Allan Nairn

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Allen Nairn
For years, I’ve been documenting how many of the senior Democrats are complicit in war crimes, how they belong in prison. But we are now in an emergency situation in which there is a huge, fundamental difference between the Democrats and the Republicans at this moment. The Republicans would abolish democracy...They have to rig the system so they can stay in power, as their minority of votes diminishes over time....
And there are many good Democratic candidates in this election, people who, in one way or another, will represent a breakthrough for social justice, who all have essentially pledged to support Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, Medicaid, when the Republicans would abolish it. But also, many of these, or a substantial number of these, Democrats are arguably war criminals — not as big as the war criminals on the Republican side, but still war criminals. And they belong in prison.
Trump needs a new war. He needs his own war and he hasn’t started one yet... The institutions, the Pentagon, state and the CIA would probably have second thoughts because first, it wouldn’t be clear whether they could get it over with quickly and second, it’s not even clear that they would win... they would encounter some serious resistance within Venezuela....It’s kind of remarkable that some people maintain the pretense that the U.S. cares at all about elections anywhere. This is just another illustration of that.
“Oh no, the system is not rigged! The system is not corrupt!” Those Wall Street contributions I take don’t affect my decisions. She [Hillary Clinton] said that first to Bernie, then to Trump. She said: “In fact, Obama took more Wall Street contributions than I did.” People heard that and said, “Come on!” They hear Trump say, “Look, it’s crooked, I’m a crook, I’m going to be your crook." it sounds a little more plausible...
We are facing such a crisis in this country at this moment that you have to use your head. You have to be tactical. You have to, at this moment, vote in the warmongers who will preserve democracy to block the warmongers who would abolish it — and then, the day after the election, go back to the deeper work of creating real, better, more constructive political alternatives and also helping the base of the Democratic Party take back the party from the consultants, from the rich donors.

Allan Nairn (born 1956) is an American investigative journalist. He was imprisoned by Indonesian military forces under United States-backed strongman Suharto while reporting in East Timor. His writings have focused on U.S. foreign policy in such countries as Haiti, Guatemala, Indonesia, and East Timor.

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(most recent first)

  • Have to be even-handed. If we look at a case like this I think we have to talk–start talking about putting Guatemalan and U.S. officials on trial. I think someone like Mr. Abrams would be a fit subject for such a Nuremberg-style inquiry. But I agree with Mr. Abrams that Democrats would have to be in the dock with him.
  • In a brazen application of Trump's doctrine "to the victor belong the spoils," Bolton is targeting PDVSA, the state oil company. It was created 21 years before the Chavez presidency. Now Bolton and US oil cos want to take it, for themselves. #Venezuela
  • The US should drop sanctions to ease the hunger it & Maduro & #Venezuela's rich jointly caused, as well as cancelling covert ops & invasion preparations, and should also drop the pretense it could ever serve as neutral mediator for a political settlement.
  • Many poor people have indeed now joined the rich-led movement v Maduro, but the US won't tolerate a process that leads to a new independent, pro-poor government; see US stance re #Honduras, supporting coup ('09), then electoral fraud ('17).
  • One of the big criticisms from the Trump types was that during the Obama administration to stage an operation, you had to go through lawyers at the National Security Council who had to sign off... certain operations... could be vetoed if they exceeded the permitted number of civilian casualties... The Bush Jr. White House also did that... When Trump came in, he said screw that, throw all the rules out the window. When you go in, you the Pentagon and CIA people on the ground, you have the authority to kill as many people as you feel you need to, as many people as you want. Go ahead, but get it over with quickly... That’s the Trumper approach. The other establishment approach is to accept some restraints... that have been imposed by... Congress over the years, still be willing to kill tons of civilians. You know, Abrams backed a genocide in Guatemala for God’s sake.
  • Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves but even more importantly, Trump needs a new war. He needs his own war and he hasn’t started one yet. And that fits with his method of creating new spectacles. The institutions, the Pentagon, state and the CIA would probably have second thoughts because first, it wouldn’t be clear whether they could get it over with quickly and second, it’s not even clear that they would win. Because they would encounter some serious resistance within Venezuela. So, it seems what they’re trying to do now is to try to get the army to defect, get them to stage a coup and bring down Maduro. It’s kind of remarkable that some people maintain the pretense that the U.S. cares at all about elections anywhere. This is just another illustration of that.
  • It sounds like they’re putting a priority on helping the American oil companies. Even more significant was the statement by Bolton. Essentially, when the U.S. takes over Venezuela, they want to have the U.S. companies do the actual oil production in place of the state oil company. Now, that’s especially remarkable because it means rolling back an arrangement that predates Hugo Chavez, that predates the Bolivarian movement....The oil production in Venezuela was nationalized before Chavez came to power so that old U.S.-backed state capitalism is now ruled inadmissible by John Bolton and the U.S. and they’re going to, proposing to go in and just as Trump put it, take the oil and give it to U.S. companies. But in today’s world, it’s no longer necessary for economic purposes, for overall economic purposes to actually control natural resources that are sold in an open market like oil. The only real gain is a political one where you have control over that oil and you can if you want withhold it from certain countries and you can manipulate it in various ways for political purposes....
  • In addition to allowing the U.S. to rewrite the notion of political sovereignty assuming for itself the right to really name anyone president of any country. I mean, if they follow that principle, what’s to stop naming any individual in any country, anywhere in the world as the recognized president. They’re also messing with the very notion of property. This is the kind of thing that maybe should give other countries and even foreign capitalists and rich people some pause when placing their holdings within the borders or within the control of the U.S. government because the principle they seem to be establishing is if the U.S. turns against you politically, they could just take your property straight up. It should give pause to lots of people who are using U.S. banks now.
  • For years, I’ve been documenting how many of the senior Democrats are complicit in war crimes, how they belong in prison. But we are now in an emergency situation in which there is a huge, fundamental difference between the Democrats and the Republicans at this moment. The Republicans would abolish democracy. They’re looking — because that’s the only way they can perpetuate their power. They have a minority of the votes. They have to rig the system so they can stay in power, as their minority of votes diminishes over time.... And there are many good Democratic candidates in this election, people who, in one way or another, will represent a breakthrough for social justice, who all have essentially pledged to support Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, Medicaid, when the Republicans would abolish it. But also, many of these, or a substantial number of these, Democrats are arguably war criminals — not as big as the war criminals on the Republican side, but still war criminals. And they belong in prison.
  • We are facing such a crisis in this country at this moment that you have to use your head. You have to be tactical. You have to, at this moment, vote in the warmongers who will preserve democracy to block the warmongers who would abolish it — and then, the day after the election, go back to the deeper work of creating real, better, more constructive political alternatives and also helping the base of the Democratic Party take back the party from the consultants, from the rich donors.
  • Trump essentially came out and said: Look, the system is totally corrupt, I’m a crook, I’ve been part of this rigged system for years, I’ve been paying off the politicians, now I’m going to be your crook. I’m going to be fighting on your side. People heard that, and it sounded a lot more credible to many people than Hillary saying: “Oh no, the system is not rigged! The system is not corrupt!” Those Wall Street contributions I take don’t affect my decisions. She said that first to Bernie, then to Trump. She said: “In fact, Obama took more Wall Street contributions than I did.” People heard that and say, “Come on!” They hear Trump say, “Look, it’s crooked, I’m a crook, I’m going to be your crook — it sounds a little more plausible.” And, in one sense, Trump is following through. He’s indeed demonstrating again that he’s a crook. But, of course, he’s not doing it on behalf of the working people who he claimed to be campaigning for. However, that fact has only gotten through to a limited extent.
  • Because, well, partly those who set the rhythm of repetition, the rhythm of what facts get repeated day to day, in the highest profile media outlets, and the rhythm of repetition is basically everything in politics. Because under the American system, there’s no centralized state censorship, unlike the old Soviet system. So, almost everything, almost every atrocity committed in the U.S. system is on the public record somewhere, it’s somewhere in a library, it’s somewhere in a posting on the Internet, somebody has done a good investigative piece on it. It’s all out there somewhere .But unless it’s repeated, hammered away, day after day, on the big media outlets, it may be on the public record but it’s not in the public consciousness. And that’s all that matters in politics: What is in the public consciousness? And those that set the rhythm of repetition that determine the public consciousness — in this case, the media outlets like MSNBC and CNN, which today play an absolutely central role... have seized on this Russia scandal as their theme... they devote vast portions of their airtime to speculation about this Russiagate scandal, to the exclusion of hammering away on all these other themes about the outright decimation and crushing and theft of the American working class.... about what he’s doing to the health of Americans, to the environment, to the basic rights of Americans.
  • The Guatemalan military...during the early ’80s when the Reagan administration was backing them enthusiastically... would go into villages in the Mayan highlands in the northwest. ... I was there, I spoke to the soldiers as they were doing it, I spoke to survivors … they would decapitate people. They would crucify people. They would use the tactics that ISIS today puts on video that are now shocking the world.... The powers have always been willing to use these tactics...And for centuries they were proud of it. All you have to do is look at the holy texts of the major religions—the Bible, the Quran, the Torah. They're full of one massacre after another. People forget....For years and years the powers were proud of these tactics. They advertised it.... As recently as the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, U.S. presidents were still boasting about it... Go back and read [Roosevelt’s] writings. He's repeatedly … talking about the necessity to shed blood, the necessity to kill...
  • You can't do that in today's U.S. You can't do that really in any major country today. The only partial exception to that at the level of rhetoric is Israel. Israeli generals and politicians still talk openly about the need to shed Palestinian blood. But they're really the only ones. Everywhere else—Europe, Russia, China, the U.S.—they have to hide their [activities].


  • When I was in high school, I started working with Ralph Nader and worked for him for about six years. And after that I planned to go down to Puerto Rico and do some work there. My mother is from there. And I found that about ten percent of the land there was U.S. military bases... Then I went to Guatemala in 1980.
  • The military at that time was doing a campaign of assassination against student leaders... I was twenty-four. And I was just stunned by this. I had read about it, but to see people just gunned down like this every day was very depressing and made me very angry. So I decided to do something about it by making it an issue in the United States, by investigating the role the U.S. had. I interviewed U.S. corporate executives there. They endorsed the death squads. I wanted to make an issue of this kind of death squads in Guatemala and El Salvador. Later I went to Asia and East Timor.
  • The Indonesian military...invaded East Timor in 1975 with U.S. approval. They killed a third of the population. They staged a massacre at the Santa Cruz cemetery in 1991... a massacre that began with a Catholic Mass... to commemorate Sabatio Gomez, nineteen years old... had been in...the Catholic church... the Timorese capitol...The army stormed the church in the middle of the night.... dragged him and other young people out of the church and shot him in the gut with a pistol.
  • The Timorese held a mass in his honor. They went to lay flowers on his grave. But at the cemetery where thousands were gathered, school children still in their uniforms, the Indonesian military marched on the crowd... holding up their American M16 rifles. Didn't even tell the people to disperse nor throw tear gas... I was there with another American, Amy Goodman of Pacifica Radio. When the military attacked, we stood between the army and the Timorese. But...the soldiers went around us. They opened fire. They just turned the street into a river of blood. They took our cameras and tape recorders. They beat us... fractured my skull with the butt of an M16 rifle... put the rifles to our heads. They were considering whether to execute us. But they let us live when they realized we were Americans. I think they knew there would be trouble if they killed Americans. This was not the largest Timorese massacre, but because there were foreigners there, it got some attention.
  • For Washington, the Iraqi deaths did not count. George Bush viewed them only as a public-relations problem, which he deemed surmountable. Washington could have achieved its official aim of getting Iraq out of Kuwait through negotiations, and it could have stopped the war after the Iraqis retreated. But Washington insisted on full military assault and triumph to achieve its unofficial goals, primarily the reassertion of U.S. military dominance... For this, the United States was willing to kill an unlimited number of Iraqis... For Washington, the Iraqi deaths did not count. George Bush viewed them only as a public-relations problem, which he deemed surmountable... Bush’s assault on Iraq furthered... showed that it was possible to stage gigantic conventional attacks without shedding much American blood by substituting airborne munitions for U.S. combat troops.

Allan Nairn: Trump’s Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams Is a War Criminal Who Has Abetted Genocide, Democracy Now (30 January 2019)[edit]

  • Abrams was the key man in Reagan administration policy toward Central America, when that administration was abetting what a court recently ruled was a genocide in Guatemala, when the U.S. was backing the army of El Salvador in a series of death squad assassinations and massacres, and when the U.S. was invading Nicaragua with a Contra force that went after what one U.S. general described as “soft targets,” meaning civilians, things like cooperatives.
  • Abrams later came back during the George W. Bush administration, joined the National Security Council and was a key man in implementing the U.S. policy of backing Israeli attacks against Gaza, when the U.S. refused to accept the results of the Gaza elections, where Hamas defeated Fatah in a vote, and instead Abrams and company backed a war operation to overturn the results of the election, backing the forces of Mohammed Dahlan.
  • Some commentators have said, “Well, Abrams is not a Trump guy. He represents traditional, established U.S. foreign policy.” And that’s true. The problem is that that U.S. policy has been to abet genocide when the U.S. feels it’s necessary.
  • In the case of Guatemala, Abrams and the Reagan administration were approving the shipment of weapons, money, intelligence and the provision of political cover to the army of Guatemala as they were sweeping through the northwest Mayan highlands, wiping out 662 rural villages, by the army’s own count, decapitating children, crucifying people, using the tactics that in this era we associate with ISIS.
  • It’s very parallel to the stance Abrams took on Panama. When Noriega, the CIA-backed dictator of Panama, who was involved in the drug traffic, who the U.S. later decided to overthrow—when the forces of Noriega abducted the Panamanian dissident Hugo Spadafora and cut off his head with a kitchen knife, Jesse Helms, of all people, tried to investigate in the U.S. Congress, and Elliott Abrams stopped him, saying, “No, we need Noriega. He’s doing a very good job. He’s working with us.”
  • In the case of El Salvador, after the massacre in El Mozote, where a U.S.-trained battalion massacred more than 500 civilians, slitting the throats of children along the way, Abrams took the lead in denying that such a thing had ever happened. And he later described the results of the Reagan administration policy, his policy, in El Salvador as a fabulous achievement. He said this even after the El Salvador Truth Commission had issued a report saying that more than 85 percent of the atrocities had been committed by the armed forces and its death squads, death squads which had a particular practice of cutting off the genitals of their victims, stuffing them in their mouths and putting them on open display on the roadsides of El Salvador.
  • When I appeared on the Charlie Rose TV show with Elliott Abrams, I suggested that he be put on trial, that he be brought before a Nuremberg-style tribunal and tried for his role in facilitating war crimes and crimes against humanity. He dismissed the idea of him being put on trial as “ludicrous,” but he did not actually deny any of the facts of what he has done—what he had done. He said it was all necessary in the context of the Cold War. So, this is Elliott Abrams, who has now been put in charge of key aspects of the U.S. policy toward Venezuela.


We have to talk–start talking about putting Guatemalan and U.S. officials on trial... Mr. Abrams would be a fit subject for such a Nuremberg-style inquiry... Democrats would have to be in the dock with him.

Quotes about[edit]

  • Allan Nairn... In 1991, covering developments in East Timor, Nairn and fellow journalist Amy Goodman were badly beaten by Indonesian soldiers after they witnessed a mass killing of Timorese demonstrators in what became known as the wikipedia:Dili Massacre. He was beaten with the butts of M16 rifles and had his skull fractured in the melee. Nairn was declared a "threat to national security" and banned from East Timor, but he re-entered several times illegally, and his subsequent reports helped convince the U.S. Congress to cut off military aid to Jakarta in 1993.
  • In a dispatch from in East Timor on March 30, 1998, Nairn disclosed the continuing U.S. military training of Indonesian troops implicated in the torture and killing of civilians. In 1999, Nairn was detained briefly by the Indonesian Army.
  • In an article published in The Nation in 1994, Nairn revealed the U.S. government's role in establishing and funding the Haitian paramilitary death squad, FRAPH (the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti).
  • I’m joined by the renowned investigative journalist Allan Nairn. As a reporter, he has played a significant role in exposing United States involvement and sponsorship of brutal regimes and security forces around the globe. He survived the Dili massacre in East Timor in the early 1990s. He exposed the CIA’s financing of right-wing death squads in Haiti and other countries as well as the CIA’s support for brutal military dictators in places like Guatemala and El Salvador. Allan Nairn also debated Trump’s Venezuela point man Elliott Abrams on national television in the 1990s and in that debate he called for Abrams to stand trial for war crimes. Allan Nairn, welcome back to Intercepted.


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External links[edit]

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