75.4 F
Seattle
Friday, July 1, 2022

Insurrections I’ve Seen (But Never Dreamed Could Happen Here)

Jubilant protesters invaded the halls of parliament and the opulent homes of ousted dictators throughout Eastern Europe in the tumultuous winter of 1989.

Those insurrections toppled authoritarian regimes from Berlin to Bucharest that had held power for decades by locking up political opponents, turning media into propaganda platforms and ineptly managing economies that left the workers too powerless and poor to object.

In more than 30 years of covering foreign affairs, I witnessed insurrections against tyrants and virulent domestic discord that tore apart countries from Yugoslavia to Venezuela.

Never have I seen an attempted overthrow of a democratically elected government of the type that transpired at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. A violent mob inspired by conspiracy theorists and an unhinged president attacked the hallowed epicenter of American democracy. The coup attempt was not aimed at throwing out a leader abusing his power, it was a putsch waged with the hope of keeping Donald Trump in office by preventing confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election.

I watched coverage of the insurrection riveted and sickened by the images of brainwashed white nationalists waving the Stars & Stripes, confederate flags and banners proclaiming allegiance to Trump and Jesus. Their eagerness to confront, vandalize and ransack reminded me of the Romanian Communists’ last-ditch effort to stay in power after Nicolae Ceausescu’s assassination by deploying hordes of miners to terrorize pro-democracy demonstrators with clubs and pickaxes. 

The failed coup against Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev in August 1991 also came to mind. Disgruntled Kremlin hardliners who feared their power was being eroded by Gorbachev’s reforms took him hostage at his Crimean dacha and sent tanks into the streets of Moscow. The coup lasted less than three days, thanks to Boris Yeltsin’s rallying of citizens to defy the putschists. Still, with the Soviet Union already teetering from Baltic and Ukrainian republics’ secessions, the 74-year-old Communist federation collapsed by the end of the year.

Serbian nationalist Slobodan Milosevic rose to unchecked power over much of the Yugoslav Federation in the late 1980s by convincing Serbs they were victims of Slovenes, Croats, Albanians and Muslims. It was a campaign of ethnic vilification that fueled a decade of war, division and ultimately disintegration of the federal union.

Trump’s deployment of riled-up supporters to attack the heart of elected government reminded me of late Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, whose virulent campaign of “Chavismo” lured the poor and disenfranchised to attack an oil-rich market economy from within, leading to the authoritarian-ruled basket case that exists today.

I thought I’d seen all manner of corrupt leaders embracing violence to stay in power. I just never thought I’d see it in my own country.

Carol J Williams
Carol J Williams
Carol J. Williams is a retired foreign correspondent with 30 years' reporting abroad for the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press. She has reported from more than 80 countries, with a focus on USSR/Russia and Eastern Europe.

Post Alley welcomes comments to our articles. Our guidelines: no personal attacks, stay on topic, add something of value to the discussion. Our editors will edit comments for clarity and to conform with our guidelines. We encourage writers to use their full names.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

LATEST

Time to Lower the Heat in the Post-Roe Commentary

4
If the SCOTUS decision is the beginning, not the end, of the debate, we will need a lot more thoughtful commentary. Here are some examples.

Bolting for the Bigs: USC, UCLA Abandon PAC-12 for Big Ten (UW Next?)

12
It’s official now that the industry has fallen off the edge of the flat Earth propped so long by the mythology of amateurism.

Inside City Hall’s Serious Budget Shortfall

7
The multimillion-dollar gap -- viewed in the perspective of an annual budget in the $7 billion range -- is perhaps not horrific. But it still is bound to impact what the city can achieve towards meeting its on-going needs and ambitious social goals.

Battling Cancer, B.C. Premier Horgan to Step Down

1
Horgan, leader of the New Democratic Party, was a temperamental opposition leader but has proven an avuncular head of government. 

Pot Industry Versus its Workers

2
A new political action committee, People for Legal Cannabis, is gearing up to fight any effort by outsiders such as the UFCW to empower their workers. 

TRENDING

Bolting for the Bigs: USC, UCLA Abandon PAC-12 for Big Ten (UW Next?)

12
It’s official now that the industry has fallen off the edge of the flat Earth propped so long by the mythology of amateurism.

Time to Lower the Heat in the Post-Roe Commentary

4
If the SCOTUS decision is the beginning, not the end, of the debate, we will need a lot more thoughtful commentary. Here are some examples.

Inside City Hall’s Serious Budget Shortfall

7
The multimillion-dollar gap -- viewed in the perspective of an annual budget in the $7 billion range -- is perhaps not horrific. But it still is bound to impact what the city can achieve towards meeting its on-going needs and ambitious social goals.

The Complicated Legacy of Julia Child

3
The show may be a fictionalized version of Child’s groundbreaking TV success, but it portrays struggles by women for recognition and equality that ring true to that era.

The Fallacy (and Laziness) of Both-Sides-ism

2
The Republicans and the Democrats are not the same. Underlying too much of contemporary reporting is a “false equivalency,” which posits that by representing “both sides” balance and objectivity are attained.