Art Economics Low Politics Decline Political Theology Power Geopolitics

Overseas Interventions by the United States: part one

Introduction; Guatemala and Indonesia


In this series I will examine America’s numerous overseas interventions, the reasons, and the purpose for their involvement in these foreign countries and how these interventions have destabilised those respective countries to one degree or another. This series also explores how the American empire is actually a vast network of interconnected parts that all work together and, lastly, how the United States preserves its various strategic, financial, and corporate interests through these overseas interventions.

Since the end of World War II, the United States has carried out many interventions in foreign countries. That much is undeniable. Some are well known, others less so but regardless of the country or the region there are some distinct patterns that quickly emerge. Sometimes, these engagements are done through either direct military intervention or outright regime change, at other times it is done covertly using America’s vast intelligence apparatus like the CIA or its various proxies like the World Bank and the IMF. In truth, it is normally a combination of the various facets of American power that all work and coordinate together to bring about circumstances that are more desirable for the United States; to meet both their geopolitical and strategic imperatives but also for their corporate and banking interests as well.

As the contours of the global American empire were gradually being formed a new power dynamic began to surface: a nexus between the U.S. government, powerful corporations, and multilateral organisations like the World Bank and the IMF began to develop, forming a self-reinforcing cycle of power and influence all anchored by America’s monetary and military supremacy.

All of the countries I cover posed no threat, no threat whatsoever to the American people and, unless one is being incredibly facetious and disingenuous, no threat to their way of life either. This might sound a bit condescending but many of the countries are nations that some Americans have probably not even heard of and could not point to on a map. A John Mearsheimer critique, however, would point out that the realities of geopolitics mean that morality and sentimentality cannot get in the way of achieving essential strategic imperatives such as expanding one’s territory, access to raw materials, natural resources, and other valuable and essential commodities, or simply just repelling or weakening a geopolitical rival, and that history (especially the history of empire and warfare) is testimony to that, the United States notwithstanding.[1]

In my article entitled The Petrodollar: part 2, I covered the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and proposed the theory that these wars, the petrodollar wars as I have come to term them, were carried out to secure the broader dollar system that is the foundation for the American empire and U.S. power in the world today. In these engagements, protecting the dollar system was the primary geostrategic goal for the United States.

As I mentioned in my last article on the World Bank and the IMF, in the case of Suharto in Indonesia, Marcos in the Philippines, the Somozas in Nicaragua, as well as various South Korean and Guatemalan leaders the United States, either directly or through its various proxies, carried on funding and assisting these regimes who complied with Washington, regardless of their record on human rights or the condition in those respective nations. Rightly or wrongly, that is simply the reality of geopolitics.

In Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins documents extensively how he would go to developing countries and get governments to sign up for long-term infrastructure projects (often under contrived and false pretences) that incur unpayable debts in the process. The goal of this was to maximise payouts to U.S. firms and make these countries increasingly dependent on the United States all the while increasing the reach of the global American empire and its network in the process. Perkins writes:

“Private companies specializing in such activities, as well as the U.S. military and defence industry, could expect generous contracts. Their presence would require another phase of engineering and construction projects, including airports, missile sites, personnel bases, and all of the infrastructure associated with such facilities.”[2]

If debtor countries defaulted on their payments diplomatic envoys from the IMF demanded cut-price access to raw materials and natural resources, control of UN votes, or the installation of military facilities. They also demanded that countries purchase capital goods from U.S. firms and privatise their utilities as well. Perkins helped build the diplomatic channels that gave America access to these countries. Perkins singles out the powerful U.S. corporations Bechtel, Halliburton, Brown & Root, and Stone & Webster as recipients of large and profitable engineering contracts that he helped make.[3]

Cold War dynamics are a big component to a lot of America’s foreign policy. By the early 1950s the United States had formed what the author Naomi Klein describes as a “binary logic” about the Cold War, that countries would fall under the gambit of either the United States or the Soviet Union.[4] Many in the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations feared that nationalism would eventually lead to communism isolating the U.S. completely. The Dulles brothers – John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state, and Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA - were some of the earliest proponents of this idea and believed that intervention was the only way forward for the United States. Domino theory was also prominent at this time; the idea that if one nation in a given region fell to communism then all the others around it would likely succumb to the ideology as well.

The point is there are many ways of evaluating and analysing America’s overseas interventions as there are a variety of reasons, influencing factors and push and pull forces behind U.S. foreign policy and these overseas engagements very much differ on a case-by-case basis. There is no right or wrong in this field of geopolitical study but there are a lot of recurring themes and some of the facts are undeniable. That being said, regardless of any metapolitical or esoteric interpretations of U.S. foreign policy, many people have suffered as a result of these interventions and that cannot be ignored. This will be a long and drawn-out series, there is a lot to cover, it is bound to be controversial and will garner strong reactions, I am sure. With that I shall begin.


The United States sponsored a coup in Guatemala when the democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz began expropriating land (specifically banana plantations) held by the United Fruit Company back to the people of Guatemala. It was called “the octopus” by Guatemalans because its reach extended into many areas of Guatemala’s economy, including ports, railways and agriculture and the company’s land holdings represented one-fifth of Guatemala’s arable land.[1] Then U.S. and its various proxies, such as the World Bank, continued lending to Guatemala during a violent  dictatorship, a brutal civil war, and a genocide. In 1950, United Fruit Company’s profits were $65 million, two times the revenue of the Guatemalan government, Guatemala was adamant that the U.S. was the main impediment to progress and development in the country. When Arbenz needed a loan for a vital public infrastructure project in order to help poverty-stricken peasant labourers the World Bank refused. Despite all of this, Arbenz originally pledged to compensate UFC for their losses but Washington wasn’t satisfied with this and began running a propaganda campaign alleging associations with communists that eventually led to a CIA-backed military coup, headed by Allen Dulles, the director of the CIA. In 1954, the democratically elected government of Guatemala was overthrown, its leader Arbenz was removed and went into exile, and the United Fruit Company reclaimed their land and their grip on the banana trade with it. CIA-trained mercenaries departed from neighbouring Nicaragua and Honduras and carried out the coup with the U.S. providing air support. After Arbenz was removed, Anti-American demonstrations broke out across Latin America, with President Eisenhower and Dulles being the focus of attention during the protests. Both the United States and the World Bank would support the newly installed dictatorship of Carlos Armas. Armas, a ruthless dictator who had been trained in the U.S., restricted voting rights and banned political parties and labour unions.[2]  When he came to power the United States began financing the police and military immediately.[3] Armas would receive $90 million in aid in the two years after he assumed the presidency.[4]

Jacobo Árbenz

Truthfully speaking, the scale of violence and terror that took place after the coup of Arbenz is almost impossible to convey but the resulting instability in Guatemala that followed lead to the Guatemalan Civil War, which lasted over 36 years during which time 140,000 to 200,000 people were reported killed or missing. This conflict includes the genocide of the Maya people, who are estimated to be up to 166,000 of those killed during the civil war. Efrain Rios Montt, a leader who had close ties with President Ronald Reagan, presided over the most brutal phase of the genocide. The Guatemalan Civil War devastated the country’s society, culture, and economy, and its democracy was left in tatters. Basic law and order had collapsed and its institutions lay in ruin, state-sponsored terror filled the void with death squads who employed tactics of intimidation, violence and murder against any government opposition being formed. Kidnapping and murder were commonplace and victims included students, the poor, teachers, indigenous people and even an American and a German ambassador. The Spanish embassy was burnt to the ground in 1980 during which 37 people lost their lives.

In the mid-60s, the U.S. provided training and military aid to the Guatemalan Army who, along with trained paramilitary units, would perpetrate heinous terror attacks against civilian supporters of the opposition in the Zacapa region.[5] This is one example of many but the truth is that direct military assistance to Guatemala continued throughout the Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations, in particular under Ronald Reagan who provided tanks, trucks, and helicopters. The U.S. was more heavily involved in Guatemala than any other Central American country with American military personnel providing boots on the ground tactical and logistical support.[6] [7]

In the 1980s and 1990s, the CIA employed Guatemalan intelligence officials as informants and supplied them with intelligence for their war efforts against guerrilla groups, farmers, peasants, and others.[8]

The World Bank made loans to Guatemala during all of this, including for the development of the Chixoy Dam. The dam's construction was highly controversial, not least because it displaced the indigenous Maya Achi peoples. Government forced relocations resulted in the Río Negro massacres where government militia killed around 5,000 villagers including many children. Countless more were kidnapped and raped by paramilitary and military officers. The Bank has also provided investment for mining activities carried out by the Canadian company Goldcorp, for work on the controversial Marlin Mine that was eventually closed amidst a groundswell of both local and international opposition.[9] A range of other projects have been funded by the World Bank in the Central American nation, including in education, infrastructure, agriculture, and energy.

The United States and the World Bank have continued their support of the Guatemalan government during a civil war, genocide, and state-sponsored terror, the seeds of which Washington planted when Arbenz was brought down in the early 50s. State department documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the U.S. knew about many of the worst horrors committed during the 36 year long genocide.[10] In 1999, President Bill Clinton would formerly apologise for America’s support of Guatemala’s military government.


Indonesia may not be the first country that comes to mind when people think of overseas interventions by the United States but it is, in many ways, a prime example of how the U.S. and World Bank nexus operates. In Indonesia, the CIA helped overthrow Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president who brought relative peace and stability across the archipelago.[1] The World Bank gave generously to the despot Suharto throughout his brutal reign of domestic terror that consisted of countless massacres, forced migration, widespread corruption, and genocide against the Timorese. Robert McNamara, president of the World Bank at the time, saw it as essential that Indonesia be brought into America’s domain; Indonesia was one of the world's largest countries by population, and its communist party was the world's third-largest (with over 3 million members), after China and the Soviet Union. It is also the most populous Muslim country in the world and it borders one of the most strategically important choke points for trade, the Straits of Malacca, that connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Lastly, it has a wealth of raw materials, minerals, and natural resources, including copper, gold, rubber, timber and oil, much of which was largely untapped.[2] Indonesia and Sukarno would prove a tough nut to crack. Sukarno was instrumental in the founding of the Non-Alignment Movement, hosting the 1955 Bandung Conference attended by numerous Asian and African countries which called for neutrality in the ongoing Cold War and for greater autonomy for developing countries over their natural resources.[3] The CIA, with Eisenhower’s approval, sponsored a failed coup in 1957 by supplying rebels and providing them with ariel support that included bombing civilian targets, however the U.S. was embarrassed when an American pilot, Allen Pope, was captured and presented in a news conference to the world in the aftermath. In 1964 its first president, the staunch nationalist Sukarno, nationalised all foreign companies in Indonesia (except the oil ones) in response to the British establishing the Federation of Malaysia. This included land held by the United States Rubber Company.[4] Sukarno walked out of the UN and cancelled any proposed agreements with the IMF.[5] At the height of the Cold War the western bloc was now totally isolated from Indonesia and by this time Sukarno had aligned himself with the communist party of Indonesia (the PKI) and the broader communist bloc, China had succumbed to communist rule under Mao and the U.S. had failed to break the North Vietnamese resistance in the Vietnam War. Additionally, Sukarno wanted to form an alliance with China, North Korea, North Vietnam, and Cambodia which he called the Conference of New Emerging Forces (CONEFO), an alternative power centre to the United Nations with oversight granted to the USSR.  In 1965 General Suharto, along with U.S. backing, staged a military coup and by early 1966 Sukarno had been removed from power and replaced by the U.S. backed Suharto. The U.S. opened a line of credit to Indonesia almost immediately and Indonesia joined the World Bank soon after. Prior to Sukarno’s removal, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta communicated to Washington that the removal of foreign oil companies would have been a certainty had Sukarno remained.


Under General Suharto, the Indonesian army began brutal reprisals against PKI members with between 500,000 and 1 million people being rounded up and killed, referred to as the Indonesian Genocide Indonesia had the support of the United States and United Kingdom. The U.S. provided weapons, communications equipment, economic assistance, and it trained military personnel as well, the CIA even provided a shooting list of who they wanted eliminated. Robert J. Martens, who worked at the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, even confessed that “They probably killed a lot of people, I probably have a lot of blood on my hands.”[6] PKI sympathisers along with a various ethnic minorities, the ethnic Chinese, so-called leftists, atheists, and other groups were all targeted. It ranks as one of the worst mass killings in the 20th century but was reported as being a victory over communism in the western media. In return for western assistance, around 25 American and European firms returned to Indonesia and resumed exploration for copper, nickel, bauxite, timber and other untapped minerals and resources, much of which had been nationalized under Sukarno.[7] Oil extraction efforts also increased as well. In 1972, the Phoenix-based Freeport (now Freeport-McMoRan) signed a deal with Indonesia to extract gold and copper from the Grasberg mine in West Papua; the mine contains some of the largest known reserves of copper and gold in the world. The native Papuans opposed the decision.[8]

Indonesia re-joined the IMF in 1967 and substantial loans were made to the archipelago with generous repayment terms. There was a moratorium on debt until 1970 and then repayments were spread out evenly from 1970 till 1999. Despite enormous misappropriation of World Bank funds from Suharto, who embezzled anything up to $35 billion, the Bank continued providing assistance to Indonesia.[9]

When Indonesia invaded East Timor both the U.S. and the World Bank remained silent, it was a 24 year brutal occupation with numerous human rights violations including sexual slavery, forced starvation and violence against women. Indonesia’s actions in East Timor are classified as a genocide and some sources report that up to 300,000 Timorese were killed. It should also be pointed out that other countries turned a blind eye to Indonesia as well, despite condemnation from the United Nations.

The controversial Indonesian transmigration programme involved the displacement of millions of people from the islands of Java and Sumatra to less populated regions in the archipelago. According to Wikipedia, up to 20 million in people transmigrated to other regions. The programme was hugely controversial at the time, World Bank loans contributed heavily to the logistics of the programme, furthermore a World Bank study no less found that 50 percent of the displaced people lived below the poverty line and 20 percent below subsistence level.

The western island of Papua was the site of widespread violence and civil unrest during the transmigration programme. Between 1979 and 1984, around 59,000 people were taken to West Papua, this resulted in violent clashes that led to the displacement of 20,000 native Papuans who fled the violence into neighbouring Papua New Guinea. Those fleeing reported incidences of murder, torture, rape and arson.[10]

Eventually, under mounting international pressure the Bank stopped funding the programme, the human, social, environmental, and ecological damage it caused meant that the programme was largely a catastrophe.

It should also be noted that free elections would not be held in Indonesia again until 1999, after Suharto was removed. World Bank assistance continued throughout all of this, Indonesia have had loans for a wide variety of projects in areas such as education, urban development, agriculture, ecology, renewable energy, and countless others too. America had prevented communism from spreading throughout the archipelago and western corporations were granted access to Indonesia’s vast wealth of minerals and raw materials whilst the Indonesian people were subject to a 40-year reign of terror and brutal violence and the Timorese were the victims of a heinous genocide.


[1] Engdahl, W. (2012) A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. New-Revised-Unabridged. Progressive Press. p.110

[2] Perkins, J. (2018) The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Eury Press.

[3] Perkins, J. (2018) The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Eury Press. p.27

[4] Klein, N. (2008) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Picador. P.71


[1] Bevins, V. (2017) What the United States Did in Indonesia. Available at:

[2] Klein, N. (2008) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Picador. P.84

[3] Stone, O. and Kuznick, P  (2022) The Untold History of the United States. Ebury Press.


[5] Klein, N. (2008) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Picador. P.81

[6] Klein, N. (2008) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Picador. P.82

[7] Stone, O. and Kuznick, P (2022) The Untold History of the United States. Ebury Press. P.352

[8] Gladstein, A. (2022) Structural Adjustment: How The IMF And World Bank Repress Poor Countries And Funnel Their Resources To Rich Ones. Available at:

[9] "Plundering politicians and bribing multinationals undermine economic development, says TI" (PDF) (Press release). Transparency International. 25 March 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 21 December 2016.

[10] Gladstein, A. (2022) Structural Adjustment: How The IMF And World Bank Repress Poor Countries And Funnel Their Resources To Rich Ones. Available at:


[1] Stone, O. and Kuznick, P (2022) The Untold History of the United States. Ebury Press.

P. 262

[2] Stone, O. and Kuznick, P (2022) The Untold History of the United States. Ebury Press.

P. 265

[3] McSherry, P. (2005) Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. P.133

[4] Stone, O. and Kuznick, P (2022) The Untold History of the United States. Ebury Press. P.265

[5] Grandin, G. and Klein, N. (2011) The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War, Updated Edition. Second Edition, Updated. University of Chicago Press. P.248

[6] Beckett, I. and Pimlott, J. (2011) Counter-insurgency: Lessons from History. Pen and Sword Military. P.118


[8] Times, T.N.Y. (1995) “Shadowy Alliance -- A special report.; In Guatemala’s Dark Heart, C.I.A. Lent Succor to Death,” The New York Times, 2 April. Available at:

[9] Center for International Environmental Law (2015) Guatemala Suspends Marlin Mine: Human rights and environmental organizations applaud the decision, urge President Colom’s government to protect communities against retaliation. Available at:

[10] Contributors to Wikimedia projects (2009) Documents show U.S. knew of Guatemalan human rights abuses. Available at: