by ZAID JILANI, LEIGHTON WOODHOUSE, AND MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER
If you watch the mainstream media, you might think that what happened on January 6th, 2021 was a coup attempt. But what if that’s not at all what happened?
The dictionary definition of a coup is a “violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.”
There’s no doubt that the chaos on January 6 was a bad day for the United States. But it was a bad day that would have been prevented had Congressional leaders granted the request by the Capitol police for National Guard backup
And, more importantly, the people who walked through the Capitol were protesting what they thought was a stolen election. They weren’t planning to take over the government and run it from the Rotunda.
Let’s be real: an unarmed group of rioters in the most armed country in the history of the world could never take over the government. Coups require physically overpowering the existing government. That’s why they almost always involve the military.
Contrast what happened on Jan. 6 to what happened on September 11th. No, not September 11th here in the United States in 2001, but September 11, 1973, in the Latin American nation of Chile.
On that day, a faction in the military launched a coup against the elected leader Salvador Allende, resulting in the installation of General Augusto Pinochet as president. Allende took his own life as his presidential palace was being bombed from the air. The toppling of his government ushered in nearly two decades of brutal military dictatorship.
Or take what happened in Iran in 1953.
Paid protesters pretending to be Communists started a riot, provoking a backlash from regular Iranian citizens, who were unwittingly led by another group of paid protesters who were pretending to be supporters of the Shah.
The military then mobilized to drive out the fake Communists, raiding government buildings and firing on the prime minister’s house. The duly elected prime minister fled, was arrested, and spent three years in solitary confinement.
By contrast, on January 6, a crowd of unruly but unarmed protesters entered the Capitol, in some instances with the encouragement of the Capitol police, and wandered around for a few hours before peacefully leaving and going home.
Real coups are often accompanied by a climate of fear that sets in after military leaders oust the previous government. Generals appear on camera to assert their control of the country, showing the population who is boss.
In contrast, Trump didn’t order the military to seize control of the Capitol. In fact, there was no evidence that he asked anyone to storm the Capitol at all. There’s no reason to think any leaders from the U.S. military sided with the protests or rioters. And then Trump asked the protesters to go home.
Ever since, the media and Democratic politicians have claimed January 6 was a “coup” or an “insurrection” to justify their campaign of political repression that has resulted in Trump being removed from the ballot in two states.
American democracy is far from perfect. We certainly have our share of issues. But we didn’t see a coup attempt on Jan. 6, and it’s an insult to people who live in countries where the military did seize control from elected leaders to suggest that we did.