NPR Plugs N.Y. Times Reporter Who Compares U.S. Interventions to Child Abuse
On Wednesday, NPR's "Fresh Air With Terry Gross," which airs on hundreds of NPR stations across America, interviewed long-time New York Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer on his new book, "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii To Iraq." To Kinzer, every American intervention is a nightmare, one he compared to child abuse:
These interventions abroad, these overthrows of foreign governments, not only plunge whole regions of the world into instability and turn them into places from which undreamed threats emerge years later, but they undermine American security. They are not just bad for the countries where we intervene. You cannot violently overthrow a foreign regime and then expect that that won't have any long-term effect. It's like beating your child every day. You cannot expect that that child is going to grow up normal.
Kinzer's radical-left theory in general, unspooled in an excerpt on the NPR website, is that America talks about its interventions in terms of national security and liberty, but really is inspired by greedy economic motives, a foreign policy designed to please multinational corporations.
For her part, Terry Gross asked incredibly bland, brief questions that sounded like they were read off a publicist's sheet of suggested inquiries. At one point, she turned to Latin America, where Kinzer was very vocal in opposing Reagan policy in the 1980s, and cited how left-wing leaders were speaking "nationalistically" in attacking America. Kinzer asserted there's great evidence for the argument that America is evil:
Gross: You have talked about how America's interventions in Latin America have left a strong anti-US sentiment there. President [Hugo] Chavez of Venezuela, President [Evo] Morales of Bolivia, have been speaking very nationalistically. Do you think that there's going to be a conflict between the US and those countries?
Kinzer: Our actions in Latin America have probably been more shamefully interventionist and have produced more horrific results than our interventions anywhere else in the world. There's really a very fertile ground for anti-Americanism there.
The speeches that you hear from leaders like Chavez are full of references to the times the United States has intervened in Guatemala, in Nicaragua, in Dominican Republic, in Cuba, in Chile and so forth. So our interventions there are now being used as proof that we have only evil intentions in Latin America. Whether that's true or not, there is certainly plenty of historical evidence to support that argument.
To be fair, Gross asked one question from the right, which Kinzer disliked:
Gross: You know, you look at the consequences of the United States' overthrowing of other governments. If we just take the Cold War era, for example , the argument could be made that had we not intervened in other countries the way we had that the Soviets might have expanded more and more successfully. And, in fact, the Soviets might have won the Cold War.
Kinzer: I don't think that's true at all. In the first place, the countries whose governments we overthrew, all countries that we claimed were pawns of the Kremlin, actually were nothing of the sort.
Gross then turned to Iraq and what she did call "radical Islam" and the cartoon riots. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kinzer encouraged blaming the cartoon riots on...the United States:
It's true that the cartoons were Danish. But in the Middle East, I think, they are largely perceived as part of a Western conspiracy against Muslim interests and Muslim countries. After all, if you go to Iran, you'll still today find that Britain is still thought of as the real evil force in that part of the world, as much as the United States. Therefore, they all blend together. But who has been the country that has been intervening there most boldly over the last half century? It's been the United States. So I think that opens up the possibility that anything that any Western country does is seen as a reflection of American attitudes.
Interestingly enough, this is just the reverse of what we used to do. In the 1950s, we looked around the world and we saw every relatively innocent effort by countries to control their own natural resources as part of a Kremlin conspiracy. Now what radical Muslim leaders in the Middle East are doing is exactly what we did. They are saying that everything that happens in the world that seems inimical or insulting to Muslim interests must be part of a U.S. conspiracy. And although that is not true, our actions in that part of the world have made that easy to believe.
Kinzer recently left the Times, declaring to Gross he no longer believed in "the news," which didn't give him enough time to paint the big picture. Brent Baker would no doubt like me to point out that Kinzer was an aide to Michael Dukakis in 1974 in his successful first campaign for governor. His book on Reagan policy in Nicaragua was noted here. And in 1990, Kinzer spoke to the Cape Cod Times about the media, complaining White House reporters are "not encouraged to insert observations," in their stories. Kinzer offered an example of the kind of "observation" he'd suggest:
"President Reagan today denounced the Sandinistas for having converted Nicaragua into a 'totalitarian dungeon' -- another one of his wild exaggerations that ignores the abuses of Guatemalan colonels, Salvadoran death squad leaders and Argentine torturers, with whom he is so friendly."