AUGUSTA — Nick Mills has seen it all. He was a U.S. Army combat photographer in Vietnam, served as a public affairs consultant in Iraq, spent time in Afghanistan with future Afghan President Hamid Karzai and has been a professor at Boston University for nearly 30 years.

So when he came to the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine this week to talk about U.S. military interventions around the world, he spoke from real, on-the-ground experience.

“The more we intervene, the more we feel the need to intervene,” Mills said before a lunchtime audience Wednesday of about 30 people. “You might say Interventions R Us.”

Mills spoke about the U.S. intervening in conflicts across the globe, from the Vietnam and Korean wars to the battles in the Middle East that continue today. He spoke specifically about the interventions he has first-hand knowledge of: Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mills said the U.S. spends more on its military than the next eight nations combined do, and for all the defense spending, the U.S. doesn’t really worry about defending itself because it almost never has been attacked — aside from Japan’s assault on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Since the end of World War II, Mills said, referencing a quote from an Australian journalist and filmmaker, the United States has overthrown more than 50 governments, crushed more than 30 liberation movements, interfered in elections in a dozen sovereign nations, bombed civilians in 30 countries and assassinated world leaders.


“And that quote was nine years ago,” Mills said. “Since then, the U.S. has intervened in Libya, Syria, Niger, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia and has deployed military forces in a number of other countries.”

Mills said the U.S. uses its military to maintain global dominance. There are about 800 U.S. military bases in 80 countries around the world, and the U.S. has a military presence in 164 countries and territories.

“How would we feel if Russia or China had that kind of presence in our borders?” Mills said.

Mills discussed what he learned on the ground in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

He said the Vietnam conflict began in the 1950s and was long, slow and gradual. It was marred by a lack of imagination, deception, death and destruction and was where more than 2.5 million American troops served — most for 12 or 13 months. More than 58,000 American troops died, and about 3 million Vietnamese military and civilians were killed in the conflict.

In Afghanistan, where Mills helped co-found the first Afghan news service, Mills said the Taliban was a creation of the Pakistani intelligence service. Mills said the U.S. had “no choice” but to go in after Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and the former leader of al-Qaida.


After the attacks and beginning of the conflict in Afghanistan, the U.S. turned its attention to Iraq, invading in 2003 because of Saddam Hussein’s country’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. That turned out to be false, and Mills said the invasion of Iraq and its reasons are still a mystery to him.

Sadly, Mills said, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to the U.S. penchant for interfering, especially with Donald Trump as commander-in-chief.

“The budget keeps increasing and no bases are closing,” Mills said. “We continue to drop bombs and Trump wants a military parade in Washington.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.