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The United States Legacy of Violent Interference: A Response to Jennifer Ruben’s Dismissive Tweet

Flags wave as delegates stand and chant during the last day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 28, 2016. (Clem Murray/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

During the democratic debate on Feb. 25, Bernie Sanders mentioned how the U.S. government has a long and a dark history of overthrowing foreign governments and democracies in order to install U.S. friendly military and far-right regimes, especially in Central and South America. In response to this, Jennifer Rubin, an opinion writer for the Washington Post and MSNBC contributor, tweeted this:

Let me be clear, the U.S. doesn’t just overthrow governments that dare threaten U.S. corporate interests, they also install U.S. friendly regimes that oppress people, trample over human rights, and kill dissenters. The U.S. government is a historic sponsor of militarism, imperlialism, and genocide. This is not a matter of debate, this is a historical fact and is, or should be, common knowledge. There isn’t a single inhabited continent on this planet that has not felt the horrible consequences of American Imperialism.

It is worth noting that I am not an impartial observer in all of this. I am, however, in something of an interesting position. I am both a U.S. citizen, and a citizen of Brazil, a nation who was the target of one of the U.S. backed coups in 1964. 

My mother is from the Midwest and I was born in Grand Rapids, but I received Brazilian citizenship through my father, and I was raised primarily in the south Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. I am both fully American and fully Brazilian, and my home is both here in the U.S. and back in Brazil where I was raised. If that sounds complicated, it’s only because it is. Regardless, my point is that I take personal grievance to Jennifer Rubin’s dismissal of U.S. imperialism.

In 1961, João Goulart, a member of the Partido dos Trabalhadores do Brasil or PTB (Brazilian Workers’ Party), became president of Brazil. He faced staunch resistance from conservatives within the government and the politically powerful military. In 1964, after proposing reforms targeted at helping the poor and nationalizing resources, he was deposed in a military coup and the military took power within the government. This coup was funded and supported by the U.S. government and the U.S. military. Goulart had been increasing Brazil’s diplomatic ties between communist nations and his reforms threatened to harm the profits of U.S. corporations and the U.S. government’s economic influence over Brazil, and so the U.S. had him removed. This egregious assault on Brazilian autonomy would be bad enough on its own, but the U.S. government’s crimes do not stop there. Following the coup, the U.S. government helped to instigate, support, and actively participated in the Military Dictatorship’s reign of terror that lasted 20 years. A reign of terror in which political dissenters and leftists “disappeared” and torture was standard bureaucratic business. A reign of terror in which the indegonous people groups of Brazil were violently stripped of their land and the target of numerous attrocities as a part of a blatent attempt at genocide. A reign of terror that Brazil has yet to fully recover from or get over. 

Millions dead, all for the sake of U.S. influence and interests.

Sadly, this is not a unique story. The U.S. has done this same thing to the majority of countries in Central and South America, and has done similar, sometimes even more violent, things to countries all over the world. It was all a standard part of U.S. foreign policy during the cold war, and the sad reality is that it still is a part of this nation’s foreign policy. This is still something the U.S. government does.

Jennifer Rubin would have you pretend that that’s not true. Jennifer Rubin would like Americans to ignore our country’s past and current transgressions and pretend like this country is blameless. This is a disgusting and dangerous attempt to dismiss the U.S. government’s crimes against humanity as unimportant and to warp history into a more patriotic-friendly fairy tale. 

Jennifer Ruben would wipe clean from the face of the earth the stories of those who have suffered under a century of U.S. interference and imperialism.

I know this, because as much as I would love to be able to pretend that a writer for the Washington Post was just somehow unaware of such a major part of her country’s history, I know the reality is somehow far worse than that. She knew, but she still dismissed Sanders’s claims and acted like him even mentioning the truth was somehow crazy or a bad thing. Her tweet appears to be an active attempt to obscure the truth and continue the trend of many Americans being ignorant of their own country’s crimes. An ignorance that is not the result of the information being hidden or hard to find (this is all a matter of public record), but rather an ignorance born out of the dark parts of American culture that seeks to dismiss the suffering of fellow humans who are seen as nothing more than others, foreigners unworthy of attention. This is the culture that Jennifer Ruben was promoting with her tweet.