Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Final Blog. The Cold War: The Fight for America's Economic Interests

            Twentieth Century America was the force that defeated the Axis of Evil and stopped the spread of Communism. It seemed that America was a country willing to put the principals of Democracy and the betterment of the world above its own well-being. However, a closer look at American foreign and domestic policies since 1940, would reveal an entirely different picture, one in which foreign policy was driven by capitalism and corporations and the government used misinformation like fighting the spread of communism to further their capitalistic goals.
            The Atomic bomb, the thing that ended the Second World War and saved millions of American lives is the story that American students are taught since grade school, but it is also one that has gone through countless rewrites since Potsdam in 1945. The A-bomb for President Truman was more than just an end to the war in Japan, it was his way to thrust America to the forefront of Global politics and deny the Soviet Union the promises made by former President Roosevelt.[1] Truman understood the potential benefits an atomic monopoly would bring to the United States and so he pushed back the summit at Potsdam for two weeks until the first successful test, the A-bomb was now a diplomatic tool.[2] On the 16th of July 1945 Truman received the news he was hoping for, the first successful test of the Atomic Bomb, The Trinity test was more of a success than anyone had hoped for.

  Courtesy of picturehistory.com
            In the months leading up to Potsdam and the dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Japan, the Japanese government made known its willingness to surrender. In March the U.S. Army Air Force had begun Nighttime bombing campaigns using incendiaries to burn Japan’s paper cities. In Tokyo, these bombing campaigns destroyed 16 square miles and killed over 100,000 civilians, the result was worse in other cities like Toyama were the bombs destroyed 99.5% of the city.[3] As a result in following month Japans Supreme War council meet to discuss surrender. Japan hoped to get the Soviet’s help in brokering surrender to the U.S., their only request was to preserve their imperial system.[4]
            Entering Potsdam, Truman knew of the Japan’s willingness to surrender but still did not take the A-bomb off the table. A single atomic bomb was capable of leveling entire Japanese cities, but the U.S. Army Air Force had been destroying Japanese cities with their nightly bombing campaigns since March. None of this mattered to Truman, because to him the A-bomb was so much more than an end to the war, it was a way to make Japan surrender on American terms and as Joseph Stalin put it; a way for America to “dictate terms in Europe”.[5] In order to win over public support for dropping such a devastating weapon, Truman went on a campaign to distort the facts and inflate the casualty rates of an allied invasion of mainland Japan. What started off as thousands of dead skyrocketed to multimillions of dead for an assault on mainland Japan.

courtesy of aboutjapan.japansociety.org

courtesy of awesometalks.wordpress.com

  At the end of the war Europe was in dire straights financially, but in America the economy was booming and many American businessman feared the “consequences should Europe adopt economic spheres closed to American trade and investment”[6], in short they feared the spread of communism. Communism meant more than the end of freedom and democracy in the country that adopted it; it meant the end of American corporate influence. Russia and communism now became America’s greatest treat and America would go to great lengths to stop it, even if that meant propping up brutal and unpopular extreme right-wing regimes. Nowhere was this more prevalent than South America, which the America felt fell directly within its sphere of influence.
            The United Fruit Company possessed a fifth of all the arable land in Guatemala, a country where the majority of its population went hungry and lived well under the poverty line.[7] In 1950 Colonel Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was elected president, promising massive land reforms, including nationalizing over 200,000 acres of land from United Fruit, which Guzmán offered to pay $600,000 for.[8] This Youtube.com video explains the situation. Even though Guzmán had no connections with Russia or its Soviet Government, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State declared that the country needed to be saved from “communist imperialism”[9]. Under this guise the U.S. deposed President Guzmán, replacing him with an American backed Castillo Armas who quickly established a military dictatorship. Armas would return all of the land to United Fruit seized by Guzmán government.
            The same thing was attempted in Cuba when Fidel Castro’s Revolutionary Government began to pass legislation to reduce the ill effects that the American controlled monopolies had on the country. Fidel, “began to be called a communist”, and his government “began to be painted red”[10]. To protect American corporate interest, the American government proclaimed Castro and his government Soviet backed Communist enemies of America, who had to be overthrown. What was not mentioned by the Eisenhower or even the Kennedy administration was that fact that leading up to the Cuban revolution large portions of the “banking business, importing business, oil refineries, sugar production” and “the lion’s share of arable land”, as well as “the most important industries in all fields in Cuba belong to North American companies.”[11]The CIA attempted many times to assassinate Castro in order to replace him with a American backed leader, who would place America’s corporate interest above the welfare of his own people. Again the American government had falsely labeled a leftist leader communist as a means of getting rid of him, because he placed America’s capitalist interest in danger. This was just however a lead up to Vietnam, where America’s capitalist world interest would collide with a country attempting to throw off the repressive shackles of western corporations.
            French controlled Indochina had begun a communist revolution to try and free itself from France. With no real ties to the Soviet Union, Indochina, known as Vietnam, posed no real threat to America’s world interest. However, as President Lyndon Johnson pointed out, “Indochina is a rich prize”, because it was rich with tin and manganese deposits[12], raw materials that America wished to control. When France withdrew from Indochina the country was split in two, between the communist controlled north, and the capitalist south led by French backed Bao Dai. Bao Dai was a problem for the U.S. prospects of controlling Vietnam[13], so like many times before the United States orchestrated his removal. Dai was replaced with Ngo Dinh Diem, a conservative catholic with many friends in America. Under Diem, South Vietnam witnessed a regime of oppression. President Kennedy had vowed not to become involved in Vietnam and promised not to send in ground troops, but after Kennedy’s assassination LBJ had other plans. Ironically, in 1964 Johnson ran on a campaign that stated, “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves”.[14] However by April Johnson sent an additional 40,000 soldiers to Vietnam and in three years he had increased the total number of troops from 75,000 in 1964 to 525,00 in 1967, he vowed the he was “not going to lose Vietnam.”[15]
Courtesy of www.dangerouscreation.com

            No matter what is campaign rhetoric might have been it would seem that President Johnson wanted Vietnam. This can be seen from how America became involved in the conflict to begin with, The Gulf of Tonkin. To the American people The Gulf of Tonkin was an attack on American ships by the belligerent North Vietnamese; in reality in was nothing more than mistake caused by a nervous radar operator, for Johnson it was chance to escalate things in Vietnam. Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara fabricated the event at Tonkin to gain the support needed to bring thing in Vietnam to ahead.[16] Lyndon Johnson did not want to be the president known as an imperialistic warmonger, he wanted to be known as “the President who educated young children…who helped to feed the hungry…who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election.”[17] However, with America’s increased involvement in Vietnam, Johnson could not afford to start the social programs at home, wars cost money and Johnson was throwing heaps of it into the war department. Johnson was in fact the President that signed both the Civil Rights Act of 1965 as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.
            The Johnson administration was not actually concerned with steaming the spread of communism in Vietnam, nor was it worried about bring democracy to that poor south Asian country; “tin, rubber, rice, key strategic raw material are what the war is really about”, and Johnson saw “it as a place to hold at any cost”[18], including his hopes for domestic social changes. Like the many Presidents before him, Johnson propped up and secretly founded unpopular right-wing governments throughout South America to combat regimes that threatened American corporation and as a result were labeled communist.
            Throughout the remainder of the twentieth century American Presidents continued to wage a secret war against any force it deemed hostile to America’s capitalist driven foreign policy. They continually regarded anything government who upset the long standing status quo of American corporate imperialism as hostile and communist and spent large amounts to oppose the. From Reagan and Iran-Contra to Bush and the elusive weapons of mass destruction, the American government continually hides the truth of its agenda abroad, usually at the expense of the American people.


[1] Oliver Stone, and Peter Kuznick. The Untold History of the United States. First Edition. Gallery Books, 2012. 211
[2] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 210
[3] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 205
[4] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 194
[5] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 211
[6] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 230
[7] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 321
[8] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 321
[9] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 325
[10] Robert Griffith, and Paula Baker, eds. Major Problems in American History Since 1945. 128
[11] Griffith, and Paula Baker, eds. Major Problems in American History Since 1945. 128
[12] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 395
[13] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 329
[14] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 396
[15] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 393
[16] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 396
[17] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 396
[18] Stone, The Untold History of the United States. 327

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Religious Right

The 1980 presidential election ushered in more than just a new national leader in Ronald Reagan it brought about a new political force, the Religious Right. In 1983 Ronald Reagan declared, “ There’s a great spiritual awakening in America”, and that “freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged”[1], marrying politics and religion. Since Reagan’s presidency the Religious Right has taken over the Republican Party and maybe for the worse.
Tea Party sign courtesy of politicsdaily.com

While advocating a return the traditional values the religious sector of the conservative party has pushed the Republicans further and further to the right, handicapping them when it comes to social change. Jane Devin of the Huffington Post says, “the Republican party became a bloated fool, stuffed with hypocrisy, greed, and anti-intellectualism” taken over by neo-Christian groups.[2] The new right wing was anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti any new taxes, while advocating prayers in school, nuclear families, and in some cases a marriage of church and state. President Reagan once said “Let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness-pray they will discover the job of knowing God” because “…they are the focus of evil in the modern world…”[3] This type of rhetoric has become divisive today in the hands of many of the rights pundits like Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh who use it to drive a wedge between left and right placing division where previously there were none. 

[1] Ronald Reagan “Spirital Awakening”in Major Problems in American History Since 1945. 360

[2] Devin, Jane. “The Christian Right Killed the Republican Party.” The Huffington Post.

[3] Ronald Reagan “Spirital Awakening”. 361

Morning in America

“It’s morning again in America” this was President Ronald Reagan’s slogan for reelection campaign in 1983 that can be seen here. According to Reagan, his first term had reversed much of the economic hardships that had gripped the country during the Carter years. Reagan also ushered in the new Religious Right and brought about America’s “Spiritual Reawakening”.[1] Reagan has entered the America psyche, especially among the conservatives, as a great American president, who reasserted America’s global dominance, and fixed the country economic troubles.
 Reagan campaign poster courtesy of lamecherry.blogspot.com

When it came for foreign issues Reagan initially did not seem to live up to the image that he now conjures. An example of this was on his return in 1982 from Latin America, were he said, “You’d be surprised. They’re all individual countries.”[2] It almost seemed the Reagan was in over his as president and sometimes “displayed a striking inability to differentiate between reality and fantasy.”[3] Ronald Reagan had a very up and down record when it came to foreign affairs from the releasing of the American hostages in Iran just weeks after his inauguration and the taking down of the Berlin Wall to Iran-Contra. Iran-Contra, which was the CIA illegal, selling of arms to Iran and using that money to fund forces in Nicaragua. This could be considered the biggest stain on Reagans image, however he claimed not to know many of the things his administration did.[4] Regan also failed to agree on a proposal to eliminate the American and Soviet nuclear arsenal.
Ronald Reagan’s domestic record was not much better for a majority of the country. Reagan increased military spending and cut taxes for the wealthy and paid for it by cutting many social programs. He perpetuated the myth of the welfare queen a women with “ eighty names, thirty addresses, and twelve Social Security cards” and had “a tax-free income of over $150,000.”[5] The Reagan years also witnessed a tripling of the national debt and massive stock market crash.
The Reagan that many remember and conservatives refer to when making a point does not seem to have existed. The real Reagan was an old retired actor who was out of his depth much of the time.

[1] Robert Griffith, and Paula Baker, eds. Major Problems in American History Since 1945. 360

[2] Stone, Oliver, and Peter Kuznick. The Untold History of the United States. 495

[3] Stone, Oliver, and Peter Kuznick. The Untold History of the United States. 496

[4] Stone, Oliver, and Peter Kuznick. The Untold History of the United States. 541

[5] Stone, Oliver, and Peter Kuznick. The Untold History of the United States. 497