The U.S. Wars and Hostile Actions around the Globe: A Preliminary List
But it is a reason that eludes that strain of U.S. academia that first defines war as something that nations and groups other than the United States do, and then concludes that war has nearly vanished from the earth.
Since World War II, during a supposed golden age of peace, the United States military has killed or helped kill some 20 million people, overthrown at least 36 governments, interfered in at least 82 foreign elections, attempted to assassinate over 50 foreign leaders, and dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries. The United States is responsible for the deaths of 5 million people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and over 1 million just since 2003 in Iraq.
For the past almost 16 years, the United States has been systematically destroying a region of the globe, bombing Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria, not to mention the Philippines. The United States has “special forces” operating in two-thirds of the world’s countries and non-special forces in three-quarters of them.
The U.S. government as of 2017 provided military aid to 73% of the world’s dictatorships.
In an attempt to quantify U.S. warmaking, I’ve copied below lists from these sources:
The supreme international crime according to 2017 U.S. media reporting is interferring nonviolently in a democratic election — at least if Russia does it. William Blum, in his book Rogue State, lists over 30 times that the United States has done that. Another study, however, says 81 elections in 47 countries. France 2017 makes that total at least 82.
In a reality-based assessment of U.S. crimes, the serious offenses begin beyond that threshold. Here’s Blum’s list of over 50 foreign leaders whom the United States has attempted to assassinate:
- 1949 – Kim Koo, Korean opposition leader
- 1950s – CIA/Neo-Nazi hit list of more than 200 political figures in West Germany to be “put out of the way” in the event of a Soviet invasion
- 1950s – Chou En-lai, Prime minister of China, several attempts on his life
- 1950s, 1962 – Sukarno, President of Indonesia
- 1951 – Kim Il Sung, Premier of North Korea
- 1953 – Mohammed Mossadegh, Prime Minister of Iran
- 1950s (mid) – Claro M. Recto, Philippines opposition leader
- 1955 – Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India
- 1957 – Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt
- 1959, 1963, 1969 – Norodom Sihanouk, leader of Cambodia
- 1960 – Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Kassem, leader of Iraq
- 1950s-70s – José Figueres, President of Costa Rica, two attempts on his life
- 1961 – Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, leader of Haiti
- 1961 – Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of the Congo (Zaire)
- 1961 – Gen. Rafael Trujillo, leader of Dominican Republic
- 1963 – Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam
- 1960s-70s – Fidel Castro, President of Cuba, many attempts on his life
- 1960s – Raúl Castro, high official in government of Cuba
- 1965 – Francisco Caamaño, Dominican Republic opposition leader
- 1965-6 – Charles de Gaulle, President of France
- 1967 – Che Guevara, Cuban leader
- 1970 – Salvador Allende, President of Chile
- 1970 – Gen. Rene Schneider, Commander-in-Chief of Army, Chile
- 1970s, 1981 – General Omar Torrijos, leader of Panama
- 1972 – General Manuel Noriega, Chief of Panama Intelligence
- 1975 – Mobutu Sese Seko, President of Zaire
- 1976 – Michael Manley, Prime Minister of Jamaica
- 1980-1986 – Muammar Qaddafi, leader of Libya, several plots and attempts upon his life
- 1982 – Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran
- 1983 – Gen. Ahmed Dlimi, Moroccan Army commander
- 1983 – Miguel d’Escoto, Foreign Minister of Nicaragua
- 1984 – The nine comandantes of the Sandinista National Directorate
- 1985 – Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanese Shiite leader (80 people killed in the attempt)
- 1991 – Saddam Hussein, leader of Iraq
- 1993 – Mohamed Farah Aideed, prominent clan leader of Somalia
- 1998, 2001-2 – Osama bin Laden, leading Islamic militant
- 1999 – Slobodan Milosevic, President of Yugoslavia
- 2002 – Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Afghan Islamic leader and warlord
- 2003 – Saddam Hussein and his two sons
- 2011 – Muammar Qaddafi, leader of Libya
Let me know of any updates or corrections, and I’ll add them.
Thanks to Said Zulficar for pointing out the need to add Jaime Roldos, President of Ecuador, assassinated May 1981.
Here is Blum’s list of U.S. attempts to overthrow governments (* indicates success):
- China 1949 to early 1960s
- Albania 1949-53
- East Germany 1950s
- Iran 1953 *
- Guatemala 1954 *
- Costa Rica mid-1950s
- Syria 1956-7
- Egypt 1957
- Indonesia 1957-8
- British Guiana 1953-64 *
- Iraq 1963 *
- North Vietnam 1945-73
- Cambodia 1955-70 *
- Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *
- Ecuador 1960-63 *
- Congo 1960 *
- France 1965
- Brazil 1962-64 *
- Dominican Republic 1963 *
- Cuba 1959 to present
- Bolivia 1964 *
- Indonesia 1965 *
- Ghana 1966 *
- Chile 1964-73 *
- Greece 1967 *
- Costa Rica 1970-71
- Bolivia 1971 *
- Australia 1973-75 *
- Angola 1975, 1980s
- Zaire 1975
- Portugal 1974-76 *
- Jamaica 1976-80 *
- Seychelles 1979-81
- Chad 1981-82 *
- Grenada 1983 *
- South Yemen 1982-84
- Suriname 1982-84
- Fiji 1987 *
- Libya 1980s
- Nicaragua 1981-90 *
- Panama 1989 *
- Bulgaria 1990 *
- Albania 1991 *
- Iraq 1991
- Afghanistan 1980s *
- Somalia 1993
- Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *
- Ecuador 2000 *
- Afghanistan 2001 *
- Venezuela 2002 *
- Iraq 2003 *
- Haiti 2004 *
- Somalia 2007 to present
- Honduras 2009
- Libya 2011 *
- Syria 2012
- Ukraine 2014 *
[arguably, Syria 1949 needs to be added to this list. –DS]
The above list does not include numerous coups by U.S.-trained fighters, such as (other than Honduras) those discussed here: “from Isaac Zida of Burkina Faso, Haiti’s Philippe Biamby, and Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia to Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan, and the IMET-educated leaders of the 2009 coup in Honduras, not to mention Mali’s Amadou Sanogo.” These are just in very recent years, by no means a complete list, though the Haiti coup referenced here was earlier than the one included in the list above.
Here is Blum’s list of nations bombed by the United States:
- Korea and China 1950-53 (Korean War)
- Guatemala 1954
- Indonesia 1958
- Cuba 1959-1961
- Guatemala 1960
- Congo 1964
- Laos 1964-73
- Vietnam 1961-73
- Cambodia 1969-70
- Guatemala 1967-69
- Grenada 1983
- Lebanon 1983, 1984 (both Lebanese and Syrian targets)
- Libya 1986
- El Salvador 1980s
- Nicaragua 1980s
- Iran 1987
- Panama 1989
- Iraq 1991 (Persian Gulf War)
- Kuwait 1991
- Somalia 1993
- Bosnia 1994, 1995
- Sudan 1998
- Afghanistan 1998
- Yugoslavia 1999
- Yemen 2002
- Iraq 1991-2003 (US/UK on regular basis)
- Iraq 2003-2015
- Afghanistan 2001-2015
- Pakistan 2007-2015
- Somalia 2007-8, 2011
- Yemen 2009, 2011
- Libya 2011, 2015
- Syria 2014-2016
[Drone strikes in the Philippines should be added to this list. As perhaps should be all the islands and territories destroyed by test bombings. –DS]
Blum adds these further bombings:
Iran, April 2003 – hit by US missiles during bombing of Iraq, killing at least one person
Pakistan, 2002-03 – bombed by US planes several times as part of combat against the Taliban and other opponents of the US occupation of Afghanistan
China, 1999 – its heavily bombed embassy in Belgrade is legally Chinese territory, and it appears rather certain that the bombing was no accident (see chapter 25 of Rogue State)
France, 1986 – After the French government refused the use of its air space to US warplanes headed for a bombing raid on Libya, the planes were forced to take another, longer route; when they reached Libya they bombed so close to the French embassy that the building was damaged and all communication links knocked out.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, May 13, 1985 – A bomb dropped by a police helicopter burned down an entire block, some 60 homes destroyed, 11 dead, including several small children. The police, the mayor’s office, and the FBI were all involved in this effort to evict a black organization called MOVE from the house they lived in.
If we add in other missing instances and go back to and prior to WWII the list starts to look like this:
Dominican Republic 1915 – 1935
Haiti 1915 – 1934
Logan County, West Virginia 1921
Tulsa, Oklahoma 1921
Honduras 1924, 1925
Nicaragua 1927 – 1933
Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Crete, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Greece, Guam, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Libya, Luxembourg, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Netherlands, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Okinawa, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Saipan, Taiwan (Formosa), Thailand, Tinian, Tunisia, Vietnam (French Indochina), Yugoslavia 1941 – 1945
Marshall Islands, Republic of Kiribati, Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, Mississippi, New Mexico nuclear testing 1945 – 1962
Korea and China 1950 – 1953
Cuba 1959 – 1961
Laos 1964 – 1973
Vietnam 1961 – 1973
Cambodia 1969 – 1970
Guatemala 1967 – 1969
El Salvador 1980s
Lebanon 1983, 1984
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1985
Iraq 1991 – 2017
Bosnia 1994, 1995
Afghanistan 2001 – 2017
Pakistan 2002 – 2003
Pakistan 2007 – 2017
Somalia 2007 – 2008, 2011
Yemen 2009, 2011, 2016-2017
Libya 2011, 2015 – 2017
Syria 2014 – 2017
Then there’s Blum’s list of instances of the United States attempting to suppress a populist or nationalist movement (* indicates success):
- China – 1945-49
- France – 1947 *
- Italy – 1947-1970s *
- Greece – 1947-49 *
- Philippines – 1945-53 *
- Korea – 1945-53 *
- Haiti – 1959 *
- Laos – 1957-73
- Vietnam – 1961-73
- Thailand – 1965-73 *
- Peru – 1965 *
- Dominican Republic – 1965 *
- Uruguay – 1969-72 *
- South Africa – 1960s-1980s
- East Timor – 1975-1999 *
- Philippines – 1970s-1990s *
- El Salvador – 1980-92 *
- Colombia – 1990s to early 2000s *
- Peru – 1997 *
- Iraq – 2003 to present *
Zoltan Grossman provides the following list of all variety of hostile actions:
IRAN 1946, Nuclear threat, Soviet troops told to leave north.
YUGOSLAVIA 1946, Nuclear threat, naval Response to shoot-down of U.S. plane.
URUGUAY 1947, Nuclear threat, Bombers deployed as show of strength.
GREECE 1947-49, Command operation, U.S. directs extreme-right in civil war.
GERMANY 1948, Nuclear Threat, Atomic-capable bombers guard Berlin Airlift.
CHINA 1948-49, Troops/Marines evacuate Americans before Communist victory.
PHILIPPINES 1948-54, Command operation, CIA directs war against Huk Rebellion.
PUERTO RICO 1950, Command operation, Independence rebellion crushed in Ponce.
KOREA 1951-53 (-?), Troops, naval, bombing , nuclear threats, U.S./So. Korea fights China/No. Korea to stalemate; A-bomb threat in 1950, and against China in 1953. Still have bases.
IRAN 1953, Command Operation, CIA overthrows democracy, installs Shah.
VIETNAM 1954, Nuclear threat, French offered bombs to use against seige.
GUATEMALA 1954, Command operation, bombing, nuclear threat CIA directs exile invasion after new gov’t nationalized U.S. company lands; bombers based in Nicaragua.
EGYPT 1956, Nuclear threat, troops Soviets told to keep out of Suez crisis; Marines evacuate foreigners.
LEBANON l958, Troops, naval Army & Marine occupation against rebels.
IRAQ 1958, Nuclear threat, Iraq warned against invading Kuwait.
CHINA l958 Nuclear threat, China told not to move on Taiwan isles.
PANAMA 1958 Troops, Flag protests erupt into confrontation.
VIETNAM l960-75 Troops, naval, bombing, nuclear threats Fought South Vietnam revolt & North Vietnam, one million killed in longest U.S. war; atomic bomb threats in l968 and l969.
CUBA l961 Command operation, CIA-directed exile invasion fails.
GERMANY l961 Nuclear threat, Alert during Berlin Wall crisis.
LAOS 1962 Command operation, Military buildup during guerrilla war.
CUBA l962 Nuclear threat, naval Blockade during missile crisis; near-war with Soviet Union.
IRAQ 1963 Command operation, CIA organizes coup that killed president, brings Ba’ath Party to power, and Saddam Hussein back from exile to be head of the secret service.
PANAMA l964, Troops Panamanians shot for urging canal’s return.
INDONESIA l965, Command operation, Million killed in CIA-assisted army coup.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 1965-66, Troops, bombing Army & Marines land during election campaign.
GUATEMALA l966-67, Command operation, Green Berets intervene against rebels.
DETROIT l967, Troops, Army battles African Americans, 43 killed.
UNITED STATES l968 Troops After King is shot; over 21,000 soldiers in cities.
CAMBODIA l969-75, Bombing, troops, naval Up to 2 million killed in decade of bombing, starvation, and political chaos.
OMAN l970, Command operation, U.S. directs Iranian marine invasion.
LAOS l971-73, Command operation, bombing U.S. directs South Vietnamese invasion; “carpet-bombs” countryside.
SOUTH DAKOTA, l973 Command operation, Army directs Wounded Knee siege of Lakotas.
MIDEAST 1973, Nuclear threat, World-wide alert during Mideast War.
CHILE 1973, Command operation, CIA-backed coup ousts elected marxist president.
CAMBODIA l975, Troops, bombing Gassing of captured ship Mayagüez, 28 troops die when copter shot down.
ANGOLA l976-9,2 Command operation, CIA assists South African-backed rebels.
IRAN l980 Troops, nuclear threat, aborted bombing Raid to rescue Embassy hostages; 8 troops die in copter-plane crash. Soviets warned not to get involved in revolution.
LIBYA l981, Naval jets Two Libyan jets shot down in maneuvers.
EL SALVADOR l981-92 , Command operation, troops Advisors, overflights aid anti-rebel war, soldiers briefly involved in hostage clash.
NICARAGUA l981-90, Command operation, naval CIA directs exile (Contra) invasions, plants harbor mines against revolution.
LEBANON l982-84, Naval, bombing, troops Marines expel PLO and back Phalangists, Navy bombs and shells Muslim positions. 241 Marines killed when Shi’a rebel bombs barracks.
GRENADA l983-84, Troops, bombing Invasion four years after revolution.
HONDURAS, l983-89, Troops, Maneuvers help build bases near borders.
IRAN, l984 Jets, Two Iranian jets shot down over Persian Gulf.
LIBYA l986 Bombing, naval Air strikes to topple Qaddafi gov’t.
BOLIVIA 1986 Troops, Army assists raids on cocaine region.
IRAN l987-88 Naval bombing, US intervenes on side of Iraq in war, defending reflagged tankers and shooting down civilian jet.
LIBYA 1989, Naval jets, Two Libyan jets shot down.
VIRGIN ISLANDS 1989, Troops, St. Croix Black unrest after storm.
PHILIPPINES 1989, Jets Air, cover provided for government against coup.
PANAMA 1989, Troops, bombing, Nationalist government ousted by 27,000 soldiers, leaders arrested,