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The Big Answer


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How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States

a book by Daniel Immerwahr

(our site's book review)

The History of the Greater United States Is Largely Unknown Domestically

The Amazon blurb says that A pathbreaking history of the United States’ overseas possessions and the true meaning of its empire.

We are familiar with maps that outline all fifty states. And we are also familiar with the idea that the United States is an “empire,” exercising power around the world. But what about the actual territories—the islands, atolls, and archipelagos—this country has governed and inhabited?

In How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States, Daniel Immerwahr tells the fascinating story of the United States outside the United States. In crackling, fast-paced prose, he reveals forgotten episodes that cast American history in a new light. We travel to the Guano Islands, where prospectors collected one of the nineteenth century’s most valuable commodities, and the Philippines, site of the most destructive event on U.S. soil. In Puerto Rico, Immerwahr shows how U.S. doctors conducted grisly experiments they would never have conducted on the mainland and charts the emergence of independence fighters who would shoot up the U.S. Congress.

The Philippines was the site of the most destructive event on U.S. soil (it is a US territory)
The Philippines was the site of the most destructive event on U.S. soil (it is a US territory)

In the years after World War II, Immerwahr notes, the United States moved away from colonialism. Instead, it put innovations in electronics, transportation, and culture to use, devising a new sort of influence that did not require the control of colonies. Rich with absorbing vignettes, full of surprises, and driven by an original conception of what empire and globalization mean today, How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States is a major and compulsively readable work of history.

Might Makes Right is how the U.S. military acts around the world; the problem is they keep proving Might Makes Stupid
Might Makes Right is how the U.S. military acts around the world; the problem is they keep proving Might Makes Stupid

The United States Built 800 Military Bases Worldwide to Achieve Hegemony—It Didn't Need Colonies to Take Care Of

This book is about much more than a history of territories, colonies and possessions of the USA. It's also a history of how and why the United States evolved to control so much of the happenings around the world without creating additional formal colonies like the "territories" that exist in this legal limbo. Part of How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States's goal is to show precisely how US imperialism has been made to be more cost-effective and also more invisible than formal colonies.

This book does the nation a service by peering behind the curtain and facing the sobering truth of how we came to be what we are
This book does the nation a service by peering behind the curtain and facing the sobering truth of how we came to be what we are

There are still apologists of US imperialism. It is an active force that contradicts the United States' professed values and that needs to be actively dismantled. Some reviewers' attempts at discrediting this book reflect a denialism of US imperial realities that has endured throughout the history that this book summarizes. One might ask why we cannot put such things behind us. The simple answer is that we've never fully faced these events before in an honest and open way. How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States does the nation a service by peering behind the curtain and facing the sobering truth of how we came to be what we are.

How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States is an easy read, as Immerwahr makes each part of it interesting in an easy-to-relate-to way. The book is also a difficult read, as the first half is a litany of mistreatment of non-whites in our territories by our government, most of the examples not well-known by those that study American history. The second half of the book branches off into a long discussion of WWII and how the US and English took over the world in so many aspects of life. Basically empire building without building an actual empire is a clever way to get hegemony and security without paying the bill, but mostly just borrowing money from others—like China and Japan. How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States is a fascinating read, but a little left-leaning. It will please the political correctness crowd, since it supports their basic narrative of evil whites and victimized nonwhites.

The U.S. military bullies dropping a little 'democracy' on Middle Eastern citizens, demonstrating why in the eyes of much of the world the prime rogue state today is the United States
The U.S. military bullies dropping a little 'democracy' on Middle Eastern citizens, demonstrating why in the eyes of much of the world the prime rogue state today is the United States


U.S. neocons' imperialism and warmongering is out of control yet the Congress tasked with stopping such abuses is mute—something smells rotten in Washington! The game is rigged
U.S. neocons' imperialism and warmongering is out of control yet the Congress tasked with stopping such abuses is mute—something smells rotten in Washington! The game is rigged

Books Showing That Our Imperialism Needs to Be Actively Dismantled:


The USA Is Known to Be Pursuing Empire by Everyone in the World Except U.S. Citizens

An American military base
An American military base


Neocons do not care what happens to our young or to Mideast citizens—they care about their own power and wealth, and see citizens as mere cannon fodder—a means to an end
Neocons do not care what happens to our young or to Mideast citizens—they care about their own power and wealth, and see citizens as mere cannon fodder—a means to an end

"What the United States has now is a 'pointillist empire': specks of land scattered around the world that have served as military bases, staging grounds, detention facilities, torture sites. (The United States has 800 overseas bases, whereas Russia has nine; most countries have zero.) If Theodore Roosevelt was the swashbuckling emblem of the country’s formal empire, Herbert Hoover — 'an astonishingly capable bureaucrat' before he became a not-very-capable president — represented the turn toward globalization, standardization and logistics. . . . 'How to Hide an Empire' nimbly combines breadth and sweep with fine-grained attention to detail. The result is a provocative and absorbing history of the United States — 'not as it appears in its fantasies, but as it actually is.'" (Source: ‘How to Hide an Empire’ Shines Light on America’s Expansionist Side, Jennifer Szalai, New York Times)

Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt has put us all in deep doo-doo—but our leaders do not seem to care!
Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt has put us all in deep doo-doo—but our leaders do not seem to care!

"In the early years of the Iraq war, the idea of the United States as an imperial power was, for a moment, a subject of serious debate. Longstanding left-wing critics of empire like Noam Chomsky were now joined by conservative hawks such as Niall Ferguson in agreeing that the United States was an empire, though they differed deeply on whether this was a good thing. . . . This 'Greater United States' includes not only Puerto Rico, whose colonial status is at least widely recognized if not deeply considered, but also other territories ranging from rocks covered in bird excrement to the approximately 800 military bases that the United States still operates around the world. (Britain and France have 13 bases combined; Russia has nine.)" (Source: Off the Map: How the United States reinvented empire, Patrick Iber, New Republic)


The Neocon Plan: for World Hegemony, Shake Their Hand While Picking Their Pocket

The Neocon plan: for world hegemony, shake their hand while picking their pocket
The Neocon plan: for world hegemony, shake their hand while picking their pocket

As Immerwahr says, "The country perceives itself to be a republic, not an empire. It was born in an anti-imperialist revolt and has fought empires ever since, from Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich and the Japanese Empire to the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union. It even fights empires in its dreams. Star Wars, a saga that started with a rebellion against the Galactic Empire. . . At various times, the inhabitants of the [colonial parts of] U.S. Empire have been shot, shelled, starved, interned, dispossessed, tortured, and experimented on. What they haven’t been, by and large, is seen. . . . By 1863, the government had annexed fifty-nine islands. By the time the last claim was filed, in 1902, the United States’ oceanic empire encompassed ninety-four guano islands. Sometime later, after the islands had been stripped of their nitrogen-rich bird droppings, the Government realized that they were strategic: Aviation meant they could serve as landing strips; radio meant they could host transmitters."

By the time the last claim was filed, in 1902, the United States’ oceanic empire encompassed ninety-four guano islands which were stripped of their guano for use as fertilizer
By the time the last claim was filed, in 1902, the United States’ oceanic empire encompassed ninety-four guano islands which were stripped of their guano for use as fertilizer—and from the birds' point of view, they saw it as a kind act, cleaning the birds' toilets for free and without even being asked


Then the U.S. realized that the flatter among the islands would make dandy landing strips for military planes
Then the U.S. realized that the flatter among the islands would make dandy landing strips for military planes

Puerto Rico Is Not Substantively Different Than Washington, DC. in Federal Status

"Puerto Rico is the result of America inheriting Spain’s imperial mantle, its status as a US territory with US citizens, yet without representation in the federal government and whose self-rule is at the pleasure and whim of Congress, is in this not substantively different than Washington, DC. . . . One thing that distinguishes American empire from others, however, is that America was usually wary about ruling other peoples, not to mention integrating them into the United States proper." (Source: “How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States” by Daniel Immerwahr, Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books)

Puerto Rico is not substantively different than Washington, DC. in federal status
Puerto Rico is not substantively different than Washington, DC. in federal status

". . . the name of the country from the get-go was the United States of America. But from the first day of the country’s history, from the first day when the United States received its independence from Britain, it wasn’t a union of states. It was an amalgamation of states and territories. There wasn’t a lot of guidance in the Constitution about what was to be done with the territories, but ultimately they were under the power of Congress."

"The Northwest Ordinance set a pattern whereby territories could be upgraded to states. But two things were notable about that pattern. First of all, in order to be upgraded to states, according to the Northwest Ordinance, they had to be populated by white people. So, the idea was that nonwhite populations within them wouldn’t really count. And it wasn’t until the territories were sufficiently populated by white people that they would be accepted as states. The other really important thing to realize is, that’s just a guidance. Congress can do whatever it wants, and it has done whatever it wants. It has held territories back from statehood, often for decades. Oklahoma took more than a century before it became a state. " (Source: “How to Hide an Empire”: Daniel Immerwahr on the History of the Greater United States, Democracy Now)

United States 1789-08-1790-04
Map of the states and territories of the United States as it was on August 7, 1789, when the Northwest Territory was organized

The Record of the American Empire (and the Lies It Tells about It) Is Not a Pretty One

"But . . . often . . . they would leave [behind] misery and squalor. The record of the American Empire is not a pretty one. But it is one that must be faced honestly and forthrightly if the United States is ever to undertake the kind of fundamental structural reforms that will allow it to play a leading role in advancing rather than retarding the progress of humanity." (Source: The Concise Untold History of the United States, Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Big Answer)

In the U.S., instead of death squads, coups, tyrant installing, and other messy things like that to get public acceptance of our imperialism and rule by our corporatocracy's oligarchs (which is how the U.S. handled it last century), we killed truth, not people. And we hid both our empire and our imperialism from citizens' eyes. Or we installed demagogic leaders who favored "alternative facts"—a demagogic favorite. The corporatocracy representatives, with the media's and the CIA's help, "manufactured consent," which required endless repetition of lies (WMDs in Iraq so we must attack them) until people concluded they must be true, having liars write books of lies and go to the media and lie on talk shows, and then get academics and think tanks all parroting the party line. The truth is an irrelevancy. What matters is the effectiveness of the propaganda.


U.S. Propaganda Is Very Effective and Merciless with Its Media Collaborators:


Truth — Rest In Peace
Truth — Rest In Peace


How long will the media continue to try to tell us, via mass media propaganda lies and U.S. history books' misinformation, that we are the guys in the white hats launching wars to democratize and liberate nations from guys in black hats?
How long will the media continue to try to tell us, via mass media propaganda lies and U.S. history books' misinformation, that we are the guys in the white hats launching wars to democratize and liberate nations from guys in black hats?