Fizzy Jill and I (and some others…although I think the number is dwindling as the weeks drag by) are reading a chapter a week of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Feel free to join us in whatever way you prefer—by reading along, commenting, or writing your own posts. To keep things organized, link up posts over at Jill’s blog as she is the quasi-official host who designed the button and reading schedule. (By the way, we’re doing posts every other week now instead of every week.) This post covers Chapter 12. (It should cover Chapters 12 and 13 but I ran out of time and I’m on vacation and there is NO WAY I’m going to spend my vacation reading this book. I shall catch-up with the next post.)
This chapter is about how the U.S. decided that almost the entire continent of North America wasn’t enough and they wanted even more land. Thus, the U.S. started to get involved in the business of many other countries. (On p. 198, there is a brief list of a State Department list of “Instances of the Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad 1798-1945″ and it had no less than 103 interventions into the affairs of other countries. In the brief excerpt that Zinn includes, Nicaragua shows up three times.)
Much of the involvement was to protect financial interests in these countries (surprise!) but this was often disguised as “helping” the less fortunate … you know, by killing them and annexing their country. Zinn discusses how the U.S. tried very very hard to stay all up in Cuba’s business after helping to overthrow the government, and how we went ahead and annexed Puerto Rico, Hawaii (described as “a ripe pear ready to be plucked”) and Guam (as well as the occupation of Wake Island.) The last part of the chapter discusses the U.S.’s attempts to take over the Phillipines and how they were met with fierce resistance by the native population. One of the interesting parts of this discussion was how African-American soldiers were questioned by the Phillipine natives about how they could justify fighting for a country that treated them so poorly and would not give them basic civil rights. To which many of the soldiers replied “Good question.”
This was one of the easier chapters to read (which was a relief after struggling with the previous few). Zinn was more focused and didn’t cram quite as many factoids and dates and events into the chapter. Despite this, I just didn’t have high hopes for the next chapter (The Socialist Challenge) so I stopped short and will cover that in my next post.
P.S. I’m enjoying spring break right now so my visits to your blogs will be sporadic or completely absent until I return.