Review of "Bitter Fruit" by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer

Topics: Foreign policy of the United States, Guatemala, Stephen Kinzer Pages: 9 (3196 words) Published: April 12, 2011
Bitter Fruit by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer Book Review and Critical Analysis
The year is 1954. Government agencies resurrect secret plans previously discarded until a more forceful administration comes to power. Behind the scenes, the CIA and State Department are fervently working in over time trying to engineer a government overthrow against a populist nationalist in their own backyard who has the dare audacity to threaten both US economic and geopolitical interest. Accusations of communism and Soviet penetration permeate the discourse and heat up the rhetoric; swift action must be taken to stabilize the hemisphere. Intervention by any means necessary. Exiled opposition leaders are paid off, trained, equipped, and installed. Propaganda transmits through jammed radio towers and warns the peasant population of invasion and liberation. Psychological warfare in conjunction with paramilitary covert operation is launched. The target—Guatemala, a third world poverty stricken country in which the fruits of revolution and conflict are as ripe as the bananas that dot the landscape. Such a riveting story could easily fill the pages of Tom Clancy’s next best-selling and fictional political thriller but instead, it is the true story unearthed through extensive investigation by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer, who with Bitter Fruit, meticulously detail a thought provoking and well-documented historical account of the Guatemalan coup d’état. The sowing of the seeds, subsequent cultivation, and ultimately the dangerous harvest of these bitter fruits is the basis for this compelling chronicle of one of the most controversial and darkest chapters in American history.

Through impeccably examining the historical events that transpired through out the period of post-war global transformation amidst the backdrop of a looming Cold War that spanned the four corners and thus became localized in Guatemala with the culmination of the 1954 overthrow, the book raises fundamental questions regarding US foreign policy and its ambivalent and contradicting response to rising national movements all across the third world. The authors essentially contend that the US consistently failed to appropriately distinguish nationalism from communism and thus delegitimized movements and aspirations of foreign nations by crying the Soviet wolf. The disparities that arise between democracy, dictatorship, and stability are also addressed through the scope of US economic and political interest. Furthermore, these interests provide the contextual framework for exposing both the corruption and exploitation of an inconsistent foreign policy whose objectives were achieved through controversial tactics employed by the emerging CIA. Though it is difficult to succinctly consolidate the authors arguments, as the aforementioned themes and issues often interact and interconnect, the centrality also lies upon challenging the very foundations of American exceptionalism through dichotomizing our ideals with our actions and raising imperative questions regarding to what extent American foreign policy is dictated by economic and neoliberal influence. And with this influence, to what extent is a policy of intervention justified, especially when it undermines another nations sovereignty, negates the rights of self-determination, and transforms a stable democracy into a ruthless military dictatorship. Such transformations would have been almost impossible if it weren’t for the extraordinary capacity of the media, through governmental manipulation in addition to blind complicity and complete dereliction of duty by neglecting to investigate the truth, helped further accelerate the fate of Jacobo Arbenz and ultimately, the fate of Guatemala. Thus the role of the media is a continuous theme in the book as imperative questions of objectivity and journalistic integrity inevitably follow. Furthermore, the authors attempt to connect the historical dots...
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