A coup d’état French: literally “blow of state”; also known simply as a coup, or an overthrow, is the sudden and forced seizure of a state, usually instigated by a small group of the existing government establishment to depose the established regime and replace it with a new ruling body. A coup d’état is considered successful when the usurpers establish their dominance. If a coup fails, a civil war may ensue. (Wikipedia)
Edward Luttwak, an American military strategist, wrote a book in 1979 called Coup d’État. A Practical Handbook. According to him, a good coup is one that is kept secret – that is, the same people are left in power but are forced to impose a new policies.
That small matter, the mention of Luttwak by Thierry Meyssan in his 2014 article “Thirteen years after the September 11 attacks, blindness persists,” helps me better understand the nature of coup d’état. It need not be permanent, and may indeed be enacted merely to enforce a policy to address an emergent crisis.
For instance, the Project for a New American Century was a think tank that in 1997 virtually spelled out the coup that took place on September 11, 2001. In their policy document “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” they lament that the process needed to bring about a change in public attitude in the U.S. was going to be slow …
“… the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.*”
Therein lay the seeds of change. 9/11 was a coup, and the result was a new policy in the United States that enjoyed broad public support. Millions in the Middle East have died so far, and it ain’t over yet.
Coincidentally, Noel Twyman in the same year, 1997, said this in the closing paragraphs of his book, Bloody Treason, concerning another coup in 1963:
It does seem now, however, that our nation is healing and recovering strength as we approach the new century. Remarkably, we seem to have survived. Our nation’s recovery from the disaster is a tribute to the resiliency and adaptability of the American people. But, if there is another coup d’état, God help us.
I have looked upon coup d’état as a permanent feature of our society, that is, I imagined that the coup in 1963 was still effective today. But it is not that simple. The nation does seem to heal, like our bodies after an accident. Consequently, since 1963 there have been numerous coups:
- 1968: The removal of Lyndon Johnson from power. LBJ, himself a participant in the Kennedy murder, presents one of the most complex personalities ever to be lifted to high office. As smart as he was, Machiavellian in his ability to force the will of others, he too was brought down by the powerful forces behind 11/22/63. Why? I do not know. (The words “I do not know” feature prominently in my thinking.)
- The murder of Robert F. Kennedy: This requires a crystal ball. The assumption that RFK would have won the office of president and offered different policies cannot be known. He could have been killed merely to prevent reopening the case of the death of his brother.
- Watergate: Dr. Walt Brown refers to Watergate as “the assassination of Richard Nixon.” I thought Nixon to be one of the smartest men ever to hold the presidency, but others disagree, offering that distinction to LBJ, or perhaps Lincoln. I do not know why it was seen as necessary to remove Nixon from office. The placement of Gerald Ford in that office caused scant policy change. It could be that Nixon was merely seen as unreliable, or that he had plans for his second administration that needed derailment. Again, I do not know.
- March 30, 1981, Reagan assassination. This one is a little easier to speculate about, from my view anyway. Reagan was merely the vehicle by which the unelectable George H.W. Bush was raised to the presidency. The speed with which Reagan was removed from power speaks of a plan in place to remove him as soon as he took office. (Yes, he survived, but became thereafter a ribbon cutter. It is remarkable the ability of those around the executive to spin fancy tales about this man, ordinary in every way except his remarkable charisma.)
- The Monica Lewinski affair This was, in the big picture, a small matter, but Bill Clinton was apparently sucking up the power of his office, and refusing to go along with certain policies. Attacking Iraq was probably one, PNAC hot on his tail. The attack on Serbia seemed to release the vice grip on his testicles. He was allowed to fill out his term. (Again, testimony to the power of those around the office to make a small matter of sex in the oval office into a national crisis.)
- The 2000 election: Al Gore won, so that the ascension of George W. Bush was yet another coup. I have no regard for Al Gore, and so don’t imagine the policy differences that resulted from Bush holding office over him mattered much, but I stand to be educated.
- 9/11/2001: At a certain point that day the coup plotters contacted the Bush people, saying “Angel [Air Force One] is next,” in other words, surrender. They did so. I don’t imagine Al Gore to be different. Thereafter followed policy changes still in force and from which we are yet to recover.
- The 2004 election, this time a man for whom I have nothing but contempt, John Kerry, was kept out of power in favor of the hapless Bush. I don’t regard this as a terribly important coup. Again, I stand to be educated.
In other posts, I have traced coups back to the removal of Henry Wallace from the ticket in 1944, and the death of FDR. The “McCarthy era” itself stands as a purge, and so also qualifies as a coup. The U2 incident in 1959, where a possible détente with the Soviet Union was stopped in its tracks by an intelligence covert op, also qualifies.
In other words, in just my brief lifespan (1950…), coup d’état has been a standard feature in our country. Knowing that, I imagine that it has been with us from the beginning.
*The significance of Pearl Harbor as a “catalyzing event” is not lost on me.