excerpts from the book

The Broken Promises of America

at home and abroad, past and present

Volume 1

by Douglas F. Dowd

Common Courage Press, 2005, paper


p 44
The Congo
In the Congo's first election ever, the charismatic Patrice I Lumumba was appointed Prime Minister by a governmental coalition. From the beginning he argued that political independence in itself was insufficient for true independence, that the Congo could not go it alone economically. So he called for all of Africa to free itself from outside political control and economic dependence and to work together as a regional economy: Only then could the Congo use its vast resources of cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold, manganese, tin, and zinc for its own rather than foreigners' well-being. HOCHSCHILD tells what came next:

Anathema to American and European capital, he became a leader whose days were numbered. Less than two months after being named the Congo's first democratically chosen prime minister, a U.S. National Security Council subcommittee on covert operations, which included CIA chief Allen Dulles, authorized his assassination. Richard Bissell, CIA Operations Chief... later said, "The President /Eisenhower/ would have vastly preferred to have him taken care of some way other than assassination, but he regarded Lumumba as I did and a lot of other people did: as a mad dog... and he wanted the problem dealt with.

The problem was "dealt with" in early 1961. After being kidnapped and badly beaten and tortured, Lumumba was "secretly shot .... A CIA agent ended up driving around the city wit a body in his car's trunk, trying to find a place to dispose of it."

The man who then became the Congo's bloody dictator for over 35 years, Joseph D. Mobutu, "had been spotted as someone who would look out for /outside/ interests. He had received cash payments from the local CIA man... while Lumumba's murder was being planned." (Enough) Mobutu carried out Leopold's tradition, exploiting and murdering his own people. When Bush I (former head of the CIA) .< was U.S. President, Mobutu was greeted by him as "one of our most valued friends." Earlier he had been welcomed by President Reagan as "a voice of good sense and good will."

When Mobutu died in 1997 (at one of his numerous villas on the Riviera), his personal fortune was estimated at $4 billion

Dwayne Andreas founder of ADM now CEO Emeritus. In 1995 he said

"There isn't one grain of anything in the world that is sold in a free market. Not one The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians."

Union Carbide / Bhopal, India
The U.S. company Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemical) had a pesticide producing plant in Bhopal, India; its gas tank in effect exploded (1984), spewing 40,000 tons of lethal gas. Bhopal had 900,000 residents. Immediately after the explosion 8,000 died; soon after the number of dead rose to 20,000 and more than half of the other residents of Bhopal were seriously poisoned.

... Union Carbide has never denied its culpability; it has rewarded the paltry, indeed insulting, sum of $300-580 to the victims of the catastrophe ($480 million cost to the company which, however, may be compared with the $26.5 billions paid by EXXON to Alaska for its oil spill-where nobody died.

That's bad enough. But not bad enough for its owner Dow Chemical (which gave us Agent Orange during the Vietnam war): 1) the then CEO of Union Carbide has managed to avoid extradition and trial in India; 2) and now Dow Chemical is suing survivors of the Bhopal tragedy for their recent demonstration against the company in Bhopal. Why? Because of "the loss of labor time" it caused.

Roman historian Tacitus - toward the end of the 1st century A.D.
It is no use trying to escape their arrogance by submission or good behavior. They have pillaged the world. When the land has nothing left for men who ravage everything, they scour the sea. If an enemy is rich, they are greedy; if he is poor, they crave glory. Neither East nor West can sate their appetite. They are the only people on earth to covet wealth and poverty with equal craving. They plunder, they butcher, they ravish, and call it by the lying name of "empire." They make a desert and call it "peace."


Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to then President Carter, persuaded him to sign the first of several directives allowing the CIA to provide weaponry to what became the Taliban. How do we know? "Zbig" (as he liked to be known) told us, through a boastful interview given to Le Nouvel Observateur (1-15-98): realpolitik's finest hour.

The stated intention in July, he said, was
"To draw the Russians into the Afghan trap .... We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would." Three months later, on the day the Soviet army entered Afghanistan, he wrote to Carter "Now, we can give the USSR its Vietnam War."

In doing that we also birthed the Taliban, the main force resisting the USSR. When the interviewer asked Zbig if he regretted "having supported Islamic fundamentalism..., and given arms and advice to future terrorists," the reply was
"What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?"

(Interview in "The Making of Afghanistan," by Pankaj Mishra, NYRB, 1-15-01). On a day later that year in Manhattan there was an event called "9/11" at a spot now memorialized as Ground Zero.


The [US] bombing of Cambodia began on March 18, 1969; by the time it ended 14 months later 3,630 air raids had been carried out by flights of 50 or so eight-engined B-52s flying from either Okinawa or Guam, each carrying dozens of 750 lb. bombs. And dropping them from 30,000 feet, from which nobody can distinguish a hill from a valley, a person from a tree. Lots of collateral damage, you can be sure; and that was the intent.

All of this was illegal, so it had to be done within a pattern of secrecy from relevant congressional committees and cabinet members and, as well, from the air crews and their superior officers. (They were given a "legal" target in Vietnam and then, at the last moment, by radio, told to switch the coordinates.) (SHAW CROSS) Everything we did in or at Cambodia broke long-standing international law.

... The following long quote from Cambodian Prince Sihanouk (from an interview in New York in 1979) is worthy of attention:

What separated me from Lon Nol in 1970 was that he wanted to make war against the Communists and invite the United States into Cambodia. I knew that if we did so we would be completely involved in the Vietnamese war, we would lose our peace, and everything in Cambodia would be destroyed. If the United States had refused to help Lon Nol after the coup, he would have collapsed. I would have returned and stopped the war. It didn't happen because Nixon and Kissinger didn't want Sihanouk back .... There are only two men responsible for the tragedy in Cambodia today, Mr. Nixon and Dr. Kissinger. Lon "-' Nol was nothing without them and the Khmer Rouge were nothing without Lon Nol. /But/ the results were the opposite of what they wanted. They demoralized America, they lost all of Indochina to the Communists, and they created the Khmer Rouge. (Quoted in SHAWCROSS)


In 1955, [General] Sukarno organized a conference of non-aligned countries-calling themselves "Third World" (the first usage of that term). From then on, Sukarno-much like Lumumba in the Congo-was a thorn in the side of the USA. His government was overthrown by Suharto in 1965, and at least 1,000,000 were killed, a large percentage of them from the large Chinese population of the area. There ensued a rightwing dictatorship distinctly friendly to the USA in terms of investment and trade (and votes in the UN).


As the USA saw things, the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 left a dangerous power vacuum in Southeast Asia; the war that had defeated France had been fought out almost entirely in Vietnam, and had been won almost entirely by the Viet Minh. Thus, when the USA called the Geneva Convention and dominated its agreements-most importantly that Vietnam would be split in two at the 17th parallel-there was nothing comparable affecting either Cambodia or Laos; until later, that is.

Anti-French movements had been stirring in both of those countries before 1954; by 1958, in both of those small countries (67 million in Cambodia, 2-3 million in Laos) elections were held for their own national governments. The ongoing political chaos involving center, left, and right factions prompted the USA once more to call a Geneva Convention (1961-62).

The principal factions in Laos by that time were the Pathet Lao (the rough but independent equivalent of the Viet Minh), and the right-centrist Kong Le/Prince Souvanna Phouma faction. The USA supported Souvanna Phouma, Kong Le (a mercenary soldier) departed for Paris and never returned, and the Prince became the de facto ruler of Laos; the de facto ruler was the USA.

As in Cambodia, the USA had for some years deployed thousands of armed and non-armed covert agents in Laos under various names; by 1962 they had been reorganized under one heading, USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development); its mission was to suppress the Pathet Lao.

It was a mission with many dimensions, the most destructive of which was the continuous and heavy bombing of real or suspected Pathet Lao hideouts. What were called "hideouts" were peasant villages and fields; thus ordinary Laotians-like ordinary Vietnamese and Cambodians-became targets for U.S. bombers, at ground level or from above 30,000 feet.

The main "city" of Laos is Vientiane ... USAID had been functioning there for many years, as had the CIA.

... The French had been there for almost a century; the US for more than a decade. The progress their combined efforts provided for the Lao were: no railways, two doctors (one for each million inhabitants), three engineers, and 700 telephones, little education, none of it in the Lao's language. There was, however, a certain income from the lively heroin trade of the "golden triangle," a product of the CIA ...


Philippine Islands
President William McKinley:
When I received the cable from Admiral Dewey of the taking of the Philippines, I looked up their location on the globe. I could not have told where those darned islands were within 2,000 miles! And later, in speaking to a group of ministers about his decision to "take" the islands: The truth is I didn't want the Philippines, and when they came to us as a gift from the gods, I didn't know what to do with them .... I thought first we would only take Manila; then Luzon, then other islands, perhaps, also. I walked the floor of the White House night after night until midnight, and I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than one night. And then one night it came to me this way...: 1) We could not give them back to Spain-that would be cowardly and dishonorable, 2) We could not turn them over to France or Germany, our commercial rivals in the Orient-that would be bad business and discreditable. 3) We could not leave them to themselves-they were unfit for self-government-and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain's was. So there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them .... And then I went to bed and went to sleep and slept soundly. (quoted in ZINN, 2000)

It took us four years and the killing of over 300,000 Filipinos to quell the opposition led by Emilio Aguinaldo. In 1934, some decades later, Congress legislated that the islands should have their independence within 10 years; it was granted after World War II.

Just as that war ended, the Philippine Constabulary-which had worked with the Japanese during the war-was newly armed by the USA. It set out for four years to eliminate the "Hukbalahap" the group that had worked with us and against the Japanese during the war.

All things considered, after independence the Philippines might well have gone their own way. The main movement to kill off the "Huks" and, as well, the islands' economy and foreign policy were directed by the USA and the long-standing local elite (called "caciques"). All too soon, our work came to be done by the Philippines' first dictator, Frederic Marcos.


a 1965 Defense Department document, as revealed in the Pentagon Papers (published by the NYT in 1971), quote:
US aims: 70%-To avoid humiliating US defeat (to our reputation as guarantor). 20%-To keep SVN "-South Vietnam-" (and then adjacent) territory from Chinese hands. 10%-To permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life.

... Vietnam began to serve as a laboratory for counter-insurgency techniques and weapons. In the spring of 1961, a joint U.S,-Vietnamese testing center was established whose first project was an evaluation of herbicidal warfare: the use of chemicals to poison food crops and strip the foliage in areas in which guerrillas were known to operate.

Chief among those chemicals were Agents Orange, Green, White, and Blue. Orange and Green contained dioxin now admitted by the government to be a cancer-causing agent; what today is called a "weapon of mass destruction." Its widespread and increasing use in Vietnam began in 1961-four years before we "entered the conflict"-and continued for an entire decade, until 1971. Some of the details are horrifying:

planes sprayed the herbicides directly over at least 3,181 villages. At least 2.1 million inhabitants-and perhaps as many as 4.8 million-would have been in the villages during the spraying operations.., in South Vietnam, whose total population at the time was less than 17 million... Almost 80 disorders have been associated with exposure, including cancers of the lung and prostate and more than a dozen other malignancies..., (SFC, "Seeing red over Agent Orange: U.S. understated use of dioxin during Vietnam..." (4-21-03)

... Already as such operations began in 1961, it had become the "mode" for the USA to give spin names to our military activities, even to the point of being repulsively cute about them. This one was , ' called Operation RANCH HAND, its motto "Only We Can Prevent Forests." In the first eight years of that operation one hundred million rounds of herbicides were dropped on over four million acres of South Vietnam, its intent stated as the intimidation of peasants-men, women, children-from cooperating with the Viet Cong. (YOUNG)

The foregoing was occurring five years before the USA had an official military presence in Indochina. From then on, it expanded both qualitatively and quantitatively, with the years before and after our official entry overlapping.

A major element of that overlapping was the general "pacification" program. The "strategic hamlets" were among its main elements. The practice was to bulldoze innumerable villages suspected to be guerrilla strongholds, and to herd all their former inhabitants into a spot where new "houses" surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers were constructed most of this to be paid for by the villagers themselves. (YOUNG)

... the numbers of Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian dead added up to more than three million dead (to say nothing of many more than that wounded, displaced, their lives ruined.

big business
... it was and is in the very nature of the industrialization process to obliterate the tiny firms constituting the "invisible hand": Half a century or so after the first factory (1815), the galloping technological advances unleashed by industrialization and mass production had begun to make it both possible and necessity for firms to enlarge and become gigantic. This they did in order to defend themselves from otherwise "destructive competition" and/or simultaneously to increase their profits by their ability to control their markets. The best defense is a strong offence.

The USA, given its rich resources and vast spaces, its large population and broad markets, took the lead in that race (closely followed by Germany). In the decades after 1860, when the mergers of formerly competing companies sped up-in railroads, then iron and steel, then oil, then ... the resulting process was called "the combination movement." By the first years of the 20th century, the "invisible hand" had become a well-concealed fist.

Thus, what had been 5,300 industrial firms in 1897 had become 318 corporations by 1905. Most spectacular were the mergers in iron and steel which in 1901 created U.S. Steel-the first billion dollar company in the world-one company composed of what once had been 750 different companies.


Bush I
... while a pilot in the Pacific war, had bailed out when his plane caught fire. Nothing necessarily wrong with that-unless, that is, you are leaving your crew behind. Bush I did just that. All pilots (and I was one) learn that the "captain of the ship" is never the first to bail out. Bush I broke that rule, and his crew went to a flaming death.

How do we know? Because other aircrews on his wing that day provided the story to the press. Confirmed though the story was and damaging though it should have been to one who had gained repute for heroism, the news dwindled away and was not heard from again.


Bush II
Quite simply because he is President of the USA and, as such, the most powerful person in the world, it is worrisomely difficult for most of us to see him for what else he is: a rich, ignorant, and feckless boy who got through private K-12 prep schools and Yale University and Harvard Business School because of wealth and family status; a dolt who has never done an honest day's work; who was handed a governorship and then the Oval Office with no meaningful political experience or knowledge. All he needed to become governor Texas was the Bush name, the gift of a large pile of oil stock and the ownership of a Texas baseball team (bought with easily borrowed funds from an oil company), its stadium paid for by $150 million of taxpayers' money. A newspaper summary of his rise to riches and power: (from SFC, 7-5-02.)

1. Breezed and drank his way through prep school at Yale and an MBA at Harvard,
2. Made head of Arbusto Energy (Tex.), funded by family friends, who lost $5 million.
3. After changing its name to Bush Exploration in 1982 (Dad then in White House as VP.) and continuing to lose money, it was bought out in 1984 by Spectrum 7 Energy (Tex.), owned by two men who were major backers of Bush I's 1988 presidential campaign. Bush II was CEO of Spectrum 7, which had steady losses until bought out by Harken Energy (still Tex.) in 1986, when Bush II was made a Harken director, which paid him $250,000 in consulting fees and stock options.
4. Bush II spent much of the next two years working for Dad's political campaigns. After Dad won, Harken was awarded a big contract by Bahrain for offshore drilling-for which it had no prior experience.
5. In 1989, with Bush II a director and "consultant," the S.E.C. ruled that Harken had hidden $10 million in losses through the sale of a subsidiary to company insiders who had borrowed the money from Harken to make the deal.
6. Soon after, in 1990, Bush II (who sat on the board's audit committee) sold $848,000 of his Harken stock-8 days before the price fell by more than half, when the public was informed that Harken had recently lost $23 million. (SFC)
And oh yes, Bush II waited 8 months to file the document insiders are required to submit when they sell. (NYT 7-4-02)

When the latter information hit the news in July of 2002 Ari Fleischer had the unenviable job of reconciling at least two contradictory versions of Bush's asserted innocence reported earlier. In its story on this matter-"The Know Nothing Defense... "-the SFC quoted Acting Dean Hermalin of UC Berkeley's School of Business: "The know-nothing defense is a public statement of incompetence,"

Bush II says it must all be OK, because the SEC looked into it and "vetted" him. Paul Krugman had this to say about that:

In fact, the agency's investigation was peculiarly perfunctory. It somehow decided that Mr. Bush's peculiarly timed stock sale did not reflect inside information without interviewing him or any other members of Harken's hoard. Maybe top officials at S.E.C. felt they already knew enough about Mr. Bush: his father, the president, had appointed a good friend as S.E.C. chairman. And the general counsel, who normally would make decisions about legal action, had previously been George W. Bush's personal lawyer-he negotiated the purchase of the Texas Rangers. I am not making this up." (NYT, op-ed, 7-12-02)

Bush II, like his Dad, is a pilot; unlike him, he's never heard a shot fired in anger: Other than landing on the deck of that carrier in 2003 (after a 30-mile flight) he confined his derring-do to whizzing over Texas for its National Guard, thus exempting him from having to display his heroism in Vietnam. And even then, he managed to take a never-explained leave of an entire year. As the 2004 election approached and this became a public matter, a process of intricate razor-thin qualifications and denials filled the news. However one managed or did not manage to cut through all that fog, however, what remained is that a) he got into the Texas National Guard through being a Bush, b) that he didn't serve all his time, and c) that he got an honorable discharge under dubious conditions. (IVINS/DUBOSE)

Molly Ivins writes,
I have known George W. Bush slightly since we were both in high school, and I studied him closely as governor. He is neither mean nor stupid. What we have here is a man shaped by three intervening strands of Texas culture, combined with huge blinkers of class. The three Texas themes are religiosity, antiintellectualism, and machismo. ("The Uncompassionate Conservative," Mother Jones, November/December, 2003)

That the lines between advertising, propaganda, and public relations are increasingly difficult to find was sickeningly revealed in the week before the first "anniversary" of 9/11. In "Bush Aides Set Strategy to Sell Policy on Iraq," the NYT (9-7-02), we read that

"White House officials said today that the administration - was following a meticulous strategy to persuade the public, Congress and the allies of the need to confront the threat from Saddam Hussein .... The White House decided that even with the appearance of disarray it was still more advantageous to wait until after Labor Day to launch their plan. "From a marketing point of view," said Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff who is coordinating the effort, "You don't introduce new products in August." A centerpiece of this strategy, White House officials said, is to use Mr. Bush's speech on Sept. 11 /2002/ to help move Americans toward support of action against Iraq .... Toward that end, in June the White House picked Ellis Island in New York Harbor, not Governor's Island, as the place where President Bush is to deliver his Sept. 11 address to the nation. Both spots were considered /they said!, but the television camera angles were more spectacular from Ellis Island, where the Statue of Liberty will be seen behind Mr. Bush..,. /His/ remarks, about 10 minutes in length, are to serve as the emotional precursor for a tougher speech about Iraq that the president is to deliver to the UN General Assembly the following day..., written by a team that included Mr. Bush's principal speech writer (Michael Gerson), Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Cohn Powell."

Bush II, it surely would be agreed, is not his own man-except when the occasion arises to be warlike. He speaks for those in his administration who have continued and sped up the shift to the right engineered in the Reagan years-with the help of continuous pressures from industry and finance, from the military, and militant Christians.

The arts of public relations and "mind management" have been honed to a fine point since World War II, whether as regards the sale of commodities or of socio/economic/military policies. That is so even without any deliberate attempts to interfere with dissent; but, such attempts are now well under way,

Ronald Reagan quotation - Iran-Contra
"I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intention still tell me that is true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not." (WILLS, 1988)

Dick Cheney
Income from Halliburton, 2000: $36 million. Increase in government contracts while CEO: 91 percent (= $2.3 billion). Pages of Energy Plan he has refused to provide congressional investigators: 13,500.

Cheney was CEO of Halliburton 1995-2000. Halliburton is a giant: #1 for oil-field services, 5th largest military contractor, and the biggest non.-union employer in the USA.

Robert Mcchesney (1999)
Capitalism benefits from having a formally democratic system, but capitalism works best when elites make most fundamental decisions and the bulk of the population is depoliticized.

... the vital decisions affecting and directing the life of the USA in its cultural, economic, military, and political realms are made by a maximum of 10-20,000 people; and ... their composition is more from business than from any other sector, followed closely by entrenched political individuals and groups (themselves usually harmonious in ideas with the business world), the military, and social groups ...

Tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians are killed by the carpet bombing of cluster bombs; they are aimed at an area, not a target. Such bombs contain as many as 900 separate "bomblets" designed to be indiscriminate In Iraq, 1 to 1.5 million were dropped. (WSJ, "Pentagon Rethinks Use of Cluster Bombs," 8-23-03.

corporate welfare

from the 1996 book by Zepezauer & Naiman

o Military waste and fraud
o Social Security Tax Inequities
o Accelerated Depreciation
o Lower Taxes on Capital Gains
o The S&L Bailout
o Homeowners' Tax Breaks
o Agribusiness Subsidies
o Tax Avoidance by Transnationals
o Tax-Free Muni Bonds
o Media Handouts
o Excessive Government Pensions
o Insurance Loopholes
o Nuclear Subsidies
o Aviation Subsidies
o Business Meals and Entertainment
o Mining Subsidies
o Oil and Gas Tax Breaks
o Export Subsidies
o Synfuel Tax Credits
o Timber Subsidies
o Ozone Tax Exemptions

Total of the money handed out to wealthy individuals and corporations: $448 billion a year, at least 3 1/2 times that spent on welfare for the poor

VEBLEN (in his Theory of Business Enterprise):

It seldom happens, if at all, that the government of a civilized nation will persist in a course of action detrimental to or not ostensibly subservient to the interests of the more conspicuous body of the community's businessmen .... There is a naive, unquestioning persuasion abroad among the body of the people to the effect that, in some occult way, the material interests of the populace coincide with the pecuniary interests of those businessmen who live within the scope of the same set of governmental contrivances...

Compare the number of prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants:

The USA has 702/100,000. The only country that comes close is Russia, with 664; then, Portugal, 131; Britain, 126; Italy, 93; Ireland, 78; France, 75; Sweden, 64; and the winner (loser, we in the USA might say), is Finland, 52. (NYT, 1-3-03)

Except for Russia and China, the USA stands alone among the world's major and most of its minor nations in having a death penalty ...

The Broken Promises of America

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