Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

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Stephen Kinzer's Dissertation on US Government Overthrows

Stephen Kinzer's dissertation explores the numerous overthrows performed by the United States government since 1893. The invasion of Iraq, according to Kinzer, was not an isolated incident. It was on the list of nations that America had conquered and supported in their rebellions. Kinzer investigated 14 overthrows in which the US government was active during the last 110 years (Kinzer 8). According to him, the majority of the overthrows are not motivated by what the government tells the people, both American citizens and citizens of the countries they are overthrowing. Kinzer believes that most of the American overthrows are because of greed. Whenever a given regime displaces them, maybe due to political, ideological, or economic reasons, they will always go ahead and organize its overthrowing. The overthrows done by the American government are carried in different ways. They can employ Deploy Criminal Investigation Agency (CIA) to undertake the overthrow; they can use the military, or they can use both. In some cases, the American government does not involve directly in the overthrow. They collaborate with the rebel organizations; they fund, train, and use them to reverse the said state. This paper is a reflective essay, which will examine three overthrows the American Government has undertaken. The Argument will be based on Stephen Kinzer's "Overthrow."

Syria: 1949

In April 1949, Syria experienced a coup d'état which lead to the ousting of a democratically elected government. The coup was headed by Husni al-Za'im who later becomes the president after the successful completion of the coup. The cover up for this coup was that the then president, Shukri al-Quwatli was purchasing inferior firearms for the Syrian Army. The other accusation was poor leadership. The then Chief of Staff led the coup that leads to the overthrowing of al-Quwatli. This was what the public knew. The involvement of the American government was discrete. However, according to Kinzer, as well as other sources, Central Intelligence Agency was fully involved in the coup. It was just two years after CIA had been constituted, but CIA had already formed a base in Damascus (Kinzer 21).

In 1945, the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) wanted to construct a pipeline, which was to carry oil from Saudi Arabia through the Mediterranean Sea to America. The pipeline was called Trans Arabian Pipeline (TAPLINE), and it was to pass through Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. All the three other countries agreed to sign a right-of-way except the Syrian government. In other words, it was only Syria, which was blocking America from getting the lucrative deal of an oil pipeline. The American government had to do everything to ensure that they get the right of way so that TAPLINE project can start (Rathmell 23). All the diplomatic approaches to make the Syria government sign the deal was futile. They then used the Chief of Staff, Husni al-Za'im, to organize a coup, which they supported so discretely that nobody could easily realize their involvement. Immediately after the successful coup, the right-of -way was signed by the new Syrian Government, and the construction of TAPLINE started.

Several years below the line, the truth behind the American involvement was revealed. In 1967, in his interview with BBC, Miles Copeland confessed that CIA under the American Government was involved in the coup. President Truman realized that the only way was to create a regime change. He opened a CIA office in Damascus and appointed Miles Copeland to guard it. Zaim made several meetings with the U.S Military attaché before they could come to a consensus. He requested the U.S government to supply him with funds and troops for the coup. He also asked the U.S to help him ferment chaos which could be used as cover ups. Miles Copeland confessed that he organized the coup. He advised Zaim and promised to provide him with whatever he required. This was the first operation what the CIA successfully carried on the foreign soil. The U.S government used its greed and power to overthrow a democratically elected government so that they can find a way of constructing a pipeline across Syria. The operation only took three months, from April 1949 to July 1949 (Rathmell 67).

Iran: 1953

In 1952, the government of Iran, headed by Mohammed Mosaddeq, ordered that the books of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) book of account to be audited, as was the legislative requirement of the land. AIOC refused to provide the information, which was required to do the audit. As a result, the Iranian parliament voted that AIOC is nationalized, and the management be sent back. AIOC was owned by the British government, and therefore, they could not let the Iranian government take their company from them. At the same time, the American government was watching Syria with suspicions (Kinzer 41). When the British Intelligence came to CIA to talk about the issue, they concluded that Mosaddeq was a communist and was not in their best interest if he remains in power.

Due to their discontent with the Mosaddeq's government, the U. S government through CIA started grooming Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi to become the replacement of Mosaddeq. The American planners, headed by CIA used all the means possible to create to stir unrest in Iran. When the Unrest grew to greater extents, the Iranian people had no choice but to support Shah. The public grew disinterest in the government of Mosaddeq. When Maddeq once fired Shah, the Iranians went to the streets to demand his reinstatement (Abrahamian 203). With the public trust, which he was able, to develop, Shah had all the reasons to conduct a successful coup. All that he was lacking was the finance to undertake the coup. CIA then wired $ 5 million to Shah and his people. By so doing, the Shah was able to conduct a coup successfully. The coup took less than a month.

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi is the only leader of Syria, which has been liked by America and other European countries. He was being controlled by the American Government After being put into power. This coup affected the citizens in that they were tricked into disliking a better leader who could have ruled the country with much independence. The citizens also democratically voted the Meddaq. After losing their democratically voted leader over a coup, which was organized by the American Government, the Iranian was now ruled by an American mole. Shah had to do all that the American and the British government required. When the public was fed up with the rule of an American mole, Shah was overthrown in February 1979 (Abrahamian 193). Therefore, we can assert that the American government overthrew the Iranian democracy from 1953 to 1979.

Iraq: 2003

The Iraq attack by the United States Government in 2003 is one of the regime overthrows that the American government used the military attack to undertake. According to the public statement by U. S President George W. Bush and U. K Prime Minister Tony Blair, their primary intention of attacking Iraq was because they believed that the Ba'athist government headed by Saddam Hussein was in a position of a weapon of mass destruction. They also believed that Saddam Hussein was aiding terrorism and was in collision with the al-Qaeda which carried the 9/11 attack ((Kinzer 123). As will be discussed later, both the allegations were wrong. The underlying truth, published by WikiLeaks was that the invasion and the regime change in Iraq were because of the obsession the neoconservative that Iraq had. This attack happened immediately after Saddam Hussein attack a neighboring oil-laded country Kuwait. Few months after the invasion of Kuwait, Bush held a meeting with other European countries to find a way of ousting Saddam Hussein and changing the Ba'athist regime.

The U. S government also claimed that the Ba'athist regime was a dictatorship oppressing the Iraqis. The question is, why didn't the American Government overthrow Ferdinand Marcos who was a Filipino dictator? The answer is clear; they had no economic interest in Filipino. The American, as well as the European governments, wanted a way of opening the Persian Gulf Energy Resource. Iraq was the only barrier because the regime of Saddam Hussein was very adamant and could not comply with the requirements of America. They wanted to ensure a free flow of Persian Gulf Oil to the world. However, Saddam and the Iraqi was a destabilizing influence to the flow of oil. By ensuring a free flow of oil, the Anglo-American Oil Conglomerates will profit massively from the process (Klare 52). This is why the inversion was organized in the first place. However, the public was misled by the wrong information that made them believe that the inversion was well intentioned for the greater good of the Iraqis.

After the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, there was a conclusion that all the Persian Gulf States be inspected in case of the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction. When the inspection started, Saddam Hussein prevents his country from being inspected. Therefore, this gave the American Government an advantage on the reasons of accusing the Iraq Government. They said that the Ba'athist government was harboring Weapons of Mass Destruction and that military action had to be taken. The funny thing about this is that a report, which was later released in 2005, proved that there was no WMD in Iraq. Bush made an excuse that he acted on a wrong intelligence. They also said that Saddam Hussein was aiding al-Qaida and other terror groups as well as aiding the 9/11 attack. All these claims were later proved incorrect, as there was no connection between the Ba'athist and the al-Qaida. They also claimed that they wanted to overthrow the Ba'athist regime because it was invading and killing people in the neighboring states. Some of the accusations were that Saddam organized a genocide among the Kurds, Shiites, and Marsh Arabs.

The intensive attack took 21 days. The military from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, and Poland attacked Iraq on 19 March 2003. It took them 21 days to overtake Bagdad. By 9 April 2003, they had overthrown the Ba'athist regime (Klare 121). Saddam Hussein went hiding and was letter found in a hole, apprehended, and persecuted. The U. S government formed a temporary government, which was to rule Iraq. The government was put in power on 2004. The military presence in Iraq took another eight years before it President Obama recalled the troupes in 2011. During this inversion, there was no well-functioning government in Iraq. As a result, it was difficult to establish the actual number of casualties during the war. However, some studies indicated that there were approximately 8,500 civilian casualties during the invasion. From the time of the invasion, which took around ten years, the country has never seen peace.


The American Government has taken part in numerous regime change in various countries in the world. In many cases, the U. S uses the CIA to organize a coup, which will ensure that another leader, whom they are pleased with, takes power. In some few cases, they have organized military attacks to overthrow governments. In almost all of these cases, the overthrow is always because of conflict of interest, economic, or political ideology between the government they overthrow and the American Government. However, they will always find a way to make their involvement as discrete as possible. In addition, in cases where they use the military, they will always find an excuse to hide their actual intentions.

Works Cited

Abrahamian, Ervand. "The 1953 coup in Iran." Science & Society (2001): 182-215.

Kinzer, Stephen. Overthrow: America's century of regime change from Hawaii to Iraq. Macmillan, 2007.

Klare, Michael T. "For oil and empire? Rethinking war with Iraq." Current History 102.662 (2003): 129.

Rathmell, Andrew. Secret war in the Middle East: the covert struggle for Syria, 1949-1961. Vol. 7. St. Martin's Press, 1995.

October 20, 2022

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