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Brazilian Dialogue

Dwight Eisenhowers Grandson

June 21, 2003: I've just viewed CNN's Capital Gang: Al Hunt interviewed Dwight Eisenhower's grandson regarding his book about his famous grandfather. Good, I thought. Now we'll hear something about U.S. relations with Latin American, beginning with Eisenhower teaming up with Guatemala's oligarchs and military in 1954 to overthrow the democratically elected Arbenz government. (Eisenhower's "reason" at the time: "We had to overthrow that Communist government.")

Hunt's questions were peripheral, even shallow, except for one: "What do you think of the current administration's 'pre-emptive strike' policy?" Grandson Eisenhower: "People think it's new. My grandfather enunciated it and practised it already way back then." Nor did anyone of the Capital Gang personnel question the morality of the "pre-emptive strike." But pre-emptive strikes were practised by people like Herod and Nero, and Ivan the Terrible, to do away with anyone who might be a threat. We thought we had outgrown this idea. Here it's back as official policy and the gurus are smiling their approval.

But to get back to Eisenhower's war on Guatemala. Yes, I agree, "war" is a blunt way of putting it, but when you team up with the one per cent of a country's citizens (the rich) supported by 10 per cent more (middle class hangers-on) to fight the 90 per cent of its citizens who are politically, economically and socially excluded, then, yes, you are making war on that country. To keep United Fruit's monopoly of the Guatemalan economy intact, Eisenhower launched a war that continues to this day, a war that at times seemed to have as its goal the extermination of the Mayan Indians.

Rigoberta Menchu (Mayan Indian and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize several years ago) can teach the American media gurus -- as well as politicians, academics and technocrats -- a great deal about political science, a subject American universities profess to teach. "Latin America is our back yard," has been the American watchword regarding the Western Hemisphere for all of the 20th century. What horrors have been visited on our Latino brothers and sisters ever since that catch phrase was coined.

Al Gerwing