- US President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that he believed Democrats initiating an impeachment inquiry were staging a “coup.” But the impeachment inquiry is a baked-in process of the government – not a tool of hostile takeover.
- The 20th and 21st centuries have seen a number of military coups all around the world- like in Thailand, where military coups occur an average of every seven years.
- While military coups are actually quite rare, they do have some things in common, Nathaniel D.F. Allen, assistant professor at the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, told Insider. “Most military coups occur when things are not going well – during an economic downturn, mass protests over living conditions, and government corruption.”
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US President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that he suspected Democrats in Congress of staging a coup against him by ordering ain impeachment inquiry regarding a whistleblower report about his dealings with Ukraine.
As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2019
While Trump may see the institutional proceedings of the government as a hostile takeover of his power, the process of an impeachment inquiry follows the rules and norms of the government.
While not always hostile, a coup is a takeover of power outside the norms of political processes. The 20th and 21st centuries have seen a number of coups, and particularly military coups, in many African countries, as well as Turkey, Thailand, Pakistan, and in South America.
“One of the most important factors is popular unrest,” Nathaniel D.F. Allen, assistant professor at the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, told Insider via email.
“Most military coups occur when things are not going well – during an economic downturn, mass protests over living conditions, and government corruption.”
A military coup is extremely unlikely to occur in the US for a number of reasons, including the high standard of living and balance of power between political and military forces; “Even in cases where it may have the capacity, militaries rarely act to overthrow popular leaders,” Allen told Insider. But ensuring broad popular support and committing to good governance is a part of fending off a military overthrow, he said.
Read on to learn about military coups around the world.
Pakistan has experienced several military coups since its founding in 1947.
Most recently, in 1999, Gen. Pervez Musharraf took over the government in a bloodless coup, overthrowing democratically-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. While the takeover was not violent, Musharraf was later indicted in the murder of his political opponent, and Pakistan’s first female prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, which he denied.
In 1977, Gen. Zia ul-Haq overthrew the government of Prime Minsiter Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the father of Benazir. Again, while the coup wasn’t violent, ul-Haq had Bhutto executed on murder charges, then censored the press, imposed martial law, outlawed labour strikes, and did away with political parties, according to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. A 1958 military coup preceded the 1977 coup, resulting in the leadership of Army Gen. Ayub Khan.
“A past history of military coups or previous military involvement in politics significantly increases the likelihood of additional military coups,” Allen told Insider via email.
“This could be because the military in such countries has more political influence and control over the security sector than in others,” which is certainly true in Pakistan, “or it could also be because the knowledge of how to enact a successful coup and desire to do so how to enact is passed down.”
Thailand has had a staggering number of military coups over the years.
Military coups are “business as usual” in Thailand, Eugenie Merieu wrote in The Atlantic earlier this year. In fact, since 1932, Thailand has averaged one coup every seven years.
Although the coup that brought Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha to power in 2014 was without violence, that hasn’t been true of previous coups; according to Merieu, past coups, specifically the ones in 2010, 1992, and 1976 resulted in a combined hundreds of protesters being killed by the army for protesting against the government in power.
Turkey has also dealt with several military coups throughout the years.
Although an apparent 2016 military coup failed against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, Turkey is no stranger to military coups. Coups in 1960 and 1980 resulted in mass arrests and executions; between a coup in 1971 and 1980, instability reigned, inflation skyrocketed, and thousands were assassinated. While the coup of 1980 did bring about some stability, hundreds of thousands were arrested, and many were executed or forcibly disappeared, Al-Jazeera reports.
In 2013, Egypt’s military staged a takeover of the government.
Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Egyptian army overthrew Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013. Morsi was sent to military prison, and died in court earlier this year. Hundreds of injuries and several deaths were reported in the protests that followed the coup.
Mass protests – and arrests – have rocked Egypt in recent days, with more than 2,000 arrested, and Egyptians protesting corruption in Sisi’s government.
Sudan’s recent coup overthrew Omar al-Bashir after almost three decades of rule.
Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan eventually took over after al-Bashir was ousted, promising a transition to civilian rule over a period of two years.
“Prior to Bashir’s fall, the economy was in a free fall, which facilitated mass, consistent and sustained popular protests against the regime,” Allen told Insider.
“The protesters were united across ethnic, tribal, and religious lines and they were peaceful, which made it more difficult for the security apparatus to repress them. The protestors even staged sit-ins in front of military headquarters in order to try get the military on their side.”
Although one faction of the security forces killed over 100 protesters in June, “most have accepted [rule by the security forces] as an upgrade over Bashir.”
In Myanmar, a 1962 coup paved the way for decades of repression, including the censoring of the press and thousands of arrests.
A coup in Chile in 1973 began a brutal regime, in which thousands of people were killed, tortured, or “disappeared.”
General Augusto Pinochet overthrew democratically-elected President Salvador Allende, a Socialist. The CIA knew of the coup but didn’t prevent it, concerned as they were about the rapid Socialist reforms sweeping through the country under Allende.
But the violence under the military junta started right away; survivor Carlos Reyes-Manzo told CNN, “The military immediately started shooting and killing people… And very soon they put fire to the Socialist Party headquarters,” he said in 2013, on the 40th anniversary of the coup.
“That was the day, there was just shooting everywhere and killing everywhere.”
Idi Amin’s brutal regime in Uganda caused the deaths of as many as 300,000 people.
Amin, Uganda’s notoriously cruel dictator, took power in 1971 after becoming the most powerful military general in the country. He allied himself with fellow dictator Muammar Qaddafi, the former leader of Libya.
Amin’s death squads sometimes forced people to bludgeon each other to death, or shot or dismembered them, according to his obituary in The New York Times. Amin was also anti-Semitic, and expelled Israelis from Uganda, and forced around 40,000 Ugandans of South Asian heritage to leave the country in the 1970s.
Amin came to power amid economic dissatisfaction, and promised to root out corruption, which partially explains his initial population. Plus, as Allen told Insider, the 1960s and ’70s were “a different time.”
“You had a lot more widespread support and acceptance of military coups, among both the local population and internationally, than you do now,” he said.
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