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Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  2,422 Ratings  ·  233 Reviews
A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled fourteen foreign governments -- not always to its own benefit

"Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian
ebook, 400 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Times Books (first published April 4th 2006)
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Jan 22, 2008 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ross
Overthrow made me realize how poor my education of US history is, and saddly my foreign policy understanding as well. I am shocked that I hadn't learned about some of these coups in, say, my foreign policy to Latin America class in college or any one of my other international relations courses. This is an excellent primer for anyone who wants to understand current world events and why "they" might possibly hate "us."
Neil Taylor
Dec 19, 2008 Neil Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The American government has consistently invaded sovereign nations and gone to war to defend big business concerns and help corporate America pillage the natural resources of foreign nations. Hawaii was a stable monarchy before the American sugar plantation owners felt they were being prevented from making as much profit as they "deserved" so a coup was instigated and funded by the US government. A disturbing read about the lengths the US government will go to in order to protect the almighty do ...more
Libby (Streed's Reads)
FTC NOTICE: Library Book

REVIEW: Stephen Kinzer's " Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq" sought to illustrate a trended pattern of regime changes driven by the United States government on foreign land. He detailed specific situations and defined the categories of coups, coupled with commonalities of the countries in which the USA initiated overthrows of key politicians.

Blatant coups took place in countries with rich, natural resources that fell under foreign (namely
Mar 16, 2009 Naeem rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: listeners of smooth jazz
Kinzer writes well and knows how get the reader to keep turning the pages. He is at his best when he is putting together individual stories of little known characters who played decisive roles in the history of US interventions. The book is worth it for these stories and for the characters that Kinzer unearths. But Kinzer tries to play two other roles for which he, as a former reporter, simply does not have the skills.

What happens when news turns into patterns? Answer: then it is no longer news
Jul 03, 2013 Tara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't particularly enjoy this book. Foreign policy isn't really my thing. Just ask my husband, who loves the stuff yet has to witness my eyes glaze over as I involuntarily tune out every time he wants to have a conversation about some foreign-policy type article he read in the paper or The Economist.

I hated the writing style (very repetetive - he needs an excellent editor) and I had a hard time with the one-sided point of view - in particular, I thought Kinzer was extraordinarily freehanded i
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I was going to read this but ended up skimming it instead. Its an interesting topic, but this wasn't a very scholarly attempt. Its also blatantly partial in some rather naive ways.
May 22, 2012 Jerome rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 05, 2015 Elen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A good work of history with some frankly abysmal analysis attached. I say it's a good work of history because Kinzer's research clearly does not back up a lot of his claims -- for instance, he states multiple times that people like Jacobo Árbenz or Mohammed Mosaddegh were people who believed in "American" values, while at the same time clearly illustrating that "American" values are a lie and a sham, given our propensity for overthrowing foreign governments and the clear fact that this is not ne ...more
Sep 16, 2014 Tim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a rather uneven read of US history. I sympathize with the author and get what he is doing - namely, describing a variety of rather sordid instances where the US overthrew, undermined, encouraged, aided & abetted regime change.

Not a pretty picture, and for the instances Kinzer covers, I don't doubt his narratives are true.

My problem with the book is the rather arbitrary selection of events, and varied coverage of each. Hawaii leads it off, there is a lot on the small Central American
Ever ask yourself something along the lines of, 'Wouldn't it be great if a book about [insert topic] existed?' Well, I thought it would be cool if there was a book about the United States' um, ...'interventions' in foreign countries. Imagine my surprise to find this one. And while the author mentions that this book 'focuses only on the most extreme set of cases: those in which the United States arranged to depose foreign leaders' and 'treats only cases in which Americans played the decisive role ...more
Downloaded from

Narrator: Michael Prichard
Publisher: Tantor Media, 2006
Length: 15 hours and 13 min.

Publisher's Summary

A fast-paced narrative history of the coups, revolutions, and invasions by which the United States has toppled 14 foreign governments, not always to its own benefit.

"Regime change" did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush, but has been an integral part of U.S. foreign policy for more than one hundred years. Starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian mon
Mark Desrosiers
Jun 24, 2007 Mark Desrosiers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This gripping narrative should underscore a deeper historical current, and I bet the author was a tad too anti-ideological to pick it up. And that's the major failing of this astonishing book. The story of Hawaii, for example, seems bizarre in a way because such B-grade characters carried it out against an obviously powerful Queen. How did that really happen? Benjamin Harrison's mighty approval?

And where did Noriega REALLY come from? Not to mention Edward Landsdale, who was Magsaysay's kingmaker
Got the book to read the section on Hawai'i. Should have stopped there as I had originally planned. Found the book rather one sided & biased at times. I am sure we have many skeletons in the closet & much to be ashamed for but in light of 9/11, al-Qaeda and now ISIS, the United States is fighting their own terror and daily overthrow plots. Found parts of it very interesting & other parts dull. As others have said some of the claims in this book are very shocking & sensational. Wo ...more
Dec 27, 2008 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every American should read this book. Talking to people outside the
U.S., especially in Latin America, I was always surprised about how
much there is a dislike of U.S. interference in foreign affairs. Not
any more. Sure, Kinzer has somewhat of an agenda, but it never hurts to
know one's own history better. Kinzer explores the 14 regimes the U.S.
has directly overthrown, and then, after each epoch, gives nice summary
of the results of those actions. Needless to say, things rarely turned
out as expected.
Jun 10, 2007 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, capitalism
very odd book detailing the U.S.'s covert efforts to overthrow a dozen governments in the past century, a pretty radical topic, but from a liberal mainstream perspective. hwwaahh??

fails to make obvious conclusions about american empire. instead presents the case that meddling in other countries' affairs is bad for the u.s. government. doh!
If I had to summarize my thoughts about this book into a single sentence, I would only need to say that Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow should be required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the relationship of the U.S. to the rest of the world. In it, Kinzer looks at over a dozen examples of U.S. intervention in foreign countries since the turn of the 20th century and presents them together to illustrate a sordid, damaging, and largely unbroken history of what is now blandly called “r ...more
Mar 04, 2010 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Adam by: Alex Hiatt
Kinzer provides a brief survey of fourteen auspicious moments in US foreign policy: the times that Presidents, military leaders, and influential businesspeople collaborated to engineer the downfall of the leader of another country. In Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile,Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the US intentionally deposed foreign leaders in order to install conditions more friendly to US business interests and more amen ...more
Joseph Stieb
Jul 09, 2016 Joseph Stieb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I ended up liking this book more than I expected. It was more fair-minded and objective than the general vibe I received from blurbs and reviews. Kinzer narrates 14 or so episodes where the US orchestrated or participated in the overthrow of a foreign regime. He makes several interesting and generally valid claims about these decisions: 1. Corporate and commercial interests played strong roles in each of these . In the fascinating cases of Honduras and , fruit companies practically made US polic ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-non-fiction
This book discusses the American history you weren't taught in high school. Overthrow discusses 14 episodes of when the United States directly overthrew, invaded, deposed or manipulated the capitulation of a sovereign government over the past 100+ years. We are given portraits of the people who lead the charges for regime change and the economic and political mechanizations that influenced their decisions - i.e. capitalism and the expansion of American markets, or the fight against supposed Comm ...more
Kathleen Brugger
Oct 04, 2013 Kathleen Brugger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a dismal read. Of course I knew about all of these American-sponsored coups, except for Hawaii, but I learned some details that just made it all worse. And the worst part is the sense that we haven’t learned a thing in these hundred years; if anything, we’ve gotten more arrogant which has made us stupider.

For example, when we invaded Panama in 1989, there was absolutely no plan for a post-Noriega administration. So after Noriega was deposed “Panama City degenerated into violent anarchy. Thi
CV Rick
Oct 11, 2011 CV Rick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
In a world where corporations are people and money equals speech equals power the swath of destruction that the United States has created is unsurprising.

My favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one which Spike has been taken prisoner and is tied up while the magical Native Americans are attacking the gang with bows and arrows. In the midst of this encounter spike blasts political correctness by telling you the rest of them to just accept the fact that they killed all the Indians and i
Though it's now three years old, Kinzer's survey of America's century of "regime change" is still an impressive work for anyone interested in American foreign policy and diplomatic history. Starting with the coup that overthrew Hawaii's native monarchy and ending with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Kinzer takes the reader through three distinct phases of American regime change: the imperialist phase, the covert phase, and the invasion phase. Each chapter focuses on a specific country and the coup or ...more
Jan 11, 2011 Kiesha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
If you are feeling anti-American and want some fodder to fuel your righteous indignation, look no further. Ever wondered why so many Yanks travel with Canadian flag patches on their rucksacks? Kinzer describes why in painful, explicit detail. Every single page I turned was like torture, but I couldn't look away. The chapter titled 'Despotism and Godless Terrorism' even caught my travel neighbor's eye on a recent flight. The greed and hubris of some of the American leaders described in the book i ...more
Andy Marton
Jan 27, 2015 Andy Marton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This feels like the perfect book for conspiracy theorists. It documents over a century of shady and wildly illegal stuff the government has done, but unlike 9/11 or Roswell conspiracy theories, this stuff actually happened (offense fully intended to the "truther" movement.)

Kinzer is engaging and quick-paced throughout most of these chapters, which follow's the U.S.'s self-interested involvement in countries such as Hawaii, Panama, Guatemala, Chile, Iraq, and so on. He makes distinctions between
Bill Glover
May 05, 2014 Bill Glover rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ESSENTIAL READING, especially if you are an American and intend on having any views on foreign policy. Fourteen regime changes (a sliver of our overall involvement) examined.

Interesting idea on a seemingly inconsequential micro-state, Grenada (just a bit larger than Central Park). After we deposed the local idiots, we left behind a failed state due to our habit of not following up even when it would be easy and cheap. A tiny island with no real products then turned to selling passports and money
Steven Wedgeworth
A series of harrowing tales which demonstrate the role of corporations in US foreign policy from the 1870s until the present. The role of US imperialism, and the fact that the US is particularly unsuited for empire, both loom large as well. Most depressing is the perpetual short memory of Americans when it comes to international relations. Kinzer brings all of this out in a readable survey. Some of it is, no doubt, simplified and spun, but the narrative is compelling nonetheless. There are lots ...more
Apr 08, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only bad thing I could say about this book is that each chapter didn't flow into the next. You could read a chapter in the end of the book, then skip towards the beggining and it would not be of consequence. So I immediatly flipped to the chapters that interested me most, read them all in a week, then it took me months to complete the chapters that I felt I already had knoledge in. Excellent book though, it definitly gave me some extra knoledge to spout out when I'm drunk and discussing poli ...more
Jennifer Marie
Jun 01, 2015 Jennifer Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read for any history lovers. He definitely brings a flair to it that makes all of the stories interesting and exceptionally engaging. There is oftentimes an anti-US bias, and my professor often commented on how he's "a journalist" (thus not always motivated by historical fact so much as telling the story), but in all I'd still recommend it.
I think Kinzer is trying to ease Americans into the idea that America Has Done Bad Things. That's the only justification I can see for Kinzer's analyses of American motivations/responsibility, which obviously condemn American foreign policy, but in a way that really fails to correspond to the very damning facts.
Timothy Boyd
Jan 15, 2016 Timothy Boyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this as a supplement book for my college history class. Excellent history book, good read and well laid out chapters. Very recommended
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Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has covered more than 50 countries on five continents. His articles and books have led the Washington Post to place him "among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling." (source)
More about Stephen Kinzer...

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“According to historian Ellen Hammer, he (Pres. Kennedy) was, 'shaken and depressed.' to realize that, 'the first Catholic ever to become a Vietnamese chief of state was dead, assassinated as a direct result of a policy authorized by the first American Catholic president.' At one point an aide tried to console him by reminding him that Diem and Nhu had been tyrants.
'No," he replied. "They were in a difficult position.' They did the best they could for their country.”
“On December 4, 1972, President Salvador Allende of Chile told the United Nations General Assembly that his country would “no longer tolerate the subordination implied by having more than eighty percent of its exports in the hands of a small group of large foreign companies.” 1 likes
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