Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
Coup d’Etat: The Technique of Revolution is the title of a book by Curzio Malaparte, which was read avidly by "Che" Guevara. The basic idea is that the coup is a technical and not a political problem. Malaparte reviews the most famous coups, the successful ones, and those that failed.
Bonaparte’s coup, the "18th Brumaire", would be the first modern one. Among the coups during the first half of the twentieth century, he mentions the one from Primo de Rivera in Spain, that of Pilsudski in Poland and others, but he highlights those where the coups were announced before the facts, like Trotsky’s coup in Russia and Mussolini’s coup in Italy.
The book, published in Paris in 1931, was banned in countries with very different types of governments: in Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Poland, Yugoslavia and others. In totalitarian countries it was banned because it was considered a handbook for rebels, and for similar reasons in democratic ones. According to the author, the purpose was to show how a modern state can be conquered and how it can be defended, because "the story of recent years is [...] the struggle between advocates of the principle of freedom and democracy, that is, the parliamentary state, against their adversaries."
Malaparte claims that is possible to achieve a coup in any democratic country, even without a critical situation and without mass support. A group is enough to halt the state machinery and overtake power without confronting the opposing force. In Russia, the Kerensky government protected the political bodies, but Trotsky took over the technical bodies. Then he tried the same thing, in 1927, against Stalin, but Stalin used a special defence corps that worked on the same technical level. In Italy, the government was defended by Giolitti’s unions and by the police; fascist groups neutralized both, took over the rail system and went by train to Rome to overthrow the government of Luigi Facta. The king, Victor Emmanuel III, with Rome dressed in Black Shirts, commissioned Benito Mussolini to form a government and thus legalized the coup.
The strategy is always the same: concentrate forces in the most sensitive point of the adversary: in a modern state, those are the public services and the media.
The weaknesses of the modern state
The central problem of the modern state is the representation of the popular will. With current systems of periodic suffrage, voters delegate their political will through the ballot box and popular sovereignty is displaced to their representatives. Actually, it is displaced to the political parties, which are often undemocratic and so they perpetuate the same cliques in power, playing at ministerial chairs.
That perversion exists because of the loss of a sense of community, which is the implicit basis of representation; instead, now we consult disconnected masses, that are amorphous and easily duped, as José Ortega y Gasset describes in The Revolt of the Masses (1930). Representation and the amorphous social base promote a class of professional politicians that constitutes an oligarchy, which defend their own or special interests only, in a climate of irresponsible confusion as observed by Alain de Benoit. Those are elected governments that do not work for the interests of the people and the country; they are governments of a “partyocracy”, as it was described in the 60’s by Giuseppe Maranini, Georges Burdeau, Maurice Duverger and other political sociologists. The partyocracy always serves itself first and not that majority which it fools with ideological tales, slogans, false promises and costly mobilization shows.
In a modern state, telecommunications are the main instrument to guide an amorphous public opinion towards targeted goals, to the point that they became an important weapon of war. The Weapon for cultural and psychological warfare, disinformation and propaganda; whose latest operational fronts are the Internet and the social networks.
Coups since the Second World War
Before the First World War, the imperialist policies of Britain and France decided to change hostile governments through military intervention. The United States always preferred, especially in Latin America, the military coup. After World War II, the technique changed, and they began to favour overthrowing popularly elected governments, by organizing mobs that give the coup an aspect of popular rebellion. It also started to call coups by the aseptic term Regime Change, because it is used to mean a government that perpetuates itself in power without elections.
A well-documented coup, which shows the evolution of technical progress, is the one against Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadeq, in August 1952. I took the data from the acute and delightful book of Karl Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac entitled «Kingmakers, the invention of the modern Middle East".
The bottom line was then, as now, oil. On March 15, 1951, faced with the British refusal to increase Iran’s participation in oil revenues, the Iranian parliament (Majlis) nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The Shah Reza Pahlavi appointed the main nationalization promoter and head of the National Front, Mohammad Mossadeq, as Prime Minister. The British threatened, moved warships around, closed the Abadan refinery, imposed economic sanctions, froze Iranian assets abroad and declared an oil embargo. As America does now.
The Americans did not support the British and sent an agent, Kermit Roosevelt, to prepare their own coup, under the name Operation AJAX. The English left him a network of Anglophiles and Mossadeq enemies, directed by the Rashidian brothers, importers of British goods, which demonstrated great skill in organizing street mobs. Under pressure, the Shah tried unsuccessfully to dismiss Mossadeq, in July 1952. By then, there was an alliance between the CIA and the M16 and the AJAX operation had been approved in June.
The CIA sent to Tehran, Mossadeq cartoons and posters and began a campaign to discredit the Mossadeq government. Articles on the Communist threat in Iran were planted in the local and international press. Intelligence networks were orchestrated and agents provocateurs or specialists in violence that could be attributed to the Communists were hired. Weapons were distributed to tribes. The police chief of Tehran was tortured and killed. The Grand Ayatollah launched fatwhas (condemnations) against the Communists.
On July 25, Kermitt Roosevelt, under the name of James F. Lochridge, reached Tehran with $100,000 in small Iranians bills. Americans chose General Fazlollah Zahedi to replace Mossadeq, in part because of his well-known little sympathy for the British and his anti-Communism. His son, Ardeshir had studied in the U.S. and served as liaison. The next step was to convince a shaky Shah – code name Boy Scout – to sign a decree appointing Zahedi as prime minister.
Mossadeq knew that there was a coup in the making and dissolved Mahlis to prevent the CIA from obtaining his removal through bribes. The Shah signed the decrees appointing Zahedi and sent them to Mossadeq, but Mossadeq, surrounded by loyal troops refused to recognize their authenticity, ordered the arrest of Zahedi and had Radio Tehran report the attempted coup. The Shah fled to Rome
Zahedi waited in a mountain resort. Roosevelt spread the news of the replacement of Mossadeq by Zahedi in the international press. The U.S. Embassy printed thousands of copies of the decrees and paid agents for their distribution. Mercenary mobs helped communist party Tudeh militants in demolishing statues of the Shah. On August 18, U.S. Ambassador Loy Henderson returned from Switzerland and asked Mossadeq to send home to his supporters who were demonstrating in the streets, because otherwise he would order the evacuation of all U.S. residents. Mossadeq fell into the trap and took his people from the streets.
On August 19, Iranian newspapers published the decrees of the Shah with Zahedi’s appointment. Troops loyal to the Shah escorted a mob organized by the Rashidian brothers. It was done in a quite original way: they put together a travelling circus that attracted people, while the actors shouted slogans in favour of the Shah and gave away ten rial bills. Elsewhere mercenary groups armed with clubs smashed the headquarters of the National Front and CIA agents glued portraits of the Shah on cars and walls.
In the afternoon the crowds occupied the Foreign Ministry and police headquarters. Even more important was the take over of the radio station and the central telegraph – Malaparte‘s doctrine - from where the uprising was acclaimed and the Shah exalted. Sherman tanks surrounded the seat of Mossadeq’s government, and he escaped through the roofs. The next day, Zahedi, went inside a tank to Radio Tehran where he proclaimed himself Prime Minister. The coup killed about three hundred people, according to the New York Times. Mobs hailed Zahedi, the Shah and shouted "America Zindabad" (Long live America).
Twenty years later the Shah was abandoned by the US when facing a religious uprising against his modernization policies; it was the first sign of a new US policy towards old allies.
Between one drink and another
In the second post-war, American conspiracies in the Near East were woven from the bar of the Hotel Saint George, in Beirut, according to memoirs of famous actors such as Miles Copeland (The Game Player). The thread was the trans-Arabic pipeline (Tapline) that should unite Aramco wells in Saudi Arabia with the Mediterranean. This resulted in an epidemic of military coups. In Syria, in 1949, there were three and another two in 1954 and 1970; in Egypt in 1952 and in 1956; in Iraq in 1958. With the Suez Canal crisis in 1956, Britain was left out of the Arab world. The United States created the Eisenhower Doctrine that assisted Arabs that resisted friendship with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt or the Soviet Union.
There were toasts to coups in other parts of the world. In Latin America, the most notorious ones were: Arbenz in Guatemala, Perón in Argentina, Vargas in Brazil, Arosemena in Ecuador, Goulart in Brazil, Rojas Pinilla in Colombia, Bosch in the Dominican Republic, Paz Estenssoro in Bolivia, Allende in Chile. In Asia, Africa and Europe there were also victims: Congo, South Korea, South Vietnam, Greece, Ghana, and Indonesia. The list is a very long.
The model of masses and media: the "coloured revolutions"
The implosion of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Marxism-Leninism, coincided with the global revolution of computers and the Internet. The new technology helps the rapid creation of texts, images, and immediate communication, as if it had been tailored to spread propaganda, while the axis of the technical capability and diffusion is in the United States. In essence, the idea is to mobilize masses identified with a colour, in the nation’s capital, in order to make a weak government flee. If it is a strong government, then pretexts can be created before world public opinion for a local or foreign military intervention. NGOs and the like are a complementary element, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, the Open Society Institute or USAID, which ideologically and technically prepare the leaders that carry out the coup and afterwards govern for their overlords.
The first coup of masses and press occurred in Moscow in 1993. An international press campaign made a hero of alcoholic Boris Yeltsin, who led a mob and a company of tanks, to shell the newly elected Russian Parliament. Yeltsin then named Anatoly Chubais as Chairman of the Committee on State Property, who sold state industries for pennies to buddies, such as the Yukos oil company, which was worth $70 billion and was bought by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for $360 million.
In 2002, in Venezuela, there was a short-lived coup attempt against President Hugo Chavez. The opposition, demolished in the last election, called to protest in the streets. The crowd was infiltrated by agents provocateurs to incite violent repression. In the absence of repression, snipers killed several protesters. It was the pretext for a group of military officers to arrest the President. A provisional government lasted only two days because other garrisons did not support the coup and an angry crowd ran on downtown Caracas, demanding the return of President Chavez.
In 2003, the first colour revolution took place in Georgia, to overthrow Eduard Shevardnadze the last Soviet foreign minister and President of Georgia. Elections had been held on November 2. On November 22, the defeated parties convened to protest outside the building where on the 23rd the new parliament should meet. Earlier on the 20th, a TV station repeatedly broadcasted a documentary about the protests in Belgrade in 2000, organized by Otpor, a student group that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic. Days before, people from Otpor gave classes for three days on how to bring down a government to over a thousand students in Tbilisi; the expenses were borne by the Open Society Institute, of George Soros. On the 23rd, police guarded the parliament building while activist groups distributed thousands of roses to protesters, a hint of previous organization. It was then when Mihail Saakashvili, a Georgian lawyer from New York, entered without opposition with a group of activists and took over the Parliament. There was complicity: Tedo Japaridze, head of the National Security Council under Shevardnadze became his Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In November 2004, Viktor Yanukovych won elections in Ukraine. His rival, Viktor Yushchenko, had the support of the Ukrainian media. After his defeat, the Georgian operation was repeated. Fraud was claimed and a mob paraded through the streets of Kiev, with orange flags, giving roses: the orange revolution. The media amplified the turmoil and under international pressure, the Supreme Court overturned the previous election.
The Arab Spring
In 2011, news of rebellions in the Arab countries had Hollywood overtones. The narrative of the press was the same. Young people communicate online, protest in the squares, fight the police, the tyrant flees, tyranny collapses and there is a call for elections. The villain was a character with decades in power and a few months to live, which was a good time to replace him. It was called the "jasmine revolution"; the Arabic version of the coloured revolutions.
There were a couple of villains who did not know their script: in Libya and Syria. Facts were invented to tell about attacks on peaceful protests, which then became armed rebellions deserving humanitarian support, with bombs and missiles. The "responsibility to protect" as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed. In Libya, in Benghazi, the rebellion was armed from the very start and sponsored by Frenchman Bernard- Henry Levy. In Syria, with elections held just before, there was a protest in which demonstrators and policemen were killed by snipers. Both countries were attacked by armed Salafi mercenaries, funded and armed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia and supported by NATO: a foreign intervention disguised as civil war. In Libya, after bombing for six months, NATO succeeded and delivered the government to Al-Qaeda & Co. - chaos rules there now. Syria is safe from the bombs of NATO through the reluctance of Britain, and the Russian and Chinese veto in the Security Council, plus 13 warships from both countries that protect the Syrian coast.
The current revolts in Ukraine and Venezuela
Ukraine: Viktor Yanukovych, stripped of victory in 2004, won the 2010 elections over Yushchenko, who took 10% of the vote. First, the conviction for misappropriation of Yulia Tymoshenko, who had been his Prime Minister, caused social unrest. Now there are new protests in Kiev. The International press narrative about the protests says they are due to the rejection by the Ukrainian government of an offer of partnership with the European Union. But the text of the agreement is not public and it would be difficult to read and understand its dense legal pages. By the name, EPA, it is the same type of deal that the EU signed with Central America and offers South American and African countries.
In Ukraine, as in the Near East, the idea is to exasperate and profit from religious and cultural differences to change governments and impose friendly political leaders: divide et impera. The split in Ukraine is there since World War II. Stalin moved Poland to the west, on German territory, but expelled the German population. Ukraine received Polish territory to the west, but did not expel the Poles. For that reason there is a minority in Ukraine that speaks Polish and is Catholic; while the majority is Orthodox and speaks Russian. It must be remembered that Ukraine is the origin of Russia. The Russ, a Viking people, first created the Kingdom of Kiev and from there it spread to the east and south, in what is now Russia.
In Ukraine the intention is to repeat the Orange Revolution, but with guns. In any country, active and public intervention of Europeans and Americans encouraging turmoil would be unacceptable. The immediate goal of such intromission is "regime change", as Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, admitted at a meeting of the National Press Club, sponsored by Chevron, when she said that the United States has already invested $5 billion encouraging unrest in Ukraine. The name of the puppet to impose, Arseny Iatseniouk, surfaced in a conversation with US ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, which was intercepted.
By now, protests are already armed insurrection against an unarmed police, so they shot and wounded 105 policemen and killed 35. That forced the government to equip the police with weapons for self-defence. The Ukrainian government estimates that at the center of Kiev there are about 5000 foreign activists trained to unleash violence. Many come from Moldova, according to Transdniestria press, others from Poland. Russia should support Ukraine firmly against the interference of NATO countries in Ukrainian affairs.
Venezuela: Last December 8, in Venezuela, there were elections for municipal councils, which the opposition (MUD) wanted to make a referendum on the contested legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro. MUD drew a disappointing 42.2 % of the vote. It is unexpected that after a recent and contrary result, the opposition invades the streets to demand the resignation of the president.
It is true that in Venezuela there are serious security, supply and fiscal solvency problems, which remain unresolved. It is true that the continued presence in government of the same people who failed to solve them is a bad omen for a prompt and effective solution. People don’t want explanations, they want results. But it is also true that the government had a recent confirmation of its electoral support and street power.
Protests and demonstrations by the opposition have a goal admitted by its own leaders: regime change. The Venezuelan constitution offers the possibility of a mid-term recall referendum and regime change can be done with impeccable democratic legality. It is an impatient opposition tantrum – or from their overlords – that do not want to wait to do it by legal means. It is always illegal to overthrow an elected government and they risk being accused of causing deaths with totally out of place riots, not to mention the exhausting loss of time and money.
The technique used in Venezuela is similar to other recent coups: A press campaign with exaggerations, fed with unverified messages; lies sown in social networks; selective interviews in the international press; alarm for supposed violence expressed by some governments; photo-shopped mass protests, for propaganda purposes. All aimed at creating an international opinion favourable to a "humanitarian" intervention. Fortunately till now there are only nine deaths, between opposition activists, policemen, chavistas and passer-bys. With that figure, deplorable but low in casualties, reporting a savage repression is not credible enough to invoke the protection of the Marines. There has been a very indicative change of stereotypes during the attempted coup. In socialist municipalities there is normality and calm; in liberal opposition municipalities, there is turmoil and hate-speech.
Conclusions and precautions
Techniques for coups or regime change evolve. Computers and public media today are very effective weapons of war. The countries that want to keep their independence should create and maintain partnerships with technical mastery in both, to effectively defend sovereignty and national or regional interests. They must also develop teams of people with cultural capacity to grasp the important facts, understand their sense and anticipate, capable of analyzing information in all major languagesand to use those languages to transmit compelling messages. Journalists, analysts and diplomats must be trained to be competent, worldly and interesting. Not all independent countries have the same capacity, and therefore should be open to alliances and open the ranks to those who can make improvements in the efficiency of their management.
To prevent coups by the work of trained minorities, governments must a) have mass support organized to neutralize mercenary mobs; b) keep security on public services (electricity, transport, TV, radio, telephone, water, etc.); c ) have a means to spread the true version of news; d ) monitor activities of foreign associations in the country; e) monitor the inflow of funds from abroad to national groups. Vis pacem, para bellum.