April Book Club: "Overthrow"­ by Stephen Kinzer


Please join HFSD for a lively discussion of a book that focuses on history not taught in U.S. schools: the U.S. government's policy of "regime change," which resulted in the overthrow of many countries over the past century or so. Overthrowing these countries had nothing to do with bringing "freedom and democracy" to their people and much to do with maximizing the profits of U.S. corporations.  This is a timely topic given the recent 10th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

"Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the toppling of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, the United States has not hesitated to overthrow governments that stood in the way of its political and economic goals. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 is but the latest example of the dangers inherent in these operations.

In Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer tells the stories of the audacious politicians, spies, military commanders, and business executives who took it upon themselves to depose foreign regimes. He details the three eras of America's regime-change century: the Imperial Era, which brought Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Honduras under America's sway; the Cold War era, which employed covert action against Iran, Guatemala, South Vietnam, and Chile; and the Invasion Era, which saw American troops toppling governments in Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Kinzer explains why the U.S. government has pursued these operations and why so many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences, making Overthrow a cautionary tale that serves as an urgent warning as the United States seeks to define its role in the modern world.


About Stephen Kinzer

Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has reported from more than fifty countries on four continents.  He has served as The New York Times bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua.  Before joining the Times, he was the Latin American correspondent for The Boston Globe.  His previous books include All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds, and Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua. He is also the coauthor of Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. He lives in Chicago.

Kinzer is  a fierce opponent of U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America. In a 2010 interview with Imagineer Magazine, he stated:

The effects of U.S. intervention in Latin America have been overwhelming negative. They have had the effect of reinforcing brutal and unjust social systems and crushing people who are fighting for what we would actually call “American values.” In many cases, if you take Chile, Guatemala, or Honduras for examples, we actually overthrew governments that had principles similar to ours and replaced those democratic, quasi-democratic, or nationalist leaders with people who detest everything the United States stands for.

About the 19th Hole Restaurant

The 19th Hole Restaurant has one of the best views in all of San Diego. We will meet on the outdoor patio if it is available.  Here is a good article on this restaurant from the San Diego Reader.

Please note that this restaurant does NOT take credit cards.  It is a cash only restaurant.

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  • Gwen M.

    I very much enjoyed talking with such knowledgable people on topics that are most important to me. Everyone was very gracious to me as a new member. I have searched a long time to be in this type of group....at last I found one!

    April 21, 2013

  • Janice

    I agree, Wilfredo. This group is way above par (especially at the 19th hole!). It's worth the trek from North County. It's comforting to know that not everyone is dumbed down.

    April 20, 2013

  • Wilfredo P.

    Another excellent book discussion! I am really impressed with the breadth of knowledge of our members. If every American knew the history of U.S. interventions in other countries as presented in "Overthrow," there would be very few wars and the military-industrial complex would wither away. But don't hold your breath for this. Our government and U.S. corporations count on the fact that people don't think and are easily duped. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (what an absurd name for a war) was only the latest example. Thanks to all who attended. It was a lively and informative discussion.

    1 · April 20, 2013

  • Connie G.

    Jim was looking forward to the get-together but won't be able to join all of you. Have a good time!

    April 20, 2013

  • Ryan

    Good book. Too bad we are no closer to a solution. Unfortunately, Americans are mentally stuck in the two party system (really 1 party) who are both financially supported by global elitist who continue to profit from these wars while the average American continues to work more for less. The Libertarian party, which is the only outspoken anti-war party, has not been able to break through the American psyche due to the overwhelming mass media deception, owned by the same power elite, that we actually have a choice in the matter. More of the same....

    April 19, 2013

  • Ryan

    Have to work.

    April 19, 2013

  • Wilfredo P.

    Here's a CNN article that's relevant to this book. It's about our horrible legacy in Guatemala. Rios Montt was an Evangelical Xtian, a brutal dictator and a good friend of Ronald Ray-gun.


    April 13, 2013

  • Wilfredo P.

    No problem at all, Janice. I had breakfast recently at the 19th Hole Cafe and sat on the patio. I was one of just a few people there. The view was spectacular--just like the picture above. This view has to be one of the best-kept secrets in San Diego! If you forget cash, there is an ATM at the restaurant. We will definitely try to meet on the patio if it's available.

    March 30, 2013

  • Janice

    If this is a cash-only restaurant, will they have a problem with separate checks?

    March 30, 2013

  • Wilfredo P.

    It is so naive and ignorant of Americans to ask, "Why do they hate us?" "Overthrow" provides the answers to this question and pulls no punches in doing so. Here is a quote from the late Chalmers Johnson about this book:

    "After reading 'Overthrow,' no American-not even President Bush-should any longer wonder 'why they hate us.' 'Overthrow' is a narrative of all the times we've overthrown a foreign government in order to put in power puppets that are obedient to us. It is a tale of imperialism American-style, usually in the service of corporate interests, and, as Kinzer points out, 'No nation in modern history has done this so often, in so many places so far from its own shores.'"

    March 30, 2013

  • Conway R.

    Cash only, eh? Screw 'em.

    March 25, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Can't make the lecture, but will read the book. Fascinating topic.

    March 25, 2013

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