Who Hijacked Our Country

Monday, April 17, 2006

America’s Century of Regime Change

We're stuck in a 3-year quagmire in Iraq, and we might be on the verge of another one in Iran. You’re probably wondering if we have a maniac in the White House. Or for that matter, maybe George W. Bush is just a puppet getting his strings pulled by maniacs.

Or, this might just be typical of America’s foreign policy for the past few generations. Maybe we're just becoming more aware of our longtime pattern of global aggression.

That's the view of Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change by Stephen Kinzer. The author has been a New York Times reporter in more than fifty countries, and he’s served as bureau chief in Turkey, Germany and Nicaragua.

He says “The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not an isolated episode. It was the culmination of a 110-year period during which Americans overthrew fourteen governments that displeased them for various ideological, political, and economic reasons.”

Furthermore: “The ‘regime change’ in Iraq seemed for a time — a very short time — to have worked. It is now clear, however, that this operation has had terrible unintended consequences. So have most of the other coups, revolutions, and invasions that the United States has mounted to depose governments it feared or mistrusted.”

This book brings together all of these overthrows and shows them as a continuum, rather than a series of unrelated events. The book only covers the cases where our foreign policy played the decisive role in overthrowing a government. Chile is included, even though no American troops were involved, because of the CIA’s huge role in stirring up a revolt against Allende.

On the other hand, Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are not included, even though all three of them have been invaded by the United States. We never sought regime change in any of those countries.

Our century of regime change began in 1893 with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. The President of the United States approved of this invasion. Soon afterward, the next president took office, and he denounced the invasion. Then as now, Americans were having furious debates about whether America should be overthrowing other governments.

In 1909 President William Howard Taft ordered the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. Taft was supposedly protecting American security and promoting democracy. (Where have we heard that before?) His actual purpose was to pave the way for American companies in Nicaragua to have free reign and be totally unaccountable.

Some things haven’t changed much in the last hundred years.

This regime change in Nicaragua set the pattern. The American government was getting more comfortable with the habit of overthrowing governments in order to protect American interests. The top priority was for American corporations to conduct business anywhere in the world without any interference from anybody. And each of these overthrows was couched in buzzwords like “national security,” “liberation” and “democracy.”

Multinational corporations were emerging as a global force around the same time that America was extending its global reach. Political parties, labor unions and social movements all tried to counteract the power of multinational corporations, but it was no match. Big Business had almost unlimited wealth, and they were getting more skillful at maneuvering their supporters into high-ranking government positions.

Global corporations and the American government have seemingly merged to the point where, as the author puts it, “defying them has become tantamount to defying the United States. When Americans depose a foreign leader who dares such defiance, they not only assert their rights in one country but also send a clear message to others.”

This pattern was set even more firmly in 1953, when we engineered a coup in Iran. A year later we did the same thing in Guatemala. Both of these coups were ordered by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Before becoming Secretary of State, Dulles had worked with some of the world’s largest corporations.

From this point on, it was easier for American corporations to use the American military or the CIA as their private army, whenever an “unfriendly” government got in their way.

The author says “When the stories of American ‘regime change’ operations are taken together, they reveal much about why the United States overthrows foreign governments and what consequences it brings on itself by doing so. They also teach lessons for the future.”

cross-posted at Bring It On!


Blogger Jim Marquis said...

Good history lesson. It's a shame more Americans don't know this stuff...

April 17, 2006 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger The GTL™ said...

What the hell you tryin' to do, Tom... sink our economy or something???

This is how we pay our bills now, bro. SHHHHH....

April 18, 2006 at 12:16 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

J. Marquis: Yeah, more Americans need to know their real history.

Gun-Toting Liberal: Ah yes, I'm an America-hating pinko and I'm trying to sink America's economy and everything she stands for :)

April 18, 2006 at 12:19 AM  
Blogger frstlymil said...

Wow. I think I'm going to have to get that book. Kinda shows, as with all things, that we U.S. types do not seem to take our own history and its lessons into account much at all. The history of immigration immediately following the abolishment of slavery to present day presents much the same awful history with respect to the how and the why of it and here we are again.

April 18, 2006 at 8:22 AM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

And to think after all that those ungrateful bastards are starting leftist movements.

Jeeez! Some people!

April 18, 2006 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Frstlymil: Yeah, it seems most of the world knows more about our real history than we do. We look at other countries objectively, and yet we can't examine our own without whitewashing everything. And if you point out the obvious, you're called a traitor. I think it's good to know what really happened in our history, and not cling to the sanitized version they teach in schools.

Praguetwin: Yup, can't imagine why anyone would start a leftist movement.

April 18, 2006 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Mike V. said...

Looking back on (at the time) over 50 years of this and being that he was Commander in Chief during two coups, I wonder if that's what prompted Eisenhower's warning:

" In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

April 18, 2006 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mike V.: Yes, I'm sure that quote was inspired by Eisenhower's own worldview and historical knowledge, plus his own complicity in 2 of those coups.

April 18, 2006 at 4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you mean Iraq didn't work? our corporations will be raking it in on Iraq for the next 10 years..or more


April 18, 2006 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Yup, I guess that makes it all worthwhile. And don't forget, some of that corporate wealth will trickle down to the rest of us.

April 18, 2006 at 7:59 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Whoa. Good post, Tom. This is the kind of stuff lots of Americans don't know about because they DON'T WANT to know about it. Or maybe they don't care. Lizzy has a good post at her weblog, the OCD Gen-X Liberal. It's from a speech given by an American military guy in 1933, and it sure does apply today...


April 18, 2006 at 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strange.... I was posting on the "Hugo" phenomenon just tonight. Is it any wonder Hugo is now the most beloved leader in the Americas?

April 18, 2006 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: Thanks. And I checked out Lizzy's post. It's funny how something from 1933 seems almost interchangable with today.

Jolly Roger: Yeah, I'm sure there's a reason why more and more South American countries are turning Left. Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela so far.

April 18, 2006 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger p_jordan_sr said...

Very cool piece!!! I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of doing some shameless "smokeblowing up your arse" by promoting this on my site. Blog on!!

April 18, 2006 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

John Pilger suggests my own country's change in government in the 70's may have had some thing to do with the US difficulty with that labor government at the time, and the fact that we Australians are not able to see what is eactly at Pine Gap (Military facility in middle of Australian desert)
Conspiracy is rarely truth but interesting to research differing perspectives to the norm.
These types of blogs restore some of my faith in Americans

April 19, 2006 at 12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I'll have to add this book to my list. I have Founding Myths sitting on my desk right now. The two books seem like they'll go together nicely. Thanks for the review!

April 19, 2006 at 5:44 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

P_Jordan_Sr: Cool! Glad you liked it.

Evan: I haven't heard anything about that, but I wouldn't doubt it.

Cassandra: I hadn't heard of Founding Myths, but it sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out.

April 19, 2006 at 9:15 AM  

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