...It started with genocide and slavery and has moved on to oppression and international exploitation. The form has changed the essence remains the same.
US wars of aggression and intervention
by William Blum
The engine of American foreign policy has been fuelled not by a devotion to
any kind of morality, but by the necessity to serve other imperatives:
1) to make the world safe for American corporations;
2) to enhance the financial statements of defence contractors at home who
have contributed generously to members of Congress;
3) to prevent the rise of any society that might serve as a successful
example of an alternative to the capitalist model;
4) to extend political and economic hegemony over as wide an area as
possible, as befits a "great power".
All of this in the name of fighting a supposed moral crusade against what
cold warriors convinced themselves and the American people, was the
existence of an evil International Communist Conspiracy, which in fact
never existed, evil or not.
The United States carried out extremely serious interventions into more
than 70 nations in this period. Among these were the following:
China 1945-49: The US intervened in a civil war, taking the side of
Chiang Kai-shek against the communists, even though the latter had been a
much closer ally of the United States in the world war. The US used
defeated Japanese soldiers to fight for its side. The communists forced
Chiang to flee to Taiwan in 1949.
Italy 1947-48: Using every trick in the book, the US interfered in
the elections to prevent the Communist Party from coming to power legally
This perversion of democracy was done in the name of "saving democracy" in
Italy. The Communists lost.
For the next few decades, the CIA, along with US corporations, continued to
intervene in Italian elections, pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars
and much psychological warfare to block the spectre that was haunting
Greece 1947-49: Intervened in a civil war, taking the side of the
neo-fascists against the Greek left which had fought the Nazis
The neo-fascists won and instituted a highly brutal regime, for which the
CIA created a new internal security agency, KYP. Before long, KYP was
carrying out all the endearing practices of secret police everywhere,
including systematic torture.
Philippines 1945-53: US military fought against leftist forces
(Huks) even while the Huks were still fighting against the Japanese
After the war, the US continued its fight against the Huks, defeating them,
and then installing a series of puppets as President, culminating in the
dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
South Korea 1945-53: After World War II, the United States
suppressed the popular progressive forces in favour of the conservatives
who had collaborated with the Japanese. This led to a long era of corrupt,
reactionary, and brutal governments.
Albania 1949-53: US and Britain tried unsuccessfully to overthrow
the communist government and install a new one that would have been pro-
Western and composed largely of monarchists and collaborators with Italian
fascists and Nazis.
Germany 1950s: The CIA orchestrated a wide-ranging campaign of
sabotage, terrorism, dirty tricks, and psychological warfare against East
Germany. This was one of the factors which led to the building of the
Berlin Wall in 1961.
Iran 1953: Prime Minister Mossadegh was overthrown in a joint US and
British operation. Mossadegh had been elected to his position by a large
majority of parliament, but he had made the fateful mistake of spearheading
the movement to nationalise a British-owned oil company, the sole oil
company operating in Iran.
The coup restored the Shah to absolute power and began a period of 25 years
of repression and torture, with the oil industry being restored to foreign
ownership, as follows: Britain and the US, each 40 per cent, other nations
20 per cent.
Guatemala 1953-1990s: A CIA-organised coup overthrew the
democratically-elected and progressive government of Jacobo Arbenz,
initiating 40 years of death-squads, torture, disappearances, mass
executions, and unimaginable cruelty, totaling well over 100,000 victims —
indisputably one of the most inhuman chapters of the 20th century.
Arbenz had nationalised the US firm, United Fruit Company, which had
extremely close ties to the American power elite.
As justification for the coup, Washington declared that Guatemala had been
on the verge of a Soviet takeover, when in fact the USSR had so little
interest in the country that it didn't even maintain diplomatic relations
The real problem in the eyes of Washington, in addition to United Fruit,
was the danger of Guatemala's social democracy spreading to other countries
in Latin America.
Middle East 1956-58: The Eisenhower Doctrine stated that the United
States "is prepared to use armed forces to assist" any Middle East country
"requesting assistance against armed aggression from any country controlled
by international communism".
The English translation of this was that no one would be allowed to
dominate, or have excessive influence over, the Middle East and its oil
fields except the United States, and that anyone who tried would be, by
In keeping with this policy, the United States twice attempted to overthrow
the Syrian Government, staged several shows-of-force in the Mediterranean
to intimidate movements opposed to US-supported governments in Jordan and
Lebanon, landed 14,000 troops in Lebanon, and conspired to overthrow or
assassinate Nasser of Egypt and his troublesome Middle-East nationalism.
Indonesia 1957-58: Sukarno, like Nasser, was the kind of Third World
leader the United States could not abide. He took neutralism in the Cold
War seriously, making trips to the Soviet Union and China (though to the
White House as well).
He nationalised many private holdings of the Dutch, the former colonial
power. And he refused to crack down on the Indonesian Communist Party,
which was walking the legal, peaceful road and making impressive gains
Such policies could easily give other Third World leaders "wrong ideas".
Thus it was that the CIA began throwing money into the elections, plotted
Sukarno's assassination, tried to blackmail him with a phoney sex film, and
joined forces with dissident military officers to wage a full-scale war
against the Government. Sukarno survived it all.
British Guyana, 1953-64: For 11 years, two of the oldest democracies
in the world, Great Britain and the United States, went to great lengths to
prevent a democratically elected leader from occupying his office.
Cheddi Jagan was another Third World leader who tried to remain neutral and
independent. He was elected three times.
Although a leftist — more so than Sukarno or Arbenz — his policies in
office were not revolutionary. But he was still a marked man, for he
represented Washington's greatest fear: building a society that might be a
successful example of an alternative to the capitalist model.
Using a wide variety of tactics — from general strikes and disinformation
to terrorism and British legalisms, the US and Britain finally forced Jagan
out in 1964.
John F Kennedy had given a direct order for him to be outed as, presumably,
One of the better-off countries in the region under Jagan, Guyana, by the
1980s, became one of the poorest. Its principal export became people.
Vietnam, 1950-73: The slippery slope began by siding with the
French, the former colonisers and collaborators with the Japanese, and
against Ho Chi Minh and his followers who had worked closely with the
Allied war effort and admired all things American.
Ho Chi Minh had written numerous letters to President Truman and the State
Department asking for America's help in winning Vietnamese independence
from the French and finding a peaceful solution for his country. All his
entreaties were ignored.
For he was some kind of communist. Twenty-three years, and more than a
million dead, later, the United States withdrew its military forces from
Vietnam. Most people say that the US lost the war.
But by destroying Vietnam to its core, and poisoning the earth and the gene
pool for generations, Washington had in fact achieved its main purpose:
preventing what might have been the rise of a good development option for
Asia. Ho Chi Minh was, after all, some kind of communist.
Cambodia 1955-73: Prince Sihanouk was yet another leader who did not
fancy being an American client. After many years of hostility towards his
regime, including assassination plots and the infamous Nixon/Kissinger
secret "carpet bombings" of 1969-70, Washington finally overthrew Sihanouk
in a coup in 1970.
This was all that was needed to impel Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge forces to
enter the fray. Five years later, they took power.
But five years of American bombing had caused Cambodia's traditional
economy to vanish. The old Cambodia had been destroyed forever.
Incredibly, the Khmer Rouge were to inflict even greater misery upon this
unhappy land. To add to the irony, the United States supported Pol Pot,
militarily and diplomatically, after the subsequent defeat of the Khmer
Rouge by the Vietnamese.
United States Interventions (Part II)
by William Blum
Since 1945 the United States has carried out extremely serious
interventions into more than 70 nations. Part I of this series, published
last week, looked at wars and other interventions commenced during the
1940s and '50s. This week the series continues from the Congo to
The Congo/Zaire 1960-65: In June 1960, Patrice Lumumba became the
Congo's first Prime Minister after independence from Belgium. But Belgium
retained its vast mineral wealth in Katanga province and prominent
Eisenhower administration officials had financial ties to the same wealth.
Lumumba, at Independence Day ceremonies before a host of foreign
dignitaries, called for the nation's economic as well as its political
liberation, and recounted a list of injustices against the natives by the
white owners of the country.
The poor man was obviously a "communist". The poor man was obviously
doomed. Eleven days later, Katanga province seceded.
In September, Lumumba was dismissed by the President at the instigation of
the United States and in January 1961 he was assassinated at the express
request of Dwight Eisenhower.
There followed several years of civil conflict and chaos and the rise to
power of Mobutu Sese Seko, a man not a stranger to the CIA. Mobutu went on
to rule the country for more than 30 years, with a level of corruption and
cruelty that shocked even his CIA handlers.
The Zairian people lived in abject poverty despite the country's plentiful
natural wealth, while Mobutu became a multi-billionaire.
Brazil 1961-64: President Joao Goulart was guilty of the usual
crimes. He took an independent stand in foreign policy, resuming relations
with socialist countries and opposing sanctions against Cuba.
His administration passed a law limiting the amount of profits
multinationals could transmit outside the country; a subsidiary of ITT was
nationalised; he promoted economic and social reforms.
US Attorney-General Robert Kennedy was uneasy about Goulart allowing
"communists" to hold positions in government agencies. Yet the man was no
He was a millionaire land-owner and a Catholic. That, however, was not
enough to save him. In 1964, he was overthrown in a military coup that had
deep, covert American involvement.
The official Washington line was ... yes, it's unfortunate that democracy
has been overthrown in Brazil ... but, still, the country has been saved
For the next 15 years, all the features of military dictatorship which
Latin America has come to know were instituted: Congress was shut down,
political opposition was reduced to virtual extinction, habeas corpus for
"political crimes" was suspended, criticism of the President was forbidden
Trade unions were taken over by government, mounting protests were met by
police and military firing into crowds, peasants' homes were burned down,
priests were brutalised.
Disappearances, death squads, a remarkable degree of depravity, torture ...
the government had a name for its program: the "moral rehabilitation" of
Washington was very pleased. Brazil broke relations with Cuba and became
one of the United States' most reliable allies in Latin America.
Dominican Republic, 1963-66: In February 1963, Juan Bosch took
office as the first democratically elected President of the Dominican
Republic since 1924. Here at last was John F Kennedy's liberal anti-
communist, to counter the charge that the US supported only military
Bosch's government was to be the long sought "showcase of democracy" that
would put the lie to Fidel Castro.
Bosch was true to his beliefs. He called for land reform; low-rent housing;
modest nationalisation of business; and foreign investment provided it was
not excessively exploitative of the country.
A number of American officials and Congressmen expressed their discomfort
with Bosch's plans, as well as his stance of independence from the United
Land reform and nationalisation are always touchy issues in Washington, the
stuff that "creeping socialism" is made of. In several quarters of the US
press Bosch was red-baited.
In September, the military boots marched. Bosch was out. The United States,
which could discourage a military coup in Latin America with a frown, did
Nineteen months later, a revolt broke out which promised to put the exiled
Bosch back into power. The United States sent 23,000 troops to help crush
Cuba 1959 to present: Fidel Castro came to power at the beginning of
1959. A US National Security Council meeting of March 10, 1959 included on
its agenda the feasibility of bringing "another government to power in
There followed 40 years of terrorist attacks, bombings, full-scale military
invasion, sanctions, embargoes, isolation, assassinations ... Cuba had
carried out The Unforgivable Revolution, a very serious threat of setting a
"good example" in Latin America.
Indonesia 1965: A complex series of events, involving a supposed
coup attempt, a counter-coup, and perhaps a counter-counter-coup, with
American fingerprints apparent at various points, resulted in the removal
of President Sukarno from power and his replacement by General Suharto.
The massacre that began immediately — of communists, communist
sympathisers, suspected communists, suspected communist sympathisers, and
none of the above — was called by the New York Times "one of the
most savage mass slayings of modern political history".
The estimates of the number killed in the course of a few years begin at
half a million and go above a million.
It was later learned that the US Embassy had compiled lists of "communist"
operatives, from top echelons down to village cadres, as many as 5,000
names, and turned them over to the army, which then hunted those persons
down and killed them.
The Americans would then check off the names of those who had been killed
or captured. "It really was a big help to the army. They probably killed a
lot of people, and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands", said one US
"But that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a
Chile, 1964-73: Salvador Allende was the worst possible scenario for
a Washington imperialist. He could imagine only one thing worse than a
Marxist in power — an elected Marxist in power, who honoured the
constitution, and became increasingly popular.
This shook the very foundation stones upon which the anti-communist tower
was built: the doctrine, painstakingly cultivated for decades, that
"communists" can take power only through force and deception, that they can
retain that power only through terrorising and brainwashing the population.
After sabotaging Allende's electoral endeavour in 1964, the CIA and the
rest of the American foreign policy machine failed to do so in 1970,
despite their best efforts.
Over the next three years they left no stone unturned in their attempt to
destabilise the Allende Government, paying particular attention to building
up military hostility.
Finally, in September 1973, the military overthrew the Government. Allende
died in the process.
Thus it was that they closed the country to the outside world for a week,
while the tanks rolled and the soldiers broke down doors; the stadiums rang
with the sounds of execution and the bodies piled up along the streets and
floated in the river.
The torture centres opened for business; subversive books were thrown to
the bonfires; soldiers slit the trouser legs of women, shouting that "In
Chile women wear dresses!"; the poor returned to their natural state; and
the men of the world in Washington and in the halls of international
finance opened up their cheque-books.
In the end, more than 3,000 had been executed, thousands more tortured or
Greece 1964-74: The military coup took place in April 1967, just two
days before the campaign for national elections was to begin, elections
which appeared certain to bring the veteran liberal leader George
Papandreou back as Prime Minister.
Papandreou had been elected in February 1964 with the only outright
majority in the history of modern Greek elections.
The successful machinations to unseat him had begun immediately, a joint
effort of the Royal Court, the Greek military, and the American military
and CIA stationed in Greece.
The 1967 coup was followed immediately by the traditional martial law,
censorship, arrests, beatings, torture, and killings, the victims totaling
some 8,000 in the first month.
This was accompanied by the equally traditional declaration that this was
all being done to save the nation from a "communist takeover".
Corrupting and subversive influences in Greek life were to be removed.
Among these were miniskirts, long hair, and foreign newspapers; church
attendance for the young would be compulsory.
However, it was torture, usually in the most gruesome of ways, often with
equipment supplied by the United States, which most indelibly marked the
seven-year Greek nightmare.
James Becket, an American attorney sent to Greece by Amnesty International,
wrote in December 1969: "Hundreds of prisoners have listened to the little
speech given by Inspector Basil Lambrou, who sits behind his desk which
displays the red, white, and blue clasped-hand symbol of American aid.
"He tries to show the prisoner the absolute futility of resistance: `You
make yourself ridiculous by thinking you can do anything. The world is
divided in two. There are the communists on that side and on this side the
free world. The Russians and the Americans, no one else. What are we?
Americans. Behind me there is the government, behind the government is
NATO, behind NATO is the US. You can't fight us, we are Americans.'"
United States Intervention (Part III)
by William Blum
Since 1945 the United States has carried out extremely serious wars of
aggression and interventions in more than 70 nations. Parts I and II of
this series, published in the last two issues of The Guardian,
brought the series up to the 1960s. This week, the final in the series,
covers actions commenced in the 1970s up to the present.
East Timor, 1975 to present: In December 1975, Indonesia invaded
East Timor, which lies at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago,
and which had proclaimed its independence after Portugal had relinquished
control of it.
The invasion was launched the day after US President Gerald Ford and
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had left Indonesia after giving
President Suharto permission to use American arms which, under US law,
could not be used for aggression. Indonesia was Washington's most valuable
tool in Southeast Asia.
Amnesty International estimated that by 1989, Indonesian troops, with the
aim of forcibly annexing East Timor, had killed 200,000 people out of a
population of between 600,000 and 700,000.
The United States consistently supported Indonesia's claim to East Timor
(unlike the UN and the EU), and downplayed the slaughter to a remarkable
At the same time the US supplied Indonesia with all the military hardware
and training it needed to carry out the job.
Nicaragua 1978-89: When the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza
dictatorship in 1978, it was clear to Washington that they might well be
that long-dreaded beast — "another Cuba".
Under President Carter, attempts to sabotage the revolution took diplomatic
and economic forms.
Under Reagan, violence was the method of choice. For eight terribly long
years, the people of Nicaragua were under attack by Washington's proxy
army, the Contras, formed from Somoza's vicious National Guardsmen and
other supporters of the dictator.
It was all-out war, aiming to destroy the progressive social and economic
programs of the government, burning down schools and medical clinics,
raping, torturing, mining harbours, bombing and strafing. These were Ronald
Reagan's "freedom fighters".
There would be no revolution in Nicaragua.
Grenada 1979-84: What would drive the most powerful nation in the
world to invade a country of 110,000?
Maurice Bishop and his followers had taken power in a 1979 coup. Although
their actual policies were not as revolutionary as Castro's, public
appearances by the Grenadian leaders in other countries of the region met
with great enthusiasm.
Washington was again driven by its fear of "another Cuba". US
destabilisation tactics against the Bishop Government began soon after the
coup and continued until 1983, featuring numerous acts of disinformation
and dirty tricks.
The US invasion in October 1983 met minimal resistance, although the US
suffered 135 killed or wounded; there were also some 400 Grenadian
casualties, and 84 Cubans, mainly construction workers.
What conceivable human purpose these people died for has not been revealed.
At the end of 1984, a questionable election was held. It was won by a man
supported by the Reagan administration.
One year later, the human rights organisation, Council on Hemispheric
Affairs, reported that Grenada's new US-trained police force and counter-
insurgency forces had acquired a reputation for brutality, arbitrary
arrest, and abuse of authority, and were eroding civil rights.
In April 1989, the government issued a list of more than 80 books which
were prohibited from being imported. Four months later, the Prime Minister
suspended parliament to forestall a threatened no-confidence vote resulting
from what his critics called "an increasingly authoritarian style".
Libya 1981-89: Libya refused to be a proper Middle East client state
of Washington. Its leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi, was uppity. He would have to
US planes shot down two Libyan planes in what Libya regarded as its air
space. The US also dropped bombs on the country, killing at least 40
people, including Qaddafi's daughter.
There were other attempts to assassinate the man, operations to overthrow
him, a major disinformation campaign, economic sanctions, and blaming Libya
for being behind the Pan Am 103 bombing without any good evidence.
Panama, 1989: Washington's mad bombers strike again. December 1989,
a large tenement barrio in Panama City wiped out, 15,000 people left
Counting several days of ground fighting against Panamanian forces, 500-
something dead was the official body count (what the US and the new US-
installed Panamanian Government admitted to).
Other sources, with no less evidence, insisted that thousands had died;
3,000-something wounded. Twenty-three Americans dead, 324 wounded.
Question from reporter: "Was it really worth it to send people to their
death for this? To get Noriega?"
George Bush: "Every human life is precious, and yet I have to answer, yes,
it has been worth it."
Manuel Noriega had been an American ally and informant for years until he
outlived his usefulness. But getting him was not the only motive for the
Bush wanted to send a clear message to the people of Nicaragua, who had an
election scheduled in two months, that this might be their fate if they re-
elected the Sandinistas.
Bush also wanted to flex some military muscle to illustrate to Congress the
need for a large combat-ready force, even after the very recent dissolution
of the "Soviet threat".
The official explanation for the American ouster was Noriega's drug
trafficking, which Washington had known about for years and had not been at
all bothered by.
Iraq 1990s: Relentless bombing for more than 40 days and nights,
against one of the most advanced nations in the Middle East, devastating
its ancient and modern capital city.
177 million pounds of bombs falling on the people of Iraq, the most
concentrated aerial onslaught in the history of the world; using depleted
uranium weapons and incinerating people, causing cancer.
Chemical and biological weapon storages and oil facilities blasted,
poisoning the atmosphere to a degree perhaps never matched anywhere;
soldiers buried alive, deliberately.
The infrastructure destroyed, with a terrible effect on health; sanctions
continued to this day multiplying the health problems; perhaps a million
children dead by now from all of these things, even more adults.
Iraq was the strongest military power amongst the Arab states. This may
have been their crime.
Noam Chomsky has written: "It's been a leading, driving doctrine of US
foreign policy since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy
resources of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the United
States and its clients and, crucially, that no independent, indigenous
force will be permitted to have a substantial influence on the
administration of oil production and price."
Afghanistan 1979-92: Everyone knows of the unbelievable repression
of women in Afghanistan, carried out by Islamic fundamentalists, even
before the Taliban.
But how many people know that during the late 1970s and most of the 1980s,
Afghanistan had a government committed to bringing the incredibly backward
nation into the 20th century, including giving women equal rights?
What happened, however, is that the United States poured billions of
dollars into waging a terrible war against this government, simply because
it was supported by the Soviet Union.
Prior to this, CIA operations had knowingly increased the probability of a
Soviet intervention, which is what occurred. In the end, the United States
won, and the women, and the rest of Afghanistan, lost.
More than a million dead, three million disabled, five million refugees, in
total about half the population.
El Salvador, 1980-92: Salvador's dissidents tried to work within the
system. But with US support, the government made that impossible, using
repeated electoral fraud and murdering hundreds of protesters and strikers.
In 1980, the dissidents took to the gun, and civil war.
Officially, the US military presence in El Salvador was limited to an
advisory capacity. In actuality, military and CIA personnel played a more
active role on a continuous basis.
About 20 Americans were killed or wounded in helicopter and plane crashes
while flying reconnaissance or other missions over combat areas, and
considerable evidence surfaced of a US role in the ground fighting as well.
The war came to an official end in 1992; 75,000 civilian deaths and the US
Treasury depleted by US$6 billion.
Meaningful social change has been largely thwarted. A handful of the
wealthy still own the country, the poor remain as ever, and dissidents
still have to fear right-wing death squads.
Haiti, 1987-94: The US supported the Duvalier family dictatorship
for 30 years, then opposed the reformist priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Meanwhile, the CIA was working intimately with death squads, torturers and
With this as background, the Clinton White House found itself in the
awkward position of having to pretend — because of all their rhetoric
about "democracy" — that they supported Aristide's return to power in
Haiti after he had been ousted in a 1991 military coup.
After delaying his return for more than two years, Washington finally had
its military restore Aristide to office, but only after obliging the priest
to guarantee that he would not help the poor at the expense of the rich,
and that he would stick closely to free-market economics.
This meant that Haiti would continue to be the assembly plant of the
Western Hemisphere, with its workers receiving literally starvation wages.
Yugoslavia, 1999: The United States set about bombing the country
back to a pre-industrial era. It would like the world to believe that its
intervention was motivated only by "humanitarian" impulses.
Perhaps the above history of US interventions, can help one decide how much
weight to place on this claim.
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