Mossadegh, Diem, Arbenz, Allende, Liliuokalani, Kissinger: In this cheerless catalogue of villains and victims, New York Times correspondent Kinzer (All the Shah’s Men, 2003, etc.) convincingly portrays U.S. foreign policy as a branch of organized crime.
In 1901, a veteran of the Wounded Knee massacre ordered his men to turn the Philippines into “a howling wilderness,” kill everyone over ten years of age and take no prisoners. Anticipating My Lai and Abu Ghraib by many decades, his troops responded by committing all manner of atrocities, including inventing a devious form of torture that led the Indianapolis News to opine that the U.S. had adopted “the methods of barbarism.” Just a few years before, America had first stretched its imperial wings by seizing Hawaii from its rightful owners at the behest of a handful of sugar barons. Their spiritual heirs would call for the ouster of democratically elected Chilean president Salvador Allende, and Kissinger and Nixon would happily oblige, funding and arming a coup that, eerily enough, began on Sept. 11, 1973. Kinzer recounts these and several other exercises in regime change conducted more or less openly (save for those of the Nixon administration, sneaky in everything). The project is a timely one, given the ongoing exercises in Iraq and Afghanistan, which seem tailor-made for the moral of the story—that, with the exception of Reagan’s Grenada invasion of 1983, those operations have, “in the end, weakened rather than strengthened American security,” having had the cumulative effect of serving as a rallying point for anti-Americanism worldwide, increasing political divisions at home, amplifying the foreign entanglements that the Founding Fathers so feared and proving that “the United States was a hypocritical nation, as cynical as any other.”
A sobering and saddening book.