Even though Clint Eastwood’s bizarre and rambling monologue (which managed to upstage Romney) contained a vague anti-war statement and the implication that Romney would bring all US troops home from Afghanistan “tomorrow” (in actuality his platform calls for a withdrawal by 2014) Romney minced no words in his nomination speech about his foreign policy. While most of the foreign policy parts of his speech were nonsensical misstatements of Obama’s foreign policy (misstatements because Obama has been just as diligent in maintaing the American Empire as any of his predecessors) one point seemed particularly hypocritical for Romney.
Romney who repeated the absurd claim that Obama had been on an “apology tour” for the United States boldly claimed that America does not “dictate” to the world, but instead has “freed the world of dictators.” On face value this claim is almost too laughable to debunk. Between the long list of democratic governments deposed by the United States, the even longer list of dictators it has backed, and the realities faced by civilians in countries subject to US intervention it’s hard to even know where to start with the falsity of Romney’s claim.
However what makes Romney’s remark worth noting is the blatant level of hypocrisy inherent to this remark being made by Romney. The Huffington Post recently reported that Romney’s venture capital firm, Bain Capital, started by receiving money from individuals connected to Salvadorian death squads.
During the Salvadorian Civil War over 75,000 civilians were killed, 85% percent of them killed by the US-backed government. Particular low points of the war were the murder and rape of four American nuns, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero while giving mass, and the massacring of 900 citizens in the village of El Mozote. All crimes committed by death squads with close links to the government.
As if Romney’s business ties with Salvadorian death squads were not enough Truthout recently revealed that he was not the only person on the Republican ticket with ties to atrocities in the region. Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan has been receiving advise on foreign policy from Elliot Abrams. Abrams, who was convicted of two misdemeanor counts for his involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair, has a long history of supporting atrocities committed in Central America, including denying the El Mozote massacre--a tragedy confirmed by not only the New York Times and the Washington Post, but the United Nations Truth Commission and eventually recognized by the government of El Salvador itself. Abrams was also a noted supporter of the Contras, a rightwing group supported by the CIA that sought to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) would find that CIA operations with the Contras, which included mining the harbors of Nicaragua, constituted an act of aggression. This ruling made the United States the only country ever found guilty of aggression by the ICJ. In addition to the ICJ’s finding Human Rights Watch’s predecessor organization concluded that Contras deliberately targeted civilian health care workers, and routinely engaged in rape, torture, and kidnapping.
While the United States has never been a “Good Neighbor” to Central America the period in the late-1970s to early 1990s is one of the darkest in US-Central American relationships. During this time the US sought to suppress popular movements against oligarchical dictatorships and overthrow them when they succeeded (like the Sandinistas did in Nicaragua). To do so they supported brutal death squads and terrorist groups like the Contras. For Romney, given Bain Capital’s ties to this dark chapter in American history, to speak of America “freeing the world of dictators,” shows a particular level of hypocrisy.