One of the goals of this website is the cultivation of critical evaluation skills, which may be considered part of, or an extension of, critical thinking skills. Students of history should develop a facility for carefully assessing whether wars are necessary and just, and classrooms should provide a forum for discussion and debate.
Conventional framing of U.S. wars and foreign policies centers on “the rise of American power.” The alternative framework here asks how that power has been gained and used, whether for good or ill. Its standards for evaluation conform to established international norms against national aggression, genocide, and human rights abuses, which apply to all nations.
Assessments and judgments rendered by the authors of these essays can and should be compared to those of other scholars as well as popular historical accounts. Debate is encouraged. What lessons should be drawn from history?
For teachers and professors who wish to assign this website’s essays to their students – all or in part – the number of pages in each essay and major section is listed below. The rule of thumb used here is that 1,000 words equals about 3 pages, not including endnotes. Citation information is located at the end of each essay.
The essays may be converted to a PDF file and downloaded; note the option to minimize or exclude images before downloading. The printing option does not have proper margins, so it is best to download a PDF file then print that file.
War of 1812 (97 pages)
- Introduction (8)
- Causes of the War of 1812 (22)
- Covert action against Spanish Florida (8)
- Costs and conduct of the War of 1812 (34)
- Domestic divisions, debates and opposition to the war (16)
- The Treaty of Ghent and beyond (11)
U.S.-Mexican War, 1946-1848 (87 pages)
- Introduction (3)
- Origins of the U.S.-Mexican War (23)
- Costs and conduct of the war (31)
- Debate and opposition to the war within the United States (12)
- The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (4)
- Legacies, lessons, and perspectives on the war (14)
The War of 1898 and the U.S.-Filipino War, 1899-1902 (87 pages)
- Introduction (6)
- From continental to overseas expansion (11)
- The Cuban War for Independence (15)
- The War of 1898 (12)
- The spoils of war and the Treaty of Paris debate (9)
- The U.S.-Filipino War, 1899-1902 (26)
- Historical interpretations (9)
“Yankee imperialism,” 1901-1934 (78 pages)
I. Introduction (2)
II. U.S. motives and rationales (8)
III. Overview of U.S. administrations (10)
IV. Case studies
• Cuba under the Platt Amendment (11)
• The creation of Panama (13)
• Brief occupations and battles in Mexico (4)
• Long occupations and guerrilla wars in Haiti and the Dominican Republic (19)
• The Sandino war in Nicaragua, 1926-1933 (7)
V. Lessons and legacies (4)
United States participation in World War I (188 pages)
The Costs of War Project
at Brown University is a team of 50 scholars, legal experts, human rights practitioners, and physicians dedicated to illuminating the overt and hidden costs of U.S. wars, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. Initiated in 2010, the project provides the fullest possible account of their human, economic, and political costs, toward the goal of fostering better-informed citizens and constructive public policies. Check out the project website and this short video
- Introduction: The great reversal (5)
- The Great War in Europe and beyond (24)
- Origins of U.S. intervention in the Great War (45)
- Wilsonian idealism and the new “Manifest Destiny” (11)
- Over There: War and peace in France (17)
- The horrors of war (19)
- Over Here: The nadir of American democracy (30)
- The peace persuasion in the United States (29)
- Lessons and legacies (5)
Cold War interventionism, 1945-1990 (156 pages)
- Introduction (8)
- Ideological and geopolitical underpinnings of the Cold War (26)
- Building the Cold War consensus in Washington (36)
- U.S. interventionism run amok (including Greece, the Soviet bloc) (23)
- Securing Western influence in Asia, Africa, and the Mideast (21)
- The Return of “Yankee imperialism” (Latin America) (38)
- Post-Cold War perspective (4)
The Korean War: Barbarism Unleashed (101 pages)
- Introduction: Contrasting views (8)
- Origins and causes of the Korean War (25)
- Military history of the war (23)
- Public opinion and antiwar dissent in the United States (22)
- The war’s costs, hidden dirty secrets, and legacies (24)
The Vietnam War (211 pages)
- Introduction (5)
- Origins of U.S. Involvement in Vietnam (58)
- The American War in Vietnam – conduct and costs (68)
- The American home front: Stopping the war (71)
- Lessons and legacies (9)
- Additional section: Associated wars in Laos and Cambodia (22)
Central America Wars, 1980s (82 pages)
- Introduction (3)
- Historical context: dictators, democracy, and human rights (11)
- El Salvador (15)
- Guatemala (8)
- Nicaragua (23)
- Domestic dissent: Central America movement (12)
- Crime and cover-up: The Iran-Contra affair (6)
- Lessons and legacies (4)
Post-Cold War era, 1989-2001 (143 pages)
- Introduction (8)
- The Panama invasion (24)
- The Persian Gulf War (43)
- New world disorder and “humanitarian intervention” (49)
- The failed American crusade to remake Russia (19)
A vast amount of scholarly literature on the War of 1812 has accumulated over the years. A search of JSTOR (a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources) produced 48,118 hits for “The War of 1812” as of January 2016. John R. Grodzinski’s The War of 1812: An Annotated Bibliography (2008) lists 1,614 books and articles worthy of description. A small selection of resources is recommended below – books, websites, articles, and films.
Ten good books
- Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1989 (316 pages, plus endnotes). Donald Hickey provides a well-organized and well-written overview of the war, addressing military and diplomatic developments and politics and protests within the United States. He offers insightful commentary throughout. Hickey’s abridged version, The War of 1812: A Short History (2012) covers the main points in only 122 pages but with less eloquence.
- Benn, Carl. The War of 1812. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2002 (92 pages, no endnotes). If a short history is desired, Carl Benn’s user-friendly overview may be the best. Written by one of Canada’s most knowledgeable historians, the book contains excellent maps and images, a chronology, Native American perspectives, personal stories, and Benn’s judicious interpretations.
- Taylor, Alan. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010 (458 pages, plus endnotes). With broad knowledge of early American history, Alan Taylor examines the War of 1812 on the northern front, describing the experiences of civilians and soldiers as well as military campaigns. The stories entice the reader to consider the human side of war; which is to say, the inhumane nature of war. As the thematic organization of this book does not follow the usual chronological pattern, readers may do well to keep a timeline handy.
- Bickham, Troy. The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012 (280 pages, plus endnotes). Troy Bickham, a British-educated American historian, examines the parties and pressures that pushed for and against war in the United States and Great Britain. This four-part medley dispels the cardboard stereotypes of Great Britain in American popular history and reveals the contentious political debates in both countries.
- Latimer, Jon. 1812: War with America. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007 (410 pages, plus endnotes). Jon Latimer’s study is advertised as an authoritative, compelling, and complete account of the War of 1812 from a British perspective. It generally lives up to its billing, synthesizing a wide variety of information. Its main entertainment, however, is the British point-of view, which is nevertheless less nationalistic than other British accounts, such as Brian Arthur’s How Britain Won the War of 1812 (2011) and Andrew Lambert’s The Challenge: America, Britain, and the War of 1812 (2012).
- Cusick, James G. The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2003 (310 pages, plus endnotes). James Cusiak weaves a fine tale in what is often considered a side story to the American-British conflict. His study offers a mix of personal stories, sociological descriptions, and military and political developments in the so-called Patriot War. Descriptions of the suffering caused by the American invasion translate the real politick of this war into human terms.
- Ellis, James H. A Ruinous and Unhappy War: New England and the War of 1812. United States: Algora Publishing, 2009 (273 pages, including footnotes). James Ellis meticulously describes the great debates over the war in New England. He catalogues the activities and pronouncements of both advocates and opponents, and shows how the former put great pressure on the latter to end their dissent and join the military bandwagon. He also chronicles the economic hardships that befell New England, first as a result of President Jefferson’s embargo, then as a result of Mr. Madison’s war.
- Smith, Gene Allen. The Slaves’ Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013 (216 pages, plus endnotes). Gene Allen Smith highlights the plight of African Americans in the War of 1812. He provides background on black soldiers in North America prior to the war, tells the story of how slaves were turned into British soldiers in the Chesapeake region, and explains how free blacks were sometimes accepted – mainly in the U.S. Navy – and often rejected on the American side. He includes the Patriot War in Florida in his story, noting the key role blacks played in the defense of Spanish Florida.
- Benn, Carl. The Iroquois in the War of 1812. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998 (200 pages, plus endnotes). There is no single book that covers all Native American tribes involved in the War of 1812, but there are a number of excellent studies regarding particular tribes and tribal groups. Carl Benn’s study probes the history and inner workings of the Iroquois and recounts the important role of the Grand River faction in the War of 1812. Other works on Native Americans in the war include Adam Jortner’s The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier (2012), Kathryn E. Holland Braund’s edited volume, Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812 (2012), and Robert S. Allen’s His Majesty’s Indian Allies: British Indian Policy in the Defence of Canada 1774-1815 (1993).
- Graves, Dianne. In the Midst of Alarms: The Untold Story of Women and the War of 1812. Cap-Saint-Ignace, Quebec: Robin Brass Studio, 2007 (438 pages, plus endnotes). Dianne Graves paints a finely-grained portrait of social life and the lives of women during the War of 1812, mainly in Upper Canada. Like the women she writes about, Graves’ approach to the war has an undercurrent of disenchantment. She concludes with a quote from a British army wife: “as long as ambition is the idol of men, so long will the sword continue to be the scourge of the world, and drive peace and contentment from the valleys of the earth” (p. 413). Graves’ husband, Donald E. Graves, is Canada’s foremost military historian on the War of 1812.
Also worthy of consideration are Donald R. Hickey’s Don’t Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812 (2006), Julius W. Pratt’s Expansionists of 1812 (1925), J. C. A. Stagg’s The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent (2012), and Spencer C. Tucker’s 3-volume reference work, The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military History (2012).
A few interesting articles
- Cusick, James G. “The Significance of the War of 1812 in the American South.” Southern Studies, 20 (Fall–Winter 2013), 65–96.
- Gilje, Paul A. “’Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights’: The Rhetoric of the War of 1812.” Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Spring 2010): 1–23.
- Hickey, Donald R. “Small War, Big Consequences: Why 1812 Still Matters” [book review]. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 91, No. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 2012): 150-155.
- Jung, Patrick J. “Toward the Black Hawk War The Sauk and Fox Indians and the War of 1812.” Michigan Historical Review, 38 (Spring 2012), 27–52.
- Kaplan, Lawrence S. “France and the War of 1812.” The Journal of American History, Vol. 57, No. 1 (June 1970): 36-47.
- Trautsch, Jasper. “Whose War of 1812? Competing Memories of the Anglo-American Conflict.” Book Reviews in History, Review no. 1387 (extensive critique of recent books on the War of 1812), http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1387.
Ten informative websites
- “War of 1812,” sponsored by Parks Canada and other Canadian historical associations, http://www.eighteentwelve.ca/?q=eng. Includes an interactive timeline and map, information about all military campaigns and battles in Canada, overviews of the war on land and at sea, information about First Nation allies of British Canada, short biographies of leaders, learning resources for teachers, and even a trivia game. Excellent displays and relatively short essays make this the “go to” site for learning about the War of 1812.
- “War of 1812,” Historica Canada, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/war-of-1812. A succinct review of the war in Upper Canada with film vignettes and links to other articles embedded in the main narrative. Easy to navigate.
- “The War of 1812,” Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/explore/online/1812/index.aspx. This Canadian site contains excellent primary documents related to the war in Upper Canada; also a host of informative articles on many less well-known aspects of the war, such as “Loyalty and Treason” in Canada. The site lists “Important Places” in the northern theater of the war, with links to local websites.
- “War of 1812,” Indiana University Lilly Library collections, http://collections.libraries.indiana.edu/warof1812/. Offers a superb collection of overviews and documents related to the war. Categories in the first section include Trade Disputes, Sailors’ Rights, Territorial Ambitions, War Hawks, War or No War? and Readiness. The reader has access to documents such as Elijah Parish’s antiwar sermon on April 11, 1811, and John Lowell’s pamphlet, “Mr. Madison’s War” in mid-1812.
- “A Guide to the War of 1812,” U.S. Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/1812. “The digital collections of the Library of Congress contain a wide variety of material associated with the War of 1812, including manuscripts, broadsides, pictures, and government documents. . . . In addition, it provides links to external Web sites focusing on the War of 1812 and a bibliography containing selections for both general and younger readers.” Of special interest is the collection of images from the War of 1812.
- The War of 1812 Magazine online, http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/c_warof1812.html. “The aim of the Magazine is to provide a variety of articles, book and other reviews, commentaries, documents and other material related to the War of 1812, an oft-neglected aspect of the Napoleonic Wars…” Editors include three of the most knowledgeable and prolific writers on the war, Carl Benn, Donald Hickey, and J. C. A. Stagg. Articles cover military operations, diplomacy, and the civil dimension of the war. In contrast to articles in academic journals, the articles in this magazine are relatively short and written for the public. (The box at the bottom of the page has links to issues.)
- “War of 1812,” United States National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/subjects/warof1812/index.htm. Includes information about historical sites related to the war (Chesapeake Bay, St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain, Niagara Region, Lake Ontario, the Old Northwest, the Southeast, and the Atlantic seaboard); short biographies of important people – Americans, British/Canadians, and Indigenous peoples – personal stories, short historical narratives, and resources for teachers. See, for example, the story of the Canadian heroine Laura Secord, who was born in Massachusetts (http://www.nps.gov/people/laura-secord.htm).
- “War of 1812 Virtual Exhibition,” http://www.warmuseum.ca/war-of-1812. This unique website describes the war from four different angles: Americans, British, Canadians (including Canadian First Peoples), and Native Americans. “Using historic objects and images, this virtual exhibition allows you to draw your own conclusions and share your own perspective on a major historical event.” A variety of images from the war accompany short narratives. Great teaching resource.
- “The Official War of 1812 Bicentennial Website: Celebrating 200 Years of Peace,” http://www.visit1812.com. Lists local sites and museums in the U.S. and Canada commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
- For a clever moving map of major battles of the War of 1812, see: http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/sswetw/index.html.
- For President James Madison’s speeches, see: http://millercenter.org/president/madison/speeches/speech-3614
- For a sampling of newspaper editorials and political speeches in the debate over the war, see http://webs.wofford.edu/byrnesms/1812.htm
- For a mix of commercial memorabilia (army uniforms and weapons) and historical information, and an excellent chronology of the war, see “The War of 1812 Website,” http://www.warof1812.ca
- For primary documents such as the U.S. Declaration of War, Treaty of Ghent, and Amendments to the Constitution Proposed by the Hartford Convention, see: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/br1814m.asp.
- If you know the names of primary documents, you may be able to find them on google.com/books; for example, David Osgood’s A Solemn Protest against the Late Declaration of War (1812), and Northern Grievances, Set Forth in a Letter to James Madison (1814).
- “The War of 1812.” Produced by the American Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentary (1 hour, 54 minutes), http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/film/the-film-pt-2. Makes a admirable attempt to capture American and Canadian perspectives and experiences; also addresses blacks in the war, military battles, the British blockade, military medicine, the Treaty of Ghent, and legacies of the war. See YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gunLm3is3Uc.
- “A Question of Identity: War of 1812.” Produced by the National Film Board of Canada (28 minutes), https://www.nfb.ca/film/question_of_identity_war_1812. “This short film explores the effect the war of 1812 had on pioneer settlements of the Upper St. Lawrence and Niagara regions.” Dramatically portrays the ambivalent responses of Canadians to the war and U.S. invasion. Also shown at: http://www.militaryheritage.com/videos.htm.
- “The War of 1812,” from Canada: A People’s History: Part One, “A Mere Matter of Marching” (19 minutes); Part Two, “Tecumseh’s Last Stand” (24 minutes), http://www.militaryheritage.com/videos.htm. Well constructed narrative of the northern front in 1812 and 1813.
The U.S.-Mexican War, 1846-1848
Ten good books
- Greenberg, Amy S. A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico. New York: Vintage Books, 2012. Greenberg skillfully weaves the tales of five personal lives into the larger story of the U.S.-Mexican War. It reads like a novel while covering key developments in the war.
- Christensen, Carol and Thomas. The U.S.-Mexican War. San Francisco: Bay Books, 1998. This large, picture-laden history of the war gives both U.S. and Mexican viewpoints. It is the companion book to the Public Broadcasting Television series on the war (see films below). Easy to read.
- Brown, Brig. Gen. John S. “The U.S. Army Campaigns of the Mexican War: The Occupation of Mexico, May 1846 – July 1848.” Center of Military History, United States Army, 2006, online book: http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/occupation/occupation.htm. General Brown emphasizes the nature of the occupation rather than battles in this excellent and brief review of the war. This should be of prime interest to citizens as well as military personnel in consideration of current and future foreign occupations.
- Brack, Gene M. Mexico views manifest destiny, 1821-1846: An essay on the origins of the Mexican War. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1975. Brack provides a needed balance to the many stories of the war told from the official U.S. vantage point. Readers will be interested to read the statements of Mexican leaders and the Mexican press as well as Brack’s critique of bias in Justin Smith’s nationalist study (The War with Mexico, 1919).
- Price, Glenn W. Origins of the War with Mexico: The Polk-Stockton Intrigue. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967. Price examines the Polk administration’s strategy with a critical eye, recognizing the various subtle and surreptitious ways in which expansionists pursued their goals and explained their actions to the public.
- Pletcher, David M. The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973. Pletcher’s 611-page study of the diplomacy of the war provides enough detail to answer many questions about the particulars of the war, albeit from an American point-of-view.
- Jay, William. A review of the causes and consequences of the Mexican War. Published in 1849, available online. Jay’s classical work contains many primary sources on the war, including excerpts of newspaper articles and official orders that bear witness to the difficulties and abuses of the American occupation of Mexico. For other books published around 1850, see online versions at http://www.dmwv.org/mexwar/resources.htm.
- Schroeder, John H. Mr. Polk’s War: American Opposition and Dissent, 1846-1848. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1973. Shroeder’s examination of the opposition to the war focuses mainly on the Whigs He sees contradictions in their lauding of military leaders and judges their efforts to be relatively unsuccessful, but nonetheless shows their prominence in the public debate over the war.
- DeLay, Brian. War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008. DeLay places the U.S.-Mexican War in the context of the many Indian wars – with Mexicans, Texans, and Americans – in northern Mexico (Texas and the American Southwest). The U.S.-Mexican War is covered in the last one-quarter of the book.
- Reilly, Tom. War with Mexico! America’s Reporters Cover the Battlefront. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2010. Reilly’s book is not really about the war but about the various correspondents who covered it. It nonetheless offers snippets of reports on battles and the American occupation, and reveals the prejudiced attitudes of most of the reporters.
Five useful websites
- A Continent Divided: The U.S.-Mexico War. A joint project of the Center for Greater Southwestern Studies and the Library at the University of Texas at Arlington, this website contains essays, biographies, a timeline, background information, and primary sources, including proclamations, letters, diaries, images, maps, music, and poetry. See, for example, 42 documents under “U.S. Political Opposition to the War: Speeches & Orations.” http://library.uta.edu/usmexicowar.
- U.S.-Mexican War. Public Broadcasting Station comprehensive site, in English and Spanish. American-centered view of the war, with a few notable exceptions. http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar.
- The Mexican-American War and the Media, 1845-1848. Contains three dozen articles from five newspapers and other primary documents, including a list of memoirs published after the war. http://www.history.vt.edu/MxAmWar/Newspapers/Niles/Nilesf1847MarApr.htm.
- Library of Congress. Numerous primary documents, links, and resources. https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/mexicanwar.
- Online Resources for Students of the U.S.-Mexican War. Entire antiquarian books from Google Books (PDF format, can be downloaded), from 1850 to 1917. http://www.dmwv.org/mexwar/resources.htm.
The War of 1898 and the U.S.-Filipino War, 1899-1902
Ten good books
- Tompkins, E. Berkeley. Anti-Imperialism in the United States: The Great Debate, 1890-1920. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970. Superb review of the political debates surrounding the American quest for overseas territorial expansion and influence.
- Tone, John Lawrence. War and Genocide in Cuba, 1895-1898. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. A well-researched, sobering narrative of the Cuban rebellion against Spain, with extensive use of Spanish sources; covers the American intervention in 1898 in the last chapter.
- Foner, Philip. The Spanish-Cuban-American War and the Birth of American Imperialism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972. A down-to-earth account of the origins of the War of 1898, incorporating official correspondence and newspaper articles. One of the first American authors to integrate Cuban views and experiences into the narrative.
- Pérez, Louis A. The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Pérez critiques the significant omissions and biases of American authors, challenging the dominant view that U.S. intervention in Cuba in 1898 was intended to liberate the Cuban people. An insightful work of historiography.
- Hoganson, Kristin L. Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998. Hoganson examines how war supporters used prevailing notions of masculinity and gender to manipulate and build public support for war. A ground-breaking inquiry.
- Miller, Stuart Creighton. “Benevolent Assimilation”: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1982. A well-rounded examination of different aspects of the U.S.-Filipino War. Miller makes it clear that the “benevolent assimilation” promised by President McKinley was an empty promise with cruel results.
- Mojares, Resil B. The War against the Americans: Resistance and Collaboration in Cebu, 1899-1906. Quezon City, Philippines: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1999. Focusing on the war in one island of the Philippines, Cebu, Mojares reveals much about the dilemmas, hardships, and ambivalence of Filipinos confronted with a new imperial power.
- Storey, Moorfield, and Marcial P. Lichauco. The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926. Time has not diminished the insights afforded in this critique of the U.S.-Filipino War. The authors poke holes in the various justifications for war and empire put forth by the expansionists, concluding that the conquest of the Philippines was unnecessary and counterproductive to American interests.
- Kramer, Paul A. The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. Kramer provides a history of the U.S. nation-building project in the Philippine and examines how racial identity and prejudice played a key role in the conflict’s brutality.
- Welch, Richard E. Response to Imperialism: The United States and the Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979. Welch provides a useful overview of the war. Of particular interest, he considers the atrocities committed by American soldiers and the Roosevelt administration’s response.
Brewer, Susan. “Selling Empire: American Propaganda and War in the Philippines.” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 40, No. 1 (October 7, 2013), reprinted online by Global Research News. Insightful critique.
Fisher, Louis. “Destruction of the Maine (1898).” The Law Library of Congress, August 4, 2009, online. Reviews the 1898 investigation and subsequently investigations.
Gleijeses, Piero. “1898: The Opposition to the Spanish-American War.” Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Nov., 2003). Explores antiwar sentiment in the U.S. in the months before the War of 1898; examines 41 U.S. newspapers and 12 major European newspapers (British, French, German and Spanish).
Kramer, Paul. “The Water Cure: Debating torture and counterinsurgency – a century ago.” The New Yorker, February 25, 2006, online.
López-Briones, Carmen González. “The Indiana Press and the Coming of the Spanish-American War, 1895-1898.” Atlantis, Vol. 12, No. 1 (1990): 165-76 (available on JSTOR). Examines editorials in six Indiana newspapers preceding the War of 1898; shows that the press was not all “yellow” in pushing for war.
Leuchtenburg, William E. “The Needless War with Spain.” American Heritage, Vol. 8, Issue 2 (February 1957), online. Powell, Anthony L. “An Overview: Black Participation in the Spanish-American War.” The Spanish American Centennial Website, online.
Welch, Richard E. “American Atrocities in the Philippines: The Indictment and the Response.” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 43, No. 2 (May 1974): 233-53.
Woods Jr., Thomas E. “The Anti-Imperialist League and the Battle Against Empire.” Mises Institute website. Includes Mark Twain’s “War Prayer.”
“A Guide to the Spanish-American War.” Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/spanishwar. Provides links to numerous resources.
“American Anti-Imperialist League.” http://research.omicsgroup.org/index.php/American_Anti-Imperialist_League
Arnaldo Dumindin’s “Philippine-American War, 1899-1902.” http://www.filipinoamericanwar.com/thelastholdouts.htm. Detailed and rich history of the war, divided into sections, with well over 100 photographs.
Ellen Sebring’s “Civilization & Barbarism: Cartoon Commentary & “The White Man’s Burden” (1898–1902),” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 13, Issue 27, Number 1 (July 6, 2015), https://apjjf.org/2015/13/27/Ellen-Sebring/4339.html. Political cartoons of the era, many from Puck magazine – excellent resource for student investigation (discovery and inquiry methods).
“The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War.” Library of Congress, Hispanic Division, https://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/chronology.html. Chronology of War of 1898.
“Timeline of the Philippine-American War.” http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php/Timeline_of_Philippine-American_War. Chronology of the U.S.-Filipino War.
- Aguinaldo y Famy, Emilio. “True Version of the Philippine Revolution.” Originally published by Tarlak, Philippines Islands, 1899. Online: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12996/12996-h/12996-h.htm
- “American Soldiers in the Philippines Write Home about the War,” History Matters (The U.S. Survey Course on the Web), http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/58.
- Anti-Imperialist League Platform, 1902, http://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/the-spanish-american-war-and-the-anti-imperialism-league-1902
- McKinley, President William B. “Message to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War with Spain, April 11, 1898,” The American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=103901
- “Secretary Root’s Record: ‘Marked Severities’ in Philippine Warfare: An Analysis of the Law and Facts bearing on the Action and Utterances of President Roosevelt and Secretary Root” (Boston: Geo. H. Ellis Co., 1902), http://www.humanitiesweb.org/spa/nl/ID/26. Report of the anti-imperialist Philippine Investigating Committee formed in April of 1902, by Moorfield Story and Julian Codman (legal counsel for the Philippine Investigating Committee).
- “Treaties and Proclamations related to the Philippine-American War,” http://www.msc.edu.ph/centennial/philam-documents.html. Philippine proclamations.
“Crucible of Empire: The Spanish American War.” Distributed by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS); a production of Great Projects Film Company, Inc., 1999, 120 minutes. According to the film’s promoters, “Crucible of Empire tells the story of the war from all perspectives, not just the American side.” This is an exaggeration, but the film nonetheless offers some critical commentary. The U.S.-Filipino War is covered in the last 15 minutes, a testament to the preference for remembering the war against Spain over the longer and more lethal war against Filipinos.
“Yankee imperialism,” 1901-1934
The New York Daily World, 1904
Useful overviews of the era:
Lars Schoultz, Beneath the United States: A History of U. S. Policy Toward Latin America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998)
Robert E. Hannigan, New World Power: American Foreign Policy, 1898-1917 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002)
Ramon Oliveres, El Imperialismo Yanqui en America: La dominación política y económica del Continente (Buenos Aires, 1952)
On Panama, Mexico, and Nicaragua (Central America):
Walter LaFeber, The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978)
Ivan Musicant, The Banana Wars: A History of United States Military Intervention in Latin America from the Spanish-American War to the Invasion of Panama (New York, MacMillan Publishing Co., 1990)
“United States Occupation of Veracruz,” http://www.wikiwand.com/en/United_States_occupation_of_Veracruz
Lester D. Langley and Thomas Schoonover, The Banana Men: American Mercenaries & Entrepreneurs in Central America, 1880-1930 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1995)
On Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic:
The U.S. military’s goals of reforming Dominican political structures and “uplifting” Dominican society failed completely. Occupiers failed to reform political culture. Occupation forces’ efforts to break the power of the elite in society through occupation-created institutions ended with a new, centralized military component to government, creating a new and U.S.-friendly elite.
–Ellen D. Tillman, Dollar Diplomacy by Force (page 2)
Louis Pérez, Cuba Under the Platt Amendment, 1902-1934 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986)
Hans Schmidt, The United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995)
Laurent Dubois, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2012)
Mary A. Renda, Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1934 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001)
Bruce J. Calder, “Caudillos and Gavilleros versus the United States Marines: Guerrilla Insurgency during the Dominican Intervention, 1916-1924,” The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vo. 58, Issue 4 (November 1978)
Ellen D. Tillman, Dollar Diplomacy by Force: Nation-Building and Resistance in the Dominican Republic (Chapel Hill: Univ. of N. Carolina Press, 2016)
On opposition to U.S. interventionism:
Alan McPherson, The Invaded: How Latin Americans and Their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)
Robert David Johnson, The Peace Progressives and American Foreign Relations (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1995)
Richard V. Salisbury, Anti-Imperialism and International Competition in Central America, 1920-1929 (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Books, 1989)
Rayford W. Logan, “James Weldon Johnson and Haiti,” Phylon, Vol. 32, No. 4 (1971)
Charles F. Howlett, “Neighborly Concern: John Nevin Sayre and the Mission of Peace and Goodwill to Nicaragua, 1927-28,” The Americas, Vol. 45, No. 1 (July 1988)
Anne Regis Winkler-Morey, “The Anti-Imperialist Impulse: Public Opposition to U.S. Policy toward Mexico and Nicaragua (Winter of 1926-27)” (M.A. thesis, Univ. of Minnesota, 1993)
Critical studies of “Yankee imperialism” during the era:
Scott Nearing and Joseph Freeman, Dollar Diplomacy: A Study in American Imperialism (New York: B. W. Huebsch and the Viking Press, 1925)
Emily Green Balch, Occupied Haiti (New York: The Writers Publishing Company, 1927; reprinted by Negro Universities Press, 1969)
Isaac Joslin Cox, Nicaragua and the United States, 1909-1927 (Boston: World peace Foundation, 1927)
Rafael de Nogales, The Looting of Nicaragua (Robert McBride & Co., 1928, republished, New York: Arno Press, 1970)
United States participation in World War I
There are many excellent studies of the Great War. Those selected below by the authors provide insightful overviews, clear accounts of particular aspects, or moving stories. A separate subsection lists useful studies on the peace movement of the era.
Doenecke, Justus D. Nothing Less Than War: A New History of America’s Entry into World War I. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011. A meticulously researched account that integrates domestic debates with the emerging war crisis, although official rationales are not cross-examined.
Fleming, Thomas. The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I. New York: Basic Books, 2003. Fleming relates the story with an eye on contradictions and “Big Lies” as the Wilson administration opts for war, covering the war front and the home front.
Hannigan, Robert E. The Great War and American Foreign Policy, 1914-1924. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017. With broad knowledge of U.S. foreign policy, Hannigan examines President Wilson’s policies and power-moves in the global context. A well-reasoned and insightful critique.
Hochschild, Adam. To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. An engaging narrative written by a popular author that recounts the trials and tribulations of those in Great Britain who either supported or opposed the war. Written for a popular audience but useful for scholars when discussing conflicting views regarding the war and the meaning of patriotism.
Kennedy, David M. Over Here: The First World War and American Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. Recounts and analyzes developments on the home front, including official and unofficial repression of peace advocates and others deemed insufficiently patriotic.
Kennedy, Ross. The Will to Believe: Woodrow Wilson, World War I, and America’s Strategy for Peace and Security. Kent, OH: Kent University State Press, 2009. Discusses the Wilson administration’s moves toward war in the context of domestic criticism from the right and left.
Lengel, Edward. To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008. Straightforward military history that teeters between heroic accounts of American troops on the battlefield and the horrors of war, including the killing of German prisoners by American troops.
Pines, Burton Yale. America’s Greatest Blunder: The Fateful Decision to Enter World War One. New York: RSD Press, 2013. Written with the flair of a journalist, Pines tells the story of how the U.S. entered the war, highlighting interesting aspects and providing cogent summaries of main points.
Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. New York: Ballantine Books, 1982 (first pub. 1929). Fictional story of a German soldier in the war that evokes the terror of battle and the inner struggle to maintain one’s humanity. A best-seller.
Weingraub, Stanley. Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce. New York: Penguin Group, 2002. True story, based on soldiers’ journals, of the unofficial truce on the Western Front in December 1914, when men of opposing armies celebrated Christmas together.
Trumbo, Dalton. Johnny Got His Gun. New York: Bantam Books, 1970 (first pub. 1939). Poignant novel told from the point of view of a severely disabled veteran who cannot speak. Reflects on the utter inhumanity of war beneath its propagandist promotion.
Tucker, Robert. Woodrow Wilson and the Great War: Reconsidering America’s Neutrality, 1914-1917. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015. Solidly researched and well-written account of how the Wilson administration moved from neutrality to war.
Books on the peace movement
Wilson campaign vehicle: “He Kept Us Out of War” (March 21, 1916). See History News Network article (link), “Woodrow Wilson Is Misremembered. This Has Warped Our Foreign Policy for a Century” (Nov. 9, 2018).
Bennett, Scott, and Charles F. Howlett, editors. Antiwar Dissent and Peace Activism in World War I America: A Documentary Reader. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014. A valuable documentary reader for students with a comprehensive introduction. The authors’ thesis is that the Great War led to a “modern” peace movement in America, which became more secular in orientation and extended the focus from simply antiwar protest to one encouraging domestic economic and social justice. Documents included in this work concern individual citizen protest, organizations for peace, women activists, the role of African American opposition to war, cartoons, protest songs, humanitarian reconstruction work, and postwar efforts to promote peace and justice.
Chambers II, John Whiteclay. The Eagle and the Dove: The American Peace Movement and United States Foreign Policy, 1900-1922. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1991. Useful for students and educators, this study provides a comprehensive introduction to the pre-World War I peace movement as well as the role of the preparedness movement as the Wilson administration gradually moved toward involvement in the Great War. Primary documents cover a wide range of issues involving war or peace, freedom versus oppression, and the importance of human rights. Each document contains a useful commentary for student comprehension.
Chatfield, Charles. For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in America, 1914-1941. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1971. This work is considered one of the most important scholarly studies investigating the origins of a more radicalized peace movement in postwar America. The Great War gave birth to the creation of new peace organizations such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation, War Resisters League, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Chatfield’s work inspired other historians to examine the importance of peace work and how the concept of pacifism was transformed into a more activist approach by employing nonresistance as an active instrument to bring about social justice in America.
Cooper, Sandi. Patriotic Pacifism: Waging War on War in Europe, 1815-1914. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. Discusses the role of the peace movement in various European nations prior to the outbreak of war in Europe. Designed for scholars and advanced students, Cooper examines the arguments and roles of the international peace movement, identifying its strengths and weaknesses, and noting how prewar peace efforts provided the framework for many twentieth century international institutions, including the League of Nations and the International Court of Justice.
Griffin, Frederick C. Six Who Protested: Radical Opposition to the First World War. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1977. Six biographical portraits of radical peace leaders — Eugene Debs, William D. Haywood, Morris Hillquit, John Reed, Max Eastman, and John Reed. A key theme of these opponents was strong opposition to capitalism, although Eastman considered man’s bellicose instincts as the root cause of war. Griffin provides a sound intellectual history in terms of why these individuals opposed war and what happened to them as a result of their antiwar views.
Kazin, Michael. War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. A work designed for a popular audience yet scholarly in approach, Kazin focuses on a number of notable Americans who cautioned against going to war and held fast to their convictions when the U.S. did go to war. He examines the political debate in the nation and how the government persecuted those who refused to support the war effort.
Marchand, C. Roland. The American Peace Movement and Social Reform. 1898-1918. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972. This study is helpful to scholars and those interested in the social dynamics of the peace movement. Marchand examines the crossover between peace and social justice advocacy. Like Chatfield’s work, this book also emphasizes that the rise of new peace organizations during the war that were committed to social change and democratic progress.
Patterson, David S. The Search for Negotiated Peace: Women’s Activism and Citizen Diplomacy in World War I. New York: Routledge, 2008. Written by a former historian for the U.S. State Department, Patterson focuses on the non-governmental role of citizen peace activism and the emerging role of women in the wartime peace movement. Well-researched and well-written, Patterson emphasizes the important role of citizen activists such as Jane Addams and other women played in their efforts to seek a negotiated peace prior to American military involvement and their efforts to press for a lasting peace through the formation of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
Peterson, H. C., and Gilbert Fite. Opponents of War, 1917-1918. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1957. Suitable for students and popular audiences, the authors cover almost all aspects of antiwar dissent and the repression associated with such dissent, relying on newspaper accounts, court cases, and popular periodicals. What is most entertaining in this account is the narrative style that highlights the story-telling component of wartime opposition. The authors describe what happened to aliens, teachers, clergy, and laborers, among others, when greeted with the wartime hysteria and intolerance accompanying their dissent.
The Century, America’s Time, Vol. 1, 135 minutes, narrated by Peter Jennings, produced by ABC News in association with the History Channel, 2000. Documentary film with interviews of aged veterans of the war, exposing its mindless carnage, probing the propaganda surrounding it, and revealing the resulting disillusionment in the end. Excellent for the classroom; can be shown in short selections.
King of Hearts (original French title, Le Roi de coeur) is a 1966 French comedy-drama film directed by Philippe de Broca and starring Alan Bates, 102 minutes. The film is set in a small town in France near the end of World War I. As the Imperial German Army retreats, they booby trap the whole town to explode and the locals flee – except for a gaggle of cheerful “lunatics” who escape from the asylum and take over the town. The “lunatics” look sane compared to the belligerent armies.
Jay Winter, “The revolution in violence in World War I”
– YouTube short lecture
, 13 minutes. Describes the fundamental change in the nature of warfare in World War I.
Cold War interventionism, 1945-1990
Herb Block pokes at McCarthyism, Aug. 11, 1954 (Library of Congress)
Thousands of scholarly books have been written on the Cold War. The website essay cites 130 studies along with numerous journal articles. The recommended list below is divided into eight themes, with two representative studies in each. (For resources on the Korean and Vietnam wars, and Central America wars in the 1980s, see other sections of Resources.)
Bevins, Vincent. The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World. 273 pages. New York: Public Affairs, 2020. Bevins, an investigative journalist, describes the political slaughter of some one million people in Indonesia in 1965, and argues that the “Jakarta method” served as a model for other right-wing regimes backed by the U.S. to purge the left.
Blum, William. Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions since World War II. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995. 383 pages. Contains vignettes of 55 U.S. interventions, generally viewed as unnecessary, aggressive, illegal, and counterproductive to U.S. security.
Chomsky, Noam. Deterring Democracy. New York: Hill and Wang, 1992 (also available online: http://goodtimesweb.org/analysis/2015/Noam-Chomsky-1992-Deterring-Democracy.pdf). 410 pages. Interrogates Washington’s mythic Cold War ideological constructions; highlights the contradictions between U.S. claims to promote democracy and actual policies; and warns of dangers to democratic accountability at home.
Kinzer, Stephen. Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control. New York: Henry Holt, 2019. Reveals the details of one of the most heinous CIA programs, Operation MK-Ultra, in which unwitting Americans and “expendable” foreigners were subjected to torture and experiments with mind altering drugs, in a quest to find methods of mind control.
Kornbluh, Peter. The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability. New York: The New Press, 2004. 515 pages, including primary documents. A detailed account of U.S. intervention in Chile beginning in the 1960s, leading to the overthrow of President Salvador Allende and U.S. support for the murderous Pinochet regime.
Kuzmarov, Jeremy. Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation-Building in the American Century. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012. 252 pages. Explores the “low-cost” method of maintaining U.S. global hegemony by providing U.S. police and military aid and training to other governments, often propping up repressive regimes.
Leffler, Melvyn P. The Specter of Communism: The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1953. New York: Hill and Wang, 1994. 130 pages. A concise account of the early Cold War focusing on U.S.-Soviet relations. Leffler offers a balanced view of the perceived Soviet geopolitical threat to the U.S. but does not cross-examine the alleged ideological threat of “communism.” This is a shorter version of his 580-page study, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (Stanford University Press, 1992).
McGehee, Ralph. Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA. New York: Open Road Media, 1983; republished in 2015 with a new forward by CIA analyst David MacMichael. An honest accounting of CIA manipulations and subversion in other countries by a former agent.
O’Rourke, Lindsey A. Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018. 236 pages. A social science analysis of U.S. covert interventions that focuses on categorizing and establishing generalizations about U.S. regime change operations, with a selection of historical examples, including U.S. covert interventions in the Soviet bloc.
Pessen, Edward. Losing Our Souls: The American Experience in the Cold War. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993. 224 pages. A humanitarian assessment of the Cold War and its debilitating results; sets forth “Foreign Policy Principles of a Democratic Republic” as a guideline for analysis and evaluation.
Rabe, Stephen G. The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 195 pages. A comprehensive review of U.S. policies in Latin America and their appalling consequences.
Stone, Oliver and Peter Kuznick. The Untold History of the United States. New York: Gallery Books, 2012. Chapters 5-12 (approx. 300 pages). Film director Stone and historian Kuznick offer an alternative narrative to official spin and mainstream Cold War histories.
Westad, Odd Arne. The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 407 pages. Winner of the Bancroft Prize, Westad’s study of U.S. interventionism in the Third World is comprehensive and somewhat critical but does not probe deeply into U.S. motives or contradictions between principles and practices.
The Red Scare (McCarthyism):
Schrecker, Ellen. The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents. New York: Bedford Books, 1994. 94-page overview; 260 pages total. A perceptive critique of a repressive era in U.S. history, with 22 primary documents.
Caute, David. The Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge Under Truman and Eisenhower. London: Secker & Warburg, 1978. 560 pages. A thorough accounting of the McCarthy Era, well-researched and well-written, if long.
Peace and justice movements:
Cortright, David. Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 340 pages. A broad survey of peace movements and themes, highlights efforts to curb the nuclear arms race and promote international law & institutions during the Cold War era.
Green, James N. We Cannot Remain Silent: Opposition to the Brazilian Military Dictatorship in the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. 353 pages. A richly woven account of the transnational movement for human rights that opposed the Brazilian dictatorship backed by the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s.
Wittner, Lawrence S. Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009. 225 pages. Covers the development of citizen activism against nuclear weapons testing and the arms race, including movements in the United States, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
See also resources in sections on the Vietnam War and Central America wars, 1980s.
“Massacre in Korea” by Pablo Picasso, 1951
For a cogent response to recent international developments, see Jeremy Kuzmarov, “A Call For Empathy Towards North Korea” Huffington Post online, January 3, 2018.
Key Books and Scholarly Resources
Armstrong, Charles K. Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013. A compelling analysis of the ideology of the North Korean regime and its international relations.
_____. The North Korean Revolution, 1945-1950. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003. An important book for understanding the North Korean revolution, drawing on captured U.S. documents.
Burchett, Wilfred G. This Monstrous War. Melbourne, Australia: Joseph Waters, 1952. Account of the war’s dark side written from the viewpoint of North Koreans and Chinese by the legendary Australian journalist.
Casey, Steven. Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950-1953. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Monograph focused on the manipulation of public opinion by the Truman administration.
Cumings, Bruce. The Korean War. New York: New American Library, 2010. A synthetic overview of the war from the dean of Korean War historians.
_____. The Origins of the Korean War, Part I: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945-1947. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.
_____. The Origins of the Korean War, Part II: The Roaring of the Cataract. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990. Detailed monographs on the origins of the war that brilliantly captures the Korean perspective and provides critical insights into U.S. policy and its pitfalls.
Ehrhart, W.D., and Philip K. Jason, editors. Retrieving Bones: Stories and Poems of the Korean War. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1993. Valuable collection of stories, poems, and other writings about the Korean War.
Endicott, Stephen, and Edward Hagerman. The United States and Biological Warfare: Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989. Exposé of American support for biological warfare in Korea corroborated by new evidence that has since emerged.
Fast, Howard. “Korean War Lullaby.” Online: http://www.trussel.com/hf/korean.htm. Antiwar poetry by novelist Howard Fast.
Fehrenbach, T.R. This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History, 50 Year Anniversary. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2001. History by a soldier participant that offers raw, first hand insights.
Haruki, Wada. The Korean War: An International History. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013. Looks at the war in the broader context of Cold War international rivalries.
Hanley, Charles J., Sang-Hun Choe, and Martha Mendoza. The Bridge at No Gun Ri: A Hidden Nightmare from the Korean War. New York: Henry Holt, 2001. Investigation into an atrocity in the Korean War by Prize winning journalists.
Harden, Blaine. King of Spies: The Dark Reign of America’s Spymaster in Korea. New York: Viking, 2017. Biography of Donald Nichols, a Distinguished Cross recipient who served as a key adviser to Syngman Rhee despite being a high school drop out. Nichols witnessed and committed numerous atrocities during the war, a real-life Lieutenant Kurtz. He was later branded by the army as a schizophrenic and given electroshock treatments, which he says were designed to erase memory of the horrors he had presided over. Harden’s book tells this remarkable story based on considerable archival research, interviews with Nichols’ family members and colleagues in the army, and survivors of the secret teams he ran.
Hwang, Su-Kyoung. Korea’s Grievous War. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press (Studies in Human Rights series), 2016. Focuses on the U.S. occupation of southern Korea and its sponsorship of a far-right regime that slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians. According to one scholarly review, the book “insists also on restoring the reality and dignity of the massacred Koreans, whose deaths remained ‘ungrievable’ under the relentlessly anti-communist South Korean dictatorships” (American Historical Review, December 2017).
Katsiaficas, George. Asia’s Unknown Uprisings I: South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century. San Francisco: PM Press, 2012. History of South Korean social movements from the 1940s through the Kwangju demonstration uprising and pro-democracy movement of the 1980s.
Kim, Dong-Choon. The Unending Korean War: A Social History. Translation by Sung-ok Kim. Larkspur, CA.: Tamal Vista Publications, 2000. Draws on Korean sources to depict the brutality of the war.
Kim, Hun Joon. The Massacres at Mt. Halla: Sixty Years of Truth Seeking in South Korea. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014. History of the massacres at Cheju-do and Yesou-Sunchon and effort to uncover the truth after many years.
Kim, Suzy. Everyday Life in the North Korean Revolution, 1945-1950. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013. Builds on Armstrong’s work in providing a detailed account of the North Korean revolution from the viewpoint of ordinary North Koreans.
Kuzmarov, Jeremy. “Police Training, ‘Nation-Building,’ and Political Repression in Postcolonial South Korea.” The Asia Pacific Journal, July 1, 2012, online: http://apjjf.org/2012/10/27/Jeremy-Kuzmarov/3785/article.html. Account of American police training programs and their link to political repression in South Korea.
Manchester, William. American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964. New York: Laurel, 1978. Classic biography of the American General that provides an excellent overview of MacArthur’s experience in Korea and recall by Truman.
Masuda, Hajimu. Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015. International history based on multi-archival research includes an interesting analysis of the global conservative upsurge in the 1950s.
Matray, James I. “Captive of the Cold War: The Decision to Divide Korea at the 38th Parallel.” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 50, No. 2 (May 1981): 145-168.
_____. “Mixed Message: The Korean Armistice Negotiations at Kaesong.” Pacific Historical Review, 81, 2 (May 2012), 221-244. Authoritative account of the breakdown of peace talks at Kaesong and American government responsibility for prolonging the war.
_____. “Revisiting Korea: Exposing Myths of the Forgotten War” (parts 1 and 2). Prologue Magazine (National Archives), Summer 2002, Vol. 34, No. 2, https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2002/summer/korean-myths-2.html#nt9.
Salmon, Andrew. Scorched Earth, Black Snow: Britain and Australia in the Korean War. London: Aurum, 2011. Salmon beautifully recreates the harrowing experience of British and Australian GIs and offers important insights into the nature of the war.
Thompson, Reginald. Cry Korea: The Korean War – A Reporters’ Notebook. London: Reportage Press, 2010. Account by British journalist that captures the horrors of modern machine warfare.
Young, Charles S. Name, Rank and Serial Number: Exploiting Korean War POWs at Home and Abroad. New York: Oxford, 2014. A well-researched account of the abuses in POW camps run by the U.S.-UN including at Koje-Do and politicization of the POW issue at the end of the war.
*There are many other valuable works listed in the notes.
Primary resources website: KOREAN WAR, 1950-1953. A collection of primary source documents related to the Korean War. Obtained largely from Russian archives, the documents include reports on Chinese and Soviet aid to North Korea, allegations that America used biological weapons, and the armistice. Includes sections on Korean War Origins, 1945-50, Korean War Armistice, China and the Korean War, and Korean War Biological Warfare Allegations. Wilson Center Digital Archive: International History Declassified.
Veterans for Peace march in Washington, 2017
There are many action-packed films on the American War in Vietnam. Most move quickly through the early history, raising few questions about the presumed right of the United States to intervene in Vietnam and create a separate state in the southern half. Reflections on the war, as such, mirror the presumptions of the American war itself: South Vietnam is deemed a legitimate entity, the National Liberation Front (NLF) is depicted as a terrorist organization, and the U.S. is said to be “retaliating” against the communists. As the NLF does not give up, the war becomes a “quagmire.” There are tragic ramifications for the civilian population but no blame is placed on the U.S. The story line focuses on whether U.S. forces can win the war. Why so many Vietnamese sided with the “terrorists” instead of the American redeemers is not asked.
“Roots of War,” Vol. 1 (60 minutes). One documentary film that ably explores the origins of the Vietnamese revolution for independence is “Roots of War,” Vol. 1, in the seven volume, 13-hour series, “Vietnam: A Television History,” produced by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the American Experience (AE). Nationalistic bias is kept to a minimum, as the U.S. did not oppose Ho Chi Minh’s revolution until after 1945. Available from PBS. “LBJ,” Vol. 2 (55 minutes). The Johnson administration’s decision-making process is dramatically and sympathetically presented in “LBJ,” Vol. 2, in the Presidents Collection series produced by PBS and AE. The sections on Vietnam are intermittent and comprise almost half the 55-minute film. The film is useful in drawing attention to the governmental decision-making process and familiarizing audiences with key players. The film interviews critics such as Daniel Ellsberg but does not explore the historical basis of their reasoning. Available from PBS.
“The Draft and the Vietnam Generation” (49 minutes). This well-crafted documentary tells the stories of ordinary folks who faced the moral dilemma of being drafted to fight in a war they opposed. Produced by Beth Sanders for PBS and German television. Website contains background information on interviewees in the film. Cost: $20 to download. See the trailer.
“Sir No Sir” (75 minutes). Opposition to the war within the military is the focus of “Sir No Sir,” a superb 75-minute documentary film by David Zeiger produced in 2005 that has won numerous awards. Donald Duncan, Howard Levy, Susan Schnall, Jane Fonda, Joe Urgo, Greg Patton, and others describe their experiences and the evolution of their thinking about the war. Patton, for example, describes how he came to the realization that “gook” was another name for “nigger” and, here he was, a black U.S. soldier in Vietnam, hunting down “gooks.” Excellent historical footage. The DVD costs $15 (2017). A film trailer and supporting materials, including an archive of audio recordings, GI antiwar newspapers, and other resources, can be found on the sirnosir.com website. “Free the Army” (94 minutes). Another film distributed by the same organization (sirnosir.com) is “Free the Army,” which follows the tour of Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Michael Alaimo, Len Chandler, and Holly Near as they give shows outside military bases across the Pacific. Their skits play on the absurdities of the Vietnam War, evoking laughter from receptive soldier audiences. Released in theaters in 1972, the film mysteriously disappeared for some 35 years. See the trailer.
“Hearts and Minds” (112 minutes). This classic film explores the experiences and thinking of participants in the war, juxtaposing personal interviews with war scenes. Directed by Peter Davis and produced by BBC Productions in 1974, the film won an Academy Award in 1975. Its most famous scene witnesses an agonizing funeral for a South Vietnamese soldier, with relatives weeping profusely, then shifts to an interview with General William Westmoreland who says, “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.” Available on DVD from the Criterion Collection. “Winter Soldier”
(96 minutes). This 1972 documentary film chronicles the Winter Soldier Investigation which took place in Detroit, Michigan, from January 31 to February 2, 1971. Highlights 30 of the 125 veterans who spoke of atrocities they had witnessed and committed. Produced by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Available from Milestone films.
The Phoenix Program: “Spooks and Cowboys, Gooks and Grunts” (24 minutes). U.S. officers in charge of the Phoenix program in Danang and elsewhere candidly describe the brutality and insensibility of this counterinsurgency program. Includes Senate hearings and testimony, including that of director William Colby. Professionally-made, riveting account, produced in 1975 (reproduced on YouTube). “My Lai: One of the Vietnam War’s Darkest Chapters” (110 minutes). “What drove a company of American soldiers – ordinary young men from all across the country – to commit the worst atrocity in American military history?” asks the narrators of this film. Produced by PBS and AE, the film mainly interviews U.S. soldiers who participated in the massacre. It initially shows U.S. soldiers treating civilians kindly, but as they see their buddies injured and killed by booby traps, land mines, snipers, emotions harden. “Finally, you just throw the rule book away,” comments one soldier. “We’re not nice guys anymore.” Hugh Thompson is recognized for his heroic action in preventing his fellow Americans from killing more innocents. One of the interviewees has no remorse, saying, “They were all communist sympathizers.” A few interviews with Vietnamese villagers impress the audience with the suffering and humanity of the “enemy.” The film delves into the immediate cover-up of the massacre but does not mention any other massacres. Available from PBS. “Seasoned Veteran: Journey of a Winter Soldier” (41 minutes). Documentary on Scott Camil, Vietnam veteran turned anti-war and community activist. Offers insights into his indoctrination as a young soldier and his radical humanistic transformation. Good original footage. Produced by Benito Aragon, Melinda Kahl and Michael Kirschbaum at the University of Florida’s Documentary Institute in conjunction with the College of Journalism and Communications, 2002. “The Cu Chi Tunnels” (60 minutes). This film was made by Mickey Grant, an American Special Forces veteran in the 1990s who wanted to better understand the “enemy” he fought against. It includes live interviews and a recreation of the life of the guerrillas living underground in the Cu Chi Tunnels. It shows the humanity of the NLF and ideals for which they fought as well as the hardship they faced and their ingenuity in surviving the bombing and fighting a superior armed invader. An excellent film to show students the “other side,” that is, the Vietnamese side of the war. “Requiem for Agent Orange” (73 minutes). This haunting documentary by Masako Sakata follows Vietnam veteran Greg Davis and his wife, Masako, as they visit Vietnam to investigate the lingering effects of Agent Orange. Davis sadly is himself dying from cancer linked to his being sprayed by Agent orange during the war. The film includes footage from literal villages of the “damned” in areas heavily sprayed by Agent orange during the war where there is a huge percentage of deformed children and includes interviews with Hanoi doctors who have treated victims. Two films and a newscast provide a window into the American war in Laos. “The Most Secret Place on Earth: The CIA’s Covert War in Laos” (53 minutes) is a revealing documentary that provides an overview of the secret war and bombing of Laos and includes interviews with Fred Branfman, CIA veterans, and historian Alfred W. McCoy. “Laos: Deadly Legacy” (56 minutes) focuses on the problem of undetonated ordinance from cluster bombs in the Laos secret war. A PBS News Hour segment, titled “Decades on, millions of unexploded American bombs left behind still kill and maim in Laos” (9 minutes), provides a well-edited overview of this problem along with a glimpse of the beautiful land of Laos and its people. Reconciliation and healing is the subject of two short films about American veterans returning to Vietnam decades later. Intent on doing good works, the vets are welcomed by the Vietnamese. See “50 years on, veterans find healing by returning to Vietnam to help” (7:52), produced by PBS NewsHour; and “Forgiveness in Vietnam: Vietnam Vets Meet a Former Enemy” (4:43), an independent film. One Hollywood film of note is “Born on the Fourth of July” (1989). Actor Tom Cruise plays the role of Ron Kovic, a real-life Marine who was paralyzed by a combat injury in Vietnam. He returned home and, after wrestling with his bitterness, became a leading anti-war activist. The scenes of Kovic coming to grips with his paralysis are hard to forget. See the real Ron Kovic’s 1970 interview with Bill Boggs (11 minutes). Marilyn Young, professor of History at New York University and author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990, gave a succinct review of the lessons and legacies of the war in a CCTV interview (5:20). You can also sit in on Marilyn Young’s classroom lecture on the origins of the American War in Vietnam (57 minutes). “The Vietnam War,” an 18-hour documentary film by Ken Burns and Lyn Novick, released September 2017, offers stimulating war footage but is notably lacking in historical perspective. The historian Bob Buzzanco wrote that if the filmmakers had titled their documentary, “Stories of People Who Were in Vietnam During the War,” there would be little to complain about. “But it’s being advertised as a history of the war, and therein lies the biggest problem. Soldiers’ narratives provide moving ideas and images of the human cost of battle, but they don’t answer the larger questions about why empires attack smaller nations and virtually blow them back to the Stone Age.” The historian Jeffrey Kimball, who has written four books on the war, commented, “Their coverage of the emergence and evolution of the US antiwar movement during the Second Indochina War – also known as the American War (ca. 1954-1974) – is inaccurate, disjointed, incomplete, and fundamentally negative.” The film was also critiqued by Daniel Ellsberg. In “The Interview Burns & Novick Missed in ‘The Vietnam War’ Series” (18 min.), videotaped in October 2017. Ellsberg discusses the missing history, testifies to the influence of draft resisters in motivating him to “do more to end the war,” and relates the Vietnam War to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
” is the only available film that portrays the war from a Vietnamese perspective; made by Dang Nhat Minh about the journal of a young woman doctor serving in the south that was found by an American soldier and returned to her family in Hanoi decades later; in Vietnamese on youtube
without English subtitles. English subtitled DVD available in appreciation of donations of at least $15, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Recommended books on the Vietnam War
The Zinn Education Project has developed a 100-page teaching guide for middle school, high school, and college classrooms, designed to enhance student understanding of the issues raised in the award winning film, “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.” According to its creators, the guide “engages students in thinking deeply about their own responsibility as truth-tellers and peacemakers.” In the spirit of Howard Zinn, this teaching guide explodes historical myths and focuses on the efforts of people — like Daniel Ellsberg — who worked to end war.” The guide offers an introduction, resource guide, and eight lessons for U.S. history, government, and language arts classrooms. The lessons employ a variety of teaching strategies, including role play, critical reading, discussion, mock trial, small group imaginative writing, and personal narrative.
There are thousands of scholarly studies, personal memoirs, and general works on the Vietnam War. Those noted below are recommended by the authors of the website article.
George Herring’s America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975 (1979, 5th ed. 2013) and Marilyn B. Young’s The Vietnam Wars. 1945-1990 (1991) provide the requisite context for understanding the origins and nature of the war. Herring’s study is widely used in introductory college courses on the Vietnam War. Herring offers a modest lesson in the end, writing that the United States should not “turn away from an ungrateful and hostile world” but rather “accept the limits” of American power (p. 272). Young incorporates more Vietnamese history and viewpoints, and takes a sharper view of U.S. policy. “There was no conceivable justification for the horrors daily inflicted on and suffered in Vietnam,” she writes (p. ix). The latter judgment lies at the heart of John Marciano’s The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration? (2016). “Can a war be honorable,” he asks, “if, as will be argued here, it was a violation of international law, a criminal act of aggression? If so, can the warrior be separated from the war, and act with honor in a criminal cause” (p. 11). The judgment that the war was fundamentally wrong from the outset shines through in Archimedes Patti’s Why Viet Nam?: Prelude to America’s Albatross (1982) and in Senator Ernest Gruening and Herbert W. Beaser’s Vietnam Folly (1968). Patti was a U.S. Army officer with the Office of Strategic Services who worked with Ho Chi Minh in the last year of the Second World War.
Other books providing historical context and critical perspective include Frances FitzGerald’s Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (1972), George McTurnin Kahin’s Intervention: How America Became Involved in Vietnam (1987), H. Bruce Franklin’s Vietnam and Other American Fantasies (2001), Gabriel Kolko’s Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, The United States, and the Modern Historical Experience (1985), Michael Maclear’s The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam 1945-1975 (1981), and Noam Chomsky’s trilogy, American Power and the New Mandarins (1969; 2002), At War with Asia (1969; 2005), and For Reasons of State (1973). Also valuable are the edited volumes of Marvin E. Gettleman, et. al., Vietnam and America: A Documented History (1995), and Jayne S. Werner and Luu Doan Huynh, The Vietnam War: Vietnamese and American Perspectives (1993). Noted historians of the Vietnam war include David L. Anderson, Mark Philip Bradley, Robert Buzzanco, Lloyd C. Gardner, Mitchell K. Hall, Stanley Karnow, Jeffrey Kimball, Robert J. McMahon, John Prados, Andrew J. Rotter, Robert D. Schulzinger, David F. Schmitz, and Neil Sheehan, among others. The Pentagon Papers, written by the Pentagon’s own historians, also provide invaluable historical context. A recent addition is The United States, Southeast Asia, and Historical Memory, edited by Caroline Luft and Mark Pavlick (Haymarket Books, 2018), which covers Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam in chapter length critiques by notable authors.
For a closer examination of specific topics or time periods, see Fredrik Logevall’s Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam (2012) and Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam (1999), Gareth Porter’s A Peace Denied: The United States, Vietnam, and the Paris Agreement (1975), Larry Berman’s No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam (2001), Fred A. Wilcox’s Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam (2011), Fred Branfman’s Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War (1972; 2013), which includes essays and drawings by Laotian villagers, Alfred W. McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drugs Trade (2003), Jeremy Kuzmarov’s The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs (2009), Kyle Longley’s Grunts: The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam (2008), Robert Mann’s A Grand Delusion: America’s Descent into Vietnam (2001), David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest (1972), and H. Bruce Franklin’s M.I.A. or Mythmaking in America (1992).
Christian G. Appy is the author of three excellent studies that investigate the personal and cultural dimensions of the war. He interviews 100 American veterans in Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam (2000), and 135 men and women on both sides of the conflict in Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides (2003). Appy’s latest study, American Reckoning: The Vietnam war and Our National Identity (2015), examines cultural beliefs and trends that have reinforced America’s global pretensions and inflated image as the world’s savior. As to the nature of the Vietnam War, he notes in Working-Class War that “U.S. policy itself was a doctrine of atrocity” (p. 201).
Nick Turse, in Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (2013), delves more deeply into the systematic brutality of the American War in Vietnam, drawing on mounds of Pentagon’s documents and many personal interviews with American vets and Vietnamese survivors. The My Lai massacre, he notes, was not an isolated case committed by a few “bad apples” but rather the predictable consequence of official orders. On My Lai, see also Seymour Hersh’s classic account, My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and its Aftermath (1970).
Personal accounts of the war include Michael Herr’s Dispatches (1977), W. D. Ehrhart’s Vietnam-Perkasie: A Combat Marine Memoir (1983), Truong Nhu Tang’s A Viet Cong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and Its Aftermath (1986), Gerald R. Gioglio’s Days of Decision: An Oral History of Conscientious Objectors in the Military during the Vietnam War (1989), John Ketwig’s And a hard rain fell: A GI’s true story of the war in Vietnam (2008), and Michael Uhl’s The War I Survived Was Vietnam (2016). Noteworthy fictional accounts include Tim O’Brien’s novels, If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973) and The Things They Carried (1990), and Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam (1993).
Poetry by Vietnam veterans
Poetry became a vehicle for American veterans to express themselves, and such expressions have continued decade after decade. H. Bruce Franklin, in The Vietnam War in American Stories, Songs, and Poems (1966), writes, “American poets were almost unanimously anguished and angry protesters against the war. Their collective voice cried out in a historic 1967 anthology, Where is Vietnam? American Poets Respond, edited by Walter Lowenfels, with antiwar poems by eighty-seven contributors, including many of the most distinguished figures in American poetry” (p. 221). Three collections of note are Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans (1972), edited by Larry Rottmann, Jan Barry, and Basil T. Paquet, Demilitarized Zones: Veterans after Vietnam (1976), edited by Jan Barry and W. D. Ehrhart (1976), and Visions of War, Dreams of Peace: Writings of Women in the Vietnam War (1991), edited by Lynda Van Devanter and Joan A. Furey.
Comprehensive overviews of the antiwar movement in the U.S. include Tom Wells’s The War Within: America’s Battle over Vietnam (1994), Melvin Small’s Antiwarriors: The Vietnam War and the Battle for America’s Hearts and Minds (2002), and Charles DeBenedetti’s An American Ordeal: The Antiwar movement of the Vietnam Era (1990). Opposition within the military and to conscription are the subject of David Cortright’s Soldiers in Revolt: G. I. Resistance during the Vietnam War (1975), Michal S. Foley’s Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance during the Vietnam War (2003), and David L. Parsons’s Dangerous Grounds: Antiwar Coffeehouses and Military Dissent in the Vietnam Era (2017). Particular peace organizations are examined in Amy Swerlow’s Women Strike for Peace: Traditional Motherhood and Radical Politics in the 1960s (1993), Andrew E. Hunt’s A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (1999), and Mitchel K. Hall’s Because of Their Faith: CALCAV and Religious Opposition to the Vietnam War (1990). Working class opposition to the war is discussed in Penny Lewis’s Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory (2013). Transnational diplomacy is explored in Mary Hershberger’s Traveling To Vietnam: American Peace Activists and the War, 1965-1975 (1998) and Jessica M. Frazier’s Women’s Antiwar Diplomacy during the Vietnam War Era (2017). Memoirs of those in the antiwar movement include Daniel Ellsberg’s Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2002) and Tom Hayden’s Hell No: The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement (January 2017).
- Ron Carver, David Cortright and Barbara Doherty, editors, with an Afterword by Christian G. Appy, Waging Peace In Vietnam: U.S. Soldiers and Veterans Who Opposed the War. Published September 10, 2019, by New Village Press and distributed by New York University Press. The book features fourteen original essays by leading scholars and activists, with first-hand accounts, oral histories, underground newspapers, posters, flyers, and photographs.
- Stefan Andersson, ed., Revisiting the Vietnam War and International Law: Views and Interpretations of Richard Falk (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Falk’s essays from 1968 to the early 1970s cover four themes: “The US Role in Vietnam and International Law,” “War and War Crimes,” “The Vietnam War and the Nuremberg Principles,” and “The Legacy of the Vietnam War.” Falk argues that the search for lessons from Vietnam has been misdirected to analyzing military and political failures on the part of the U.S. rather than how the U.S. contravened international law in terms of the original use of force (being aggressive rather than defensive) and the massacre of civilians.
Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War. Vivid account of the war in Laos, with children’s drawings, excerpted from Fred Branfman’s book. A short reading assignment.
Veterans for Peace Full Disclosure. Articles, blogs, reflections, current activities of veterans opposed to whitewashing the war as a “noble cause.” See especially “Errors in the Official [Pentagon] Commemoration Website,” located under the Advocacy menu item. War Legacy Project. Focuses on aid to, and advocacy for, victims of American bombing and chemical welfare in Southeast Asia, including U.S. veterans.
Central America Wars, 1980s
Interested in doing further research into the Central America movement that opposed U.S. policy? Click here to link to primary and secondary resources.
Charlie Clements, the Rebel Doctor (59 minutes). Produced in 1983. View entire video online. Dr. Clements, a U.S. Air Force veteran turned Quaker pacifist, discusses his realizations in Vietnam and his work providing medical care in the rebel-held areas of El Salvador. Clear articulation suitable for all audiences. Coverup: Behind the Iran Contra Affair (72-minutes). Produced by the Empowerment Project, released in 1988, winner of the American Film & Video Association’s Blue Ribbon Award for Best Documentary. The film probes administration violations of the law beyond the mild Congressional investigation of the Iran-Contra affair, involving drugs, hostages, weapons, assassinations, and covert operations. Available here. Destination Nicaragua (58 minutes). Produced by the Empowerment Project film, released in March 1986, winner of the Silver Award, Houston International Film Festival. The film follows Witness for Peace and other U.S. groups as they journey through rural villages and cooperative farms in Nicaragua, allowing viewers to absorb the reality. Available here. Faces of War (59 minutes). Hosted by actor Mike Farrell of M*A*S*H fame, produced in 1986. View entire film online. This professionally made film illustrates the devastating effects of U.S. policies in El Salvador and Nicaragua as seen through the eyes of six Americans working in the region. Provides concise histories of the countries and humanizes the people; intended to awaken the conscience of U.S. citizens. Waiting for the Invasion: U.S. Citizens in Nicaragua. A 27-minute documentary film, produced by Icarus Films in 1984, winner of the Best Documentary award at the Global Village Documentary Festival in New York City in 1984. The film features U.S. citizens living in Nicaragua who discuss the Nicaraguan government and Contra War. See trailer.
Teaching Central America
is an open resource website dedicated to encouraging and supporting teaching about Central America in K-12 schools so that students can learn about this region, which has many ties to the United States through foreign policy, immigration, commerce, and culture. The website offers free downloadable lessons, bios, and poetry and prose from Central American writers such as Roque Dalton, Rigoberta Menchú, Claribel Alegría, and Ernesto Cardenal.
Books and reports
Background – US policy in Latin America
McSherry, Patrice. Predatory States: Operation Condor and Covert War in Latin America. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.
Rabe, Stephen G. The Killing Zone: The United States Wages Cold War in Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Schoultz, Lars. Beneath the United States: A History of U.S. Policy toward Latin America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.
Sikkink, Kathryn. Mixed Signals: U.S. Human Rights Policy and Latin America. New York: Century Foundation, 2004.
Smith, Peter H. Talons of the Eagle: Latin America, The United States, and the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Arnson, Cynthia J. Crossroads: Congress, the President, and Central America, 1976-1993. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.
Booth, John A., and Christine J. Wade, and Thomas W. Walker. Understanding Central America: Global Forces, Rebellion, and Change. Berkeley: Westview Press, 2014.
Coatsworth, John H. Central America and the United States: The Clients and the Colossus. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1994.
LaFeber, Walter. Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America. New York: Norton, 1993.
LeoGrande, William. Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977-1992. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
Clements, Charles. Witness to War: An American Doctor in El Salvador. Toronto: Bantam, 1984.
D’Haeseleer, Brian. The Salvadoran Crucible: The Failure of US Counterinsurgency in El Salvador, 1979-1992. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2017.
From Madness to Hope: The Twelve-Year War in El Salvador: Report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador. United Nations Doc. s/25500, April 1, 1993 (203 pages), United States Institute for Peace website, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/file/ElSalvador-Report.pdf.
Archdiocese of Guatemala (Recover of Historical Memory Project). Guatemala, Never Again! Guatemala City: Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala, 1999.
Gleijeses, Piero. Shattered Hope: The Guatemalan Revolution and the United States 1944-1954. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.
Schirmer, Jennifer. The Guatemalan Military Project: A Violence Called Democracy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.
Guatemala, Memory of Silence: Report of the Commission for Historical Clarification (82 pages), 1999, https://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/migrate/uploads/mos_en.pdf.
Kornbluh, Peter. The Price of Intervention: Reagan’s Wars against the Sandinistas. Washington, DC: Institute for Policy Studies, 1987.
Ramírez, Sergio. Adiós Muchachos: A Memoir of the Sandinista Revolution. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012 (originally published in Spanish, Una Memoria de la Revolución Sandinista (San Jose, Costa Rica, Aguilar, 1999).
Revista Envío, Universidad Centroamericana, Managua, online: http://www.envio.org.ni/archivo.en. Envío monthly newsletters beginning June 1981 (in Spanish, English, and Italian).
Walker, Thomas W. ed. Reagan Versus the Sandinistas: The Undeclared War on Nicaragua. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987.
Central America movement
Chilsen, Liz, and Sheldon Rampton. Friends in Deed: The Story of U.S.-Nicaragua Sister Cities. Madison: Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua, 1988.
Griffin-Nolan, Ed. Witness for Peace: A Story of Resistance. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991.
Nepstad, Sharon Erickson. Convictions of the Soul: Religion, Culture, and Agency in the Central America Solidarity Movement. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Peace, Roger. A Call to Conscience: The Anti-Contra War Campaign. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012.
Perla, Hector. “Si Nicaragua Venció, El Salvador Vencerá: Central American Agency in the Creation of the U.S.-Central American Peace and Solidarity Movement.” Latin American Research Review, Vol. 43, No. 2 (2008).
Smith, Christian. Resisting Reagan: The U.S. Central America Peace Movement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
Interested in doing further research into the Central America movement of the 1980s? Click here to link to primary and secondary resources: a chronological list of newspaper articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post from 1980 through 1989, and an annotated list of books and journal articles on the Central America Movement.
Post-Cold War era, 1989-2001
Stone, Oliver, and Peter Kuznick. The Untold History of the United States. New York: Gallery Books, 2012, 2019. Chapter 12, “The Cold War Ends: Squandered Opportunities.” Illuminates the idea of a lost opportunity for peace due in large part to the failure of U.S. leaders to meet Mikhail Gorbachev halfway in his peacemaking proposals at the end of the Cold War.
A US Army M113 tank finds a parking spot in downtown Panama City during Operation Just Cause, Dec. 21, 1989 (photo by J. Elliot, US Dept. of Defense)
Beluche, Olmedo. La Verdad Sobre La Invasión. 5th ed. Panamá: Manfer, S.A., 2004, online: http://bdigital.binal.ac.pa/bdp/laverdadsobrelainvasion.pdf. A critical view of the invasion by Panamanian University Professor Olmedo Beluche (in Spanish).
Johns, Christina J., and P. Ward Johnson. State Crime, the Media, and the Invasion of Panama. New York: Praeger, 1993. Sociology Professor Christina Johns and American Red Cross organizer P. Ward Johnson examine the U.S. “war on drugs” and media demonization of Manuel Noriega.
Quigley, John. “The Legality of the United States Invasion of Panama.” Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 15, Issue 2 (1990), online: https://digitialcommons.law.yale.edu/yjil/vol15/iss2/3. Should be titled the illegality of the U.S. invasion of Panama under international law, as solid arguments are put forth to that end.
The Panama Deception
, a 91-minute American-made documentary film, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1993. The film surveys the extensive damage done by the invasion and highlights media censorship by the U.S. government. Interviews with Panamanians are interspersed with musical scores by Jackson Browne, Sting, and others.
For a study in contrasting interpretations of the Panama invasion, see former Attorney General Ramsey Clark’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama, The U.S. Invasion of Panama: The Truth Behind Operation “Just Cause” (Boston: South End Press, 1991), which highlights the brutality of the invasion, raises questions as to its legality, and includes a section on “Voices from Panama,” and Thomas Donnelly, Margaret Roth, and Caleb Baker’s Operation Just Cause: The Storming of Panama (New York: Lexington Books, 1991), which assumes the truth of U.S. justifications and offers a Washington-centered account of the invasion. Both are detailed in their descriptions.
Persian Gulf War
Clark, Ramsey. The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf. New York: Thunder Mouth’s Press, 1992. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and an independent commission provide details on the war, the media, and international law – a lawyer’s case against the U.S. government.
Eddington, Patrick G. Gassed in the Gulf: The Inside Story of the Pentagon – CIA Cover-Up of Gulf War Syndrome. Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse.com, 1997. Documents the extent of U.S. casualties due to released chemical and nerve agents and the difficulty of gaining recognition and treatment for U.S. veterans.
MacArthur, John R. Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1992. An investigative report by the publisher of Harper’s Magazine on media manipulation by the Bush administration.
Marciano, John. Civic Illiteracy and Education: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of American Youth (Chapter 6), 1997, republished in Counterpoints, Vol. 23: 145-176, https://www.jstor.org/stable/42975127. With a focus on teaching critical thinking, examines official and contrasting interpretations of the Persian Gulf War.
“To Sell A War: Gulf War Atrocity Propaganda
,” a 28½ minute documentary produced by InfoWars Recast, available on YouTube. First aired in December 1992 by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, the film investigates the incubator story (false testimony presented to Congress in October 1990) and other propaganda, interviewing key players.
“Humanitarian intervention” – general:
Evans, Gareth, and Mohamed Sahnoun. The Responsibility to Protect: Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2001. This 86-page report explains the rationales and methods of the developing Responsibility to Protect principle in international relations.
Herman, Edward S., and David Peterson. The Politics of Genocide. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010. Online: https://libcom.org/files/Edward_Herman_and_David_Peterson_The_Politics_of_Genocide__2010.pdf. Examines how the term “genocide” is constructed and unevenly applied to various slaughters, arguing that its use generally conforms to Western biases and interests.
Köchler, Hans. The Concept of Humanitarian Intervention in the Context of Modern Power Politics. Vienna: International Progress Organization, 2001. Online: http://hanskoechler.com/koechler-humanitarian-intervention.pdf. Provides historical context and sagely legal commentary on the misuse of “humanitarian intervention” by great powers.
Menon, Rajan. The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. Explores a wide range of views on humanitarian intervention by scholars from various fields. Useful for engaging students in the ongoing debate.
Orford, Anne. “Muscular Humanitarianism: Reading the Narratives of the New Interventionism.” European Journal of International Law 10, no. 4 (1999): 679–711. Online: http://www.ejil.org/pdfs/10/4/606.pdf. Explains how humanitarian interventionism is framed as a savior story, with the hero possessing “the attributes of that version of aggressive white masculinity produced in the late twentieth-century US culture, a white masculinity obsessed with competitive militarism and the protection of universal (read imperial) values” (p. 709).
Schmidt, Elizabeth. Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror
. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Free download here
(scroll down). Chronicles foreign political and military interventions in Africa from periods of decolonization (1956–1975) to the “global war on terror” (2001–2010). See also, Schmidt, “Conflict in Africa: The Historical Roots of Current Problems,” Perspectives on History
, July 26, 2016, https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/summer-2016/conflict-in-africa-the-historical-roots-of-current-problems.
Diriye Abdullahi, Mohamed. Fiasco in Somalia: US-UN Intervention. Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa, 1998. A view of the U.S.-UN mission by a multi-lingual journalist and a native of Somalia who emigrated to Canada.
Gibbs, David N. “Realpolitick and Humanitarian Intervention: The Case of Somalia,” International Politics, 37 (March 2000): 41-55. Online: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Realpolitik-and-humanitarian-intervention%3A-The-case-Gibbs/7b239fc370ed7c65de068cd78856b6103ec1497e#citing-papers. “While altruistic concerns may have had some influence on US conduct,” writes history professor Gibbs, “this study finds that humanitarianism was (at best) mixed with considerations of national interest,” these being the maintenance of “traditional spheres of influence for reasons of national power and prestige, as well as gaining access to potential oil supplies.”
Hirsch, John L., and Robert B. Oakley, Somalia and Operation Restore Hope: Reflections on Peacemaking and Peacekeeping (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, 1995). Oakley, a U.S. special envoy and political advisor to the relief effort, was sharply critical of the shift to military operations.
Sahnoun, Mohamed Somalia: The Missed Opportunities (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, 1994). Sahnoun was appointed by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to head the UNOSOM I mission and fired from his job after criticizing the militarization of the aid program.
Blum, William. “Haiti 1986-1994: Who Will Rid Me of This Turbulent Priest?” In Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1998). Highlights U.S.-CIA connections with rightist groups in Haiti.
Hallward, Peter. Damning the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment. London: Verso, 2012. Examines Bertrand Aristide’s presidency and his overthrow in the context of class divisions, noting a “tiny ruling class” of one percent that owns half the nation’s wealth forging alliances with foreign powers in opposition to Aristide’s democratic revolution from below.
Sprague, Jeb. Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012. Sprague, an investigative journalist, focuses on the 2004 coup that ousted Bertrand Aristide, with the U.S. supporting his ouster this time.
Rwanda (The following studies place the Rwandan slaughters of 1994 in the context of long-standing great power economic and political rivalries)
Mamdani, Mahmood. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and Genocide in Rwanda. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Cameron, Hazel. Britain’s Hidden Role in the Rwandan Genocide: The Cat’s Paw. London: Routledge, 2013.
Epstein, Helen C. Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War on Terror. New York: Columbia Global Reports, 2017.
Madsen, Wayne. Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1999. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999.
Clark, Howard. Civil Resistance in Kosovo. London: Pluto Press, 2000. Clark, a coordinator for the War Resisters International, examines alternatives to war in Kosovo.
Gibbs, David N. First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009. Provides an in-depth look at U.S.-NATO interventions in the former Yugoslavia and their unpalatable results, challenging the dominant heroic story of Western nations saving Bosnia and Kosovo.
Judah, Tim. Kosovo: War and Revenge. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000. Judah, a British journalist, provides a well-researched overview of developments in Kosovo. He is also the author of The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Yale Univ. Press, 2009).
Köchler, Hans. “The NATO War of 1999 and the Impotence of International Law,” Lecture delivered at Institute of International Politics and Economics in Belgrade, 22 March 2019, published in Global Research, April 5, 2019, https://www.globalresearch.ca/nato-war-1999-impotence-international-law/5673730. Points out the contradiction of the U.S. and NATO acting as global policemen while defying international legal principles and sidelining the United Nations.
Cohen, Stephen. Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001.
Foglesong, David. The American Mission and the “Evil Empire:” The Crusade for a “Free Russia” Since 1881. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Kuzmarov, Jeremy, and John Marciano. The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018.
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