Review: Good Muslim, Bad Muslim–America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Culture, Research, Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Religion & Politics of Religion

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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired, Disciplined, Nuanced, Nobel-Level Thinking,

August 13, 2004
Mahmood Mamdani
This is an inspired, disciplined, nuanced, Nobel-level book, and if it ends up saving America from itself, then it would surely qualify the author for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is the first of three “must read” books that I am reviewing today, and it is first because the other two are best appreciated after absorbing this one. The other two books are “IMPERIAL HUBRIS” and “OSAMA'S REVENGE.”

The main weakness of this book is the author's lack of strong criticism of Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and of other states that are corrupt, repressive, and therefore a huge part of the problem. Having said that, here are some of the key points:

– “West” pioneered genocide, expulsions, and religious wars, with Spanish genocide of Indians in Americas, and Spanish expulsion of first the Jews and then the Muslims as critical starting points in understanding Muslim rage today
– America adopted terrorism as a preferred means of fighting proxy wars in both Central America and Africa, when Reagan began “rollback” with the same neo-conservative advisors that guide Bush II today.
– West has four dogmas as summed up by Edward Said (who is admired by the author): 1) that Orient is aberrant, undeveloped and inferior; 2) that Orient is inflexibly tied to old religions texts, unable to adapt; 3) that Orient is inflexibly uniform and unable to do nuances; and 4) Orient is either to be feared (Green or Yellow or Brown Peril) or controlled.
– Fundamentalism actually started in the US among the Christians seeking to insert religion into the state's business and ultimately demanding faith and loyalty as the litmus tests for acceptance.
– Earlier generations of Islamic reformists disavowed violence, but ended up adopting violence after being in state prisons (e.g. Egypt).
– Earlier incarnations of a Muslim revival were in the open literature in the 1920's and then in the 1960's, and lastly in the 1980's to date–our national “intelligence” agencies appear to have missed the importance of all three
– Viet-Nam, Africa, and Central America all fostered extremely unhealthy connections between CIA covert operations and the drug trade, with CIA routinely condoning and often actively enabling massive drug operations and related money laundering, as the “price” of moving forward on covert operations.
– The obsession with winning the Cold War at all costs essentially destroyed U.S. foreign policy and set U.S. up as the enemy of the Third World [see Derek Leebaert's “The Fifty-Year Wound”].
– Morality in the US has been perverted, as the extreme right, joining with extreme Zionists, has “captured” the U.S. government in both Congressional and Executive terms. Orwellian “spin” together with the labeling of all dissent, made possible by media corporations “going along”, has destroyed any possibility of informed, objective, or actually moral dialog.
– The Central American campaign pioneered the privatization of terrorism and proxy war by the US, with secrecy and deception of the US public being the principal role of the US government.
– The US Government is explicitly accountable for introducing bio-chemical weapons into the Iraqi arsenal, and thus accountable for the genocide and war crimes attendant to their use.
– US (AID) sponsored textbooks, such as those created by the University of Nebraska, routinely used terrorism against Russians as examples in the mathematic and other textbooks being distributed in Afghanistan.
– CIA's main contribution to the destabilization of the world has been in its Afghan-related privatization of information about how to produce and spread violence, and its training of tens of thousands of jihad warriors from all over the world who have now returned home and are teaching and leading others.
– Under US leadership, Afghanistan has gone from providing 5% of the global opium production in 1980, to 71% in 1990, and even more today–much of which comes to the US.
– America not only accepts massive drug activities as part of the “cost of doing business”, but also ignores human rights in its rush to cozy up to corrupt dictators.
– From an Iraqi point of view, the 1.5 million or so children that died in Iraq due to the sanctions, must be seen as a major war crime and a form of terrorism, together with the air war with its indiscriminate murder of thousands if not tens of thousands civilians including women and children. The US has killed more civilians in Iraq than it did in Japan with two atomic bombs. Napalm and depleted uranium are disabling US troops as well as Iraqi civilians long after their use in the field.
– Economic sanctions, when they have the impact they did in Iraq, must be considered weapons of mass destruction, their application terrorism, and their results war crimes.
– The US Government's general disdain for the rule of law, but the incumbent Administration's particular focus on ignoring treaties and refusing accountability (e.g. for war crimes) sets a new low standard for immoral behavior by nation-states.
– The UN Secretary-General was forced by the US to ignore the Rwandan genocide because of a US desire to keep everyone focused on Sarajevo, and continues to us its veto power to prevent UN from being effective against racist Zionism, which is routinely committing crimes against humanity with its Palestinian campaign.

The author concludes, without sounding inflammatory, that America was built on two monumental crimes: the genocide of the Native Americans, and the enslavement of African Americans. His point: the US is in denial over this reality, while the rest of the world is completely aware of it. He agrees with Jonathan Schell, concluding as Schell does in “Unconquerable World,” that the challenge of our times is in “how to subdue and hold accountable the awesome power that the United States built up during the Cold War.” The last sentence is quite powerful: “America cannot occupy the world. It has to learn to live in it.”

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Review: Breaking the Real Axis of Evil–How to Oust the World’s Last Dictators by 2025

6 Star Top 10%, America (Anti-America), Congress (Failure, Reform), Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Military & Pentagon Power, Philosophy, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Strategy, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

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5.0 out of 5 stars Single Most Important Work of the Century for American Moral Diplomacy,

November 30, 2003
Mark Palmer
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links and new comment,

New Comment: In my view, this is the single most important work of the century with respect to American moral diplomacy. I note with concern that under Bush-Cheney “Failed States” have increased from 75 in 2005 to 177 in 2007. We've lost our mind, and our morals, as a Nation.

Ambassador Mark Palmer puts to rest all those generally unfair stereotypes of Foreign Service Officers as “cookie pushing” softies who fall in love with their host countries and blame America for any flaws in the bi-lateral relationship. With this book he provides an inspiring model for precisely what every Foreign Service Officer should aspire: to understand, to articulate, and then to implement very great goals that serve democracy and help extend the bounty of the American way of life–moral capitalism and shared wealth–to every corner of the world.

This is a detailed and practical book, not just visionary. It is useful and inspiring, not just a personal view. It is also a damning indictment of fifty years of US White House and Congressional politics, where in the name of anti-communism and cheap oil America–regardless of which party has been in power, has been willing to consort with the most despotic, ruthless, murderous regimes in the history of mankind. Still alive today and still very much “friends” of the U.S. Government are dictators that think nothing of murdering millions.

There has been some improvement, offset by an increase in partly free countries. From 69 countries not free at all in 1972 we now have 47. From 38 countries partly free in 1972 we now have 56, many of those remnants of the former Soviet Union. Free countries have nearly doubled from 43 to 89, but free and poor is quite a different thing from free and prosperous.

The level of detail and also of brevity in this book is quite satisfying. On the one hand, Ambassador Palmer provides ample and well-documented discussion of the state of the world, on the other he does not belabor the matter–his one to two-paragraph summative descriptions of each of the dictatorships is just enough, just right.

He distinguishes between Personalistic Dictatorships (20, now less Hussein in Iraq); Monarch Dictators (7, with Saudi Arabia being the first in class); Military Dictators (5, with US allies Sudan and Pakistan and 1 and 2 respectively); Communist Dictators (5); Dominant-Party Dictators (7); and lastly, Theocratic Dictators (1, Iran).

Ambassador Palmer makes several important points with this book, and I summarize them here: 1) conventional wisdom of the past has been flawed–we should not have sacrificed our ideals for convenience; 2) dictatorships produce inordinate amounts of collateral damage that threatens the West, from genocide and mass migrations to disease, famine, and crime; 3) there is a business case to be made for ending U.S. support for dictatorships, in that business can profit more from stable democratic regimes over the long-term; and lastly, 4) that the U.S. should sanction dictators, not their peoples, and we can begin by denying them and all their cronies visas for shopping expeditions in the US.

The book has an action agenda that is worthy, but much more important is the clear and present policy that Ambassador Palmer advocates, one that is consistent with American ideals as well as universal recognition of human rights. Ambassador Palmer's work, on the one hand, shows how hypocritical and unethical past Administrations have been–both Democratic and Republican–and on the other, he provides a clear basis for getting us back on track.

I agree with his proposition that we should have a new Undersecretary for Democracy, with two Assistant Secretaries, one responsible for voluntary democratic transitions, the other for dealing with recalcitrant dictators. Such an expansion of the Department of State would work well with a similar change in the Pentagon, with a new Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Operations and Complex Emergencies, my own idea.

This is a very fine book, and if it helps future Foreign Service Officers to understand that diplomacy is not just about “getting along” but about making very significant changes in the world at large, then Ambassador Palmer's work will be of lasting value to us all.

Also recommended, with reviews:
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People
Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
War Is a Racket: The Anti-War Classic by America's Most Decorated General, Two Other Anti=Interventionist Tracts, and Photographs from the Horror of It
The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter
Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik

Forthcoming on Amazon in February and also free at OSS.Net/CIB:
COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace, edited by Mark Tovey with a Foreword by Yochai Benkler and an Afterword by the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada. I have high hopes for all of us finally getting it right (Winston Churchill: “The Americans always do the right thing, they just try everything else first.”) Now is our time to get it right. We can start by electing Senator Barack Obama as our forward-thinking always listening open-minded President.

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Review: The Eagle’s Shadow–Why America Fascinates And Infuriates The World

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback

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5.0 out of 5 stars Of 1000+ Books on National Security, This Is 1 of Top 10,

September 13, 2003
Mark Hertsgaard
Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links.

This review has been edited (giving up 14 votes) to eliminate an inappropriate and premature designation of Howard Dean as “the one”. Regardless of who helps America to regain its balance, this book is 1 of a handfull utterly brilliant contributions that everyone should buy and read and discuss.

As the only reviewer for Amazon who focuses exclusively on national security non-fiction, across the categories of information; intelligence; emerging threats; strategy & force structure; blowback, international relations, and dissent; and US political, leadership, and the future of life; I want to say quite clearly that I regard this book as one of the three “must reads” for every American between now and November 2008. The other two are #1 William Greider, The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, and #2, Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People.

This book is solid, serious truth-telling. Those reviewers, including the so-called professional editorial reviewers, who demean this book are simply revealing their narrow self-centered arrogance–precisely the quality in many Americans that is most distressing to the rest of the world. I find it of considerable importance that this book is favorably considered by the major intellectual newspapers and magazines across Europe and in the US, and including The Economist, the Christian Scientist Monitor, and Salon.com.

Easy to read, well-organized, this is a story, not a documentary, and it should be appreciated in that light. On page 10 the book's main argument is perfectly captured by a quote from a South African: “we know everything about you [Americans] and you know nothing about us.” Therein lies the problem. As the author notes later in the book, after a review of the decrepitude of both our media and our educational systems in relation to foreign affairs and national security, “Ignorance is an excuse, but it is no shield.”

Although I have reviewed many other books that have much more detail and are more documentary in nature, I give this author credit for telling a story that is comprehensible and compelling to the normal citizen, one already disadvantaged by a mediocre news services and functionalist schools that do not teach, as I do, that the world has 32 complex emergencies (failed states), 66 countries distressed by tens of millions of displaced persons, 33 countries with massive starvation as a daily fact of life, 59 countries with plagues and epidemics this very day. There are also 18 genocide campaigns that everyone is ignoring, this very day, massive water scarcity, energy scarcity at the poverty level, and corruption and censorship across 80 and 62 countries. America has no clue….it is not only the average citizen that is ignorant, but the average elected official and the average federal bureaucrat as well. This book helps remedy that situation.

The author does a fine job of distilling both a broad literature and a broad survey of foreign views through direct interview, and it is a job good enough to put this book into my “top three” for the year.

I will end by saying that this book persuaded me that the US has become a Third World nation, a lower-tier disadvantaged nation, in many respects. Apart from the critical infrastructure, which has not been refurbished in a quarter century because of the fraud perpetuated on the public by deregulation, and the massive poverty, prisons, poor health, and so on, what we have in America today is massive injustice and a massive concentration of wealth so outrageous that in any other country it would have led to a violent revolution.

This book has persuaded me that America needs not one, but two Truth & Reconciliation Commissions. We need a Truth & Reconciliation Commission, ideally managed by Colin Powell, to investigate the perversion of both capitalism and democracy in the US, and to outline a way forward such as William Greider discusses in “The Soul of Capitalism.” We also need, even more desperately, a Truth & Reconciliation Commission, ideally managed by Nelson Mandela and Lee Kuan Yew, to catalog and acknowledge, and apologize to the world for, the war crimes, the unethical behavior, and the enormous political, social, cultural, economic, demographic, and natural resource costs we have imposed on the world through our ignorance and arrogance.

There are six billion people out there, waiting to see how America handles the emerging Reichstag known as the neo-conservative Cheney-Bush regime. We cannot kill them nor contain them with force–as Jonathan Schell notes in “The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People,” there is one path and one path only toward a bright future: non-violent cooperative collective power.

If every American reads this book, and every American votes in an informed manner in November 2008, we can save the world and in the process save America.

Other recommended recent books:
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
Independents Day: Awakening the American Spirit
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions – and What to Do About It

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Review: The Unconquerable World–Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People

7 Star Top 1%, America (Anti-America), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Consciousness & Social IQ, Cosmos & Destiny, Democracy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Future, History, Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Public), Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Philosophy, Public Administration, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized)
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5.0 out of 5 stars7 Star Life Transformative  Restores Faith, Non-Violent Restoration of People Power,

September 13, 2003
Jonathan Schell

Edit of 21 Dec 07 to add links

This book, together with William Geider's The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, and Mark Hertsgaard's The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World, in one of three that I believe every American needs to read between now and November 2004.

Across 13 chapters in four parts, the author provides a balanced overview of historical philosophy and practice at both the national level “relations among nations” and the local level (“relations among beings”). His bottom line: that the separation of church and state, and the divorce of social responsibility from both state and corporate actions, have so corrupted the political and economic governance architectures as to make them pathologically dangerous.

His entire book discusses how people can come together, non-violently, to restore both their power over capital and over circumstances, and the social meaning and values that have been abandoned by “objective” corporations and governments.

The book has applicability to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where the US is foolishly confusing military power with political power. As he says early on, it is the public *will* that must be gained, the public *consent* to a new order–in the absence of this, which certainly does not exist in either Iraq or Afghanistan, no amount of military power will be effective (to which I would add: and the cumulative effect of the financial and social cost of these military interventions without end will have a reverse political, economic, and social cost on the invader that may make the military action a self-inflicted wound of great proportions).

Across the book, the author examines three prevailing models for global relations: the universal empire model, the balance of power model, and the collective security model. He comes down overwhelmingly on the side of the latter as the only viable approach to current and future global stability and prosperity.

A quote from the middle of the book captures its thesis perfectly: “Violence is a method by which the ruthless few can subdue the passive many. Nonviolence is a means by which the active many can overcome the ruthless few.”

Taking off from the above, the author elaborates on three sub-themes:

First, that cooperative power is much greater, less expensive, and more lasting that coercive power.

Second, that capitalism today is a scourge on humanity, inflicting far greater damage–deaths, disease, poverty, etcetera–that military power, even the “shock and awe” power unleashed against Afghanistan and Iraq without public debate.

Third, and he draws heavily on Hannah Arendt, here a quote that should shame the current US Administration because it is so contradictory to their belief in “noble lies”–lies that Hitler and Goering would have admired. She says, “Power is actualized only where word and deed have not parted company, where words are not empty and deeds not brutal, where words are not used to veil intentions but to disclose realities, and deeds are not used to violate and destroy but to establish relations and create new realities.”

Toward the end of the book the author addresses the dysfunctionality of the current “absolute sovereignty” model and concludes that in an era of globalization, not only must the US respect regional and international sovereignty as an over-lapping authority, but that we must (as Richard Falk recommended in the 1970's) begin to recognize people's or nations as distinct entities with culturally-sovereign rights that over-lap the states within which the people's reside–this would certainly apply to the Kurds, spread across several states, and it should also apply to the Jews and to the Palestinians, among many others.

On the last page, he says that we have a choice between survival and annihilation. We can carry on with unilateral violence, or we the people can take back the power, change direction, and elect a government that believes in cooperative non-violence, the only path to survival that appears to the author, and to this reviewer, as viable.

This is a *very* important book, and it merits careful reading by every adult who wishes to leave their children a world of peace and prosperity. We can do better. What we are doing now is destructive in every sense of the word.

Other recommended books with reviews:
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025
Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik
Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart
The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back
A Foreign Policy of Freedom: Peace, Commerce, and Honest Friendship

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Review: Why Do People Hate America?

5 Star, America (Anti-America), Diplomacy, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback

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5.0 out of 5 stars Ben Franklin & James Madison Would Have Praised This Book,

May 26, 2003
Ziauddin Sardar
The heart of this book is not why people hate America, but rather on how Americans have lost touch with reality.This book joins three others books I have reviewed and recommend separately, as the “quartet for revolution” in how Americans must demand access to reliable information about the real world. They are Bill McKibben on “The Age of Missing Information” (a day in the woods contrasted with a year reviewing a day's worth of non-information on broadcast television); Anne Branscomb's “Who Owns Information” (not the citizen); and Roger Shattuck, “Forbidden Knowledge.” These are the higher level books–there are many others, both on the disgrace of the media and the abuse of secrecy by government, as well as on such excellent topics as “Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy” by William Greider, and “The Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom.

Here are a few points made by this book that every American needs to understand if we are to restore true democracy, true freedom of the press, and true American values to our foreign policy, which has been hijacked by neo-conservative corporate interests:

1) “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Dr. Samuel Johnson said this in 1775, on the eve of US revolution from British tyranny. When patriotism is used to suppress dissent, to demand blind obedience, and to commit war crimes “in our name,” then patriotism has lost its meaning.

2) According to the authors, Robert Kaplan and Thomas Friedman are flat out *wrong* when they suggest that “they” hate us for our freedoms, the success of our economy, for our rich cultural heritage. Most good-hearted Americans simply have no idea how big the gap is between our perception of our goodness and the rest of the world's perception of our badness (in terms set forth below).

3) According to the authors, a language dies every two weeks. Although there are differing figures on how many languages are still active today (between 3,000 and 5,500), the point is vital. If language is the ultimate representation of a distinct and unique culture that is ideally suited to the environment in which it has flourished over the past millenium, then the triple strikes of English displacing the language, the American “hamburger virus” and city planning displacing all else, and American policy instruments–inclusive of the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund–eliminating any choices before the Third World or even the European policy makers, then America can be said to have been invasive, predatory, and repressive. At multiple levels, from “hate” by Islamic fundamentalists, to “fear and disdain” by French purists, to “annoyance” by Asians to “infatuation” by teenagers, the Americans are seen as way too big for their britches–Americans are the proverbial bull in the china shop, and their leaders lack morals–the failure of America to ratify treaties that honor the right of children to food and health, the failure of America to respect international conventions-the average of two military interventions a year since the Cold War (not to mention two countries invaded but not rescued), all add up to “blowback.”

4) According to the authors, America is “out of control” largely because the people who vote and pay taxes are uninformed. The authors of this book are most articulate. Consider the following quote: “And the power of the American media, as we repeatedly argue, works to keep American people closed to experience and ideas from the rest of the world and thereby increases the insularity, self-absorption, and ignorance that is the overriding problem the rest of the world has with American.”

5) According to the authors, the impact of America overseas can be best summed up as a “hamburger virus” that comes as a complete package, and is especially pathological. McDonalds “serves” rather than “feeds”. The “hamburger culture” is eradicating indigenous cultures everywhere, and often this is leading, decades later, to the realization that those cultures had thrived because they were well suited to the environment–the “hamburger culture” assumes that electricity will provide for air conditioning, that everyone can afford a car once the cities have been paved over, etcetera. When this turns out to not be the case, the losses that have occurred over decades cannot be turned back, and poverty, as well as ethnic strife, are the result.

6) Finally–and the authors have many other points to make in this excellent book, but this is the last one for this “summative” evaluation of their work–according to the authors the USA is what could be considered the ultimate manifestation of the “eighth crusade”, with Christopher Columbus and the destruction of the native American Indians (both North and South) having been the seventh crusade. The authors are most interesting as they define the predominantly Catholic edicts from the Pope and from Kings and Queens, that declared that anyone not speaking their language (and therefore not able to understand their edicts) was a savage, an animal, and therefore suitable for enslavement. In the eyes of much of the world, America is a culturally-oppressive force that is enslaving local governments and local economies for the benefit of a select wealthy elite that live in gated compounds, while demeaning, demoting, and destroying the balance of power and the balance with nature and the balance among tribes, that existed prior to the arrival of American “gunboat diplomacy” and “banana capitalism.”

There you have it. According to the authors:
1) Americans are uninformed about the real world
2) Americans are not in charge of their own foreign policy
3) What is done in the name of all Americans is severely detrimental to the rest of the world, and Americans will pay a heavy price if they allow this “hamburger/gunboat imperialism” to continue.

May God have mercy on our souls, for we know not what we do.

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