election there. Slobodan Milosevic was running for re-election, and we didn't want him to stay in power there due to his tendency, you know, to disrupt the Balkans and his human rights violations.
So we intervened in various ways for the opposition candidate, Vojislav Kostunica. And we gave funding to the opposition, and we gave them training and campaigning aide. And according to my estimate, that assistance was crucial in enabling the opposition to win.
Levin reiterated the more blatant methods with which the US asserts dominance -- through the overt coups or all-out regime changes branding the nation a notorious interventionist -- are not among the list of the 80-plus attempts to manipulate the electoral outcome.
As for the issue of pot versus kettle, Levin explained that -- although Russia and other powerful nations indisputably employ similar tactics -- the United States has been quite prodigious in its effort.
Well, for my dataset, the United States is the most common user of this technique. Russia or the Soviet Union since 1945 has used it half as much. My estimate has been 36 cases between 1946 to 2000. We know also that the Chinese have used this technique and the Venezuelans when the late Hugo Chavez was still in power in Venezuela and other countries.
As sanctimoniously as US politicians cry foul about The Russians, it would behoove the new McCarthyites to reflect on the nation's sticky imperialist fingerprints around the globe -- like that time in 1996, when the United States undertook an extensive, secret operation to ensure the presidency of Boris Yeltsin.
That is, of course, former President Boris Yeltsin -- of the Russian Federation.
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