10 vicious dictators supported by the U.S. government

You know, every time our government announces a plan to rid the world of a vicious dictator, I have to roll my eyes. Why? Is it just because I hate war? Is it because said vicious dictators always happen to be awfully close to oil? Well, not entirely. If you want the truth, the reason I’m so cynical is because in the entire history of our country, we have not fought even one single war for “altruistic reasons.” Well that and our tendency, in both the past and the present, to support vicious dictatorships and regimes that benefit us.


1. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Equatorial Guinea


Ok, so this dude first rose to power about three decades ago by deposing and killing the former dictator, who also happened to be his Uncle. He then started his own vicious dictatorial regime, and has been described as Africa’s worst dictator– even worse than Mugabe.

He claims to be in regular contact with god, and can thus randomly kill any person he wants, without fear of retribution in the hereafter. In the 90s, the country nearly killed one of our own Ambassadors, because they thought he was practicing witchcraft. Abuses under his regime, cited by our very own State Department, include  “unlawful killings by security forces; government-sanctioned kidnappings; systematic torture of prisoners and detainees by security forces; life threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; impunity; arbitrary arrest, detention, and incommunicado detention.”

So why is this dude our buddy? Well, we made friends with him after 9/11, because (SURPRISE!) his country has oil! Lots of oil! So we’re totally cool now. Condoleeza Rice called him “a good friend” and uh, judging by this picture, Obama seems pretty tight with him as well. In 2008, the US imported nearly $3 billion in petroleum products from Equatorial Guinea.

2. Augusto Pinochet, Chile

10 vicious dictators supported by the U.S. government

Back in 1974, Pinochet led a military coup ousting Chile’s Democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende. Why? Because he was pretty sure that democracy would lead to Communism, and that it was his job to put an end to the nation’s 150 year history of Democratically elected officials.

During his “leadership,” 1,200–3,200 people were killed, up to 80,000 were interned, and up to 30,000 were tortured by his government including women and children. A US Congressional delegation said that the prisoners they interviewed were routinely subjected to torture, such as “the application of electric shock, simultaneous blows to the ears, cigarette burns, and simulated executions by firing squads.” Oh, and they carbombed their Ambassador to the US.

And yet, the United States helped him overthrow Allende, and provided material support to the regime after the coup, despite criticizing it in public. Because Communism.

Pinochet, is of course, still lauded by Chicago School economic libertarians and followers of Milton Friedman, because he privatized everything in the whole country and destroyed all the unions, thereby dramatically increasing economic inequality in the country and making lots of money for the rich. Which, I don’t know, they think is a good thing.

3. Idriss Déby, Chad

10 vicious dictators supported by the U.S. government

Chad is another one we’ve gotten about $3 billion in oil from. Our state department has called him a great ally in the war on terror, and commends the country for providing shelter to refugees from Darfur. Which sounds nice.

Until you take a bigger look at their human rights record, as per Amnesty International’s 2010 report:

Civilians and humanitarian workers were killed and abducted; women and girls were victims of rape and other violence; and children were used as soldiers. The authorities failed to take adequate action to protect civilians from attacks by bandits and armed groups. Suspected political opponents were unlawfully arrested, arbitrarily detained and tortured or otherwise ill-treated. Harassment and intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders continued. Demolition of houses and other structures continued throughout 2009, leaving thousands of people homeless.

Oh, not to mention that they used the money we gave them to help with their famine to buy shit tons of weaponry to keep Deby’s regime in power.

4. Manuel Noriega, Panama

10 vicious dictators supported by the U.S. government

Oh Manuel Noriega. Trained here, in the United States, at the good ol’ School of the Americas– our special training ground in Ft. Benning, Georgia for future Latin American death squad members and dictators. Best buddies with George H. W. Bush. Collaborator with Oliver North on a special fancy trading plan, that involved us sending them weapons, and them sending us their cocaine.

According to Amnesty International, during his dictatorship of Panama, he was guilty of  “extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, detention without trial and the torture and ill-treatment of demonstrators while he was de facto ruler of Panama from 1983 to 1989.”

However, no one here really had a big problem with Noriega until he expressed little interest in continuing to fight the Sandinistas, and he was summarily brought to the US and jailed for drug trafficking. Because that’s how we do. His former bro, George H.W.– concerned about being criticized for his previous relationship with Noriega– summarily invaded Panama, and killed a ridiculous amount of people, in order to capture Noriega. A new regime was installed, with all of the same drug and weapon issues, but an inclination to be better at going along with whatever the US wanted.

5. Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan


First of all- THIS DUDE HAS PEOPLE BOILED TO DEATH. He boils them! To death! Holy freaking crap! He also had 400-500 people protesting his regime cordoned off and massacred by snipers in the street. Not to mention the commonplace torture, arbitrary jailings, and massive round-ups of religious minorities. Good guy, huh?

Yet, Uzbeki-beki-bekistan is one of our best buds in the Global War On Terror. Plus, they’ve got a ton of awesome uranium there, and we’re pretty fond of buying it from them, and they like buying our Boeing jetliners. Google image search this fella, and you’ll see him palling around with a number of top US politicos, including both Bush’s and Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.


6. Ferdinand Marcos, The Phillipines



Ok, so, it is entirely possible that all anyone remembers about Ferdinand Marcos is that his wife, Imelda, had an awfully extensive shoe collection, and that they both went to jail for tax evasion. But that is hardly the whole story. Dude started out in politics by gunning down the guy who beat his father in the country’s first Presidential election. Naturally, after being released from prison, he became President himself.

As President, he was awfully fond of supporting some of the most horrific human rights abuses– so horrific, that Filipino victims of the Marco regime are now getting monetary compensation. According to a 1976 Amnesty International report, some favorite tactics included torching genitals and pubic hair, slamming heads into walls, and repeatedly beating prisoners with clubs, bottles and fists.

Nonetheless, the Carter administration approved this guy’s $88 million loan from the World Bank, and in 1981, then-VP George H.W. Bush commended Marcos for his “adherence to democratic principal and to the democratic processes.”

7. King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Embassy

HEY, so now that France has pulled out, guess who our only ally in this Syria thing is? Why, it’s Saudia Arabia!

Under the rule of King Abdullah, human rights activists have been arbitrarily jailed, people are routinely executed without a fair trial (their methods? Beheading and crucifixion. No joke.), and people are sentenced to punishments like “paralysis.” According to Human Rights Watch:

“Authorities continue to  systematically suppress or fail to protect the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls, eight million foreign workers, and some two million Shia citizens. Each year thousands of people receive unfair trials or are subject to arbitrary detention. Curbs on freedom of association, expression, and movement, as well as a pervasive lack of official accountability, remain serious concerns.”

Yeah. But this is our buddy. We’re going to team up together and fight all those human rights violations going on in Syria! Makes TOTAL SENSE.

8. Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire



Known as the Marie Antoinette of Zaire, Mobute Seso Seko amassed himself a $5 billion fortune, all while gladly accepting (and pocketing) money from the US, and keeping his country the 5th poorest in all of Africa. He is noted for a charming variety of human rights abuses taking place under his regime (like beating people with boards with nails attached to them!) and for being total besties with Nixon, Reagan and Bush I.

Via Chicago Tribune:

“Quantitatively, I think Zaire has the worst human rights record in Africa,” said a United Nations official in Kinshasa. “In terms of social and economic rights and the number of state actors violating those rights, it’s massive. And the bulk of human rights violations in this country never will be known. It’s a black hole.”

Isn’t that cute? Reagan, however, felt that he was  “a voice of good sense and goodwill!” He was also superfriends with Pat Robertson, which is in no way any kind of surprising.

9. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Turkmenistan


The hell? What was this? Take Your Fascist Dictator to the White House Day?” That’s a little weird. Anyway, you may remember Gurbangurly B. from that time Jennifer Lopez performed for him for his birthday and was all “Oh! I had no idea he was a bad guy! I’m just Jenny from the block!” and people were super mad about it. 

Turkmenistan, unsurprisingly, is another one of our awesome allies in the Global War on Terror! Because of the country’s proximity to Afghanistan, both the Bush and Obama administrations have been cozying up and sending the small nation lots and lots of moneys. And they also just so happen to have one of the largest gas reserves in the world.

It could be a really great situation for all involved, except that Berdimuhamedow’s regime has been criticized of the following human rights violations by the US State Department:

“…citizens’ inability to change their government; reports of torture and mistreatment of detainees; incommunicado and prolonged detention; arbitrary arrest and detention; denial of due process and fair trial; arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association; restrictions on religious freedom, including continued harassment of religious minority group members; restrictions on freedom of movement for some citizens, including increased restrictions on those intending to study abroad; violence against women; and restrictions on free association of workers.”

10. Adolf Hitler

10 vicious dictators supported by the U.S. government


Breckinridge Long was the US Secretary of State at the time Hitler was in power. While he gave Henry Ford permission to buy Nazi tanks, he purposely prevented Jewish refugees from entering the US (recommended read: The Voyage of The Damned). Also, Breckinridge and Roosevelt gave permission for a few US Companies to continue trading with Germany during the war– I.T.T.,General Motors, DuPont, Standard Oil of New Jersey, Davis Oil Co., and the Chase National Bank. Why? Because money and the stock market and not wanting to give these corporations a big sad.

Oh yeah, plus the U.S. was pretty damned anti-Semitic at the time.


Now, I’m not saying that because the U.S. currently supports horrific dictatorships and has done so in the past when it has been convenient, that there is anything OK about what the Syrian government has done to it’s people. Of course it’s awful. I don’t think military action on our own is the answer, but it’s still awful. I just don’t like it when politicians put on airs and pretend that we’re actually planning on invading any country for reasons of human rights, when that is clearly not the case. I could have named 100 other awful regimes we’ve supported. I could have mentioned that China is still our number one trade partner while they’re currently occupying Tibet. But sadly, I just don’t have the time.

Sources: Alternet, Friendly Dictators Trading Cards, Parade Magazine, Salon