Author Stephen Kinzer shows Iraq was not the first time, just the first time we all watched it happen. Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq—not to mention History 101—indicate that the congressman is wrong. Overthrow traces the preemptive war to the end of the nineteenth century: Hawaii, Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq—it’s a long list. Though the justifications varied, archetypically, it was the same war again and again. A threat to U.S. corporate interests was disguised to the press (and then trumpeted to the public) as an act of humanitarian grace, paired with a move to protect American lives. The most important thread has been that, time and again, the imminent danger said to be facing the U.S. was simply a lie. A former reporter for the New York Times, Kinzer writes that “the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not an isolated episode. It was the culmination of a 110-year period during which Americans overthrew fourteen governments that displeased them for various ideological, political, and economic reasons. Like each of these operations, the ‘regime change’ in Iraq seemed for a time—a very short time—to have worked. It is now clear, however, that this operation has had terrible unintended consequences. So have most of the other coups, revolutions, and invasions that the United States has mounted to depose governments it feared or mistrusted.” Indeed, Kinzer shows that overthrows consistently fail in the long term. In Iraq, the failure has become clear. Marred from the outset by myopic planning and vacillating rationales, the invasion has sparked a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites that some have argued will rage for years. The war will cost American taxpayers an estimated two trillion dollars by the end of this year, according to economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz. The toll on military families will emerge beside the ongoing strain on the U.S. budget, which will drain money from schools, health care overhauls, and other domestic programs, such as securing ports, cities, borders, and coastlines. The toll on Iraqi civilians will rise too; at present rates of killing, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis will have died in the conflict—perhaps as many as a million, according to Lancet. And, the war could easily spread to other corners of the region, pitting Sunnis against Shiites across the Middle East and beyond. Kinzer also shows that in case after case yesterday’s strategic ally is today’s reviled enemy. Until they recognize this fact, Democrats like Murtha won’t be able to understand the enormity of the tragedy or its likelihood of happening again—especially if, as Kinzer shows, American politicians continue to conflate American interests with the profiteering of American corporations. < snip > Guernica: Your book traces a long tradition of preemptive regime change in United States foreign policy. Is there much difference between what we’ve seen in Iraq and the thirteen prior examples you examine in your book? Stephen Kinzer: In telling the story of each of these 14 times that the U.S. overthrew a foreign government, I asked three questions about each episode. First, what happened? How did we overthrow the government of this country? Secondly, why did we do it? And third, from the perspective of history and from the perspective of today, what has been the long-term effect of these interventions? I studied these overthrows of foreign governments not as isolated unrelated incidents but as part of a long continuum. By doing that, you begin to pick out certain patterns. You also begin to realize that it’s wrong to think of our invasion of Iraq as a great departure in American history. http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/americas_century_of_regime_cha/ 110 years of the regime change boogey. Are we ever going to learn?