It’s hard not to when you read about the political history of Guatemala. This comes to mind in the context of Francisco Goldman’s new book, but I’m reminded of Corey Robin’s incendiary review of The Last Colonial Massacre.
I’ll stress a few things: yes, this doesn’t mean there was any moral equivalence between the US and the Soviets. That goes without saying. But US involvement in Guatemala, over a period of decades, has had a baleful and extremely uneven effect on that country. While I’m firmly in the Pax Americana camp, there’s no getting around the fact that the history of US interventionism has not been a happy one. We insist that the highly peculiar occupations of Germany and Japan are broadly emblematic of how US power can remake societies. But let’s not forget Guatemala, which is still racked by violence that can be characterized in some sense as made in the USA.
How do I reconcile this view with my support for current efforts in Iraq? That’s a hard question to answer. I suppose I sense that we’re now trying to right a wrong.