Joe Mirabella

The LGBT Movement Should Oppose US Support of Dictators

Filed By Joe Mirabella | February 01, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Egypt, Egyptian revolution, LGBT

Like most of the world, I am glued to developments in Egypt as the people move to overturn their 30-year dictatorship.

egyptian-protester-holds-a.pngI refreshed my enthusiasm for Al Jazeera English, despite the media blackout in the United States. I huddled closely with my iPhone so I could hear for the first time in my life from Egyptians about how angry they were with my country for supporting Mubarak for so long: "The American people must tell their government to stop supporting dictators," an impassioned civilian told the camera.

I was sad to learn that tear gas canisters used against the protesters say, "Made in the USA." 42,000 manufacturing plans have closed in the United States during the last decade and I can't even buy a television made in this country any more, yet we are still in the tear gas business.

As I watched the Egyptian people lift the veil of secrecy, I began to question how the LGBT movement should use their lobbying power to not only advocate for the equality of our community here at home, but how we should apply pressure to move our country away from this uncomfortable relationship with dictators?

President Obama and his administration are in a complicated situation. $1.2 billion in aid flows from the United States to Egypt largely because Mubarak supported US policy towards Israel. Egypt also controls the Suez Canal, which is how oil is moved out of the Middle East.

If the United States was not friendly with Mubarak then access to the Suez may have been restricted, and Israel could be in an even more precarious situation. The cost was 30 years of oppression for the Egyptian people, and an entire generation of Egyptians that blamed the United States for that oppression.

As Americans we love to claim the moral high road and say we are pro-freedom, but rarely are there any among us who are willing to do anything to help those who do not have freedom. CNBC was not shy about our motives, cheap oil.

The United States has a long history with dictators and oppressive governments throughout the world, when those relationships benefit our foreign policy.

Here is the most comprehensive list I could find:

Africa

MOBUTU SESE SEKO
Dictator of Zaire 1965-1997

MOHAMMED SIAD BARRE
President/Dictator of Somalia 1969-1991

GEN. IBRAHIM BABANGIDA
Military Dictator/President of Nigeria 1985-1993

GEN. SANI ABACHA
Dictator of Nigeria 1993-1998

HASTINGS KAMUZU BANDA
Dictator of Malawi 1966-1994

LAURENT-DÉSIRÉ KABILA
President/Dictator of the Democratic Republic of the Congo 1997-2001

GNASSINGBE ETIENNE EYADEMA
Dictator of Togo 1967-2005

FELIX HOUPHOUET-BOIGNY
Dictator/President of the Ivory Coast 1960-1993

HASSAN II
King of Morocco 1961-1999

TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO
President/Dictator of Equatorial Guinea 1979-present

ZINE EL ABIDINE BEN ALI
President-Prime Minister/Dictator of Tunisia 1987-2011

ANWAR EL-SADAT
President/Dictator of Egypt 1970-1981

HOSNI MUBARAK
President/Dictator of Egypt 1981-present

IAN SMITH
Prime Minister of Rhodesia (white minority regime) 1965-1979

PIETER WILLEM BOTHA
Prime Minister of South Africa (white minority regime) 1978-1984, President 1984-1989

DANIEL ARAP MOI
President/Dictator of Kenya 1978-2002

HAILE SELASSIE (RAS TAFARI)
Emperor of Ethiopia 1928-1974

WILLIAM J. S. TUBMAN
President/Dictator of Liberia 1944-1971

SAMUEL KANYON DOE
Dictator of Liberia 1980-1990

Asia

MOHAMED SUHARTO
Dictator of Indonesia 1966-1998

NGO DINH DIEM
President/Dictator of South Vietnam 1955-1963

GEN. NGUYEN KHANH
Dictator of South Vietnam 1964-1965

NGUYEN CAO KY
Dictator of South Vietnam 1965-1967

GEN. NGUYEN VAN THIEU
President/Dictator of South Vietnam 1967-1975

TRAN THIEM KHIEM
Prime Minister of South Vietnam 1969-75

BAO DAI
Emperor of Vietnam 1926-1945, chief of state 1949-1955

LEE KUAN YEW
Prime Minister/Dictator of Singapore 1959-1990; behind-the scenes ruler since then.

EMOMALI RAHMONOV
President/Dictator of Tajikistan 1992-present

NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV
President of Kazakhstan 1990-present

ISLAM A. KARIMOV
President/Dictator of Uzbekistan 1990-present

SAPARMURAD ATAYEVICH NIYAZOV
President/Dictator of Turkmenistan 1990-2006

MARSHAL LUANG PIBUL SONGGRAM
Dictator of Thailand 1948-1957

FIELD MARSHAL THANOM KITTIKACHORN
Prime Minister/Dictator of Thailand 1957-58, 1963-1973

CHIANG KAI-SHEK
President/Dictator (Nationalist) of China 1928-1949
President/Dictator of Taiwan 1949-1975

CHIANG CHING-KUO
President/Dicator of Taiwan 1978-1988; Prime Minister 1972-1978

DENG XIAOPING
De facto ruler of China from circa 1978 to the early 1990s

FERDINAND MARCOS
President/Dictator of the Philippines 1965-1986

SYNGMAN RHEE
President/Dictator of South Korea 1948-1960

GEN. PARK CHUNG HEE
President/Dictator of South Korea 1962-1979

GEN. CHUN DOO HWAN
President/Dictator of South Korea 1980-1988

SIR MUDA HASSANAL BOLKIAH
Sultan of Brunei 1967-present

GEN. LON NOL
Prime Minister/Dictator of Cambodia 1970-1975

POL POT
Dictator of Cambodia 1975-1979

MAJ. GEN. SITIVENI RABUKA
Dictator of Fiji 1987-1999

ASKAR AKAYEV
President of Kyrgyzstan 10/27/1990-2005

Europe

FRANCISCO FRANCO
Dictator of Spain 1939-1975

ANTONIO SALAZAR DE OLIVEIRA
Dictator of Portugal 1928-1968

COL. GEORGIOS PAPADOPOULOS
Prime Minister/President/Dictator of Greece 1967-1973

Latin America

ANASTASIO SOMOZA GARCIA
Dictator of Nicaragua 1937-1947, 1950-1956

ANASTASIO "TACHITO" SOMOZA DEBAYLE
Dictator of Nicaragua 1967-1972, 1974-1979

MANUEL ESTRADA CABRERA
Dictator of Guatemala 1898-1920

GEN. JORGE UBICO CASTANEDA
Dictator of Guatemala 1931-1944

COL. CARLOS ENRIQUE CASTILLO ARMAS
Dictator of Guatemala 1954-1957

GEN. JOSE MIGUEL YDIGORAS FUENTES
President/Dictator of Guatemala 1958-1963

COL. ENRIQUE PERALTA AZURDIA
Military Junta, Guatemala 1963-1966

COL.CARLOS ARANA OSORIO
Dictator of Guatemala 1970-1974

GEN. FERNANDO ROMEO LUCAS GARCIA
Dictator of Guatemala 1978-1982

GEN. JOSE EFRAIN RIOS MONTT
Dictator of Guatemala 1982-1983

MARCO VINICIO CEREZO ARÉVALO
President/Dictator of Guatemala 1986-1991

MAXIMILIANO HERNANDEZ MARTINEZ
Dictator of El Salvador 1931-1944

COL. OSMIN AGUIRRE Y SALINAS
Dictator of El Salvador 1944-1945

CIVILIAN-MILITARY JUNTA, EL SALVADOR
1961-1962

COL. ARTURO ARMANDO MOLINA BARRAZA
Dictator of El Salvador 1972-1977

JUNTA, EL SALVADOR
1979-1982

ALFREDO FÉLIX CRISTIANI BUKARD
President/Dictator of El Salvador 1989-1994

TIBURCIO CARIAS ANDINO
Dictator of Honduras 1932-1948

COL. OSWALDO LOPEZ ARELLANO
Dictator of Honduras 1963-1975

ROBERTO SUAZO CORDOVA
President/Dictator of Honduras 1982-1986

GEN. OMAR HERRERA-TORRIJOS
Dictator of Panama 1969-1981

GEN. MANUEL ANTONIO MORENA NORIEGA
Dictator of Panama 1982-1989

AUGUSTO PINOCHET UGARTE
Dictator of Chile 1973-1990

GEN. JORGE RAFAEL VIDELA
Dictator of Argentina 1976-1981

COL. MARCOS PEREZ JIMENEZ
Dictator of Venezuela 1950-1958

GEN. ALFREDO STROESSNER
Dictator of Paraguay 1954-1989

ALBERTO FUJIMORI
Dictator of Peru 1990-2000

FRANCOIS "PAPA DOC" DUVALIER
Dictator of Haiti 1957-1971

JEAN-CLAUDE "BABY DOC" DUVALIER
Dictator of Haiti 1971-1986

MILITARY JUNTA / LT. GEN. RAOUL CEDRAS, GEN. PHILIPPE BIAMBY and LT. COL. MICHEL-JOSEPH FRANCO
Haiti 1991-1994

GEN. RENE BARRIENTOS ORTUNO
President/Dictator of Bolivia 1964-1969

GEN. HUGO BANZER SUAREZ
Dictator of Bolivia 1971-1978

DR. GETULIO VARGAS
Dictator of Brazil 1930-1945, 1951-1954

GEN. HUMBERTO DE ALENCAR CASTELLO BRANCO
Dictator of Brazil 1964-1967

CARLOS PRIO SOCARRAS
Dictator of Cuba 1948-1952

FULGENCIO BATISTA
Dictator of Cuba 1933-44, 1952-1959

GERARDO MACHADO MORALES
Dictator of Cuba 1925-1933

RAFAEL LEONIDAS TRUJILLO
Dictator of the Dominican Republic 1930-1961

Middle East

MOHAMMED REZA PAHLAVI Shah of Iran 1941-1979

SADDAM HUSSEIN
Dictator of Iraq 1969 (1979)-2003

GEN. MOHAMMED AYUB KHAN
President/Dictator of Pakistan 1958-1969

GEN. AGHA MUHAMMAD YAHYA KHAN
President/Dictator of Pakistan 1969-1971

GEN. MOHAMMAD ZIA UL-HAQ
President/Dictator of Pakistan 1977-1988

PERVEZ MUSHARRAF
Dictator of Pakistan 1999-2008

ABDUL IBN HUSSEIN I
King of Jordan 1952-1999

TURGUT OZAL
Prime Minister of Turkey 1983-1989, President 1989-1993

SHEIK JABIR AL-AHMAD AL SABAH
Emir of Kuwait 1977-2006
Prime Minister of Kuwait 1962-1963, 1965-1978

FAHD IBN ABDUL-AZIZ AL SAUD
King and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia 1982-2005

Previous to Egypt's revolution I revisited Martin Luther King's work during the Vietnam War. I was particularly moved by his willingness to speak out against the oppression of others even when doing so was not politically advisable. Only 20% of the population opposed the Vietnam War when he first spoke out against it, but the rest of the country caught up over time.

I highly recommend this interview in the documentary, "A Man of Peace During a Time of War", which you can watch online here:

Martin Luther King Jr.'s example should be a model for the contemporary LGBT civil rights movement. None of us should be content with a nation so dependent on the oppression of others. From the shoes on our feet, to the gas in our cars, to the food we eat, there is not a single aspect of our lives that is not tainted by the evil of oppression.

And so our tax dollars and our politicians have created a house of cards so that we can blissfully ignore our role in the world while those who lost the sperm lottery suffer for our comfort.

The first thing we should do as a movement is to vocalize our uncompromisable position that all the people of the world must be given access to the basic freedoms we enjoy here: the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to assemble, the right to elect our leaders. It is not just enough to imply that we demand that, but we must articulate that demand every chance we can. It must be part every mission statement of every LGBT organization. This message should be worked into every televised interview, every lobbying opportunity, the personal conversations we have with our friends and social networks. Our voices are free, so we must use them for those who cannot speak.

Secondly, we must insist our leaders represent this goal through actions and not just symbolic language. Our government should not wait until days after the people choose to overturn their dictator to issue a statement of support, that support should be known now.

We must change our own behavior so that we do not economically support dictatorships through our purchasing behavior. Shopping locally, buying previously-owned items, living with less, and using oil-free transportation are all ways we can reduce our support for oppressive regimes.

Finally, we must demand better information from our messengers. It is simply unacceptable that in the most democratic nation in the world, entire populations are silenced because our commercial media chooses to shut them out.

It is our moral obligation as people who have lived with oppression as gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender citizens to help end the oppression of others throughout the world. We must be leaders of conscious and not of consensus. If we do not, none of us will ever truly be free.


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Brad Bailey | February 1, 2011 8:55 PM

The only role of the U.S. should be to condemn oppression, not to use the Machiavellian maneuvers of the CIA or the military intervention of the DoD to force change upon foreign governments. THAT is what is immoral, and THAT is why so many countries despise us. We have succeeded in creating far more terrorists than we have captured or killed as a result of our meddling in the internal affairs of other nations.

If we really want to be a nation of conscience, we need to give other countries the freedom to evolve as they will, with or without our approval.

I agree with Brad. I think the LGBT "lobbying power" in the US needs to be focused on non-discrimination and equality in the US for LGBT people first--before we consider exporting our grandiose morals to change the world.

I would imagine that LGBT power is already being thrust into this issue - just because Joe S. isn't up there talking about dictatorships doesn't mean that there aren't other LGBT people who are concerned about it.

Anyway, it's a good topic to bring up, but it's going to take a lot more than lobbying. Looking at that list of names, the ones I recognize were supported by the US because they let us economically exploit their people. There are a few like Mubarak, who were important for other reasons, but keep in mind that there is a small group of politically powerful Americans making bank off these regimes.

We love to talk about promoting democracy, but the elite don't like it, at home or abroad. A democratic society that really is run by the people tends to be concerned with their welfare before it's concerned with the welfare of Wall Street, which is something that the folks who already bought both parties won't stand for.

I should also point out that Boris Yeltsin is bizarrely missing from that list. He suspended parliament, brutally silenced protests, sold national industries to foreigners and private individuals, and dramatically increased poverty in Russia.

The common denominator on your dictator list: Most of them buy heavily from U.S. arms suppliers. In Egypt's case, be aware Israel so far has been pushing for propping up Mubarak.

While I personally support this cause, your post presupposes that the so-called "LGBT movement" is a homogenous thing, that we all believe the same thing. We don't. Mostly we can't even agree on tactics for what we do agree on. It's time to stick to our knitting and concentrate on what the "movement" is ostensibly about: gay civil rights.

Leah McElrath Renna | February 2, 2011 1:56 PM

If we want OUR rights to be considered HUMAN rights, then we need also to value and to become active on behalf of the human rights of others.

If all you want from the LGBT movement is the little piece of your own privilege that you can't yet access in the US, then you're part of the problem here and abroad.

Thank you, Joe. At least you seem to get it.

infulleffect | February 2, 2011 6:55 PM

Excellent article, Joe...thank you. I agree that the LGBT movement should care about what it happening in Egypt; in addition, I am now thinking about the inefficiencies of identity politics and why I think it is better to organize around a broader ideology. In this example, rather than having to make the case that LGBTs, as an oppressed group, should relate to the majority of Egyptians, another oppressed group, wouldn't it be more effective to simply be against oppression, wherever it is found? This reduces the possibility for an activist to only care about select groups' oppression and not others. If we organize around a broader principle i.e. social justice, then we are more likely to be united when we identify oppression in any form. And, in the end, since all oppression has a common basis, none of us will be free until we all are. Or, as I believe Dr. King said, "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

And how exactly do you propose that the U.S. be any more "active on behalf of the human rights of others" Send in more troops? Trade embargos? Withdraw aid?

Idealism is all well and good on paper. It's a different matter in real life.

?"I was sad to learn that tear gas canisters used against the protesters say, "Made in the USA." 42,000 manufacturing plans have closed in the United States during the last decade and I can't even buy a television made in this country any more, yet we are still in the tear gas business."

Priceless.

Bellisimo!

you make a good point in suggesting this is a moral imperative...but i would suggest there's also a practical reason to follow the path you lay out, and it relates to making and keeping friends.

as the lbgt communities are always trying to advance civil rights issues, there's a natural alliance to be found with other civil rights advocates in the public square--and when those groups are promoting civil rights issues that don't relate directly to the lbgt community, going out and promoting those causes is a great way to keep a great relationship strong.

it's a kind of "virtuous circle", where doing good for others can result in good that comes your way in return.