"We are the only nation in human history that does not conquer territory, but liberates people," Carly Fiorina said at a national security forum in South Carolina this week.

The Republican presidential candidate made that comment about four minutes into an hour-long talk. She was discussing how the world is a dangerous place — a concept that President Obama, she says, doesn't understand in his push for diplomacy.

As the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive rises quickly in the GOP presidential polls, she is surely realizing that her words will now be scrutinized more than ever. Such was the case with her remarks about Planned Parenthood at a debate last week.

And this comment — captured in the above video by a Democratic tracker — will be no exception. Fiorina's claim that the United States doesn't conquer territory except to liberate people would seem curious. 

It's tough to fit the nation's history of territorial conquest into one paragraph, but we'll try.

Pretty much all of the West was "won" via Manifest Destiny, a systematic conquering of Native American lands. Then the United States invaded whole swaths of Central America and the Caribbean in the early 20th century. After the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th century, the United States made Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines its territories. (It even held onto the Philippines until 1946.) Around that time, the United States also took in American Samoa. It technically invaded Haiti, Nicaragua and Panama and had control over Cuba's internal affairs for a few decades.

[100 years ago, the U.S. invaded and occupied this country. Can you name it?]

In the early 20th century, the United States was going after enough territory that some notable Americans, including writer Mark Twain, formed the Anti-American Imperialist League to protest what they viewed as America's conquests.

Fiorina's campaign stands by her comment. In an e-mail to The Fix, spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said she "disputed the underlying narrative" because outside the continental United States, the nation didn't conquer land for territory.

And to give Fiorina the benefit of the doubt, perhaps in her book, maintaining an occupying force in a country is different from "conquering" it, although experts would consider those largely the same thing.

For more, here is a fact check on exactly how you might characterize American invasions of foreign countries over the past few decades.

We'll also note that Fiorina used the present tense in her statement — she said the United States "does not" conquer territory. But how many militaries, besides those of Russia and the Islamic State, are actually doing such things these days? The age of imperialism is largely in the past, but it's undeniable that the United States has been a player in that game.


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