In the story of Jesus' crucifixion, Pontius Pilate acted as judge in the trial. Pilate actually lobbied the crowd to spare Jesus' life, but the crowd would not relent. Seeing that the crowd would have its way, Pilate made a great show of washing his hands before the assemblage, signifying that he washed his hands of the entire affair meaning that he bore no responsibility for what happened next.
Of course, we all the story of what happened next. Unfortunately, the United States history of overthrows, assassinations and collusion with business is blood that cannot be washed away symbolically or literally. Stephen Kinzer's book, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.
"In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer tells the stories of the audacious politicians, spies, military commanders and business executives who took it upon themselves to depose monarchs, presidents and prime ministers."
In the early 50's, among much ballyhoo and celebration Hawaii was admitted to the Union as American's 50th state. For the most part, there was great joy as the United States grew in size and stature. However, if Americans had known the true story behind Hawaii's acquisition, possibly the celebration might have been tempered.
In the United States, the name Dole has long been associated with pineapple and other fruits, but pineapple is its most recognizable product. How it attained that status is a perfect example of business colluding with the US government to control a sovereign nation. It was a bloodless coup, but an overthrow it was. That is just one of the many overthrows sponsored by the American government.
In Cuba, the same thing happened, but in that case, Americans sent troops to overthrow the government. Although the bloodshed cost less than 20 US lives the Cubans weren't so lucky. Without going into detail, the actual story involves the President of the United States and a prominent US Senator, who not only plotted the overthrow, but also went back on its word after the island was secured. The American public was purposely lied to in order to cover up the details.
You might recall from historical accounts how Teddy Roosevelt and the legendary rough riders single handedly quashed the revolution and brought calm to the island. In reality, the Cuban freedom fighters had already done much of the dirty work and were about to take control when the US government offered its assistance to help with the mop up. Most Americans don't know this. Here's a little known piece of trivia Kinzer uncovered.
In the three one-day battles in which US troops fought, the one that stands out is that of Teddy Roosevelt leading his men up Kettle Hill, later changed to San Juan Hill. Kinzer's research shows that Roosevelt had a custom uniform made by Brooks Brothers before going to fight on the island. It is not mentioned that there were insurgents there to fight off his victorious charge up the hill.
These are but two instances Kinzer exposed in his book. "Overthrow" goes on to recount US involvement in South American assassinations, the Iran contra affair, the Panamanian overthrow and more. "Overthrow is a disturbing read as the author not only details the subversive role the United States played in numerous assassinations, business collusion and political coups, Kinzer also details the cost to the country in generating enemies, which requires national security to stymie the enemies generated by these actions. For all US citizens prone to shouting, "America, right or wrong," they might want to bone up on their history before signing on to such jingoistic claptrap.
Whatever your thought on American subversion and collusion with big business Kinzer makes a case that Americans need more transparency on the realities of world events. If you don't have the time to read "Overthrow," find it. It is an excellent read, especially for those believing that America is that shining light upon the hill.
Stephen Kinzer wrote for the New York Times and has reported from more than 50 countries.