How to Overthrow the Government or Country
An objective essay written by Senator Bunker
I’ve been meaning to write this file for months, but it looks like the good Senator from California has put forth that extra effort I was too lazy to make in putting this together. This is not a humorous article, to bluntly say; it is designed to inform you of proper execution of coup d’etat, that ‘stroke of state’ that topples governments so often these days. Enjoy.
I. Before you begin
Subjugation of a nation is a tremendous undertaking requiring foresight, ingenuity, and careful thought. The first task of many is to decide whether the country is a suitable candidate for a drastic and sudden change in government. The degree of difficulty varies with size, population, political awareness, and literacy.
The large state, tending to contain a greater number of persons, differs substantially from the small state in that the body politic is much more complex and hence more difficult to seize control of. It is generally advisable to tackle a smaller, unimportant regime rather than a country that, if seized, might draw a foreign power into the coup hence rendering it a failure.
One thing to do before attempting anything of this kind is to make sure who your friends and allies are. With a little effort, it is possible to gain a mass of supporters such that it is quite difficult to quell your actions. A way to do this is to select (if possible) a nation whose government does not have support of all of its classes (poor, rich, middle). Or, if neccesary, lure to your cause a religious minority, or ethnic minority, that already has grievances against the current regime. Perhaps you might form a coalition. Summarizing, it is a requisite to get at least some support besides from soldiers of fortune, who are generally “gung-ho” incompetents anyway.
Ideally, you should be part of some branch of the armed forces, police, national guard, or some government agency equipped with personnel trained in the use of weoponry. In the public’s eye, you already have some sort of authority, so a little more authority couldn’t hurt, could it?
So, now what kind of government should we tackle? A democratic? Maybe. They are usually fragile, anyway. But much of the international community will frown on your taking a small, helpless, struggling democracy, and perhaps take actions that are unfavorable. How about a Marxist dictatorship? Now, that’s a good idea. Most of the time these are anti-communist, even though they receive aid from the U.S.S.R., so it is a very good probability that Russia will not jump to help them. The Soviet Union waits to see if the new government will be pro-Soviet, not pro-Marxist, so you will be safe for the first few days. Also, not much of the world likes Marxist dictatorships.
If you have a choice of which nation to put down (you usually don’t), do not select a NATO country, or some other nation that receives $4 billion annually, because superpowers do not like to see their money to go down the drain so suddenly. Pick Martinique, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, or Surinam. If you’re white, don’t go in an African dump unless you have a deathwish. Plus, if the country has low literacy levels, good, for the people there won’t know what is happening.
Things to avoid:
- High literacy rate
- Large per capita income
- Voter participation
- An “established” nation
- Countries with allies
Things to look for:
- Civilian unrest
- Minority in control
- Centralized government
- Political apathy
Note: An OK from Washington or Moscow couldn’t hurt.
II. The Mechanism of the Coup d’Etat
The first thing that should be done is the neutralization of all relevent political forces, including the general infrastructure of the state. This includes, among other things, highways, telecommunications facilities (including radio, TV, etc.), airports, and so on. The reason these are political forces is that they are controlled by nonmilitary portions of the state (in the event you were wondering). Unfortunately, these are a large and spread apart group of targets, so if you have no tactical or popular support your attemps will be fruitless.
Undoubtedly the absolute first thing you should do is to cut all forms of communcations with the outside world off at once. Be sure to include: Telephone, Telex, Wireless, Radio, etc. THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT. It will prevent the present government from mobilizing its forces, deploying their forces in strategic locations that are not normally guarded, etc. It will also prevent them from calling outside for emergency help, jeopardizing your hard work, not to mention your life. Soon the rest of the world will know something has happened, but they will not know who has taken the government, how the coup is progressing, and so forth. Make sure all forms of communications are completely cut.
One other important thing to do is remove air facilities from the use of the loyalist forces. It is not necessary to seize control of the airports; all that is needed to be done is to close the airports. A bomb or two in the middle of the runways will do nicely, or perhaps a couple of cars parked there, with snipers preventing their removal. You should not rely on airfields for your coup; if you rely on them and they are shut down, you will encounter problems. The old government will probably rely on them, and you will easily be able to prevent their usage of them.
At an early time during the coup it should be evident as to its success. Government officials and employees of higher rank have a choice to make– whether to remain loyal to the old government, or to join the new attempt at government. If they stay loyal, they may be richly rewarded; if they defect, and the coup fails, they will be out of a job mighty quick. The success of your coup depends much on whether many of these officials decide to join the coup.
In addition to those people who remain loyal and those who join your cause, there is a “wait and see” element involved. Often this is the majority of the population, especially if the present regime is somewhat repressive. They don’t want to show too much enthusiasm for either side, until it is more or less decided who will gain control. It’s best to plan a sudden, abrupt seizure of all facilities to make the coup seem a smashing success; if this is done, the undecided will know to whom to turn.
When you take power from the original government, it is best to know who actually runs it. In most of the world (but not in the U.S.) there are two governments: 1- a largely ceremonial government, the part that people see on television and at most public events. They are, for the most part, what is known as a “figurehead”, set off to the side to keep the government’s “alter- ego” working on policy. 2- the “real” government, the government that formulates domestic and foreign policy, makes all executive decisions, and basically controls the infrastructure of the nation. The part of the government you will need to take is (obviously) the latter. It is composed of the executive head (called by whatever title he may hold- Prime Minister, President, General Secretary, etc.), ministers, and various deputy and second ministers who make small yet influential decisions.
The people you are most interested in detaining (or bumping off) are the Minister of the Interior (he normally supervises the police forces), the party leaders (of the ruling party, or of the only party, if a one-party state), the Minister of Defense, and the central figure of the “real” government. Once these people are neutralized, in one way or another, the basic functions of the state will be under your command, at least temporarily.
What is often done is to detain (under house arrest, of course) the aforementioned officials, and leave the ceremonial portion of the government alone. This is done to give an aire of legitimacy and continuity after such an abrupt turn of events. Later, these may be kept or allowed/forced to leave, as need arises.
You will not stay in power for long if you do not exert some sort of influence over the armed forces. The military has the ability to remove virtually any threat if perceives from within the boundaries of the nation– especially YOU. If you are a foreigner, and do not have (or used to have but have now lost) support of the militia, prepare to die. You as a person will cease to exist, unless you leave the country. And, always have several prepared escape routes planned out in advance– even the perfect coup d’etat will have its complicatons, and there will be things that you have overlooked. That is why it is best to have thoroughly studied the past and recent history of that state. Do your homework! If you do you will be richly rewarded.
III. After the Coup
Once you have removed the major functions of the government and bureaucracy from the Loyalist government, you will not yet be in solid control of them yourself. You will want to retain your control, and thus prevent a counter-coup from ensuing. Your new regime will be weakest at this time, and many times some other group seizes the reins of government hours after a coup d’etat– and this group is not necessarily the old loyalists. The military, political forces within the nation, and the public must all be satisfied to some extent in order for you to continue your rule. This can be attained either by a show of force, or by concessions made to any of these groups, such as a democratically elected government in the near future, or granting the military more influence over political decisions, and perhaps quickly promoting a number of young officers that proved faithful during the crisis. “Promote” those officers who have clout but you suspect might try to take more power for themselves to desk jobs, or remote outposts. And give them all pay raises, if at all possible.
The goal of the new regime is to “shear” off the top layer of government, and more or less retain the old bureaucracy. Lower officials should be made to feel as if little or no change has taken place, and whatever change that has occurred is for the better. After a short while these people will realize that the new government is fully in control, and all will be calm and orderly.
Mass media will act as a vehicle to assert your control. Write the first communique as a positive, necessary step for a long-needed change. Reassure the people that the coup is a revolt for the masses– not inspired by communists, or an extremist group, but by the public in general. Display the national symbols, and inspire the feeling of patriotism and unity. These techniques were used quite successfully so recently in the 1985 coup d’etat in the Sudan. People poured into the streets, waving the old flag of the country, and having an all-around good time. A popular general was instated as the new chief of state, and a democratic government was promised.
Lastly, your new regime has to be made to look legitimate in the eyes of the international community. Show evidence of atrocities made by the former government, witnesses, etc. Take positive steps in the direction of popular democracy, promise elections, and invite the foreign (especially American) press into the country to see these steps. Soon the world will forget about your coup, but whenever your country is in the news, they will remember this.
IV. A Final Word
You will probably realize now that the fast, simple coup was actually the result of much swift planning and hard work. The coup is not an easy thing to accomplish– should you be planning one of your own, know what you are doing and be sure to succeed.