A Brief History of US Imperialism
Hello and welcome, all, to New Jersey Revolution Radio, New Jersey’s premier socialist podcast. Today it is our pleasure to welcome Christian Perez, host of podcast Modernity and Absurdity, as our guest. Perez is something of a regular to NJRR; he’s been on our show a few times before. Today he is bringing us a brief introduction to US Imperialism.
International Penis Waving
As of right now, the United States is in a bit of hot water when it comes to international relations. Things seemed to be heating up until Trump declared in a recent speech that he was not interested in pursuing conflict with Iran. “The international penis waving is off to a good start,” Perez remarks playfully but with a hint of seriousness. Even in Trump’s speech, Perez noticed, it was obvious that a lot of these affairs boil down to ego and a show of force. The United States has a long history of projecting our ego and force into the rest of the world with such measures of imperialism as invading countries and interfering in foreign elections.
One misconception that the people who control the United States use to mobilize and manipulate the people of the world is that of the idea of unified support or disdain for leaders. Generally, world leaders will not be met with unanimous consensus or rejection. Another such misconception that of the entirety of the Iranian people being “evil” or even them being all good, for that matter. The truth is that these people, who are in reality complex and entirely human, are being used as tools in a game of propaganda. It is important to understand history because it gives one power to recognize patterns that often include propaganda which used to control and exploit people.
Our History With Iran
This is where Perez begins delivering a brief history of the United States in Iran. He starts in 1953 when Iran nationalized its only oil company. The British, who had previously controlled the oil company, were offered 25 percent of the profits of this new company, but declined maliciously and blockaded Iran. Britain also called the United States for help at this point. We kicked out the leader that they had and placed a terrible new one into power. Under this new leadership, which was extremely cruel, most of the country’s left wing was eliminated through murder.
Americans tend to be ignorant about these issues; we have a short memory and are often rather clueless about Iran. However, Iran remains acutely aware of its position in the world and how the United States has meddled with it thus far. Iran has gained power in the Middle East in the past few decades and the Iranian government has become an enemy of the United States’ government. Here it is crucial to point out that it is only the Iranian government, not the Iranian people, that is the military enemy of the United States. Recently, Donald Trump authorized a missile strike that killed head of Iranian guard Quasam Soleimani. However, this was not a very wise move. As Heather highlights, we as a country are in a scary place where we don’t really have allies in the world right now because of our historically interventionalist policies. This brings us to a history of the United States’ imperialism, particularly in Latin America.
Unfortunately, we do not learn this stuff in history class. Christian’s father used to say to him, “it’s good that you’re getting As, but this isn’t the real history.” The real history, as he came to know it, was one in which Latin American countries are militarily dominated by the United States. During America’s “manifest destiny” movement, Mexico lost two-thirds of its territory in the Mexican-American war in 1848: Montana, Nevada (not pronounced the way you may think), and California are all Spanish words. In 1898, the Spanish-American War took place in great part because America wanted an empire to compete on the global stage. This event was a direct result of the fact that capitalism requires constant growth. Another symptom of capitalism, Heather and Christian muse, is that when a country does well, it is often at the expense of its neighbors.
Not A Cold War For All
Christian points out the tragic reality that no one knows about the Filipino war, which took place from 1898-1903, costing the lives of 4,200 American soldiers and over 100,000 Filipino people. In the wake of this catastrophe, the United States paid 400 million dollars to pacify the Philippines. Atrocities like concentration camps and rape then took place. Heather and Christian note that 3rd world dictators are willing to sell out their own people for money and power despite lives being devastated every time. Another little known historical fact is that the phrase “Cold war” exudes privilege and exceptionalism because in truth it was not a cold war. For the veterans with PTSD and the civilians in Guatemala who saw 200,000 Mayans slaughtered, it was very real. One more historical actuality that Christian presents is that of the Panama Canal. The United States needed goods and to be able to get to Asia. All of the other options were inconvenient, so we decided we needed to create a canal through Northern Columbia. As a nation, we coerced Northern Columbia into separating from the rest of Columbia and becoming Panama so that we could build a canal through it.
A Conflict Over Oil
Post World War II is when America really ramped up imperialism and violence in Latin America. We decided to keep using the people in “developing” (they won’t ever develop because we won’t let them) countries as resources. A notable thing about US foreign policy is that we don’t actually care about dictators; We only step in when it is practically compulsory, which has been just once or twice in history. The history of the leadership of Cuba is littered with dictator puppets that do what the United States want them to do. There exist documents going back hundreds of years showing that the founding fathers had ideas about expanding power to Cuba. But Cuba had ideas of its own. A lawyer by the name of Fidel Castro led a revolution to overthrow that Batista regime in 1959. Meanwhile, the CIA was doing what it does, playing both sides, by funding both Batista and the revolution.
Bay Of Pigs
The following is an abridged version of what happened as delivered by Perez: The Cuban people demanded human rights from the U.S., to which we said no. Cuba bought oil from the Soviet Union instead because the US was charging Cuba too much for this resource. The US refused to refine foreign, Soviet oil. In response, Cuba nationalized its oil company. This lead to increased tension with the US and ultimately to them cutting us off. In 1961, JFK failed to invade Cuba. Cuba was expecting our invasion and they captured United States prisoners and ransomed them off to us for food and medicine. Numerous attempts since 1961 to take sovereignty from the Cubans include efforts such as poisoned food, blowing up ships in harbors, and continued economic blockade. There were 78 attempts on Fidel Castro’s life before his eventual passing, including a seductress who fell for him instead.
Increased aggression towards Cuba by the United States is what lead them to become an authoritarian country. Cuba is a defensive regime and allowing democracy would mean allowing hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign money to flow into the county’s elections, deeply instilling corruption into the system. Examples of this include Venezuela and Bolivia.
Another risk that countries face is becoming dirt poor like Venezuela and Guatemala.
Intervention In Chile
In 1973, the Chilean president was overthrown. The CIA wanted the election to go a certain way, so they poured 20 million dollars towards political propaganda that discredited the candidate that they did not favor. As a country, we are not willing to look at spending more money on healthcare or education but we systematically pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the affairs of foreign countries without batting an eye. Immense amounts of money are thrown around to create propaganda that influences people to believe that the United States should be intervening and overthrowing. Issues are either censored and ignored by the media, such as the bombing in Yemen, or misinformed and discredited. An example of the latter is Cubans, Filipinos, and Hawaiians being portrayed as dirty brown bumpkins.
The US spends countless money on media in these countries, producing targeted advertising to match its agenda. This is often an agenda of anti-communism propaganda.
Everything that the American right is afraid of is something that has already happened somewhere else in the world because of the actions of the American right, for example, government oppression, rape, violence, and concentration camps. The sad truth is that the everyday person does not see it because we are blasted with all-consuming propaganda. The message being delivered to us is this: “these brown people have the audacity to want to run their countries as they see fit.”
George W. Bush can be credited for saying, “I will not apologize for America”, however, this statement is deeply problematic. If we won’t acknowledge our problems as a nation, then how can we ever grow? Elites will see people and think of them as potential for exploitation. Capitalism is not always necessarily evil on purpose; capitalists just do not see people, they see assets and growth potential. They also lie to themselves in order not to address huge overarching ethical issues. However, this is not to say that capitalists are dumb. This lets them off the hook because they are aware that the things they are doing are not right. They’re indifferent, but it’s intentional.
As Heather indicates, it’s the same playbook, whether it is the 1800s or the 1900s or 2020. Unfortunately, our country is based on stolen wealth and stolen land and in all likelihood, we are going to continue behaving this way. Propaganda is nefarious but hopefully, we as individuals can look back on history and learn to recognize what is happening here and around the world.
When brown people are portrayed as lesser and not being able to manage their own government and affairs, it is time to take a step back and realize that you’re being subjected to propaganda. Question the reality of the situation! Familiarize yourself with history and politics in order to make an informed decision. A good way to do this is to follow trustworthy media outlets. For example… the New Jersey Revolutionary Radio podcast. Tune in next time, folks!
-Leah Giannantonio, for New Jersey Revolutionary Radio