“In a ravenous 55 day spasm during the summer of 1898, the United States asserted control over 5 far-flung lands with a total of 11 million inhabitants: Guam, Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Never in history has a nation leaped so suddenly overseas empire.” Doing so was by no means a matter of political consensus. In fact at several steps on the way, a single individual or vote determined events, leading to the deaths of thousands. The questions that arose then, continue to arise to this day.
“How should the United States act in the world? Americans cannot decide. For more than a century we have debated with ourselves. We can’t even agree on the question. Put one way: Should we defend our freedom, or turn inward and ignore growing threats? Put differently: Should we charge violently into faraway lands, or allow others to work out their own destinies?” And how did a country which had been founded through rebellion against a distant sovereign, which had once been a colony itself, and had pledged itself, above all, to the ideal of self-government, turn to taking colonies of its own – and most certainly NOT with the consent of the governed? These are some of the questions, our guest today, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Stephen Kinzer, addresses in his latest book, THE TRUE FLAG: THEODORE ROOSEVELT, MARK TWAIN, AND THE BIRTH OF AMERICAN EMPIRE. This is not merely an exercise in ivory tower history, because the United States – and, in fact, the world – is still paying today for the arguments, decisions and methods made by those debating these questions in the era of Theodore Roosevelt. Central America, the Middle East, The far east, terrorism, immigration, indigenous efforts for democracy – all these conflicts – and more – can find origins in a very short period of time at the turn of the 19th & the 20th centuries.
Stephen Kinzer has covered more than 50 countries on 5 continents. From 1983 to 1989 He was the New York Times bureau chief in Nicaragua, where he covered war and upheaval in Central America. He wrote 2 books about that region, BITTER FRUIT: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE AMERICAN COUP IN GUATEMALA (co-written with Stephen Schlesinger), and BLOOD OF BROTHERS: LIFE AND WAR IN NICARAGUA. He was the New York Times bureau chief in Bonn, & then Berlin, Germany from 1990 -96, where he covered the emergence of post-Communist Europe, including the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Then, he opened their bureau in Istanbul, Turkey, where he covered that country and the new nations of Central Asia & the Caucasus. HIS BOOK, CRESCENT AND STAR: TURKEY BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, was born of that experience. After several trips to Iran, he wrote ALL THE SHAH’S MEN: AN AMERICAN COUP AND THE ROOTS OF MIDDLE EAST TERROR and RESET: IRAN, TURKEY AND AMERICA’S FUTURE. His latest book is THE TRUE FLAG: THEODORE ROOSEVELT, MARK TWAIN, AND THE BIRTH OF AMERICAN EMPIRE, published last year by Henry Holt. The paperback edition is coming out in two weeks from St. Martin’s/Griffin. It adds to his earlier book, OVERTHROW: AMERICA’S CENTURY OF REGIME CHANGE FROM HAWAII TO IRAQ, which documents 14 times the United States has overthrown foreign governments, and examines just what is it in the American psyche, that allows – and compels – the world’s first nation to throw off colonial rule and proclaim self government as a self-evident divine right to suppress similar aspirations in lands over seas.
Col. Theodore Roosevelt
Grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. orchestrated the CIA’s “Operation Ajax”, which aimed to overthrow democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, who had been Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1951:
A CIA hired mob – who beat all Mossadeq supporters to a pulp….
“This coup did more than simply bring down Mossadegh. It ended democratic rule in Iran and set the country off toward distatoship. Mohammad Reza Shah gave the U. S. a quarter century of dominance in Iran, but his repression ultimately set off an uprising that produced a fanatically anti-American regime.” from Kinzer’s RESET: IRAN, TURKEY & AMERICA’S FUTURE.
Mohammad Reza Shah and family before the Peacock Throne