September 22nd, 2007

reading, activism, writing

Book # 38: Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer

For any and all who paused in the days after September 11, 2001 with the question "Why do they hate us?" on their minds, this book supplies a few of the answers. For any and all who thought, in those frightening days, of Malcolm X's statement that the "Chickens have come home to roost," this book provides a reminder of the consequences of US foreign policy.

Kinzer begins with the outright interventions that signaled the onset of the US's own "age of imperialism" like the military overthrow of the much-weakened monarchy of the Hawaiian Islands, through the Spanish-American War which brought Cuba, Puerto Rico, The Philippines, and Guam under US control, and into the overthrow of the Nicaraguan and Honduran governments. He then journeys into the "covert action" stage, describing the moves and machinations involved in the disposal of the democratically elected Iranian, Guatemalan, and Chilean governments, as well as the US-puppet government in Vietnam in 1963. Next comes the "invasion era" ushered in by Ronald Reagan. The governments of Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq fell one by one.

Kinzer leaves out several countries where he claims that the US played no decisive roll in regime change like Indonesia, Mexico, Haiti, Congo, the Dominican Republic, and Suriname. Others can argue about the influence the actions of the CIA, US Military, and White House played in each instance.

Provided with 20/20 hindsight, Kinzer follows the aftermath of these interventions, uncovering the devastating affect that the overthrow wrought, not only on the civilian populations in each place, but ultimately on US goals. It's up to readers to decide if the goals of the US government are also their own.

The book is a shocking and sad journey through history that could be a required dose of reality for those trying to answer the urgent questions of our age. On September 11th, many people in the US discovered that foreign policy effects them too -- not simply those in distant countries who they know little about.