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Quote of the Day: Non-Intervention in the Affairs of Other Nation-States: Does the United States Practice What it Preaches?

howard zinn

By Dr. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, Chapter Sixteen — A People’s War?

For the United States to step forward as a defender of helpless countries matched its image in American high school history textbooks, but not its record in world affairs. It had opposed the Haitian revolution for independence from France at the start of the nineteenth century. It had instigated a war with Mexico
and taken half of that country. It had pretended to help Cuba win freedom from Spain, and then planted itself in Cuba with a military base, investments, and rights of intervention. It had seized Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and fought a brutal war to subjugate the Filipinos. It had “opened” Japan to its trade with
gunboats and threats. It had declared an Open Door Policy in China as a means of assuring that the United States would have opportunities equal to other imperial powers in exploiting China. It had sent troops to Peking with other nations, to assert Western supremacy in China, and kept them there for over
thirty years.

While demanding an Open Door in China, it had insisted (with the Monroe Doctrine and many military interventions) on a Closed Door in Latin America—that is, closed to everyone but the United States. It had engineered a revolution against Colombia and created the “independent” state of Panama in
order to build and control the Canal. It sent five thousand marines to Nicaragua in 1926 to counter a revolution, and kept a force there for seven years. It intervened in the Dominican Republic for the fourth time in 1916 and kept troops there for eight years. It intervened for the second time in Haiti in 1915
and kept troops there for nineteen years. Between 1900 and 1933, the United States intervened in Cuba four times, in Nicaragua twice, in Panama six times, in Guatemala once, in Honduras seven times. By 1924 the finances of half of the twenty Latin American states were being directed to some extent by the
United States. By 1935, over half of U.S. steel and cotton exports were being sold in Latin America.

Just before World War I ended, in 1918, an American force of seven thousand landed at Vladivostok as part of an Allied intervention in Russia, and remained until early 1920. Five thousand more troops were landed at Archangel, another Russian port, also as part of an Allied expeditionary force, and stayed for almost a year. The State Department told Congress: “All these operations were to offset effects of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.”

In short, if the entrance of the United States into World War II was (as so many Americans believed at the time, observing the Nazi invasions) to defend the principle of nonintervention in the affairs of other countries, the nation’s record cast doubt on its ability to uphold that principle.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    dale m.

    All morality aside, when you’re an empire, you don’t want any surprises from anywhere in the world. You have to keep your fingers on the pulse of every nation globally. It comes with all those who command an empire. It would be foolish not to. Hence, one ends up becoming a global meddler.

  2. Avatar

    Things you don’t learn in high school history classes – or most general college courses either. Heck, I took a specific course on the history of the Soviet era which included the years mentioned above and never heard one word of US forces in Vladivostok or Archangel.

    The US government has its fingers all over the world.

    • Avatar
      Yulya Sevelova

      A very interesting,and dad tally of U.S. policies of that time,and it shows now all the chicken coming home to roost in our time. It’s true that schools never let on about REAL history for a very long time ! The Internet sure changed things, didn’t it ! Unfortunately, sending the troops to Siberia to try to stop the Bolshevik revolution didn’t work, because at the time, the average Russian believed all these outlandish promises of the Communists about ending poverty and hunger, high rents, bad working conditions,etc. There was such unbelievable inequality then- like there is NOW over there. Of course, they did lie, even before 1920, the plane was for dictatorship, but they sure as hell didn’t tell US. Not until it was too late, they took all the food, any weapons, confiscating everything and shooting anyone who objected. Major hypocrisy going on. It wasn’t liberation, like we were told, they simply killed their way into power. They’ve been entrenched ever since. I’m going on about this because it makes me so damned angry . And it’s terrifying that there are are hardliners who are gearing up to do the same here, just under different labels. Once the CIA was created, things really ramped up with the meddling . In L.A. you can see the results of this directly,and where money really goes. It’s NOT for the common good. Sidewalks haven’t been repaired in 40 years. Piles of garbage sits for days on street corners,even though the trash trucked come to empty the dumpsters behind apartment buildings regularly. A beautiful place like L.A. showcases Neoliberalism, thanks to twisted policy. If you’re on foot especially, you see where politics local and national, have led. I don’t walk at night. You hear gunfire almost every night, along with the police helicopter zooming around low. The natural beauty of the place is overwhelmed by ruin. And the inequality is something else . I’ve been to Skid Row many times,having to pass through. Chickens coming home to roost ,thanks to the above. Yup.🌃😗😿🐕‍🦺

  3. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    What really disturbs me even more than the degree to which accounts of history are whitewashed (literally and figuratively, if you know what I mean) in this country are how much of the world has been inculcated with this point of view.

    As an example, through my long-ago marriage, I met a number of Cuban emigres and their children in the Miami area. While many of them are well-educated in their particular areas of expertise and practice, they still failed to realize that the very reason they were in Miami was US intervention in Cuba. Now, I wouldn’t have wanted to live under Castro, but he was basically the end-result of what our country did there. Had we not backed the corrupt regimes that preceded him (and allowed Havana to be run, in essence, by Jewish and Italian organized crime), Castro may well have been just another ballplayer who failed in his tryout with the old Washington Senators.

    Come to think of it, pretty much any corrupt, autocratic regime in the Western Hemisphere–and some on the other side of the world–are direct or indirect outcomes of Manifest Destiny. I’m thinking in particular of the Duvaliers in Haiti, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and Marcos in the Philippines. Oh, and the reason Puerto Rico is bankrupt is not that Puerto Ricans are stupider or lazier than other Americans: Keeping the island as a colony without calling it one, and demanding of its citizens everything we expect of anyone in the fifty states but not allowing them the same rights, and using our banks and developers and the World Bank to basically extort them, has left the island destitute and renders its name–Puerto Rico–sadly ironic to the point of seeming parodic.

    Speaking of which: Puerto Rico, along with Cuba, the Philippines and a few smaller islands were the “spoils” for the US in the War of 1898. Although Spain was a colonial power, by that time, it was a shadow of its former self. The explosion aboard the USS Maine in Havana harbor was caused by a boiler, not an attack by the by-then-enfeebled Armada. But William Randolph Hearst used his newspapers to spread the lie that the Spanish attacked the US warship. Thus, I have come to think of the war against Spain as a lynching, and the new colonies as loot picked from the pockets of the corpse.

    I don’t know whether the architects of what his come to be known as Manifest Destiny (which is not a formal doctrine, merely a cultural idea) knew about Dum Diversa, the bull Nicholas V issued in 1452, But, in essence, MD is a continuation of it, in that DD authorized King Alfonso V of Portugal to reduce Saracens (Muslims), Africans, pagans and any other un-believers to slavery, while MD says that white European settlers are destined to take over the North American continent–which, of course, they could do only by enslaving or killing other people. I think of that when I hear about what the US is doing in the Horn of Africa.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      In other words, we live in a fucked up world. 😅

      I’ve come to believe that the US military is largely an arm of American corporations; that capitalism, and not freedom and democracy, is the driving force. The US is blind to the horrific wars in Africa. Why? The people are Black and they have nothing to offer us trade-wise.

      The older I get, the more cynical and depressed I’ve become. I think I need to quit reading the news. 😩🤣

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce—More than 80 years ago, in his “War Is A Racket,” Smedley Butler said that he came to realize that as a Marine officer in some of the countries we occupied, he was essentially working for sone of the largest corporations of the time.

    The problem with Butler’s message is that it came not long before he died—and Pearl Harbor was attacked. By then, most Americans weren’t too receptive to any anti-war message.

  5. Avatar

    We lost a 20 year war in Afghanistan and no one talks about it. I think the govt. would like it to be forgotten, kind of like Korea.

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