Cynthia McKinney Is An American Heroine
How the US Creates Sh*thole Countries
Reviewed by Danny Haiphong in Black Agenda Report
Cynthia McKinney has been on the frontlines of the struggle for global peace for decades. Known first as a dissenting voice in Congress and then for her work in exposing the truth about the U.S.-led wars on the Palestinian, Libyan, and Black people here in the United States, McKinney’s voice is seldom heard in the arena of corporate politics. She has long understood that one of the most critical tasks of this historical juncture is the mobilization of the masses to stop the endless wars waged by U.S. Empire. In a series of essays written by activists, scholars, and analysts from across the political spectrum, McKinney shows through practice what this should look like. Her new book How the U.S. Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries is an invaluable piece of literature that seeks to transform anti-war ideas into an anti-war movement.
The book challenges the liberal ethos that Trump’s vulgar “sh*thole” comments in January of 2018 were some aberration or detached from reality. Liberal elites work hard to erase the realities of racism and war by claiming the moral high ground of respectability politics. Their criticisms of Trump center around his foul language to distract from the role that they play in the creation of “sh*thole” countries. McKinney and the rest of the authors condemn Trump for characterizing Haiti and African nations such as Nigeria as “sh*tholes while attempting to answer a question that neither racist demagogues nor liberal elites dare to ask: What exactly causes the massive suffering experienced around the world?
“How the U.S. Creates ‘Sh*thole’ seeks to transform anti-war ideas into an anti-war movement.”
The text wastes no time in identifying the U.S. as the primary source of the “sh*thole” conditions found in every corner of the planet. U.S.-led devastation is broken down into four sections. The first section lays bare the broad effects of U.S. imperialism worldwide and the millions of people that the system has displaced, impoverished, and murdered. More specific cases are presented in the next section, including the U.S. role in the colonial occupation of the Palestinian people and the contemporary impact of the U.S.’ use of Agent Orange chemical warfare and landmines to kill and poison the Vietnamese people. The last two sections deal with the propaganda mill of the U.S. Empire. Contributors end the text by conducting a thorough analysis of how the U.S. is itself a “sh*thole” country.
What makes this book special is the purpose behind it. From the first page, it is obvious that the authors are not merely attempting to teach others about the horrors of U.S. foreign policy. This is an important function of the text but not its central one. As McKinney herself explains in the introduction, “This book presents new analyses of old narratives that wither under scientific scrutiny and calls for a new, innovative vision for US policy created by courageous leadership, like that shown everyday by the contributors of this book.”
“U.S. imperialism has displaced, impoverished, and murdered millions.”
Indeed, the book unites a range of voices with years of experience in the struggle for peace against a backdrop of endless American warfare. Brian Wilson, who lost his legs blocking munitions transfers to Nicaragua during the U.S. contra wars, details his visit to El Salvador where he learned of the extensive role that the U.S. played in the proxy war (1980-1992) on the FMLN and the massive displacement and death roll left in its wake. Former editor of the New African magazine Baffour Ankomah analyzes the corporate plunder of several African nations and its role in creating massive levels of impoverishment and instability in the resource-rich continent. In Ghana, for example, Ankomah explains how large multinational mining corporations have expatriated over half of their profits while paying zero dollars in taxes back to the national government. Such an outcome, according to Ankomah, is the rule rather than the exception for most African nations.
Human rights lawyer Christopher Black and this writer contribute analysis regarding why the truth about U.S. empire is so hard to disseminate. The first two sections of the book detailing the extensive U.S. record of creating “sh*tholes” abroad are thus intimately connected to the last two sections which concern the deplorable conditions right here in the center of the imperial albatross and the imperial propaganda that facilitates popular obedience to the destruction. This book makes clear that it is impossible to understand the suffering of the masses in nations such as Somalia without studying and condemning the narratives that justify the policies that create “sh*thole” conditions. As Christopher Black explains, “. . . propaganda is used to provoke war, to sustain war, to turn other people, declared to be the enemy, into beings that need to be killed. It robs them of their humanity, of their kinship with us, their desires and dreams, and makes them into vermin to be destroyedwith ease and even joy in the killing.”
“Corporate plunder creates massive levels of impoverishment and instability on the African continent.”
From Puerto Rico to Ghana, Venezuela to Palestine, the U.S. has spread the misery of its “sh*thole” model in the service of corporate profit and military domination. Despite this reality, the peace movement in the U.S. remains small and ineffectual. How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries seeks to reverse the contradiction between the dire conditions before us and the relatively stagnant political waters in which we swim. It is an effective intervention which offers a wealth of public information to counter a system based on the accumulation of private wealth from the spoils of war. Regardless of whatever one thinks of Trump as an individual, his use of “sh*thole” offered an opportunity to explain the realities of U.S. foreign policy to the people and the contributors of the book seized the time.
It is only fitting that the plight of the U.S. poor concludes the text. U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike pay dearly for the wars that cause “sh*thole” conditions at home and abroad. The deplorable conditions of poor people and working people in the U.S. continue to worsen. Mired in debt and unable to afford healthcare and the necessities of life, poor and working people in the U.S. have little stake in the wars carried out on the poor in distant nations. Contributing authors such as Richard Falk and Robin Eastman Abaya make this abundantly clear.
“Propaganda makes people into vermin to be destroyed.”
How the U.S. Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countriesis a must-read for those looking to politically educate themselves and others about the causes and effects of the U.S. Empire’s foreign policy. This is the first step toward developing and strengthening a much-needed peace movement in this period where the crisis of U.S. imperialism threatens to engulf the world in endless, potentially nuclear wars with the rising powers to the East, Russia and China. The warmongers, the war-makers, and the corporate elite will not promote this book. It will be up to the forces of peace and justice in the world to elevate its message and popularize its analysis before it is too late.