Overthrow by Stephen Kinzer
Kinzer describes the machinations behind the overthrowing of the 14 national leaders deposed over time by the U.S., acting in its own national interest.
This is not a book review per se, but more an inquiry. Pertinent questions:
How many U.S. citizens know that the United States has done this?
How many U.S. college students are taught that the U.S. has done this?
How many U.S. high school students are taught that the U.S. has overthrown 14 international leaders?
I think these are valid questions, and I think it speaks volumes about the jingoism that permeates American public education and consequently American life. It is one reason why I have been a crusader (politically incorrect word these days) for the return of Civics as a required course for every American high school senior. This of course would have to be a REAL Civics class, one that emphsizes the brilliance and wonders of the American system of government, but also does not ignore its deficiencies. As I always told my students, “Do you know any human being who is perfect? Of course not, so why would we expect any nation to be perfect? We strive, hopefully, to be our best, but as humans we must acknowledge our mistakes and sins if we hope to improve ourselves. Why is it considered treasonous these days to ask for the same kind of national self-examination?”
Keep in mind that Kinzer’s book deals only with leaders we have actually overthrown; it does not include the much longer list of nations – 234 of them between 1798 and 1993 alone – where we have intervened militarily, as outlined here by the Department of the Navy*. (More recently, how many ways have we intervened in the politics of other countries in non-military ways?)
So, here is the list. Here are a few questions to ask as you read it:
1. Have you ever heard of this person? If so, do you know where and when you heard of him/her? (I’m betting it wasn’t in high school. Maybe college, at best, and probably not until your later adult life.)
2. Do you know why the United States disposed of them?
3. Was the removal justified, either practically at the moment, morally, or in light of later history?
4. Did this removal enhance the international standing of the United States? (This may depend on your definition of the word ‘enhance’.)
1893 – Queen Liliokalani, Hawaii
1898 – Cuba
1898 – Puerto Rico
1898 – Emilio Aguinaldo, Philippines
1908 – Jose Santos Zelaya, Nicaragua
1908 – Honduras
1952 – Mohammed Mossadegh, Iran
1954 – Jacobo Arbenz, Guatemala
1963 – Ngo Dinh Diem, Vietnam
1972 – Salvador Allende, Chile
1986 – Eric Gairy, Grenada
1989 – Manuel Noriega, Panama
2001 – Mullah Omar and the Taliban, Afghanistan
2003 – Sadaam Hussein, Iraq
If you are intriqued by this list, then read Kinzer’s book. It is well-written, well-balanced, and well-documented.
*In a future post, I may address this list.