The United States carried out extremely serious interventions
into more than 70 nations in this period.
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.
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.
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.
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 Ferdinand Marcos.
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 governments.
The 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.
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.
Prime Minister Mossadegh was overthrown in a joint U.S./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.
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.-supported governments in Jordan and
Lebanon, landed 14,000 troops in Lebanon, and conspired to
overthrow or assassinate Nasser of Egypt and his troublesome
Sukarno, like Nasser, was the kind of Third World leader the
United States could not abide. 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. 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." The CIA began throwing money into the elections, plotted
Sukarno's assassination, tried to blackmail him with a phony 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,
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.
The slippery slope began with siding with ~ 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. 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 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 of
Prince Sihanouk was 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
on 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 man was obviously a "Communist." The poor man was
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 multibillionaire.
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 from communism.
For the next 15 years, all the features of military dictatorship
that Latin America has come to know 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"
Washington was very pleased. Brazil broke relations with Cuba
and became one of the United States' most reliable allies in
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
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 civil liberties: Communists, or those labeled as
such, were not to be persecuted unless they actually violated
A number of American officials and congresspeople 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 March 10, 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, embargoes,
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 were all there. But we'll never know. And that of course
was the idea.
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, Communist 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 moment. "
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 on 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 process.
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 into 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
The military coup took place in April 1967, just two days before
the campaign for j 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 are Americans."
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
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. Iaw, 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.
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 Guard 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.
What would drive the most powerful nation in the world to invade
a country of 110,000? 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
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.
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 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.
Washington's 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.
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 storage 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 adults.
Iraq was the strongest military power among 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. "
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:
El 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 protesters
and strikers. In 1980, the dissidents took to the gun, and civil
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.
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 wages.
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.
William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA
Interventions Since World War II. Portions of the book can be
read at: http://members.aol. com/bblum6/American holocaust.htm.