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Can America Go from Empire to "Good Neighbor?"

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From Hartmann Report

If we're not going to be a force for good in the world, it's time for us to close down our foreign military bases & operations & spend some time & money rebuilding this country, gutted by Reaganomics

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America needs to define a consistent, honest and public position on foreign aid and foreign interventions. If we fail to do so, we'll continue to produce disasters that have long-term consequences not only for the countries with whom we've interfered but also here in the US.

Modern US "foreign aid" policy really began in a big way after World War II with the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe after the war. Germany was a huge recipient of that aid and it helped turn that nation from a renegade (although defeated) fascist empire into a modern liberal democracy.

With our aid, Germany rebooted their national healthcare program and wrote a constitutional provision requiring all corporations with more than 500 employees to have fully a third, and all companies over 2000 employees n half, of their Board of Directors' seats filled by union representatives.

During that time, President Harry Truman was trying to launch a single-payer healthcare system and promote unions; Republicans shot down both efforts, and when they seized control of Congress for two years during his presidency even passed over his veto the brutal Taft-Hartley Act that enables states to declare themselves "Right to Work for Less" regions, essentially gutting the ability of unions in those states to both represent all their members and remain financially viable.

There's a debate to this day about whether Germany took the extraordinarily pro-union and pro-universal-healthcare positions they did because Truman was whispering in their ear, hoping to have a "proof" for the American people that his proposed policies could work, of if they just decided on their own it was best.

Nonetheless, we gave them assistance that didn't have a lot of strings or conditions and let them rebuild their own steel mills and cement plants so they could have German companies rebuild Germany and, in the process, the German economy. It's pretty much the opposite of what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq, where virtually all the money went to well-connected US contractors like Dick Cheney's nearly-bankrupt Haliburton, making Cheney fabulously rich, producing billionaires here and leaving both those nations drained as we withdraw.

In the years immediately after the Marshall Plan was put into place, our foreign involvements were driven as much by the CIA, giant multinational corporations and rightwing ideologues as it was with a eye to helping foreign nations.

When Mohammed Mosaddeq came to power in Iran in 1951, for example, he began throwing out the foreign oil companies, declaring Iran's oil was its own asset and should be drilled, used and sold externally purely for the benefit of Iran and Iranians. He said he was going to use his oil revenue for healthcare and education. This provoked the US CIA and British Intelligence services to engineer the August 19, 1953 overthrow of Mossadeq, bringing the western oil company's favorite stooge, The Shah, to power. Within a year he gave more than 40 percent of Iran's oil fields to American oil companies, draining both oil and trillions in cash out of his country. We all know how badly that turned out, but it made a few American families and oil companies fabulously rich.

During the 1960 election, Jack Kennedy was beating up Vice President Richard Nixon badly for his handling of the "Cuba crisis"; a year earlier Castro had overthrown the US puppet Batista government and thrown the US mafia out of Havana. Vice President Nixon, with the help of major mafia figures and Cuban expats, put together an "October Surprise" invasion plan against Castro for the fall of 1960, although he ultimately couldn't pull it off and Kennedy won the election. Almost two years later Kennedy learned that the ragtag army of Cuban refugees Nixon had put together was still planning to assault the island and reluctantly authorized the Bay of Pigs disaster.

I spent many hours on multiple occasions meeting with Harry Enrique Ruiz-Williams, one of the invasion's leaders, for a book Lamar Waldron and I wrote titled Legacy of Secrecy. Harry told me about a meeting he attended in the White House with Bobby Kennedy a few months after JFK had been assassinated.

Bobby had put together his own off-the-shelf operation to assassinate Castro, with the covert cooperation of the head of Cuba's military, General Juan Almeida, and wanted to go ahead with another coup attempt. Johnson reacted with fury and obscenity, saying he wanted nothing to do with those effing Cubans and would make his "stand against communism" as far away from the Northern Hemisphere as possible. Vietnam sounded good to him, he told them, and it would get the Republican communism-hawks off his back. That didn't work out so well, either.

We engaged in similarly disastrous covert efforts in Chile and Argentina in 1973 and 1976 respectively, in both cases overthrowing elected "left wing" governments that were working to provide their people with a basic social safety net including programs similar to Social Security, Medicare For All, free college and guarantees of unionization. American companies like Anaconda, International Telephone & Telegraph, and Kennicott were, the US State Department today says, enthusiastic helpers in the coups. Soon general Pinochet was throwing protesters out of helicopters to their deaths and when I was in Argentina around 2000 about every other house in the suburban neighborhood I was staying in had furniture or televisions in their front yards for sale because the hyperinflation was so devastating their economy.

In the 1980s Reagan picked up that ball to overthrow "socialist" governments coming to power or attempting to come to power in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. We sent rightwing terrorists weapons and "advisors," and helped them form death squads (particularly in El Salvador).

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Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?," "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle (more...)

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