The current debate about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and the anniversary of Daniel Ellsburg’s release of Pentagon papers started me thinking about our history of wars. When I looked it up, I was stunned!
Since our Declaration of Independence, the United States of America has been almost constantly at war. In fact, not counting the Cold War and relatively minor deployments intended to protect American interests abroad, the US has been at war all but 33 years of its 236 year history!
Now you may try to justify those wars (as I used to) by assuming they were the result of our desire to spread democracy around the world and to defend human rights.
You could use that argument. But youd be wrong.
After wresting the continent away from Native Americans, Great Britain, France, Spain, Russia, and Mexico, our military has spanned the globe. Few of our enemies actually attacked us. More often, wars resulted from a perceived threat to our future and security, especially that of our large corporations. Following is a partial list of military actions involving the US:
1775-83 – Revolutionary War
1776-1915 – Indian Wars
1798-1800 – Quasi-War (undeclared naval war with France)
1801-05 – First Barbary War
1810-18 War with Spanish Florida
1812-15 – War of 1812
1815 – Second Barbary War
1824 Puerto Rico
1840 – Fiji Islands
1841 – Samoa
1843 – China
1844-48 – Mexican-American War
1853-54 – Japan
1854 – Nicaragua
1857-58 – Utah War (dispute with Mormons)
1859 – Mexico
1861-65 – Civil War
1863-64 – Japan
1866 – Mexico
1866 – China
1867 – Nicaragua
1868 – Japan
1871 – Korea
1873-96 – Mexico
1889 – Kingdom of Hawaii
1893 – Kingdom of Hawaii
1898 – Spanish-American War
1899-1913 – Phillipine-American War
1900 – China (Boxer Rebellion)
1914-17 – Mexico
1915-34 – Haiti
1917-18 – World War I
1918-19 – Mexico
1918-20 – Soviet Union
1941-45 – World War II
1945 – China (vs. Japanese)
1950-53 – Korean War
1955-75 – Vietnam
1957-75 – Laos
1965 – Dominican Republic
1968 – Laos & Cambodia
1975 – Angola
1983 – Grenada
1989 – Panama
1991 – Gulf War
1992-96 – Bosnia and Herzegovina
2001-present – Afghanistan
2003-present – War in Iraq
Moreover, since the end of World War II our military, led by the Central Intelligence Agency, has overthrown numerous democratically-elected leaders throughout the world. As a result of this incessant meddling, millions have been imprisoned, tortured and killed. For example:
1953 In Iran, the CIA overthrew democratically-elected Mohammed Mossadegh and replaced him with a brutal dictator, the Shah of Iran.
1954 In Guatemala, the CIA overthrew democratically-elected Jacob Arbenz after he threatened to nationalize the United Fruit Company, in which CIA Director Allen Dulles owned stock. The right-wing dictators who replaced Arbenz killed more than 100,000 Guatemalans.
1957-73 In Laos, the CIA carried out approximately one coup a year trying to nullify Laos democratic elections.
1959 In Haiti, the U.S. military helped “Papa Doc” Duvalier become dictator.
1961 In Dominican Republic, the CIA assassinated Rafael Trujillo, a brutal dictator supported by Washington. But only after his business interests began competing with our own.
1961 In Ecuador, CIA-backed military forced democratically-elected President Jose Velasco to resign.
1961 In Congo (Zaire), the CIA assassinated democratically-elected Patrice Lumumba.
1963 In Dominican Republic, the CIA overthrew democratically-elected Juan Bosch and installed a repressive, right-wing junta.
1963 In Ecuador, CIA-backed military overthrew President Arosemana. A military junta assumed command and began abusing human rights.
1964 In Brazil, a CIA-backed military coup overthrew democratically-elected Joao Goulart and replaced him with a brutal junta.
1965 In Dominican Republic, a popular rebellion tried to reinstall Juan Bosch. The revolution was crushed by CIA-led U.S. Marines.
1965 In Indonesia, the CIA overthrew democratically-elected Sukarno. His successor, General Suharto, massacred 500,000 to 1 million civilians.
1965 In Greece, with CIA backing, the king removed George Papandreous as prime minister for failing to support U.S. interests in Greece.
1965 In Congo (Zaire), CIA-backed military installed Mobutu Sese Seko who exploited his country for billions.
1967 In Greece, CIA-backed military overthrew the government two days before elections. The ensuing “reign of colonels,” backed by the CIA, tortured and murdered political opponents.
1967 In South Vietnam, the CIA helped identify and murder 20,000 alleged Viet Cong leaders.
1969 In Uruguay, notorious CIA torturer Dan Mitrione ascended to power becoming so feared that revolutionaries kidnapped and murdered him a year later.
1970 In Cambodia, the CIA overthrew popular Prince Sahounek and replaced him with Lon Nol. The move strengthened the Khmer Rouge, which rose to power and massacred millions.
1971 In Bolivia, CIA-backed military overthrew leftist President Juan Torres. He was replaced by Hugo Banzer who had more than 2,000 political opponents arrested, tortured, raped and executed.
1973 In Chile, the CIA assassinated democratically-elected Salvador Allende. He was replaced by General Augusto Pinochet, who tortured and murdered thousands of his own countrymen.
1975 In Angola, the CIA helped launch a war killing more than 300,000 Angolans.
1979 In Nicaragua, following the fall of CIA-backed Anastasios Samoza II, the remnants of his personal National Guard became the Contras, who fought a CIA-backed guerilla war against the Sandinista government.
1980 In El Salvador, following the murder of Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero, the country dissolved into civil war. CIA-trained death squads roamed the countryside, committing atrocities and killing 63,000 Salvadorans.
1983-89 In Honduras, the CIA taught Honduran military officers how to torture people. The notorious “Battalion 316” used the techniques on thousands of leftist dissidents.
1986 In Haiti, following the exile of “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the CIA rigged elections in favor of another right-wing military strongman. The CIA-created National Intelligence Service (SIN) suppressed popular revolt through torture and assassination.
1990 In Haiti, after leftist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide captured 68 percent of the vote he was deposed by CIA-backed military which brutalized the country.
1993 In Haiti, as chaos grew, military dictator, Raoul Cedras, is removed on threat of U.S. invasion. Aristide is returned to power only after being forced to accept an agenda favorable to the countrys ruling class.
Heres an idea. If Americans are as serious about wanting peace as most claim, maybe we could stop meddling in the internal politics of other nations. Then we could take half of our massive defense budget to solve real problems like poverty, climate change, diminishing energy resources, air and water pollution, and health care.
But given our propensity for war, that will probably be viewed as unpatriotic.