tideshift

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.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Connect the Dots

This was written more than 3 years ago, but still has relevance given the current debate about the Downing Street Memos, and the odds of an imminent invasion of Iran - yet another example of an American president deceiving the American public into going to war...But I think more of our citizens, and the world's citizens, are waking up to the pattern...

May 21, 2002
Connect the Dots

There is much current debate around three questions: What did members of the Bush Administration know about the attacks of September 11? When did they know those things? What did they do with the information?

The Congressional investigation is divided. Should Senators and Representatives explore possible wrongdoing by Bush officials? Or should they focus on mistakes and miscommunication among intelligence agencies, so as to thwart future attacks?

One repeating charge is that FBI, CIA and other agencies failed to “connect the dots” linking evidence to see the whole picture. But it is equally important to connect the historical dots that laid the groundwork for Bush to knowingly allow a terrorist attack to take place, in order to advance American corporations’ economic interests around the world by diversion at home and force abroad.

In March 1846, President James K. Polk ordered American troops to take up a position on the bank of the Rio Grande River, 150 miles south of the Nueces River. Since Texas had declared its independence from Mexico in 1836, the Nueces River had been considered its southern border with Mexico. Polk wanted to expand the western border of the United States to California. The American military presence on the Rio Grande arguably provoked Mexican fighters to attack in late April, events which Polk used to drum up Congressional support for the May 13, 1846 declaration of war.

On February 15, 1898, two explosions sank the US battleship Maine, harbored outside Havana, and killed 260 crew members. The ship had been in Cuban waters to protect American businessmen, their families and their property while the Cubans fought for independence from Spain. At the time, US investigators and newspapers reported that the explosions were caused externally, perhaps by a floating mine; 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 the Maine incident was used to rally public support for the Spanish-American war, declared in April 1898 under President William McKinley.

As part of a string of US annexations, McKinley oversaw the invasion of the Philippines in 1898, also to protect and expand American business control of Pacific natural resources and markets. But the Filipinos did not want to become American subjects. As Howard Zinn wrote in A People’s History of the United States:

The fighting with the rebels began, McKinley said, when the insurgents attacked American forces. But later, American soldiers testified that the United States had fired the first shot. After the war, an army officer speaking in Boston’s Faneuil Hall said his colonel had given him orders to provoke a conflict with the insurgents.

In 1915, Woodrow Wilson used the German sinking of the Lusitania, a British passenger ship carrying 128 American civilians and more than a thousand others, to erode US-German relations, eventually leading to America’s joining World War I. Neither Wilson nor British officials revealed to the American and British people that the ship was carrying thousands of boxes of shells, cartridges and other ammunition, in effect using civilians as human shields for a weapon shipment.

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. The Japanese Prime Minister negotiated to prevent war with the United States. But by October, a military general had come into power, and decided to attack US military installations throughout the Pacific, including Pearl Harbor. There is historical evidence that President Franklin Roosevelt sought to provoke a Japanese attack in order to justify American entrance into World War II. He was unprepared only for the scope of the destruction on December 7.

By April 1961, again seeking control of Cuba, the CIA, with support from presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, was ready to carry out a plan to oust Fidel Castro. The CIA organized and funded 1,500 Cuban exiles to conduct the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which failed after the plan became known publicly, Kennedy withdrew US support, and the expected internal Cuban revolt failed to occur.

And in August 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to allow President Lyndon Johnson broad retaliatory power for alleged torpedo attacks on two US destroyers stationed in the gulf. There was no damage to the ships and later, investigators learned there had been no attack, although the CIA had been attacking North Vietnamese coastal targets, and the destroyers had been in Vietnamese territorial waters conducting spy missions, two actions which could provoke and justify Vietnamese retaliation.

In other words, Bush and members of his administration may very well have known of imminent terrorist hijackings, and failed to prevent those hijackings in order to justify creating a ring of American military bases to ensure US control of Caspian Sea oil reserves, long a priority for American oil and gas corporations. In choosing such a profit-over-people course, Bush would have been following a Presidential precedent set and re-set for decades to ensure US control of raw materials, cheap labor and expanded markets around the world. Like Roosevelt, Bush may have been unprepared only for the scope of the destruction.