The Crimes of US Empire (post-1898 only)

The chronology of 20th Century US foreign interventions and covert operations is long, bloody and tragic. The only intervention not listed below is World War II, probably the only unambiguously good war the US fought this century. Note that for the sake of comparison, WW II lasted from 1941-45, cost the lives of 500,000 US soldiers and $3.1 trillion in 2005 dollars.



1898 Spanish-American War. US takes over Spanish colonies Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, wages brutal counter-insurgency war against Filipino nationalists.

An estimated 500,000 Filipino citizens are killed by war (out of a prewar population of 9 million), 2200 US casualties. Philippines remains a US colony until 1945, and is dominated by a pro-US, thievish oligarchy thereafter.

1901 Platt Amendment turns Cuba into a protectorate of the United States, remains a de facto colony until 1934. US troops leave but return from 1917-1933.

US ensures survival of vicious oligarchy in Cuba. Eventual result is the anti-US Cuban Revolution of 1959.

1903 Teddy Roosevelt sends US Marines to Panama canal in late 1903. They stay there until 1914. US troops land in Panama again in 1908, 1912, 1918-21, 1925.

Panama becomes a permanent US protectorate, remains an impoverished neocolony.

1910 US covert and military action, spearheaded by Secretary of State Philander Knox and costing somewhere between $3.5 million to $100 million in 2005, overthrows democratically elected President of Nicaragua, Jose Santos Zelaya.1

Dozens of dead, Nicaragua's democracy and society never fully recovers. US mainstream media prints the most outrageous lies about Zelaya's moderate government without the slightest bit of fact-checking, setting a precedent of collusion with Empire which continues to this day.

1911 US covert and military action topples elected government of Honduras.

Honduran society ravaged by decades of oligarchic rule. Sam Zemurray, the self-made banana baron of Central America, lobbied the US government to get rid of President Miguel Davila. US complies, Zemurray builds a ruthless, ecologically destructive and brutally exploitative business which later becomes the infamous United Fruit Co., one of the major actors responsible for the CIA's 1954 coup against democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz.

1915-34 US forces land in Haiti, allegedly to safeguard political stability.

US crushes a popular uprising against Haitian dictator Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, crushing the hopes of Haitian democracy for a generation. Later in the 20th century, the US would support the dictatorial rule of Francois Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier.

1916-24 US forces intervene in Dominican Republic.

Dominican Republic remains dominated by oligarchy for decades.

1917-18 US enters WW I on the side of Britain and France.

250,000 US casualties, $205 billion expenditure in 2005 dollars.2

1918-19 US forces briefly occupy a few outlying regions Russia during its civil war, but leave before serious clashes occur with the Red Army.

124 US soldiers killed and wounded, enmity of future Soviet government.

1926-33 US forces intervene in Nicaragua, stick around until 1933.

US ends up solidifying Nicaragua's oligarchy.

1950-53 US enters Korean War. North Korean dictatorship attacks South Korean dictatorship, US forces drive North Koreans back. But when US forces approach the Yalu River, the border between Korea and China, threatening China itself, China sends millions of soldiers to repel the US. After massive casualties on both sides, a truce is established near the old North-South Korean border.

3 million Korean and Chinese dead and wounded, 140,000 US dead and wounded, North Korea is saturation-bombed during the war, South Korea will be ruled by brutal US-backed military dictatorships for 35 years. The total cost is $361 billion in 2005 dollars.3

1953 US organizes coup which destroys Iran's democracy, after Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq tries to nationalize Iran's oilfields.

US installs the Shah, a monarch who murders and tortures dissidents during 25 years of misrule. Eventually, a deeply anti-American theocracy overthrows the Shah in 1979.

1954 US organizes coup against President Arbenz, destroying Guatemala's democracy for forty years.

Guatemala enters four decades of bloodshed and horror, as one repressive military regime after another fights a low-level insurgency in the interior. Between 100,000-250,000 Guatemalans die.

1960-64 US gives South Vietnam's deeply corrupt regime military aid and support.

US needlessly prolongs Vietnam's civil war, Kennedy greenlights assassination of South Vietnam's President Diem.

1961 US organizes Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by CIA-trained exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro. Exiles are crushed. (US will continue blockade of Cuba to this day.)

The invasion causes a huge loss of US prestige among newly independent Third World nations. Castro becomes a hero and aligns himself with Soviet Union. The conflict eventually triggers Cuban missile crisis two years later, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war.

1963 CIA operatives give aid and succor to the Baathist party, and helps a youthful Saddam Hussein and early Baathists to stage a coup attempt in Iraq. Coup fails, but years later Saddam will take power.4

CIA gives the Baathists lists of at least 5,000 alleged Iraqi Communists, who are butchered wholesale. Saddam and Baathists are viewed as anti-Communist allies of US for decades, until the invasion of Kuwait.

1964-73 US formally intervenes in Vietnam.

3 million die in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, US casualties are 210,000 killed and wounded. Cost of war is $532 billion in 2005 dollars.5 Uprisings break out in every major US city, conflict rips apart US society for a generation.

1964 US gives official diplomatic and economic support to the military overthrow of Brazilian President João Goulart (a contingency plan to support the generals, called Operation Uncle Sam, was never carried out).

Brazil's democracy is destroyed for 21 years, does not return until 1985. Thousands of Brazilians murdered, disappeared and tortured by Brazilian military death squads.

1965 US supports Indonesian military coup against nationalist leader Sukarno.

Military dictator Suharto slaughters at least 500,000 Indonesians in brutal anti-Communist campaign in the countryside. Suharto regime continues to violate human rights wholesale until fall of regime 33 years later in 1998.

1965 US intervenes in Dominican Republic.

Invasion does nothing to help country. Eventually, the Organization of American States helps the Republic hold democratic elections.

1973 US organizes coup by Chilean military which destroys Chile's democracy.

Military dictator Pinochet rules with iron fist for 17 years. His regime murders, tortures and disappears thousands of dissidents. Chilean economy is subjected to the wrecking ball of neoliberal policies, and does not return to its 1973 level of GDP until 1990.

1975 US covertly aids UNITA, an armed group in newly independent Angola, and supports military invasion in Angola by South African mercenaries (at the time, South Africa was still run by a vicious apartheid regime) in an effort to topple Angola's MPLA government.6

To fight off the South African mercenaries and the US intervention, the MPLA appeals for help to Cuba. Cuba sends troops and defeats the mercenaries, who withdraw. But US intervention transforms a local ethnic conflict into a bloody, decades-long civil war, costing the lives of 100,000 Angolans.

1975-83 US helps oversee Operation Condor, an agreement between various Latin American right-wing military juntas in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay to hunt down and murder dissidents.7

These juntas murdered roughly 50,000 people, jailed perhaps 400,000 and institute neoliberal economic policies which enrich the few and impoverish everyone else. A whole generation of Latin Americans is sacrificed on behalf of political tyranny and economic misery.

1979-89 US organizes Islamic mujahideen to fight Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The Soviets are defeated and eventually withdraw, but Afghanistan is leveled in the process. CIA pours $3 billion into the war (roughly $30 billion in 2005 dollars). One of the young Islamic militants who cuts his teeth in Afghanistan is named Osama bin Laden. The mujahideen later turn into the Taliban.

1979-90 US organizes the contras, a rebel group which tries to destroy Nicaragua's 1979 revolution and the democratically elected government of the Sandinistas.

50,000 Nicaraguans killed and wounded, Nicaragua's tiny economy wrecked. Amazingly, Nicaragua somehow preserves its democracy. Reagan Administration operatives caught in Iran-Contra scandal, illegally selling arms to Iran to finance the contras.

1980-90 US gives extensive military support and training to brutal military governments in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Military programs cost $3 billion, or $30 billion in 2005 dollars. At least 150,000 killed and wounded in counterinsurgency campaigns, mostly by government death squads. Central America turned into a landscape of fear and repression.

1980-88 US gives Iraq equipment, arms and strategic intelligence during Iran-Iraq War.

At least 1 million Iranians and 500,000 Iraqis die in a pointless eight-year slaughter, fought between two regimes which were both installed (one inadvertently) by US meddling in the region.

1990 US invades Panama to depose dictator Manuel Noriega, a former CIA agent who went embarrassingly bad.

700 Panamanians killed and wounded, 100 US casualties, massive damage to Panama City.

1991 After Iraq invades Kuwait, US drives Iraq out of Kuwait.

Kuwaiti monarchy restored, Iraq's civilian infrastructure wrecked. 150,000 Iraqis killed and wounded, 650 US casualties, war costs $82 billion in 2005 dollars.8 After 17 years of foot-dragging and denial, US government admits Gulf War syndrome is quite real and afflicts 174,000 US veterans.9

1991-2003 In 1991, Saddam's regime obeys UN mandate and ends quest to produce nuclear weapons. UN inspectors confirm this. However, US continues to strangle Iraq with economic sanctions for twelve years, periodically bombs country.

Sanctions incite hatred throughout Islamic world and the particular anger of Osama Bin Laden, who creates al-Qaeda to fight the US. Tens of thousands of Iraqis die due to sanctions.

2001-2010 The US invades Afghanistan allegedly to dislodge al-Qaeda, but expands the mission to topple the Taliban, who the CIA armed and trained back in 1979-1987. By 2003, Afghans realize the US has no solutions for their country's problems, and turn to guerilla war to evict the occupiers, as they did against the British in the 19th century and the Soviet Union in the 20th century.

US occupation allows Afghanistan to fall back into the clutches of corrupt warlords, driving a resurgence of the Taliban. By 2004, the neo-Taliban are a formidable fighting force. By 2006, they start deploying roadside bombs. By 2009, Afghanistan is a failed state and most of the countryside is under neo-Taliban control. Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed or wounded, while the US has sustained 7,000 casualties (1,124 killed, at least six thousand wounded), with US casualty rates rising sharply each year the occupation drags on. Cost of war by June 2010 reaches $278.4 billion.10

2003-2010 US invades Iraq in an act of naked, unprovoked aggression. Iraqis refuse to fight for Saddam's regime, but turn to massive guerilla war to kick Americans out of their homeland. New Shiite-dominated government, run by theocratic parties friendly with Iran, insists all US forces must leave by 2011 (most will be gone by summer of 2010).

In addition to an ongoing anti-US guerilla war by Sunni and Shiite guerillas, a vicious ethnic war breaks out between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish communities. Unable to quell the violence, the US buys off Sunni insurgents to stop attacking US forces, and buys off the Shiites by allowing them to form their own government. Sunnis consolidate their grip on Sunni regions, while Shiites take control of national government. The invasion and its sectarian aftermath incite hatred and repudiation of the US by the entire world. At least 1 million Iraqis11 die during next 5 years, US casualties are roughly 37,000 (4,406 US military dead and at least thirty-three thousand wounded), while an estimated 13,000 contractors and non-US military personnel have been killed or wounded.12 Cost of war by June 2010 reaches $729.0 billion.13

1. See pages 56-77 in Stephen Kinzer. Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Times Books, NY: 2006.

2. This estimate is provided by Linda Bilmes, professor at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. See David Francis, "More costly than 'the war to end all wars'." Christian Science Monitor, August 29, 2005. Web:

3. David Francis, ibid.

4. Richard Sales. "Saddam Was Key in Early CIA Plot." April 11, 2003. UPI. Accessed November 10, 2006:

5. David Francis, ibid.

6. Howard French. "From Old Files, a New Story of US Role in Angolan War." NY Times, March 31, 2002. Accessed February 1, 2007:

7. Accessed November 10, 2006. Web:

8. David Francis, ibid.

9. Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses. "Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans: Scientific Findings and Recommendations". Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, November 2008. Accessed July 2, 2009. Web:

10. Data from iCasualties website, accessed June 19, 2010. Web:

11. A mid-2006 study from the prestigious medical journal The Lancet estimated excess Iraqi deaths at 655,000. The current number is a conservative extrapolation of those numbers, based on continuing violence in Iraq. See David Brown, "Study Claims Iraq's 'Excess' Death Toll Has Reached 655,000." Washington Post. Wednesday, October 11, 2006 (A12). Web:
The original Lancet study from 2006:

12. Data from iCasualties website, accessed June 19, 2010. Web:

13. National Priorities Project, accessed June 19, 2010. Web:

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