Manufactured Incidents – Lessons from History

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As the U.S. globocop, in collusion with a sycophantic and spineless Congress, prepares to launch an illegal and immoral “pre-emptive” war on the people of Iraq, it might be useful to look at past wars that were harbingers of U.S imperialism, its subsequent consolidation and final rise to unbridled supremacy. They provide eerie but prescient glimpses into how the U.S. manufactured incidents to make a doubtful and reluctant public climb aboard the war machine. The Bush cabal is discovering that Saddam Hussein’s past notoriety is washing thin with a restless and skeptical public. After all, even mainstream media has pointed out that massive assistance was provided to him by the Reagan/Bush I administrations until Gulf War I. How much easier it would be to start the invasion of Iraq if “evidence” was produced that Saddam Hussein “attacked” U.S. interests first? A new campaign is already under way to paint him as the all-time leader in the devil-incarnate race. The Bush administration is once again linking Saddam Hussein’s regime with the terrorists of al-Qaeda despite scant evidence. What there is cannot be revealed they say.

So how did some past American wars get initiated?

In the Spanish-American War of 1898, strong anti-Spanish feelings were fomented in the U.S. through the “hardship” suffered by American businesses in Cuba. President McKinley promised support for Cuban independence when, mysteriously, the American battleship ‘Maine’, sent to protect U.S. interests in Cuba, blew-up in Havana harbor. Over 250 sailors were killed. Even as terms of an ultimatum sent by McKinley to Spain were being debated in Congress, war was declared against Spain. Subsequently, Admiral Dewey, commander the U.S. Navy in the East, destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila harbor (the Philippines was another Spanish colony). To this day there is suspicion that the explosion aboard the ‘Maine’ was planned to provide justification and support for the war against Spain.  George Kennan, U.S. Ambassador to Moscow speaking at the University of Chicago in 1951 said that Dewey’s attack on the Spanish fleet “looks very much as though the action of the U.S. government had been determined on the basis of a very able and very quiet intrigue by a few strategically placed persons in Washington, an intrigue that received é a sort of public blessing by virtue of war hysteria.” The Treaty of Paris (December 1898) ended Spanish rule in Cuba and led to the emergence of the U.S. as an imperial power with its takeover of Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.

After Germany and Japan were vanquished in WW II, American supremacy and triumphalism was at its height, except for the irritation of two challengers é Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s Peoples Republic of China. Of all the protagonists in the victors’ camp, only the U.S. was not completely overwhelmed by war fatigue. The military economy was strong and resilient, with the newfound invincibility afforded by nuclear bombs. President Truman and his advisers felt emboldened enough to try and snuff out the upstart socialist challenges to Western imperialism. It came in the form of the Korean War (1950-53). The war was blamed by the U.S on the North Koreans who were accused of launching an unprovoked attack on the South. The reality may be different. The leaders who benefited the most from this war was Synghman Rhee, dictator of South Korea, and Taiwan’s generalissimo, Chiang Kai-shek, who gained from U.S. involvement in Korea because it delayed indefinitely the merger of Taiwan with China as the former became an American protectorate. Rhee would not have to face the electorate in a unified Korea and potentially lose to the popular communists in the North. During the conflict, U.S./South Korean troops (mainly) fought against North Korean forces (and later, troops from the Red Army of China) under a United Nations Security Council resolution that did not have the support of the USSR (which did not participate in the deliberations leading to the resolution because, against Soviet objections, Chiang’s Taiwan was seated as the representative of all China and not the government of Mao Tse-tung that controlled the mainland). The U.S/South Korean forces repeatedly and illegally provoked the North Korean army and instigated conflict by crossing the 38th parallel that divided the two halves of the country. Later, they employed the same tactics against the Chinese Red Army by crossing the Yalu River that separated North Korea from China. American planes even bombed (“mistakenly”) targets inside the Soviet Union  (the small part that borders North Korea) and China, hoping to broaden the war and end, once and for all, the “threat” of communism. As the American investigative journalist I.F. Stone wrote in his classic, “The Hidden History of the Korean War”, “The whole American economy became a prisoner of war fever and war addiction.”

In the 1999 war against Yugoslavia, the Racak massacre  (in which over forty Kosovo Albanians were killed by Serb forces) plays a big part. This incident most galvanized Western opinion for the U.S/NATO war. The Racak massacre was “verified” by none other than U.S. Head of the Kosovo Verification Mission, William Walker, sealed Yugoslavia’s, and Milosevic’s, fate (as Walker himself believes). This self-same Walker was exposed in a 1993 episode of “60 Minutes” for his role in suppressing the investigation of death squad killings of Jesuits in El Salvador (1989) where he served as U.S. ambassador. Respected French and German correspondents have seriously doubted Walker’s version of the massacre.

Two other U.S. wars which provide a more detailed documentation of  “manufactured incidents” that bolstered public and Congressional support for war are the Vietnam War and Gulf War I. In the first, we have the notorious Gulf of Tonkin “incident” where North Vietnamese patrol boats were claimed to have launched an “unprovoked attack” against a U.S. destroyer on “routine patrol” on August 2, 1964. President Johnson went on national TV on August 4 to announce intensification in the bombing missions against North Vietnam and subsequently launched the devastating aerial defoliation campaign of the entire country.

In  Gulf War I against Iraq, the media devoured the infamous Incubator Baby lie where Nayireh, the Kuwait ambassador’s daughter, was coached by the public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton to tell a Congressional hearing in October 1990 that she personally witnessed Iraqi soldiers occupying Kuwait dump babies out of incubators in the Kuwait City hospital. This was used by Bush I to depict Saddam Hussein as the new Hitler and convince a divided Congress and public of the legitimacy of attacking Iraq even as diplomatic efforts were ongoing in the United Nations to effect an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

American author Gore Vidal writes in his latest collection of essays, “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace”, “All the tax money that has gone for defense against an enemy that had wickedly folded when our back was turned (the former Soviet Union) is now being exacted even more from a gullible public to fight the pre-emptive wars against terrorism ” (to be defined by the U.S. kleptocracy).

Let the American people be forewarned of what might come in the perilous days ahead. Their ignorance is not entirely their fault, even as they contribute to it through a preference for distraction over information and for passivity over responsibility. But more important are the external factors that people don’t control é the mainstream corporate media and big business with their lobbyists who create ignorance and confusion, obfuscating reality and exploiting peoples’ fears. The multinational corporations control Congress and the White House, both of who, willy-nilly,  do their bidding. Thomas Jefferson’s words in a letter he wrote to William Jervis in 1820 bear repeating:

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform them their discretion.”

Dr. Sadanand Nanjundiah is a Physics Professor at Central Connecticut State University.

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