We tend to want to root for the underdog in our society. When we hear about a rebellion in Egypt or Libya or elsewhere, we instinctively want to root for the scrappy kids trying to fight back against The Man.
The problem is that a lot of coup attempts aren't all that inspirational. Some, in fact, border on slapstick comedy.
Like the time ...
The thing about being an evil dictator is that you need evil henchmen to help out. And the thing about having evil henchmen is that eventually they say, "Wait a second, why aren't I the one in charge?" The only good thing about that scenario is that sometimes, hilarity ensues.
For instance, the henchman in our story was Mohamed Oufkir, who, in the 1960s, was the adviser and right-hand man of King Hassan II of Morocco. He was doing dirty work for his king, and we're not talking about gardening. He violently suppressed protests, spied on his own people and had so many people disappear that French courts eventually tried him for murder. Mohamed Oufkir was the crony that supervillains dreamed of. Until, as you can guess, his ambition got the best of him.
Most top henchmen get metal teeth or a razor hat. Oufkir got off-center glasses.
In the early '70s, Oufkir got tired of being the second banana to the king and decided to have a good old-fashioned "nondemocratic change of power," complete with the backing of the Moroccan military.
"With sunglasses and a uniform of indeterminate rank, anything is possible!"
In 1972, King Hassan went to a conference in France. Smelling a chance for a coup, Oufkir put his well-hatched plans in motion. When King H. was on his way back to the country, Oufkir sent not one, not two, but three fighter jets out to attack the king's plane as it flew over the Mediterranean. How hard could this be -- they had the element of surprise, and it was three fighter jets to the king's one unarmed, sitting duck 727.
What Oufkir didn't realize was that his pilots were none other than the Three Stooges. The planes were shooting at the royal jet when the pilots discovered they only had practice ammunition on board. They did as much damage as a pistol loaded with paper clips. That was when one of them had the brilliant idea to just ram the king's jet midair.
So the king himself got on the radio and, in his own voice, told the jet pilots to stop firing because the "tyrant" had been killed. Happy that this guy (who coincidentally sounded exactly like the person they were trying to assassinate) told them that the king was dead, the pilots returned home. Mission accomplished!
By the time they realized what had happened, the king was already landing in the capital of Rabat. King Hassan II immediately ordered the arrest of hundreds of disloyal officers and was ready to get his one-time buddy Oufkir. But Oufkir by this time had committed "suicide." King Hassan, unfazed, then continued to rule the country until his death by heart attack in 1999.
"You don't need a crown to be a king. Just great, elephantine balls."
Have you ever wondered what would happen if preschoolers thought they could take over a country? Us, too. Fortunately, Operation Red Dog painted a pretty vivid picture of how that would work out -- only instead of imagining grape-juice-stained 4-year-olds storming the beach in red wagons and Big Wheels, picture white supremacists. Give them mullets and cutoff jean shorts, what do we care?
Ubermensch. Some emphasis on the "uber."
The story starts in 1979, when racist politician David Duke introduced American Klansmen to Canadian neo-Nazis, because above everything else, Duke was a matchmaker. Obviously, their mutual love of hating brown skin meant that the two groups should hook up permanently and get some race wars going. But how? Last we checked, there wasn't much of a market for "Team Hate" merchandise.
The plan that emerged was so obscenely convoluted that you'd think it came from a Bond villain: invade a country and set up a puppet government that would be friendly to their businesses. Because God knows starting a business in Canada or the United States would have been CRAZY.
"The demand for poorly tailored white robes just ain't what it used to be."
Their country of choice was Dominica. They had the former prime minister on their side and everything. And as if the motley crew wasn't racist enough, representatives of apartheid-era South Africa offered to provide funding for the escapade as well. By early 1981, the supergroup of invading racists was ready, but "ready" is a pretty subjective term. Enlisting people who didn't actually know anything about covert military operations was probably their first mistake. Buying only one boat was mistake numero dos. Hanging a swastika on their one and only boat as it docked in New Orleans: mistake three.
"We're ... uh, Hindu."
And that was when things just got comical.
The original hired crew of the S.S. White Power got spooked about the trip for some reason, so a new captain and crew were hired. It took the new captain about five minutes to suspect something was amiss, so he immediately tipped off the ATF about the Getalong Gang. The ATF then arrested the former Dominican prime minister, the one the whole plan revolved around. Wait, here's the best part: With the key person to their scheme in jail and their plans completely exposed, the team decided to go ahead and invade Dominica anyway.
A few days later, captainless and prime ministerless, the nine remaining team members began loading up the boat in New Orleans, when the ATF came up and arrested them all. The group then learned of their biggest failure: Of the nine people ready to invade, three of them were undercover ATF agents. The media quickly called the fiasco the "Bayou of Pigs," and all conspirators got three years of jail for never getting anywhere close to overturning a country.
Who Rules Where
Above: Apparently enough guns to pacify a nation of 70,000.
In 1812, former musketeer and all-around French guy Claude Francois de Malet had a great idea: He was going to topple Napoleon's government.
Never mind that he had zero support from the military, or that he was living in a sanitarium when he came up with the plan ... none of that mattered. He had support from a few royalists who wanted a king on the throne and he had something every conspirator needs: crazy eyes.
Most of world history is a clash of mental illnesses.
While Napoleon Bonaparte was off fighting the Russians, Malet managed to escape the asylum, steal a general's uniform (which he gladly wore) and forge some official-looking documents to back up his audacious plan. The plan? Tell everyone that Napoleon was dead and that he was in charge now.
So, the first person "General" Malet approached was a colonel in the French National Guard. Upon seeing the Kinkos-fresh docs, the colonel was 100 percent convinced that everything the general said was true. Did it matter that he had never seen this man before, or that the documents were ordering the arrest of several of Napoleon's officials? Non. And it didn't hurt that the papers also turned this particular colonel into a general. You've got to hand it to Malet, he was pretty smooth.
So the new general released troops to the fake general, and the fake general marched everyone over to La Force prison to order the release of some of his old cronies. No one blinked an eye, but maybe that's because this was the part where Malet started shooting dissenters in the face. Yeah, that's probably why.
Malet was only a few master strokes away from taking over the entire Parisian military when he made a huge mistake: He actually let someone get a closer look at those fake papers. Colonel Jean Doucet wasn't a guy who could be easily placated with a new star for his jacket -- and he knew for a fact that Napoleon had written letters after the death date provided by Malet. Not to mention that he totally recognized the fake general from a previous insurrection and knew that the guy had put in some time at an insane asylum.
Basically, it'd be like if your boss called in sick to work and that temp who was fired for low-hanging jeans showed up, claiming he was totally in charge now. Come to think of it, this whole insurrection played out like an episode of The Office at one point. Except cast members of The Office weren't arrested, tried and executed like Claude de Malet and his collaborators were.
It's debatable whether Malet or the cast of The Office made out better.