The sanitized version of American history begins early with the War of 1812. If causes are discussed at all, the war was allegedly caused by British violation of American rights of neutral shipping during the Napoleonic Wars and the impressment of American sailors to fill shortages of manpower on British warships during those wars. Yet these affronts had been going on for more than a decade, and the region most adversely affected by them—seafaring New England—was almost in open revolt against the U.S. government over war with Britain. A more important reason that the new American nation unwisely declared war on a superpower was the election of “war hawks” to Congress in 1810. They wanted to grab Canada, and when the war started, an American invasion force was quickly dispatched there to do so.
The Mexican War set a precedent for what became a rich tradition in the American democracy of provoking your enemy into firing first. President James Polk—who wanted to and did steal one-third of Mexico’s land by using military force against a much weaker country—deliberately sent U.S. forces into a disputed area on the Texas-Mexico border, because he calculated that the Mexicans would attack that force in defending their border. The Mexicans had a much better border claim than did the Americans. Most historians agree that Polk provoked the war to grab the land, but they don’t focus on the fact that Polk had also blockaded the Rio Grande River—an internationally recognized act of war. So the United States didn’t just provoke the enemy to attack, it started the war, just as in the War of 1812.
Almost erased from the history of the Civil War and the actions of the now-canonized Abraham Lincoln is his deliberate provocation of the Confederates to fire on a supply ship to Fort Sumter. They had already done so on another such ship at the very end of the James Buchanan administration, so Lincoln knew what would happen when he sent the ship. Lincoln even admitted that he was trying to get the Confederates to fire first. As George W. Bush did when he fell into bin Laden’s trap and invaded Iraq after 9/11, the Confederates foolishly took the bait and even went Lincoln one better. They not only fired on the ship but also the fort, thus beginning the most cataclysmic war in U.S. history.
One of the most outrageous distortions in American history is the standard version of the “massacre” of George Armstrong Custer’s forces at the Little Bighorn—as if it just occurred out of the blue with an attack by warlike savages. In the now-erased lead-up to the massacre, the U.S. Army had been “protecting” the Native Americans from the inflow of voracious miners, who had found gold on Indian land, by surrounding the Indians while the miners stole their gold. Furthermore, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse attacked only soldiers at Little Bighorn, whereas the American military, and especially the ruthless Custer, regularly used scorched-earth tactics to kill Native American men, women, and children and burn Indian crops.
In the Spanish-American War, the United States took advantage of the sinking of the Maine in the port of Havana—even at the time, arguments were made that it was an accident, which later was found to be almost assuredly the case—to start a war against weak Spain in an attempt to grab its colonies in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
In World War I, the United States took advantage of the sinking of the Lusitania by German U-boats to enter the conflict—no matter that the U.S. was insisting on neutral rights for a passenger ship carrying weapons for the enemy of Germany through a war zone.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Lies About US Wars