Empire, Racism & Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy

Introduction

            Despite what is taught in public schools across the nation, the U.S. is not unique in the road it took to become a world power. The happy thought of the founding fathers, finding themselves in an unpopulated land, rich in natural resources, and only needing to shed the oppression of Britain in order to fulfill the manifest destiny of the United States, is similar to the myths of Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. Pleasant, whimsical, but void of any truth.

Yet unlike other fairy tales, this one hides the horrendous crimes of murder, land theft and blatant and shocking disregard for human rights, all in the greedy pursuit of wealth and power. From the extermination of the ‘Indians,’ natives who’d lived on the North American continent since time immemorial, through the barbaric murders of Filipinos defending their nation from U.S. invasion, to the killing of ‘insurgents,’’ Iraqi freedom fighters, the U.S., often under the guise of freeing an oppressed people, has caused those very people far more suffering than the governments they were supposedly being freed from.

The irony of an imperial U.S.A. is striking.

“… here is a government created in the fires of bourgeois-democratic revolution against colonialism, and a government whose success in revolution served as an inspiration for scores of similar efforts in many parts of the world in subsequent years; at the same time, this very government, as the U.S. economy became monopoly capitalist – towards the close of the 19th century – itself entered upon a career of colonialism and in our own day stands as the main bastion of what still remains of colonialism.

“The anti-colonialist nature of U.S. beginnings and the inspirational character of the American Revolution have been among the elements helping the American ruling class obscure the pro-colonial and therefore anti-popular essence of its foreign policy.”[1]

In the early part of the twenty-first century, the myth of a freedom-loving people, spreading American-style democracy everywhere, began to be cracked. The U.S. invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq in March of 2003, in order, the world was told by U.S. President George W. Bush, to protect the U.S. from the imminent threat that Iraq posed to the U.S. With these lofty and frightening ideas, Congress, always wanting to appear strong against whatever current bugaboo ‘threatened’ the U.S. (e.g. Communism in the 1950’s; terrorism in the early 2000s), granted the president broad powers to wage war, powers he wasted no time in exercising. Although the war ravaged Iraq, killed hundreds of thousands of its citizens and thousands of U.S. soldiers, displaced millions of Iraqis and left at least hundreds of thousands of them homeless, many languishing in refugee camps in neighboring countries, no weapons of mass destruction, believed by many Americans, based on the statements of Mr. Bush and his cohorts, to be aimed at the living rooms of middle America, were found.   In his memoir, published in 2008, Republican economist Alan Greenspan, who’d served as chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve for nearly twenty years, said this about the Iraq war: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”[2]

Like that war, most, if not all, of the U.S.’s wars have had more to do with the accumulation of wealth and the increase of power than forcing U.S.-style democracy on foreign nations, whether they wanted it or not. Even during World War II, which established the U.S. as an undisputed world power, and defeated the horrific Hitler regime, the U.S. granted special permission for some U.S. companies to deal with the Nazi regime. Despite Hitler’s savagely cruel trek across Europe, the idea of making a buck from his activities was too enticing for the U.S. to avoid.

An investigation of the nation’s past wars shows stark similarities to those it currently wages. Certainly, the means of invading a nation, overthrowing its government and killing its citizens has been made far more effective with modern weaponry. President James Madison may have been happy to have had heat-seeking missiles when he invaded Canada, but he had to manage with horses. But the reasons for the wars have changed little, and the lies that are used to convince either the populace or Congress, or both, to invade sovereign nations, are alarmingly similar.

From the War of 1812, where Canada was the target, through World War I, the ‘war to make the world safe for democracy,’ all the way to Iraq, the war to rid that nation of weapons of mass destruction that it did not have, the underlying goal has always been empire. In some ways it is subtle; the U.S. fought in Korea ostensibly to prevent a takeover of that nation by Chinese Communists, but sixty years later the U.S. maintains a strong military presence in that nation, again ostensibly for its own protection. U.S. military bases span the globe, ‘protecting’ those nations from their enemies, real or imagined, and also ‘protecting’ the U.S. from its self-defined enemies. This defining of enemies is vital for the government to gain the support of the citizens to fight its wars, thus fueling the continuation and expansion of what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. And once a nation is invaded, the disillusionment of the citizens of the U.S. does nothing to bring about the war’s end; starting a war is far easier for the U.S. than ending one.

The country that proudly proclaims its own success in shedding the yoke of imperialism does not hesitate to exploit, or even create, opportunities to build empire. In the early nineteenth century, when Britain and France were embroiled in war, the U.S. found it convenient to invade Canada. Nearly 200 years later, after the terrorist attacks on the U.S. of September 11, 2001, the nation’s leaders fanned the fears of a frightened populace to inflame hatred for, and justify an invasion of, an oil-rich nation that was in no way associated with those attacks

Like most nations, the U.S. writes its own history to serve its own purposes. How willing, one might ask, would young men and women be to go to Iraq to fight and die for the benefit of U.S. oil company profits? How willing, generations ago, would they have been to leave their homes to fight in the Philippines, to help ensure profitable trade routes between the U.S. and China? Will they be willing, in the near future, to fight in Iran, so that U.S. politicians’ reelection campaigns can continue to receive the generous largess of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee)?

It is beyond the scope of this work to study over 200 years of foreign policy in great detail; such a work would require volumes. But there have been similar, over-arching policies that are manifested in very different foreign-policy decisions. All of them have as their foundation either increased wealth, increased power, or both.

This book is divided into three distinct sections (shown below), although there is much overlap between them.  Events and policies from one section do not cease with the start of the one following. The divisions are created simply to show the general, imperialist evolution of the U.S.; there has been little if any significant change in motives, although increasing power has brought increased suffering at the hands of the U.S.  There may be information from one section included in one following it, when those policies accompany ones reflecting the new period.

Each chapter includes information about the U.S. economic considerations for the war; the conditions in the U.S. that enabled the government to wage war; the reasons each war was, at least initially, favored by the citizenry, and the blatant disregard for the freedom, dignity and basic human rights of the U.S.’s self-identified ‘enemies’ and, in many cases, its own citizens.

 

Period 1: 1750 – 1898. Manifest Destiny

-          Chapter 1: Native American Oppression

-          Chapter 2: The War of 1812

-          Chapter 3: The Mexican-American War

-          Chapter 4: The Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars

-          Chapter 5: Other Foreign Policy Activities of this Time Period

Period 2: 1899 – 1953.  A New World Power

-          Chapter 6: Early Twentieth Century

-          Chapter 7: World War I

-          Chapter 8: Between World War I and World War II

-          Chapter 9: World War II

-          Chapter 10: The Korean War

-          Chapter 11: Other Foreign Policy Activities of this Time Period

Period 3: 1954 – Present. Fighting Invented Enemies 

-          Chapter 12: The Vietnam War

-          Chapter 13: The Gulf War

-          Chapter 14: The Afghanistan War

-          Chapter 15: The Iraq War

-          Chapter 16: Israeli-Palestine Conflict

-          Chapter 17: Other Foreign Policy Activities of this Time Period

Chapter 18: Summary and Analysis

The author recognizes that the material in this book brings into question some of the United States’ most cherished principles, and sheds a less-than-flattering light on them. Yet the facts speak for themselves; the U.S. is, and always has been, an imperial nation, far less concerned about human rights than corporate profits; less interested in peace than in power.



[1] Herbert Aptheker. American Foreign Policy and the Cold War (Kraus International Publications, 1962), 97.

[2] Alan Greenspan, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World (Penguin Books, 2008), 463.

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