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Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick and The Untold History of the United States

Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick and The Untold History of the United States

By Dennis Loo (10/27/13)

On Friday I attended a UCLA program with director Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick (Associate Professor of History and Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University) who showed Episode 3 from their Showtime ten-part series based upon their 2012 book, The Untold History of the United States.

The book and video explode major myths about the U.S., a kind of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States for foreign policy. As such, it’s a really welcome development and both Stone and Kuznick should be cheered for this.

Episode 3 concerns Truman’s dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WW II. Stone and Kuznick show that contrary to Truman and others’ claims that dropping these weapons of apocalyptic power on two cities was necessary to force Japan to surrender and to save American lives, Truman used them to prevent the Russians, who had begun their invasion against Japan (in Manchuria), from being the ones to end the war. The atomic bombs, contrary to popular belief, did not actually cause Japan to surrender. Other Japanese cities had been previously subjected to massive and continuous bombardments and the Japanese government did not react to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as qualitatively different. The Russian invasion instead is what forced the Japanese to fold. Major military figures, from Gen. Douglas MacArthur on down are shown in the documentary as disapproving of the bombs’ use, saying that the atomic bombs were entirely unnecessary. Truman, on the other hand, was jubilant about the bombs’ use because he now had the biggest stick ever known to humankind for U.S. imperialist interests.

Before showing the film, Kuznick explained Henry Wallace’s presence in the documentary. Wallace was the country’s leading progressive and FDR’s Vice-President from 1941-45. Wallace has been, as Kuznick put it, “written out of history books.” Wallace, was however, extremely popular among Democrats at the time, enjoying 65% support compared to Truman’s 5%. But Truman had the backing of party bosses. At the 1944 Democratic National Convention the convention was rocking with a raucous celebration for Wallace and Sen. Claude Pepper was making his way through the tumult to the podium to nominate Wallace for the vice-presidential spot on FDR’s fourth term bid. According to Kuznick, Pepper realized that if he could just put Wallace’s name to the convention, that Wallace would have been approved by acclamation. Party bosses, however, called an end to the proceedings on a pretext to forestall this and Pepper was “five feet from the podium” when they did. Because Wallace did not believe in a Cold War and would have dealt differently with the Russians than the cold warriors of his day wanted, Kuznick and Stone say that the so-called “American Century” would have been dramatically different had Wallace been on the ticket.

During the Q & A my friend and I both asked questions about episode 3. This is a very rough summary of the gist of what I said: “I applaud you for exposing these truths. I do have a question, however, about your depiction of Henry Wallace. You say that we were ‘five feet away’ from a different scenario had Wallace been the nominee in FDR’s last term [in which case Wallace instead of Truman would have become president after FDR’s death]. I think there’s a question here of whether imperialism is a system or there are just individual imperialists. You are saying that the problem is individual imperialists and that if only the right people take charge then things will be alright, but I would argue that imperialism is a system.”

As background, Stone was raised as a Republican and voted for Reagan in 1980. In response to my question he talked a little about his own political evolution and described himself as distressed that the country has gone so wrong and his films are part of exploring that. He thought that great individuals do make a difference in history and that the focus in American politics on being “tough” and militaristic is deeply unfortunate but that it is possible to choose a different approach. You could see the visible pain on his face as he talked about these changes and his agony about his beloved country going so wrong.

Kuznick followed that up by paraphrasing Marx’s statement that Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” He then cited JFK as an example of someone who they think would have changed the course of American foreign policy had he lived.

When I spoke to them briefly after the program I pointed out to Kuznick that even if one accepts their view of JFK as someone who had an epiphany and wanted to pull out of Vietnam, etc., - which I don’t believe myself - still, even if he was that, the system took care of him by assassinating him. Kuznick acknowledged this and seemed to indicate that this occurred to him on the stage as he was saying these things about JFK. (I would add here that his brother RFK was also assassinated.)

Had we had the time, I would have said to them further that even if you think that individuals like Wallace, JFK, or RFK could change things, you have to also recognize that those individuals cannot do anything unless they are backed by a irrepressible movement. Stone or Kuznick did bring up the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. during their response to Q&A question as someone who made a difference by his presence. King, however, would not have had the impact he had absent the movement that he came out of and that he led. And despite being part of a huge movement, once again, he and Malcolm X were assassinated.

Moreover, as I wrote in 2011:

During Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration (his White House was not even remotely socialist but it did carry out reforms), prominent economic elites actually plotted a military coup modeled after Germany and Italy’s fascist regimes. As Alan Nasser relates,[1] based on the recent [2007] release of data from the National Archives,

The owners of Bird’s Eye, Maxwell House and Heinz, among others, totaling about twenty four major businessmen and Wall Street financiers [“including Prescott Bush, George H.W. Bush’s father. Bush, along with many other big businessmen, had maintained friendly relations in 1933 and 1934 with the new German government of Chancellor Adolph Hitler, and was designated to form for his class conspirators a working relationship with that government”] planned to assemble a private army of half a million men, composed largely of unemployed veterans. These troops would both constitute the armed force behind the coup and defeat any resistance this in-house revolution might generate. The economic elite would provide the material resources required to sustain the new government.

The plotters hoped that widespread working-class discouragement at the stubborn persistence of the Great Depression would have sufficiently disenchanted the masses with FDR’s policies to make the coup an easy ride. And they were appalled at Roosevelt’s willingness after 1933 to initiate economic policies that economists and businessmen considered dangerously Leftist departures from economic orthodoxy. Only a fascist-style government, they thought, could enforce the kind of economic “discipline” that would reverse the Great Depression and restore profits.

Interestingly, it was a military man, a prominent retired general assigned the task of raising the 500,000-man army, who blew the whistle after pondering the grotesque implications of the undemocratic installation of a fascist dictatorship in Washington. FDR was thus able to nip the plot in the bud.[2]

Nasser notes that FDR declined to reveal the plot publicly and punish the fascist coup conspirators, despite their treasonous plans, out of class solidarity and concerns that if the plotters were broadly exposed it would produce a victory—at a particularly sensitive time—for anti-capitalist sentiment. The coup’s failure, it should be noted, turned on the decision of just one man—the general who was picked to lead the coup.[iii] The conspirators themselves, key figures of this country’s economic elite, cheerleaders at every opportunity for “freedom,” “democracy,” and “the American way of life,” were not at all reluctant, when their fortunes appeared to be even mildly attenuated, to override the putatively sacred principles of what America claims to be all about.

Beyond these facts there are different aspects to unpack. I want to focus on two of them.

There is the matter of understanding the relationship between leaders and movements. See this as a very good short introduction to these questions. A working class Latina wrote it as her final paper in one of my past classes on Classical Sociological Theory. For further on it, see Globalization and the Demolition of Society.

Second, there is need for a much deeper understanding especially of the economic dimensions to imperialism and how militarism, the U.S. selling 72% of all the war weaponry, the 700-800 U.S. bases abroad and thousands at home, etc. (as Kuznick pointed out on stage), are directly tied to that.

Imperialism is a system. Systems don’t change because you change the people in charge. Wallace was not the nominee because the party bureaucracy blocked his renomination. Had Pepper made it to the podium and had Wallace been renominated and elected with FDR, he would have been removed, either through assassination – as were the Kennedy’s - or through some other manner. The reason why Truman used the atomic bomb, why Truman was chosen over Wallace’s progressive vision by the party apparatchiks, why the military-industrial complex rules today, and so on, are all because of that system’s nature.

Stone and Kuznick said that the U.S. government mistakenly viewed Vietnam as a “domino” in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that would lead to other countries going communist (socialist). Those running the U.S. empire, however, were right to believe that they simply could not afford to allow even a small country like Vietnam to escape from the imperialist orbit because it would indeed spread to other countries inspired by that example. Vietnam was thus not a mistake but an expected outcome of the character of imperialism.

Imperialism is not a choice that capitalists that have grown beyond their national boundaries can choose to pursue or not. It is the inevitable development of capitalism into its highest and final stage. In Lenin’s Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism, he cites the frank words of bourgeois economist Rudolf Hilferding, “Finance capital does not want liberty, it wants domination.”

Domination requires as part of its arsenal violence and the ever-present threat of violence. What follows is a lengthy excerpt from my book Globalization and the Demolition of Society on imperialism’s essential nature. Because of its length I am not going to indent it.

The shift from “free enterprise” [in the mid-1800s] to monopoly in the capitalist citadels by the beginning of the twentieth century [over only fifty years in other words] occurred for two reasons.

First, economies of scale undermine free market competition; big fish eat up little fish. The drive for profits impels businesses to seek competitive advantages, to expand their market shares, and to eliminate their competition, either through buying out competitors or by driving them out of business. Anyone who has played the Parker Brothers’ best-selling board game Monopoly is familiar with this dynamic. After a few hours of play at most, one player emerges as the big winner and everyone else has either been bankrupted or is soon to be bankrupted. This happens in Monopoly despite the fact that all of the players start out with exactly the same amount of money, unlike the real world where resources are distributed extremely unevenly (one does not choose one’s parents, after all).

It is in the nature of free markets to cease being free markets. Libertarians’ belief that free markets are the solution to all ills, therefore, cannot be realized and implemented any more than a butterfly can go back to being a caterpillar. Small may be beautiful, but big is cheaper and more powerful.

Small businesses can, and always will, emerge just as small saplings spring up amongst the towering pines, but the economy’s key players will continue to be big businesses. Some of the big businesses will be supplanted — witness General Motors’ bankruptcy plight even though for a long time it had been the world’s largest corporation—but the companies that supersede their previous competitors will then assume the monopolist position themselves. The players may change, in other words, but the disparities of position between big and small remain structurally and fundamentally the same.

Second, capital seeks profit-making opportunities everywhere. This ceaseless drive for profits leads—indeed, compels—the largest companies to burst past national boundaries and roam the globe in search of still cheaper labor and resources. Sam Walton, Walmart’s founder, believed that his company should sell only American-made products. His insistence on this, however, has obviously passed away like eight-track stereo.

Walmart would be non-competitive today if it did not seek the cheapest labor it could find. This fact, put very briefly, is what imperialism is in the economic sense. Imperialism is a compelling and inevitable consequence of capitalism itself within the more advanced capitalist countries.

It represents capitalism’s underlying logic carried forward into monopoly capitalism and expressed and active on an international scale. Imperialism is, therefore, not a choice; it is not something that could be dispensed with by corporations and their governments any more than a vampire could choose to be a vegetarian.

This compelling and inescapable dynamic can perhaps be best illustrated by first comparing capitalism to the economic system that preceded it: feudalism. Capitalism differs from feudalism in one decisive respect. Under feudalism the economy’s underlying logic is primarily the production of “use values”—that is, goods and services are created and exchanged primarily for their use. For example, you exchange goat’s milk for shoes because you need shoes. You need the shoes to wear and walk around in because the ground is hard and rough.

Under capitalism, by contrast, production exists for the principal purpose of exchanging commodities for profit—for their “exchange value”— not for their use value. (A commodity is anything to which anyone attaches value. It could be a loaf of bread, a painting, or a handkerchief once used by Elvis Presley.) In mathematical language it would look like this: exchange value > use value. Thus, a Pet Rock, if it can be sold for a profit, serves the purpose of acquiring profit, even though a Pet Rock serves no useful purpose in and of itself (except perhaps amusement at its lack of usefulness.) While it is possible, to use a different example, to have too many bananas—you can only eat so many and make only so much banana bread before the bananas rot—it is not possible to have too much money. Money does not spoil (although it may be subject to inflationary loss). Use values continue to be important (people need to do things such as eat) but they are not as important as exchange values in capitalist systems.

In a system dominated by exchange value, even eating takes second place to the production of profit, and around the world over thirty thousand people a day starve to death because of it. More than thirty thousand people. Imagine a neutron bomb being set off in downtown Los Angeles that kills all of the city’s four million residents plus another one million from the immediate surrounding areas. Visualize what the city would look like with all of its people lying dead in the streets, buildings, bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, vehicles, pools, and elevators. Imagine this happening every year. That is how many people die of unnecessary starvation every year in the world—five million people.

An economy based principally on producing use values differs fundamentally from an economy based principally on producing exchange values. As a former CEO of General Motors once correctly put it, “General Motors is not in the business of making cars. General Motors is in the business of making money.” Cars are simply the incidental vehicle for the real activity—the production of profit.

Feudal economies do not experience depressions; depressions are creatures of capitalism. Depressions occur when the capital accumulation process is interrupted because the amount of profit to be made no longer suffices. No matter how useful those goods or services may be (and they could spell the difference between life and death for millions of people), if they cannot be exchanged for enough profit, then their production will cease until such time as profitability can once more resume. Moreover, if these commodities are profitable but not as profitable as some other economic activity, then the latter will win out over the former. This has nothing to do with the social or individual importance of the items in question. It has to do with profit making as the be-all and end-all of capitalist economies.

Let us suppose, to illustrate this further, that a specific capitalist decides that she will buck convention and do something very different. Imagine a new Walmart CEO who decides that she will make a change that will benefit Walmart employees and suppliers. At the next shareholders’ meeting, she announces that Walmart is expanding its employee benefits program to include a living wage, pension, and medical insurance so that Walmart employees will no longer have to seek government assistance to make up for Walmart’s niggardly benefits package. (Half of Walmart’s full-time employees now seek government assistance, explicitly encouraged to do so by Walmart itself.) Walmart, this enlightened CEO declares with much fanfare, will also cease driving down suppliers’ prices ruthlessly.

“We will henceforth pay suppliers enough,” she announces with great pride, “so that their workforces will be able to live decently and have bathroom breaks and meal breaks. Walmart has a social conscience.”

“This will promote goodwill among our employees,” she continues, “and improve the living and working conditions for those who have been working for the subcontractors supplying Walmart products, elevating living standards in Third World countries and promoting better lives for multitudes of people.”

Imagine the stockholders’ shock at this declaration. Let us suppose, nevertheless, that this CEO is unbelievably persuasive and charismatic and that she convinces the shareholders that this is a good idea. She successfully fends off their first impulses to fire her, even though implementing her daring plan will cut into shareholders’ dividends and profit shares.

After the shareholders’ meeting the financial press and the rest of the media report the dramatic developments at Walmart. How does Wall Street react at the next day’s opening to Walmart’s amazing initiative? The answer is obvious: Walmart’s shares would get clobbered. Walmart, after all, is not only competing for money from those who invest in retail businesses. Walmart is also competing for the investment monies for all possible investments, retail or otherwise. The new Walmart

CEO would lose her job unceremoniously; perhaps she would become the inspiration for a feel-good Hollywood movie, but she would be finished and would likely be treated as insane in the corporate world.

You are not compelled to pursue greater and greater profitability within capitalism, but if as a businessperson you do not pursue profitability aggressively, then one or more of the following will likely occur: your business will remain relatively small, even marginal; you will be taken over by a bigger company; your company, or at least you, will go bankrupt. Even companies that have understood this, as did and does General Motors, are also always at risk of being surpassed. This raises the matter of the next key aspect of capitalism relevant to this discussion: capitalism’s unevenness.

There are different dimensions to unevenness (such as the uneven rates of growth of different companies within the same business), but I will focus herein on the international dimension. Capitalism’s uneven growth and nature means that those companies that started first possess advantages over their smaller, newer rivals, rather as the chicks that hatch first get most of the food, stunting the growth or even resulting in the demise of the chicks that hatch later. These first-in-line advantages, when extended across national boundaries, mean the distortion of capitalist development in so-called underdeveloped nations; their economies are fundamentally shaped by, subordinated to, and selectively and parasitically developed based upon foreign monopoly capital’s interests.

Since the service of subordinated nations’ economies to their domestic population is not of interest to foreign capital and is, in fact, significantly contrary to foreign capital’s interests, imperialist domination renders balanced and articulated national economic development impossible.

From the standpoint of international capital, penetrating into China with lots and lots of McDonald’s franchises is better than China’s developing businesses that produce balanced, nutritious, affordable, small-carbon-footprint domestic meals. Protection of scarce resources and concern about the global environment are also externalities from foreign capital’s perspective.

Foreign and monopoly capital are everywhere and nowhere at the same time; transnational corporations and finance capital straddle continents. They are more powerful and richer than most of the nation-states in the world. Within the major capitalist/imperialist citadels themselves—the US, Britain, Germany, et al—transnational corporations exert preeminent influence, matching their economic dominance within the political arena. This is not an aberration; it is what one would expect. A company like Exxon that reports quarterly profits in the tens of billions of dollars would be crazy to allow un-corporately regulated political bodies to determine its corporate fate.

Exxon makes sure that those in office and those interested in office will not curb Exxon’s profitability too much, if at all, let alone threaten its very existence as a private concern. It makes sure that public opinion is influenced by a heavy investment in public relations touting Exxon’s virtues and civic spirit. Finally, it makes certain that the people of oil-rich countries do not get into their heads the peculiar notion that the oil in their lands and off their shores belongs to them rather than to Exxon (with its desire to extract the oil at the lowest possible price). If that means that Exxon must interfere directly and indirectly in the politics of that foreign nation, including supporting brutal anti-labor practices, coups, assassinations, and wars, then so be it. The money at stake, after all, is immense—billions, and over time trillions of dollars. Expecting corporations and those who head such behemoth transnational corporations to think and behave differently is naïve. Believing that the US president will act to curb these illegal and undemocratic practices because he or she “represents” the American people and because “it’s the right thing to do” is also naïve.

Twentieth century imperialism brought with it the dividing up of the entire world amongst the imperialist powers. The First World War was a world war because by the early twentieth century the whole globe had been divided up amongst the imperialist powers; there was no untouched frontier remaining and future battles would be a global affair. This explains why there were no world wars before the twentieth century. Those who cling to the notion that wars are a product of aggressiveness in “human nature” need to account for why human nature somehow changed in the twentieth century and introduced a whole new level of aggressiveness in the form of global warfare.

World wars have been fundamentally fights for control over colonies. Colonies offer excessive profits to multinational and transnational corporations— profits that far outstrip those extracted from the advanced capitalist countries’ domestic workforces. Foreign operations for multinational and transnational corporations account for a disproportionate share of those corporations’ profits.[3]

The share of international profits for US companies has grown steadily since the 1960s, when they accounted for about five percent, and now accounts for about a quarter of all corporate profits. In the era of globalization, production is increasingly being carried out abroad. Colonies are prized for their natural resources and for their “cheap” labor. They are such gigantic prizes that wars that cost immense amounts of money, involve mind-boggling levels of destruction, require the spectacular sacrifice of tens of millions of lives, and put the very systems that wage them at risk for upheaval and revolution, are not too much for imperialist powers to carry out. World War I was dubbed the “war to end all wars” because of its horrors, but of course it was merely a prelude to the much greater conflagration of World War II.

When I was young and first learned about World War I, I wondered to myself how it was possible for all of the countries of Europe as well as the US to become embroiled in a war that cost fifteen million lives. I was taught that that war was triggered by a minor incident—the assassination of one relatively unimportant blue blood, Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Attributing World War I’s bloodiness to the obligations of state alliances, which is the usual explanation found in high school textbooks, does not even begin to explain the insanity of that global war.

The way forward for an ambitious imperialist country—and they must all be ambitious or else cease being imperialist—runs through the acquisition of colonies. The only way, therefore, to re-divide the colonies for imperialist powers all trying to expand their operations is for the imperialist powers to wage wars that involve multiple countries as combatants with the entire world as spoils. Like the mafia who periodically meet to hash out conflicts among the families, imperialist countries hold periodic international and regional conferences to iron out differences: GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), WTO (World Trade Organization), G06 (Group of 06), etc. But as with the mafia where agreements prove to be only temporary salves to inherent conflicts over turf, whole countries “go to the mattresses” to pursue politics by other violent means, declaring war upon each other with the playing field being the planet itself. Governments and big corporations, under the phony signboard of patriotism and “self-defense,” thereby make the people an “offer they can’t refuse.”

Crises provoke revolutions and counterrevolutions. How could they not? When a system is in profound trouble, structural changes result from the existing system’s obvious inability to cope with the crisis. Wars impose strains upon the populace that exceed the normal strains of peacetime conditions by orders of magnitude; wars bring with them death, destruction, and such demands as that people kill other people by their own hands (including, most horridly, the targeting of women and children in unjust wars), with all of this being carried out on a massive scale.

Economic crises induce suffering on a broad scale. When wars and economic crises are joined as we find in the World War II period, the result is a boiling cauldron. This period created the conditions in which socialist revolutions could make further dramatic and historic gains at the capitalist world’s expense, advancing past World War I’s socialist revolution— the 1917Russian Revolution.

World War II had two “dress rehearsals”: Japanese imperialism’s invasion and occupation of China in and the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939 (precipitated by an attempted coup d’état by fascist forces against the Spanish Republic). Over seventy million died in World War II’s slaughter, the largest number of war casualties in history. Twenty-two million people perished in the Soviet Union’s fight to repel Hitler’s invasion, a number of lives lost from just one country that boggles the mind.

In the infamous Nazi death camps some ten million people were killed, six million of them Jews (the Holocaust), with the other four million being communists (the Nazis’ first target), trade union organizers, homosexuals, Roma (Gypsies), and the disabled. Grotesque atrocities, the likes of which had not been seen since human warfare’s earliest days, were achieved by the latest technical innovations; these included the attempted annihilation of “enemies of the state” by Zyklon B (a cyanide-based pesticide) that was released into ovens packed with emaciated people who were led to their horrible deaths by the Nazis promising cleansing showers.

This was by no means World War II’s only sickeningly murderous rampage on a grand scale. The war finally came to an apocalyptic end with the unforgettable images of massive mushroom clouds rising over the instantaneously vaporized bodies of tens of thousands of Japanese civilians, first in Hiroshima and then in Nagasaki. Subsequently, in Hiroshima alone more than a hundred thousand more died from radiation poisoning and other related factors. The US, under Harry Truman’s leadership, thereby declared to its chief rival, the USSR, and to the rest of the world that it had a terrible new weapon that made absolutely no distinction between combatants and civilians. Truman had put the Manhattan Project into overdrive so that he could use the atomic bomb before the war was over. This rush was less motivated by a desire to save American lives in an invasion of Japan as it was by a desire to short-circuit the plan announced by the Soviets to invade

Japan if the war was not over by August 5. Had the Soviets been allowed to invade Japan, they would have been in a position to dictate the peace; that was a role that the US wanted to reserve for itself.

World War II was the first modern war in which both combatants and non-combatants were treated as legitimate targets by the new technologies of warfare and by the war strategists. The end-of-days’ clouds over Japan announced the arrival of the Atomic Age that overshadowed an entire generation. “Duck-and-cover” drills about how to respond to a nuclear blast were insufficient in the face of mankind’s anxiety about thermonuclear annihilation’s all-too-literal prospect, captured so vividly in the Stanley Kubrick film classic, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned toStop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

For the Left, in contrast to the Right, this was in certain respects the best of times despite the wars’ awful toll of death and destruction. China, home of one-fourth of humanity, rose in socialist revolution; thus ending its shameful status as the “sick man of Asia” and joining the ranks of the socialist camp, a camp that for several decades thereafter accounted for close to a third of the world’s population.

This best and worst of times in this most bloody epoch coexisted for a reason. Lenin, leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the world’s first countrywide socialist revolution, once wrote that wars mean great death, destruction, and suffering but that they did have one virtue—they revealed in naked form the true priorities of governments and of capital. What is seen only through a glass darkly in ordinary times stands out in sharp relief under the blindingly bright noonday sun of war and crisis. As a consequence, revolutionary sentiment peaks in such times in the conviction that the status quo is no longer tolerable and that one’s life is worth risking, even sacrificing, in order to see that things do not continue in the old way. (GDS, Pp. 77-85).

1 Nasser, Alan, “The Threat of U.S. Fascism: An Historical Precedent,”, August 2, 2007,

2 This was U.S. Marine Major General Smedley Butler, who stated in a 1933 speech: “I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. . . . And during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. . . . I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. . . . Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents. . . .” From “War Is A Racket,”, September 11, 2001,, accessed February 14, 2011.

3 A recent Morgan Stanley study concluded that companies in the Standard & Poor’s 566-stock index that receive a quarter or more of their revenue from outside the US grow faster and are more likely to beat earnings estimates than those that receive less than a quarter from outside the US. Shares of companies with a large percentage of sales from outside the US have also generally been outperforming those that are US-centric. See Timothy Aeppel, “Overseas Profits Provide Shelter for U.S. Firms,” Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2007, A-1.


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