Saturday, June 18, 2005

Past as Prelude: Lying Us Into War

June 17, 2005

As Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) held public hearings on the Downing Street Memo in Congress recently, to investigate the Bush Administration’s “fixing” of pre-war data to justify the preemptive invasion of Iraq, Conyers said it was in part “to make sure the Constitution is not being ripped to shreds” by transferring the power to declare war from the Congress to the President.

President Bush has still not responded to questions about the memos in detail, and most newspapers declare the information “old news,” although many Congress members have said if they’d known about the evidence tampering in July 2002, they might not have authorized the war in October 2002, and they may now seek to impeach Bush for the crime of lying to Congress and the American people. Bush spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed the hearings, saying “…our focus is not on the past. It’s on the future and working to make sure we succeed in Iraq.”

Focusing on the future is a good idea; the past is prelude. American presidents regularly lie to the American people to motivate us to war.

In March 1846, President James K. Polk ordered American troops to provoke Mexican fighters to attack at the Rio Grande River – 150 miles south of the Nueces River, the accepted southern border of Texas – and used the Mexican response to drum up Congressional support for a declaration of war.

On February 15, 1898, two explosions sank the US battleship Maine, harbored outside Havana, Cuba. Americans were told that the explosions were caused externally, perhaps by a floating mine, but Spanish investigators said a fire in the ship’s coal bunkers spread to ammunition, which then blew up. Modern researchers confirmed the Spanish view, but President William McKinley used the Maine incident to rally public support for the Spanish-American war, declared in April 1898.

In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson used the German sinking of the Lusitania, a British passenger ship also secretly carrying ammunition, to erode US-German relations, eventually leading to America’s joining World War I. In the summer of 1941, as Japan continued to expand into resource, oil and market-rich Indochina to support its own industrial development, the United States and Britain imposed economic sanctions on the nation, provoking Japanese leaders to attack at Pearl Harbor, which President Roosevelt used to call for American entry into World War II.

In August 1964, President Lyndon Johnson got Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, leading us into Vietnam for alleged torpedo attacks on two US destroyers stationed in the gulf. The American ships were spying in Vietnamese territory, were undamaged and the CIA had previously attacked the North Vietnamese coast.

In 1991, President George H.W. Bush launched the Persian Gulf War on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had attacked Kuwait, shortly after U.S. State Department officials gave Hussein tacit permission to retaliate against Kuwait for slant drilling across the border into Iraqi oil fields.

McClellan is right about focusing on the future. If we keep history in mind, we may be able to effectively resist the next hard sell on attacking Iran, North Korea or some other target of the Bush cabal. We might be able to save the lives of American troops and our brothers and sisters in other countries.


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