Book Review: 'Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq' by Steven Kinzer
Review by sandnsea (Nom de plume)
A year ago, almost to the day, I wrote about this country's sordid history with fighting "Wars of Goodness". It is this belief in our own righteousness that makes it difficult for the American people to believe we were lied into war and has also led us to the place of spending half our budget on either building bigger and badder armaments or in military actions themselves. As I wrote a few days ago, I've always been haunted by John Kerry's words of an "America turned". I believe that peeling away the pretense of Wars of Goodness is necessary for the turning. Only in that way will we be able to live up to the hope of George Washington: "My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth."
I wonder what George Washington would think of America's Wars of Goodness, from the Indian Wars to the Mexican War and beyond. Steven Kinzer delves into our more recent history of wars in his new book, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq". In a recent interview with Amy Goodman, Kinzer puts forward the argument that the majority of US wars have followed "certain patterns that recur over and over again", often with the same unintended consequences as the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. "The first thing that happens is that the regime in question starts bothering some American company.... Then, the leaders of that company come to the political leadership of the United States to complain about the regime in that country... They make the assumption that any regime that would bother an American company or harass an American company must be anti-American, repressive, dictatorial, and probably the tool of some foreign power or interest that wants to undermine the United States... Then, it morphs one more time when the U.S. ... portray these interventions as liberation operations, just a chance to free a poor oppressed nation from the brutality of a regime that we assume is a dictatorship, because what other kind of a regime would be bothering an American company?"
There have been 14 of these coups, revolutions and invasions since the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. If America is to live up to our belief in ourselves as defenders of democracy and freedom, it is necessary to look at these military actions with a clarity and honesty that is consistently missing when our leaders take us to war. As we once again find ourselves on the precipice of war, we can recognize the patterns Kinzer exposes. Iran threatens our oil supply, is labeled anti-American, and we are told we must free yet another oppressed nation from a brutal regime. Amazingly, recent polls show nearly half the country has readily bought into this assertion, despite 65% of those same people disapproving of the administration that is telling us this.
Clearly the public still hasn't learned and America still hasn't turned. Steven Kinzer's book couldn't have come at a better time.
Editor's note: This review was originally published at the Daily Kos, which notes that its "content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified." The original page can be found here.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.