American Foreign Policy
The engine of American foreign policy has been fueled not by
a devotion to any kind of morality, but rather by the necessity to serve other
imperatives, which can be summarized as follows:
1) making the world safe for American corporations;
2) enhancing the financial statements of defense contractors
at home who have contributed generously to members of congress;
3) preventing the rise of any society that might serve as a
successful example of an alternative to the capitalist model;
4) extending political and economic hegemony over as wide an
area as possible, as befits a "great power."
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: 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 U.S. 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
U.S. interfered in the elections to prevent the Communist Party from coming to power
legally and fairly. 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 American corporations, continued to intervene in Italian elections, pouring in
hundreds of millions of dollars and much psychological warfare to block the specter that
was haunting Europe.
Greece 1947-49: Intervened in a civil war, taking the
side of the neo-fascists against the Greek left which had fought the Nazis courageously.
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: U.S. military fought against
leftist forces (Huks) even while the Huks were still fighting against the Japanese
invaders. After the war, the U.S. continued its fight against the Huks, defeating them,
and then installing a series of puppets as president, culminating in the dictatorship of
South Korea 1945-53: After World War II, the United
States suppressed the popular progressive forces in favor of the conservatives who had
collaborated with the Japanese. This led to a long era of corrupt, reactionary, and brutal
Albania 1949-53: U.S. 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 U.S. 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 nationalize 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 U.S., each 40 percent, other nations 20 percent.
Guatemala 1953-1990s: A CIA-organized 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 nationalized the U.S. 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 Russians 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
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
definition, "communist." 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 U.S.-sported 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 by. He took neutralism in the cold
war seriously, making trips to the Soviet Union and China (though to the White House as
well). He nationalized 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 electorally. 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 Guiana/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 U.S. and Britain
finally forced Jagan out in 1964. John F. Kennedy had given a direct order for his ouster,
as, presumably, had Eisenhower.
One of the better-off countries in the region under Jagan, Guyana, by the 1980s,
was one of the poorest. Its principal export became people.
Vietnam, 1950-73: The slippery slope began with
siding with the French, the former colonizers and collaborators with the Japanese, against
Ho Chi Minh and his followers who had worked closely with the Allied war effort and
admired all things American. Ho Chi Minh was, after all, some kind of communist. He 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. Ho
Chi Minh modeled the new Vietnamese declaration of independence on the American, beginning
it with "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with ... "
But this would count for nothing in Washington. Ho Chi Minh 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 U.S. 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
Cambodia 1955-73: Prince Sihanouk, 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 their subsequent defeat by the Vietnamese.
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, prominent Eisenhower
administration officials had financial ties to the same wealth, and 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 plentiful natural wealth, while Mobutu became a
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 nationalized; he promoted economic and social reforms. And
Attorney-General Robert Kennedy was uneasy about Goulart allowing "communists"
to hold positions in government agencies. Yet the man was no radical. He was a millionaire
land-owner and a Catholic who wore a medal of the Virgin around his neck. That, however,
was not enough to save him. In 1964, he was overthrown in a military coup which 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 and love 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 by law, labor unions
were taken over by government interveners, mounting protests were met by police and
military firing into crowds, peasants' homes were burned down, priests were brutalized ...
disappearances, death squads, a remarkable degree and depravity of torture ... the
government had a name for its program: the "moral rehabilitation" of Brazil.
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 U.S. supported only military dictatorships. Bosch's government was to be
the long sought "showcase of democracy" that would put the lie to Fidel Castro.
He was given the grand treatment in Washington shortly before he took office.
Bosch was true to his beliefs. He called for land reform; low-rent housing; modest
nationalization of business; and foreign investment provided it was not excessively
exploitative of the country; and other policies making up the program of any liberal Third
World leader serious about social change. He was likewise serious about the thing called
civil liberties: Communists, or those labeled as such, were not to be persecuted unless
they actually violated the law.
A number of American officials and congressmen expressed their discomfort with
Bosch's plans, as well as his stance of independence from the United States. Land reform
and nationalization are always touchy issues in Washington, the stuff that "creeping
socialism" is made of. In several quarters of the U.S. 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 nothing.
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 it.
Cuba 1959 to present: Fidel Castro came to power at
the beginning of 1959. A U.S. National Security Council meeting of 10 March 1959 included
on its agenda the feasibility of bringing "another government to power in Cuba."
There followed 40 years of terrorist attacks, bombings, full-scale military invasion,
sanctions, embargos, isolation, assassinations ... Cuba had carried out The Unforgivable
Revolution, a very serious threat of setting a "good example" in Latin America.
The saddest part of this is that the world will never know what kind of society
Cuba could have produced if left alone, if not constantly under the gun and the threat of
invasion, if allowed to relax its control at home. The idealism, the vision, the talent,
the internationalism were all there. But we'll never know. And that of course was the
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 ouster from power of Sukarno and his replacement by a
military coup led by General Suharto. The massacre that began immediately -- of
communists, communists sympathizers, suspected communists, suspected communist
sympathizers, 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 U.S. 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 U.S. diplomat.
"But that's not all bad. There's a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive
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 honored 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 terrorizing and brainwashing the population.
After sabotaging Allende's electoral endeavor in 1964, and failing to do so in
1970, despite their best efforts, the CIA and the rest of the American foreign policy
machine left no stone unturned in their attempt to destabilize the Allende government over
the next three years, paying particular attention to building up military hostility.
Finally, in September 1973, the military overthrew the government, Allende dying in the
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
centers opened for business; the 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 check-books. In the end, more than
3,000 had been executed, thousands more tortured or disappeared.
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.
It was torture, however, which most indelibly marked the seven-year Greek
nightmare. James Becket, an American attorney sent to Greece by Amnesty International,
wrote in December 1969 that "a conservative estimate would place at not less than two
thousand" the number of people tortured, usually in the most gruesome of ways, often
with equipment supplied by the United States.
Becket reported the following:
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 U.S. You can't fight us, we
George Papandreou was not any kind of radical. He was a liberal anti-communist
type. But his son Andreas, the heir-apparent, while only a little to the left of his
father had not disguised his wish to take Greece out of the cold war, and had questioned
remaining in NATO, or at least as a satellite of the United States.
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 U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger had left Indonesia after giving Suharto permission to use American arms,
which, under U.S. 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 degree, at
the same time supplying 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 harbors, 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 thousand? Maurice Bishop and his followers
had taken power in a 1979 coup, and though their actual policies were not as revolutionary
as Castro's, Washington was again driven by its fear of "another Cuba,"
particularly when public appearances by the Grenadian leaders in other countries of the
region met with great enthusiasm.
U.S. destabilization tactics against the Bishop government began soon after the
coup and continued until 1983, featuring numerous acts of disinformation and dirty tricks.
The American invasion in October 1983 met minimal resistance, although the U.S. 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
At the end of 1984, a questionable election was held which was won by a man
supported by the Reagan administration. One year later, the human rights organization,
Council on Hemispheric Affairs, reported that Grenada's new U.S.-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 be punished. U.S. planes shot down two Libyan planes in what Libya regarded as its air
space. The U.S. 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
homeless. Counting several days of ground fighting against Panamanian forces,
500-something dead was the official body count, what the U.S. and the new U.S.-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 attack. 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 reelected 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; depleted uranium
weapons incinerating people, causing cancer; blasting chemical and biological weapon
storages and oil facilities; poisoning the atmosphere to a degree perhaps never matched
anywhere; burying soldiers 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
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 U.S.
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 U.S. support, the government made that impossible, using
repeated electoral fraud and murdering hundreds of protestors and strikers. In 1980, the
dissidents took to the gun, and civil war.
Officially, the U.S. 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 U.S. role in the ground fighting as well. The war came to an
official end in 1992; 75,000 civilian deaths and the U.S. Treasury depleted by six billion
dollars. 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 U.S. 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 drug
traffickers. 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
Yugoslavia, 1999: The United States is bombing the
country back to a pre-industrial era. It would like the world to believe that its
intervention is motivated only by "humanitarian" impulses.
Perhaps the above history of U.S. interventions, can help
one decide how much weight to place on this claim.