In the name of freedom

By Todd Hanaburgh, Collegian columnist and T. James Hanaburgh

It is important at this point in United States history that we begin to actually be accountable for the things that we have done in the name of freedom. The actions of our government during the Cold War hurt millions upon millions of innocent people needlessly, by shortsighted action to contain and suppress communism. In fact, I challenge anyone to conclusively show that our covert operations and underhanded meddling in global affairs during the Cold War did not actually cause most of the problems we as a nation are facing today.

For example, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The CIA responded by arming many militants within Afghanistan and Pakistan, or basically anyone who was willing to fight the Soviet army. In doing so, they supplied sensitive weapons technology and tactical training to randomly hired guns – pay attention here, because this is par for course for the CIA – often times groups and individuals who were already considered dangerous militant fanatics and terrorists. Two notable recruits/trainees of the Reagan Administration’s Afghanistan project include Sheik Abdel Rahman, now world famous for his involvement in the first World Trade Center bombing, and our other favorite fall-guy, Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. achieved victory in Afghanistan when the U.S.S.R. withdrew its troops, over one million people were dead, the Taliban regime was gaining vast power and influence controlling most of the country and Afghanistan became the world’s largest producer of heroin and other opiates.

The hunt for WMDs in Iraq was not fully unfounded in my mind, as the Reagan Administration provided Iraq with weapons, technology and training during the bloody Iran-Iraq War. In essence, the current Bush Administration was betting that Saddam had some of these weapons and programs left over from when we bestowed them upon him. Much to (not) everyone’s surprise, the sanctions were actually working and Saddam Hussein was actually disarming. All other things aside, our government helped to award the Ba’athist Party control of Iraq in a 1963 coup, which led to a subsequent in-party coup that put Saddam Hussein in power.

If it weren’t so tragic, it would almost be funny. Think about it: we frantically manipulate forces in environments that we don’t understand, in attempts to promote the greatest good. Here’s the punch line: instead of preventing the spread of tyranny and human suffering, we continuously perpetuate it by our inability to leave well enough alone.

Chile, 1970s: a left leaning presidential candidate named Salvadore Allende gained widespread support and was ultimately elected president. Unfortunately, his policies scared the Nixon Administration, who wanted to avoid the creation of “another Cuba” in the Western Hemisphere. Naturally, the creation of any new communist or Marxist government was a threat to U.S. national security and was to be avoided at all costs. Nixon committed millions of dollars to CIA operations including massive propaganda campaigns as well as training and arming those who would carry out a coup or assassination attempt against this Socialist Allende.

In the CIA report on operations in Chile found at, Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissenger are described as being “… not concerned [about the] risks involved.” This of course led to some of the darkest days of post-colonial Chilean history, the Pinochet Era. This dictator, who rose to power due to the U.S. sponsored coup, is easily the most despicable human rights abuser since Suharto of Indonesia (another CIA manipulation gone awry). Nixon said on Pinochet, “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

It is exactly this reckless attitude that has landed the U.S. in innumerable sticky situations. What I am saying is that a step toward the right direction for our nation would be to globally proclaim our natural human fallibility, not arrogantly flaunting our political and economic influence or by employing a military enforcement of some “Pax Americana.”

In the July/August 2004 issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine, Eliot Cohen wrote of “The Burdens of Empire” in which he explored our responsibility to police and shape the world. With this great power in our hands, the question is continually, “how and when shall we exercise this power?” Sadly missing from the debate is the question of whether or not we should.

The United States of America is indeed a nation of great power, often deluded or drunken on its own influence or so-called superiority. But perhaps it would be wise, for once, to admit that we don’t know what the answers are, that we cannot know the best course of action, that the world may have to grow and develop without our interference. Yes, and to apologize for the horrors that our ignorance and carelessness have caused in the past.

T. James Hanaburgh was a Collegian columnist. Check out his blog at