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American Imperialism in Latin America

(Fort Benning, Georgia)

The School of the Americas, established in 1946 and funded by the U.S. government, instructs Latin American and Caribbean military officers and soldiers in counter-insurgency, psychological operations, interrogation techniques, and military intelligence. Each year, the program trains between 1,000 and 2,000 soldiers, and many of the School's graduates have been implicated in numerous murders, assassinations, and massacres throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean basin. Some of the most infamous graduates include the founders of death squads in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In El Salvador alone, graduates have been linked to the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, to the rape and murder of four U.S. churchwoman, and to the mass killings at El Mozote and other villages.


1850-56: U.S. soldiers defend American-built transisthmian railroad in Panama

1852-53: U.S. Marines land in Argentina to protect American interests during a revolution

1855: U.S. forces sent to Uruguay to protect American lives and property

1856: William Walker, with a mercenary army, conquers Nicaragua.

1857: Cornelius Vanderbilt funds the war against Walker, and hires American mercenary Sylvanus M. Spencer to lead Costa Rican forces

1885: Washington sends--in one of the first acts of "gunboat diplomacy"--the USS Wachusett to Guatemala to defend American lives and property

1898: America defeats Spain and annexes or assumes control of Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico (and also annexes Hawaii)

1903: The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty makes the U.S. the "sovereign" power in the Panama Canal Zone

1904: Roosevelt announces his corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, and takes customs control of the Dominican Republic

1905: U.S. Marines land in Honduras

1906-09: U.S. forces occupy Cuba

1910: U.S. forces land in Nicaragua and control--for the next thirty-eight years--the country's finances

1912: United Fruit begins operations in Honduras

1914-34: U.S. troops occupy Haiti

1916-24: U.S. Marines occupy the Dominican Republic

1918: U.S. army lands in Panama to protect United Fruit plantations

1920-21: U.S. troops support a coup in Guatemala

1926-33: U.S. marines occupy Nicaragua and wage war against Sandino's peasant army

1936-79: U.S. support for the Somozas

1954: CIA-United Fruit coup in Guatemala

1961: CIA-supported invasion of the Bay of Pigs

1966: U.S. Green Berets take part in "Operation Guatemala"; over 8,000 Guatemalans killed

1981-90: U.S. funds contra war in Nicaragua

1983: U.S. invasion of Granada

1989: U.S. invasion ousts Panamanian dictator and former CIA operative, Manuel Noriega.

We offer the following for your consideration:

1. The starting point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is 'knowing thyself' as a product of the historical process to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory.

--Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks

2. Empire is a relationship, formal or informal, in which one state controls the effective political sovereignty of another political society. It can be achieved by force, by political collaboration, by economic, social, or cultural dependence. Imperialism is simply the process or policy of establishing or maintaining an empire.

--Michael Doyle, Empires

3. To lose sight of or ignore the national and international contexts of, say, Dickens's representations of Victorian businessmen, and to focus only on the internal coherence of their roles in his novels is to miss an essential connection between his fiction and its historical world. And understanding that connection does not reduce or diminish the novels' value as works of art; on the contrary, because of their worldliness, because of their complex affiliations with their real setting, they are more interesting and more valuable as works of art.

--Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism

4. There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.

--Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History"

5. All along, the obverse of Indian-hating had been the metaphysics of empire-building--the backwoods "captain in the vanguard of conquering civilization" merely became the overseas outrider of the same empire.

--Richard Drinnon, Facing West

6. Taking into account the Indians of pure blood, and the mixed bloods in which the Indian element is large, it is undoubtedly true that the Indian population of America is larger today that it was when Columbus discovered the continent, and stands on a far higher plane of happiness and efficiency.

--Teddy Roosevelt, "The Expansion of the White Races"

7. The only good Indian is a dead Indian.

--attributed to (among others) Teddy Roosevelt.

That's a good gook. Good and dead.

--Sgt. Barnes, Platoon

8. The national argument is usually interpreted as a battle between imperialists led by Roosevelt and Lodge and anti-imperialists led by William Jennings Bryan and Carl Schurz. It is far more accurate and illuminating, however, to view it as a three-cornered fight. The third group was a coalition of businessmen, intellectuals, and politicians who opposed traditional colonialism and advocated instead a policy of an open door through which America's preponderant economic strength would enter and dominate all underdeveloped areas of the world.

--William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy

9. Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction....

We should cease to talk about vague and--and for the Far East--unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

--George Kennan, Policy Planning Study 23 (1948)

10. I am not going to be the President who saw Southeast Asia go the way of China.

--LBJ to Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam

11. Central America ... is so close--San Salvador is closer to Houston than Houston is to Washington, D.C. Central America is America.

--Ronald Reagan

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