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A Retrospective on the American Empire, at a Most Unusual Museum

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A Retrospective on the American Empire, at a Most Unusual Museum

Tom Huckin & Allan Ainsworth

Ten years have passed since Donald J. Trump resigned in disgrace as president of the United States. As we write this, we are visiting one of the most remarkable museums in the world. The Museum of American Empire opened just this week, only a decade after Trump's fall from grace. Americans, along with the rest of the world, have become accustomed to the new, lesser role the US is now playing in the world, no longer the arrogant and aggressive empire it once was.

The museum chronicles the history of the United States starting with the War of Independence (1776-1783) followed by a Constitution (1787) that, although written in the name of "We the People," granted full rights only to a small fraction of the population. It notes how the Monroe Doctrine (1823) prefigured the imperial pretensions of this young country, effectively declaring ownership of the entire Western Hemisphere.

"Manifest Destiny" as Rationale for Aggression

A large part of this story details the ideology and history of "Manifest Destiny," whereby indigenous people were forcibly removed from their lands so as to make way for white settlers. Featured here are the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican War, and the subsequent Indian Wars culminating in the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee.

It details the 1898 US invasion of Cuba and its subsequent takeover of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Philippines, where an estimated 250,000 civilians died during the three years of US war on that country.

An entire wing of the museum is devoted to the first half of the 20thcentury, starting with the neocolonial US occupation of Panama in 1903 and the building of a transoceanic canal serving US corporate interests. One corporation in particular, the United Fruit Company , has a special exhibit as the pioneer in creating Central American "banana republics." Noted in this regard are the seven US invasions of Honduras between 1903 and 1925, the eight-year US military occupation of the Dominican Republic ending in 1924, the 20-year occupation of Nicaragua ending in 1933, and the 19-year occupation of Haiti ending in 1934.

The museum recounts how democratically-elected Chilean president Salvador Allende was assassinated by US-backed Chilean military forces, who then killed over 3,000 dissidents and tortured tens of thousands as part of a brutal military dictatorship that lasted 17 years.

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Tom Huckin is a professor emeritus of English and Writing at the University of Utah, specializing in the study of modern propaganda. He has co-authored five books on academic subjects and written some 90 scholarly papers, including a chapter in (more...)

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