Bill Bryson continues:
"Thanks to our overwhelming preoccupation with Communism at home and abroad America became the first nation in modern history to build a war economy in peacetime. Defense spending in the fifties ranged between $40 billion and $53 billion a year - or more than total government spending on everything at the dawn of the decade. Altogether the United States would lay out $350 billion on defense during the eight years of the Eisenhower presidency. More than this, 90 percent of our foreign aid was for military expenditures. We didn't just want to arm ourselves; we wanted to make sure everyone else was armed too."
And, of course, there is Guatamala. In 1950, they elected a reformist government, "the most democratic Guatemala ever had," according to historian Howard Zinn. Of course, democracy there was not good for United Fruit, and as the democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz began needed land reform, United Fruit complained and the United States government underwrote a coup. Arbenz had to flee his homeland in 1943 and "a new, more compliant leader named Carlos Castillo Armas was installed." "To help him on his way, the CIA gave him a list of seventy thousand "questionable individuals" - teachers, doctors, government employees, union organizers, priests - who had supported the reforms in the belief that democracy in Guatemala was a good thing. Thousands of them were never seen again."
Sobering, isn't it. Perhaps we place a hand over our heart when we salute and pledge allegiance to the flag because we are ashamed.
So much for our chosen book group book. This is anything but light, and is certainly an odd trip down memory lane.