Since the First World War, the United States has had a general foreign policy of interventionism in world affairs. This interventionism strengthened after the Second World War with the dawn of the Cold War against the USSR. Many justifications have been used for US intervention: spreading democracy, protection of allies, and the protection of US business assets. Regardless of the reasoning in Washington, these interventions have had a devastating effect on the countries involved. US intervention has led to the installation of fascist dictators, removal of democracy, and war crimes. The American people cannot excuse these with classic American Exceptionalism and must hold their government accountable for the crimes it has committed in the world.
During the 1970s, the Cold War was at its height and the American government was terrified of the communist movement gaining a foothold in the Americas. Intervention policy had already failed in Cuba and the newest fear came from Chile. Following the 1970 election of socialist Salvador Allende as president it became the goal of the US to overthrow him. Since before the election, the CIA had been covert in Chile conducting sabotage of the Chilean left. Once Allende was elected, plans to back a coup by Chief of Staff Augusto Pinochet were made. The coup, which took place on September 11, 1973, was done with the full support of Washington and the CIA. The coup in Chile involved an attack on the presidential palace in which Allende and his supporters attempted to defend democracy in Chile. This defence was in vain and Salvador Allende died that day and Pinochet took control. According to the Pinochet government, the coup was in response to the “threat of Marxism” in Chile when it was in reality mainly for foreign business interests. Allende had caused waves when he nationalised key industries and attempted to dethrone the American businesses in Chile. The years of the Pinochet dictatorship are characterised by human rights violations, political repression, and privatisation of industry. This proved profitable for the US businesses leading to a lack of action towards Pinochet. In The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, the general tactic of US policy in Latin America is shown, where they compromise democracy for business interests and imperial ambitions. This is done by heavy sanction and, as seen in Chile and Grenada, military intervention or a coup. We are seeing a repeat of this Shock Doctrine in Venezuela today with the undermining of democracy for US interests. The people of Chile see September 11, 1973, as the death of democracy in their country. Chile would not see some form of democracy until 1990 and even then Pinochet remained in the government along with his lackeys.
As seen in Chile, the United States has supported numerous reactionary regimes and been a reactionary force against people’s democracies and the working people of the world. The US has consistently supported the State of Israel who commits human rights abuses daily. The Israeli Government has used US weapons and equipment to systemically repress the Palestinian people and deny them their right to statehood. The IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) bulldozes Palestinian homes to build settlements in the West Bank. These have been seen by the international community as a violation of international law, yet the US does nothing. The so-called protector of human rights in the world picks and chooses whose human rights it defends. Given the recent actions of the Trump administration towards Palestine, it is clear that little progress will be made. The US has also supported the Shah of Iran who during his reign had been a repressive dictator who lived luxuriously while his people suffered. He was eventually overthrown in the Iranian Revolution of 1975 although, it cannot be said that the current Iranian government is any better than the Shah. One of the most disgusting realities of American imperialism in the 20th Century is the US support of apartheid South Africa. Ronald Reagan lifted many of the trade embargoes meant to keep political pressure on the country. Reagan even described the ANC and Nelson Mandela as “terrorists”. Nixon and Kissinger had used the so-called “Tar Baby Option” and kept a dialogue and cordial relations with the oppressors. The US was also complacent of fascism in Spain under Franco and in Portugal under the Estado Novo. The US does not have a good track record of supporting the people of the world. They have instead supported oppressors and corrupt dictators.
By far, the largest and most disgusting example of American imperialism in history was the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was one of the largest human rights violations in human history. The US propped up the corrupt and oppressive South Vietnamese government and undermined the popular will of the Vietnamese people. Following the Vietnamese uprising against the French, the US had supported the partition to protect interests of the French. This cemented that US policy would never be an actual independent Vietnam. With the Cold War in full swing, the efforts of Ho Chi Minh’s liberation army could not be ignored and the US led a full on invasion of Vietnam. During this invasion, the Americans deployed the deadly Agent Orange on farms in Vietnam, the effects of which are still seen today. American soldiers raped Vietnamese women, burned entire villages to the ground, and killed innocent civilians. At least, for the first time, the American people seemed to abandon American exceptionalism and opposed the war. The working people of America opposed having their children thrown out into Vietnam to die in an imperialist war that the Americans could not win. Eventually, the war became unprofitable for America and they pulled out of Vietnam in 1971. The war would end in 1975 with the Fall of Saigon and Vietnam would become a unified and independent country.
What is clear from these small examples is that America has supported numerous human rights abuses and dictators. The narrative of it being the bastion of democracy or a “shining city on a hill” is nothing but nationalist rhetoric and inflated patriotism. This does not mean that America is not redeemable. The actions of the government do not mean the people support it. The people affected by American actions have never blamed the American people. The people need to hold their government accountable for its mistakes and end the cycle of death.