By Atilio A. Boron – Feb 7, 2023
The list of blundering diagnostic errors and outbursts of all kinds contained in that book is phenomenal. So too is his lack of understanding of today’s world and the challenges that beset the empire.
Reading Mike Pompeo’s memoir, Never give an inch, I couldn’t help but compare him to the figure and personality traits of another Italian-American celebrity: Al Capone. And not only because of a certain physical resemblance and the common Italian ancestry of both characters. In effect, Pompeo’s great-grandparents arrived in the United States in 1899, the year in which, precisely, Al Capone was born in Brooklyn.
The gangster’s parents had arrived a few decades earlier in the country of which Mike Pompeo would later be Director of the CIA and Secretary of State of the Trump Administration, apart from the captain of his army (like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil) and member of the House of Representatives of the United States for the fourth district of Kansas. The similarities between one and the other do not end there: the bullying and bullying style, that air of forgiveness, is common to both characters, and both are clearly reflected in his book. This is limited to compiling a catalog of self-celebratory anecdotes that punctuate his public life as a United States’ government official, which have the virtue of reflecting (and justifying, with pride!) the crimes and outrages that in the name of freedom and democracy Washington perpetrates all over the world. That is, in my opinion, the main interest aroused by this work that also shows the more than modest dimensions, we would say millimeter thickness, of the thoughts of its protagonist on the international scene and the role of his country in the violation of what José Martí wisely called “the balance of the world.” I confess that at times I felt a sudden shudder run through my body when I realized that this character from the underworld of world politics was one of the most influential men on the planet.
The book undoubtedly has a paradoxical merit for its author: confirming what all critics of imperialism have been denouncing for decades. Washington’s systematic intervention in third countries, the appeal to blackmail and violence (wars, sabotages, or assassinations) to achieve the objectives of the United States’ foreign policy, its total lack of respect for international law, and the impunity and cover up of Washington outrages. Iran, China and Russia, North Korea, Syria, and Lebanon appear (in that order) as subjects of a sick obsession in its pages.
Throughout the book, Pompeo unleashes his prejudices, arrogance, and conviction that American society is infinitely superior, in every way, to any other country in the world. In this sense, Joe Biden is exactly the same: in Foreign Affairs magazine (March-April 2020) he described Vladimir Putin as the head of a gang of thieves and Xi Jinping as the “capo” of an immense concentration camp in which it subjects millions of Chinese to forced labor, the basis of Chinese competitiveness according to the crazy analysis of the current occupant of the White House.
Returning to the book, I will allow myself to briefly reproduce some passages that illustrate the felonies committed during his tenure in the Donald Trump government and the very modest intellectual thickness of its author. Of Fidel, one of the great statesmen of world reach, who filled the second half of the twentieth century with his presence and his chair, he says that he was only “a failed baseball player!” It is difficult to find a more rude and ignorant character than this Pompeo, whose stature, and that of his bosses, does not even come close to Fidel’s heels. Later he ratifies that “Cuba is important for US national security. It is another foothold for America’s adversaries, and its regime is one of the cruelest in the world. We wanted to impose costs on them, the exact opposite of the Obama administration’s failed idea of rapprochement.” The same story regarding Syria, which, according to Pompeo, is run by an “Iran-backed dictator, Bashar al-Assad, who had invited Russia to the neighborhood and used chemical weapons on his own people… Half of the Syrian people were either living as refugees in places such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq, as well as Germany or were displaced inside their own country, creating massive threats to Europe and the region.”
That is the reason why for Pompeo, Syria is a vital country for America’s national security. More specifically, he argues that “I believe that President Obama’s refusal to enforce his own “redline” in Syria in 2013 helped convince Putin that annexing Crimea in 2014 would come with relatively little cost.” By the same token Lebanon which is regarded as a “proxy” of Iran, and the memories of the “terrorist attack that killed and wounded hundreds of US Marines in their barracks in Beirut,” Lebanon is quite vivid in Pompeo’s book and that country, Lebanon, perceived as intimately associated with terrorism. Let us hear what he said in this book: “Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more.”
In Latin America, Venezuela is another of Pompeo’s obsessions. Thus, for example, he tells us that “At one point (April 30, 2019) it seemed that Maduro was preparing to flee the country, with a plane waiting to take him to Havana. I went into the television and urged him to get on it. But the Russians had pounced on him. Our information indicated that Maduro was persuaded by the Russians to stand his ground.” Later he had said that “After investigating Guaidó, we decided that we could run with him. In the months that followed, the United States mounted a pressure campaign on the Maduro regime in concert with our allies. We have imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company and seized diplomatic property in Washington to hand over to the legitimate government led by Guaidó. In January 2019, and again in January 2020, I spoke at the Organization of American States to rally support against Maduro.”
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“Historically the OAS was an anti-American and leftist (sic!!!) organization, but now under the excellent leadership of Secretary General Luis Almagro, OAS members have supported our efforts,” and further on he writes that “in the Trump administration we could not tolerate a nation just 1,400 miles from Florida rolling out the welcome mat for Russia, China, Iran, Cuba and the drug cartels in a century-old violation of the Monroe Doctrine… In view of the 2018 elections… we believed we had the opportunity to help the Venezuelan people recover their country from “a dictator.” By supporting the opposition and putting financial pressure on Maduro, we hoped to right the Venezuelan ship and force their way out. We hoped to make life so miserable for the regime that Maduro and his thugs would have to cut a deal with the opposition. If Maduro wanted to live in a Swiss castle for the rest of his life, we were willing to let him, as long as Venezuela could return to normality. At various times, President Trump, John Bolton, and I have suggested the military option for Venezuela. None of us wanted to publicly take such an important means of lobbying off the table.” Do remember: regime change requires make life so miserable to the people to they will, sooner or later, overthrow their nasty governments. This is the recipe for Cuba and Venezuela, but also for Iran, Syria, Lebanon and all the “enemies” of the so-called Western civilization.
The list of blundering diagnostic errors and outbursts of all kinds contained in that book is phenomenal. So too is his lack of understanding of today’s world and the challenges that beset the empire. But in itself, this work constitutes a rich source for studying the ignorance, brutality and arrogance of the American ruling class, and its perverse immorality. It’s true: Pompeo’s successors don’t have the same mobster manners. Antony Blinken is more dapper as befits a gentleman who went through Harvard and Columbia, but politically his policies are no less brutal than those of his predecessor. Sure, Biden is not Trump, but he has continued with his policies of tightening the blockade against Cuba amidst of the pandemic and keeping those measures practically unchanged to this day. Pompeo and Blinken are, deep down, grim administrators of an empire that wants to confront its inexorable decline with violence.
I end by returning to the comparison between Pompeo and Capone. Two phrases that are attributed to the gangster struck me because they are accurate in describing the foreign policy of the United States: one is the one that says that “I have built my organization on fear.” Now American ideologues call it “soft power,” but it’s another way of thinking about and managing fear. The sword of the military, Vargas Llosa dixit, is replaced by the media hitman and lawfare. The other, even more appropriate to define American diplomacy, is what Capone expressed when he said that “you get further with a smile and a gun than just a smile.” Smiling and kind gunslingers who visit us almost daily and who, as history teaches, they do not hesitate for a second to pull the trigger to get rid of their adversaries. In short: read the book and verify, with Pompeo’s involuntary confessions, the infinite evil of the empire.
Atilio A. Borón is a Harvard Graduate professor of political theory at the University of Buenos Aires and was executive secretary of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO). He has published widely in several languages a variety of books and articles on political theory and philosophy, social theory, and comparative studies on the capitalist development in the periphery. He is an international analyst, writer and journalist and profoundly Latinoamerican.
Atilio Borón#molongui-disabled-linkSeptember 4, 2022
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