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Toni Solo: Disappearing Nicaragua

Disappearing Nicaragua : Richard Rorty meets Serpico

by Toni Solo, July 19th 2010

July 19th this year was the 31st anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua. It also marked three and a half years of steady and important economic, social and cultural advances as well as improvements in civil and political rights under the FSLN government of President Daniel Ortega. (1) But this broad and deep change for the better in Nicaragua has been erased from international media coverage.

Nicaragua a target in the regional crisis

Across the political spectrum, in tune with false US State Department propaganda, reporting on Nicaragua is almost uniformly hostile to the country's Sandinista government. Opinions that contradict the anti-FSLN consensus get suppressed. Now, almost exactly a year after the military coup in Honduras, Costa Rica's legislature has authorized the presence in that country of 10,000 US marines and the use of Costa Rican ports by over 40 US Navy vessels including vessels designed for launching amphibious assault operations.

At the same time, Colombia's government has begun to assign maritime oil and gas exploration rights in sea areas currently disputed under international legal proceedings brought by Nicaragua. All that broad context of military and diplomatic menace is very similar to what the United States has orchestrated against the government of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. But whereas US moves against Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela get at least some coverage in the corporate and alternative media, the military encirclement of Nicaragua has barely been reported.

It is as though Nicaragua has disappeared except when served up as unrecognizable media fodder to stuff the propaganda consensus of the US State Department and a broad range of media against progressive governments in Latin America. Those governments - Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela - have broken the dead hand choke-hold of US and European political and economic domination. That is why President Obama is setting a provocative foreign policy scene in Central America and the Caribbean, just as he and his foreign policy team have done in the Persian Gulf, along the borders of Russia and in Korea.

Power and complicity

In proportion to the decline of their economic power, the United States' elites and their European and Pacific allies are deploying their countries' military power ever more aggressively to maintain their global dominance. To carry out that deployment they need to deceive and brainwash their countries' peoples – as they did over Iraq and Afghanistan - into accepting the massive criminality such military aggression involves. For President Obama and his duplicitous militarist accomplices, a satisfactory alternative to outright approval of their criminality is dumb complicity.

President Obama's spectacular capacity for double-speak and double-think perpetuates the long intellectual and moral subjection of US governments to elite interests. They habitually dress it up as the-best-that-can-be-done. President Obama's handling of the Honduran coup was a fine demonstration of his and Hillary Clinton's double-dealing, disingenuous PR skills. Their plausibility derives intellectually from US pragmatism, just as the glossy credibility of Tony Blair's neoliberal New Labour makeover derived largely from European post-modernist mind ballet and word play.

Blair and Obama front for corrupt political, military, industrial, commercial and financial elites that take double standards for granted. They proclaim a war on terror when they themselves promote terror ruthlessly around the world. Of that, US and European promotion of terrorism against Iran and the US government's protection of CIA super-terrorist Luis Posada Carriles are only the most obvious examples.

They let the global majority starve and die of preventable diseases to save a few tens of billions of dollars, but supply trillions of dollars to rescue corrupt, failed banks and financial conglomerates. They declare a “war on drugs”, but protect corrupt narcotics-linked governments, like those in Afghanistan or Colombia, and permit US banks to launder the proceeds. The recent case against US banks laundering money from narcotics (2) made clearer than ever that international financial markets depend significantly for their liquidity on laundering money from drugs and other lucrative criminal activities.

In a recent judgment, Goldman Sachs was fined over US$500 million for fraudulently misrepresenting a security it sold to unwary investors. It was merely the latest case in a long history of similar cases revealing Wall Street criminality. The chronic US and European securities and debt valuation crisis, turning the Federal Reserve's and the European Central Bank's balance sheets into fairy tales out of the Brothers Grimm, mirrors corporate market capitalism's moral and intellectual crisis.

Liberal scepticism as alibi

Peerless phoneys like Barack Obama and Tony Blair spin their wrongdoing based on the hubristic arrogance that their societies represent the pinnacle of human development. Their concept of the West's civilizing mission used to justify their crimes against the world's peoples differs little from the excuses used by genocidal colonialist forebears like Theodore Roosevelt or Lord Curzon. Grafted onto their atavistic colonialist mentality is the post-modernist pragmatic ideological argot that reality is what you make it - damn any US founding fathers' “decent respect for the opinions of mankind”.

Similarly convinced that contemporary United States society represents the best humanity has managed to achieve, the very influential writer Richard Rorty advocated most elegantly and eloquently the merits of the pragmatic and post-modernist intellectual traditions. His approach to various questions comes across cogently in a video discussion with the analytical philosopher Donald Davidson. (2) During their exchange, Rorty casually remarks that when in Europe he tends to defend US pragmatism, while, in the US, he tends to defend European post-modernism.

If one goes looking for where black-face-white-mask President Barack Obama's shape-shiftiness comes from, the kind of thinking advocated by eminent intellectuals like Richard Rorty may not be a bad place to start. Raffish scepticism and the high value placed on ironic redescription make fine intellectual getaway vehicles. The effort to evade moral relativism by an appeal to solidarity and the eschewal of cruelty comes as an unconvincing, unenforceable afterthought.

In any case, the proliferation of varieties of solidarity and cruelty drive the discussion down into the footnotes of liberal humanism's disintegration as an alibi for the hypocrisy and sadism of its practical imperialist expression. An ironic correspondence exists between Hegel's admiration for Prussia and Rorty's loyal admiration for the United States. Ever since the epoch of slavery and genocide, the United States and Canada, and their European and Pacific allies have always depended on their military and economic power to get what they need to guarantee their privileged existence from weaker, resource-rich peoples and countries.

Setting up Nicaragua, again

Nicaragua's history of resistance to that kind of foreign domination and interference continues to this day and explains why it is a target of US government displeasure. The country's next presidential elections are scheduled for November 2011. Currently all the opinion polls assume that the FSLN will run Daniel Ortega for re-election and that he will beat even a united opposition, heavily supported as they are by President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Even right-wing opposition polls show Daniel Ortega winning by a modest margin, the sandinista polls by a larger one.

Given that, the US-supported opposition have just two ways to defeat the FSLN in those presidential elections. One option – the current one - is to try dragging the country into institutional chaos, making the elections impossible. The other option is to create a polarizing climate of fear that a vote for the FSLN will risk war. Both options are well served by the militarization of the region achieved by the army-backed coup in Honduras and the US deployment of marines and warships in Costa Rica.

The prequel to whatever scenario is being set up by the State Department and its local allies in Central America was the fake make-your-own-reality outcry about imaginary electoral fraud in the 2008 municipal elections. That has been followed up by a persistent campaign of calumny accusing the electoral authorities of being corrupt and Daniel Ortega himself of being a dictator worse than the bloodthirsty Anastasio Somoza. Taking their lead from the US State Department, right wing opposition politicians, most of whom supported the fascist coup in Honduras, invariably describe themselves, ridiculously, as the “democratic opposition” and the FSLN government as a “dictatorship”.

Inside Nicaragua, only a forlorn elite minority buys that incoherent propaganda fantasy. The routine daily facts contradict it constantly. But outside Nicaragua, the grotesque absurdity of that rhetoric is lost because the corporate media and much of what passes for progressive media tends to echo the State Department script. Self-regarding phonies on the neocolonial Left have shown they are more than ready to string along with false US State Department propaganda.

The facts of the FSLN government's overwhelmingly positive record in Nicaragua are beyond dispute. They entirely contradict the Obama-speak declarations of US diplomats and the counterfactual nonsense of blatant propaganda outlets like the Wall Street Journal. In Nicaragua, opinion polls show that leading Nicaraguan opposition figures are as discredited as the national and international media that try to puff them up.

In current polls, the political movements of former FSLN leaders like Dora Maria Tellez, Sergio Ramirez, Monica Baltodano, Victor Tirado Lopez, Luis Carrion or Henry Ruiz barely register, with levels of support at around 2%. Last week, two of Nicaragua's most prominent business leaders condemned the opposition's failure to define policy and their counterproductive dependence on an unconvincing fear campaign.

Those business leaders want the kind of stable economic conditions delivered by the FSLN government's programme, oriented towards stimulating domestic production and meeting social needs. Nicaraguan society from top to bottom recognizes the impressive achievements of President Daniel Ortega's FSLN government across the board. So, for the Nicaraguan opposition to have a fighting chance in the 2011 elections, destabilization is the only option likely to work. That is the most likely explanation for the US government's militarization of Costa Rica.

The Serpico effect

Daniel Ortega's FSLN government's success has highlighted their enemies' failings. By comparison, the US and the European Union look incompetent and out of touch. President Ortega and his colleagues have tried to do the right thing and they have done it well. They have radically transformed Nicaragua's productive capacity, which has involved initiating and sustaining revolutionary social improvements. But paradoxically their success has failed to generate enthusiastic support among international progressive opinion.

President Ortega and his colleagues find themselves in a similar situation to the honest New York cop Frank Serpico, trying to do the right thing in a hostile environment. What Serpico's colleagues did was set him up in life threatening situations and then leave him without support to get cut down by the bad guys. That is exactly the attitude of moderately progressive regional governments like those of Mauricio Funes in El Salvador, or of Alvaro Colom in Guatemala. Similarly, ostensibly progressive people and political movements in North America and Europe sympathise with former FSLN leaders who now work closely with the Nicaraguan right wing and the US embassy.

Those progressive classes and movements may recognize the FSLN government's achievements in Nicaragua, but for their own reasons – network self-preservation, class solidarity and economic self-interest – they play dumb. They have more to lose than to gain by openly supporting President Ortega's FSLN government against the forces that want to destroy it. They would rather ironically re-describe a contingent Serpico getting carried into the ambulance than tell the truth about their miserable failure to back him up.

A little over a year remains before the elections in Nicaragua. If they happen as scheduled, events in Colombia and Venezuela may well have worked to create a climate of extreme fear in the region that will heavily favour the US government-supported Nicaraguan opposition. If, as Fidel Castro and many others fear, crisis breaks out in either Iran or Korea, the fallout may even see Nicaragua fall victim to some variety of US military aggression. People in genuine solidarity with Central America's majority are already working overtime to defend the regional progress ALBA and Nicaragua's FSLN government have made possible to date.

1. Jorge Capelan has summarised the FSLN government's achievements since January 2007 -

2. Banks Financing Mexico Drug Gangs Admitted in Wells Fargo Deal, By Michael Smith, Bloomberg, June 29th 2010,
3. Richard Rorty in conversation with Donald Davidson - Part 1 of 6,


Toni writes for Tortilla con Sal

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