April 12, 2006

Today in history

"A country without a memory is a country of madmen." - George Santayana

April 12, 1861 - The American War Between the States began after Confederate forces fired on union troops at Ft. Sumpter, Charleston harbor, SC, in response to provocation by military forces commanded by President Abraham Lincoln.

The new president's strategy, both before and after the incident, had excluded the possibility of real compromise and a peaceful resolution preferred by Democrats. It was designed instead to appease radical Republicans, to help them win the Congressional elections of 1862, and to provoke what some had assumed would be a quick and easy war to subjugate the South.

Union forces at Ft. Sumpter surrendered after 36 hours, and no one was killed during the attack. Few in the country wanted war -- especially people of the agricultural South, which had little industry for waging war -- but Ft. Sumpter had given Lincoln his "9/11"-style justification to retain power by uniting his base in the populous North against a perceived enemy.

Ultimately, more than 560,000 people died between 1861-1865 -- two percent of the country's population. (In comparison, 2% of today's population is six million.) Almost twice as many died from disease and other causes as died in battle.

Then, as now, war was orchestrated for political reasons, with the most extreme elements of both North and South playing "crass politics." Historical explanations for the greatest tragedy in American history -- "to save the union" -- are as simplistically misleading as today's explanation for the invasion of Iraq "to fight terrorism."

April 12, 1975 - Vietnam War: The United States embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia was evacuated as Khmer Rouge troops encircled the city.

White House tapes prove that President Nixon had acknowledged, even before the 1972 election, that the U. S. could not win in Vietnam, but he prolonged the war for political reasons -- his own "peace with honor" reelection campaign. Because of his decision, thousands of soldiers and civilians died unnecessarily.

Yet the hawks of the Vietnam era -- most of whom found ways to avoid military service in Vietnam, and who never blamed Nixon for his lies and mistakes -- have become today's neocons, led by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove.

April 12, 2006 - American troops are dying in Iraq. The neocons who sent them there are contemplating a war on Iran, further igniting the Middle East.


So much for the argument that "no president would ever send our young soldiers and sailors to their deaths if war could be avoided."

We know what the history books say about the decades of 1860-1870 and 1965-1975. What will they say about 2001-2010?

1 comment:

johnboon said...

I am pleased that we are seeing a decline in support for Bush. Here in Australia, our PM John Howard seems to still enjoy more support than Bush or Blair. Where I live is rural and isolated and it may be different in the cities. I may be living in a pocket of ignorance. I wish I knew more about politics. What is this word "neocon"? Neocon = neoconservatism. It seems to imply blatantly militaristic attempts to change dissenting peoples, however democraticallly elected, from whatever chosen political path - Islam, Communism,totalitarian dictatorship - towards free-market neo-liberalism. Thus noe-con is used to justify the war on Iraq and the clash with Iran. In other words neo-con = neo-liberalist evangelism. I guess that is a "bad thing" because it is imposing western culture by force, and western culture isn't very moral. I wish I was not so confused. I guess it is in the interests of our leaders to keep us confused, then we will be less able to resist. Do you think we should have politics on the school curriculum, so that young people could become actively involved in what is going on? I think also that morals and ethics are more important than ever before. Regards johnboon.