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Waging Peace: How the U.S. rebranded war as peace

The School of International Service, one of the most popular schools at American University, has a memorable slogan: “Waging Peace since 1957.” But how does one actually wage peace? What are the implications of waging peace? Looking back at history helps us answer these questions.


The school's slogan comes from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who made "waging peace" a recurring theme in his foreign policy rhetoric during the cold war. In his 1958 State of the Union address, he described waging peace as "bringing to bear every asset of our personal and national lives upon the task of building the conditions in which security and peace can grow." When we look at how the U.S. "waged peace" in practice, however, this catchy phrase becomes something far more sinister.


To show one example of how Eisenhower waged peace, we can take a look at my homeland. In 1954 Guatemala, faced the consequences of American peace. Guatemala started redistributing land from the United Fruit Company, or UFCO. The UFCO subsequently began a propaganda campaign against the “Reds” supposedly controlling Guatemala. Eisenhower funded a military general, bombed Guatemala City, and flooded the airways with propaganda against the administration. A military dictatorship took over from the president in the chaos.


Eisenhower waged peace by ending the democracy of Guatemala. His waging of peace amounted to terrorism. The military government set up was unstable and as a result saw multiple changes of leadership. Tensions only got worse, and Guatemala eventually fell into Civil War. During the Guatemalan Civil War, the government committed genocide. That genocide was largely against my ancestors, the Mayan population of Guatemala.


The deaths of thousands of people, and the destabilization of an entire country could be connected to a single event in 1953, approved by a man who claimed to have stood for peace. American Peace is barbarism. It’s the idea that prosperity should exist for the white wealthy classes of the United States, and for anyone else: blood and war. There is an inherent disregard for the lives of non-whites under the definition of “American Peace.” The idea of poor third world nations made up of uncivilized brown people is a concept from the Cold War. The uncivilized folks were the men who decided the fate of thousands of peoples lives from soft chairs in DC, those being the fate of people in the so called Third World.


Eisenhower's usage of “peace” demonstrates the difference between the normal definition of peace and the American definition of peace. American peace is defined by how another country practices governance compared to the United States, in particular the economic relationship between both parties. If another government is to disagree with the extractive economic practices of capitalism, they are breaking the peace. Peace in the American definition is defined by Democracy promotion" or, in less words, Capitalism. I define this peace as “American Peace.” Any means to promote Capitalism without the use of troops would fit under this definition of American Peace. This kind of peace is similar to war, where the only discernible difference is the one sided nature of casualties.


The United States is not a country of peace. Its history and present promotes war and xenophobia. This country has spilled the blood of countless individuals, yet only in 2000 did it apologize for the deaths caused in 1954. Even as the country crumbled creating a cycle of violence the so called democratic nation fights against people feeling Guatemala and other nations weakened under american peace. The idea of prosperity for immigrants is only extended to a limited population. During WWII the United States sent Jews back to Germany, and in the current generation we send Latinx people back to the torn countries we played the largest part in destroying. American exceptionalism is the idea that we are above the law and everyone else must be below it.


The idea that peace can be established through imperialism and intervention is a disgusting view to hold. American University’s use of a quote from Eisenhower, a man who destroyed my country and various others, is insulting. The United States lacks justice and, furthermore, has a complete disregard for anyone outside of the political ruling class. We should not glorify murderers. Every member of the government who was involved in the Cold War should be held responsible for the war crimes they have committed, and the deaths they have caused.



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“Guatemala’s Military Carried out Genocide, Court Rules.” Accessed February 24, 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/09/guatemala-military-carried-genocide-court-rules-180927145730845.html.

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