by Prof. James Petras
They are rewarded with the outward symbols of authority and financial handouts, even as it is understood that they hold their position only at the tolerance of their imperial superiors.
Imperial collaborators are referred to,
Puppet rulers have a long and ignoble history during the 20th century.
Subsequent to US invasions in Central America and the Caribbean a whole string of bloody puppet dictators were put in power to implement policies favorable to US corporations and banks and to back US regional dominance.
...and a host of other
tyrants served to safeguard imperial military and economic interests, while
plundering the economies and ruling with an iron fist.
“Late” imperial countries like Japan set up puppet
regimes in Manchuria and Germany promoted the Vichy puppets in occupied
France and the Quisling regime in Norway.
Faced with the enormous costs of reconstruction in Europe and Japan and domestic mass movements opposed to continuing colonial wars, the US and Europe sought to retain their economic holdings, military bases via ‘political collaborators’.
They would assume administrative, military and
political responsibilities, forging new links between the formally
independent country and their old and new imperial masters. The economic and
military institutional continuities between colonial and post-colonial
regimes were defined as ‘neo-colonialism’.
military-police-administrative apparatus was perceived by imperial rulers as
the best guarantor of the emerging order, given the fragility of
neo-colonial rulership, their narrow base of appeal and the demands of the
masses for substantive socio-economic structural changes to accompany
The latter became the bases for the non-aligned movements.
Outright ‘colonial settler regimes’ (South Africa, Israel/Palestine, Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe) were the exception. Complex “associations”, depending on the specific power relations between empire and local elites, generally increased income, trade and investments for the decolonized newly independent countries.
Independence created an
internal dynamic based on large scale state intervention and a mixed
The newly independent radical regimes in the former Portuguese colonies, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and the nationalist regimes and movements in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Latin America were severely weakened by the collapse of the USSR and China’s conversion to capitalism. The US appeared as the sole ‘superpower’ without a military and economic counterweight.
US and European military and economic
empire builders saw an opportunity to exploit natural resources, expropriate
thousands of public enterprises, build a network of military bases and
recruit new mercenary armies to extend imperial dominance.
important: with the demise of the USSR and China/Indo-China’s conversion to
capitalism, what ideology or even ‘argument’ would serve to justify the
powerful thrust of post-colonial, empire building?
Colonial Revivalism and Contemporary Puppetry
Western imperialism’s recovery from the defeats during the national independence struggles (1945-1970’s) included the massive rebuilding of a new imperial order.
With the collapse of the USSR, the incorporation of
Eastern Europe as imperial satellites and the subsequent conversion of
radical nationalists (Angola, Mozambique etc.) to kleptocrat free
marketers, a powerful thrust was given to White House visions of unlimited
dominance, based on projections of uncontested unilateral military power.
Corresponding to the pillage and the concentration of a unipolar
military power, a group of ultra-militarists, so-called neo-conservatives
ideologue, deeply imbued with the Israeli colonial mentality entered into
the strategic decision-making positions in Washington, with tremendous
leverage in European spheres of power - especially in England .
quick and low cost victories, confirmed and hardened the beliefs of the
neo-conservative and neo-liberal ideologues that empire building was the
inevitable wave of the future. Only an appropriate political trigger was
necessary to mobilize the financial and human resources to pursue the new
military driven empire.
The US invasion and occupation of Iraq
led to the regroupment of Islamic, nationalist and trade union anti-colonial
forces and prolonged armed and civil resistance movements.
The latter sanctioned sustained
violations of sovereignty by US warplanes (“drones” and piloted), commando
operations and the large scale mobilization of the Pakistan military for US
counter-insurgency operations displacing millions of Pakistan ‘tribal’
They were actively and passively opposed by the vast majority of the population. No sooner were the colonial civil officials imposed by force of arms and efforts began to administer the country then passive popular and sporadic armed resistance emerged. The colonial officials were seen for what they were: an alien, exploitative, presence.
Treasuries were looted, the
entire economy was paralyzed, elementary services (water, electricity,
sewage systems, etc.) did not function, and millions were uprooted. The wars
and occupations radically decimated the pre-colonial society and the
colonial officials were hard pressed to create a replacement.
Those willing to
serve lacked even a modicum of popular acceptance.
At the pinnacle of the parallel regimes were the puppet rulers, each certified by the CIA for their loyalty, servility and willingness to sustain imperial supremacy over the occupied people.
They obeyed Washington ’s demands to privatize public
enterprises and supported Pentagon recruitment of a mercenary army under
In Iraq, US
colonial officials in consultation with the White House and the CIA chose Nouri al Maliki as the “Prime Minister” based on his zealous “hands on”
engagement in torturing resistance fighters suspected of attacking US
Zardari emptied the Pakistani treasury and mobilized
millions of soldiers to assault and displace frontier population centers
sympathetic to the Afghan resistance.
Nouri al Maliki has over the past 5 years, not only justified the US occupation but actively promoted the assassination and torture of thousands of anti-colonial activists and resistance fighters. He has sold billion dollar oil and gas concessions to overseas oil companies. He has presided over the theft (‘disappearance’ or “unaccountable”) of billions of dollars in oil revenues and US foreign aid (squeezed from US tax payers).
Hamid Karzai, who has rarely ventured out of the presidential compound without his US Marine bodyguards, has been ineffective in gathering even token support except through his extended family. His main prop was narco warlord brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, killed by his CIA certified Chief of Security.
Since Karzai’s domestic support is extremely narrow, his main functions include attending external donors meetings, issuing press statements and rubber stamping each increase (“surge”) in US troops. The intensified use of Special Forces death squads and drone warplanes, inflicting high civilian casualties, has further enraged Afghans.
The entire civilian and military apparatus nominally under Karzai is unquestionably, penetrated by Taliban and other nationalist
groups, making him totally dependent on the US troops and warlords and drug
traffickers on the CIA payroll.
Under orders from the White House to escalate the war against Taliban sanctuaries and their Pakistan armed allies, Zardari has lost all credibility as a ‘national’ politician. He has outraged nationalist loyalties by ‘covertly’ approving US gross violations of sovereignty by allowing US Special Forces to operate from Pakistan bases in their murderous operations against local Islamic militants.
The daily US drone bombing of civilians in villages, on highways and in markets has led to a near universal consensus of his puppet status. While puppet rulers provide a useful façade for external propaganda purposes, their effectiveness diminishes to zero domestically, as their subservience before the imperial slaughter of non-combatants increases.
The initial imperial propaganda ploy portraying the puppets as “associate” or “power-sharers” loses credibility as it becomes transparent that the puppet rulers are impotent to rectify imperial abuses. This is especially the case with pervasive human rights violations and the destruction of the economy.
Foreign aid is widely perceived as nurturing widespread extortion,
corruption and incompetent administration of basic services.
puppets begin to “talk back’ to the puppet-masters, attempting to play to
the vast chorus of mass indignation over the most egregious occupation
crimes against humanity. The colonial occupation begins to sink, under the
weight of one-billion-dollars-per-week expenditures from depleted
treasuries. The token troop withdrawals signal the growing importance and
dependence on a highly suspect ‘native’ mercenary force, causing the puppets
increasingly to fear for loss of office and life.
No abandoning the protection of the imperial Praetorian Guard or, ‘god forbid’, the latest tranche of foreign aid.
It’s an opportune time for Ali Zardari to criticize the US military intrusion, killing Bin Laden; time for Al Maliki to call on the US to “honor” its troop withdrawal in Iraq; time for Karzai to welcome the Afghan military takeover of a province of least resistance (Bamiyan).
Are the puppets in some sort of ‘revolt’ against the puppet master?
Washington apparently is annoyed: $800 million in aid to Pakistan has been held up pending greater military and intelligence collaboration in scourging the countryside and cities in search of Islamic resistance fighters.
The Taliban assassination of Karzai’s
brother and top political adviser Jan Mohamed Khan, important assets in
buttering the puppet regime, signals that the puppet rulers’ occasional
critical emotional ejaculations are not resonating with the Taliban “shadow
government” which covers the nation and prepares a new military offensive.
The colonial example of Israel, a narrow strip of arid coastline, remains an anomaly in a sea of independent Islamic and secular states. Efforts by its US advocates to reproduce Israel’s relative consolidation through wars, occupations and puppet regimes has instead led to the bankruptcy of the US and the collapse of the colonial state.
Puppets will be in flight; troops are in retreat; flags will be lowered and a period of prolonged civil war is in the offering.
Can a democratic social revolution replace puppets and puppet masters? We in the United States live in a time of profound and deepening crises, in which rightwing extremism has penetrated the highest office and has seized the initiative for now but hopefully not forever.
colonial wars are coming to a close, are domestic wars on the horizon?