"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?