“The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons. The Iraqi regime is building the facilities necessary to make more biological and chemical weapons.” President George W. Bush.
-Rose Garden Sept. 26, 2002
“Sending Americans into battle is the most profound decision a President can make…If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means — sparing, in every way we can, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military — and we will prevail. ”
-President George W. Bush State of the Union, January 2003
“The cup of forbearance has been exhausted. After reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil.”
-President James Polk, Declaration of War with Mexico, May 11, 1846
Deceit and treachery is nothing new in politics. The actual confrontation of facts of the real causes for the Iraqi war reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s attacks on President Polk and his party over the origins of the war with Mexico. Specifically, the young congressman from Illinois demanded among other points “That the President of the United States be respectfully requested to inform this House – Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was shed, as in his messages declared, was or was not within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819 until the Mexican revolution.”
Years later, Stephen A. Douglas reminded him of them in the Senatorial campaign in 1858, saying Lincoln had distinguished himself by “taking the side of the common enemy against his own country.”
The maneuvers of the Polk administration to have a casus belli with his neighbors from the South were numerous and ingenious even so the CIA or other “Intelligence” agencies were not yet formed.
Many voices of great stature were raised in 1846 opposing these tactics. Former President John Quincy Adams denounced the policy long pursued towards Mexico and dared to vote against the Mexican war. A few weeks before his death Mr. Adams voted for a resolution withdrawing the American troops from Mexico and relinquishing all claims for the expenses of the war. For that, the press and government officials accused him of “treason ” and “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” We can compare here the cases of some personalities in our time like Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon, Michael Moore and the Dixie Chicks who dared to express their opposition to the aggressive policies of Mr. Bush and for that reason have been harassed and even threatened to lose their livelihood.
Many more, like Adams, believed that the United States had stung Mexico into defense of her rightful possessions. Ulysses S. Grant, the victorious General of the Civil War and twice president of the U.S., was a second Lieutenant in the “army of observation” of Zachary Taylor. Grant thought the armed march to Mexico was “unholy.” In his “Personal Memoirs” he stated “and to this day I regard the Mexican war as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.” Grant also regrets for having “lacked moral courage enough to resign.” I wonder if Secretary Colin Powell has ever read Grant’s memoirs.
Henry Thoreau made his own protest against the war by refusing to pay his state poll tax. He passed a brief time in jail and after his aunt paid the tax he wrote in his cabin on Walden Pond “Essay on Civil Disobedience,” one of the best-known pieces of American literature.
In his State of the Union Address in January 2003, President Bush solemnly declared, “We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended. A future lived at the mercy of terrible threats is no peace at all. If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means — sparing, in every way we can, the innocent.”
President Polk stated something similar, assuring the people of Mexico they had nothing to fear from the American invading forces because they were there to “protect them and help them to get rid of their bad government.” No mention, of course, of his lust for Mexican territory.
In 1847 the American forces commanded by General Winfield Scott bombarded and destroyed the port of Veracruz. During that battle a young Captain, Robert E. Lee, another future personality of the Civil War, wrote in one of his letters ” The fire was terrific and the shells thrown from our battery were constant and regular discharges, so beautiful in their flight and so destructive in their fall. It was awful! My heart bled for the inhabitants. The soldiers I did not care so much for, but it was terrible to think of the women and children.” (A Biography of Robert Lee by General Fitzhugh Lee, 1989) So much for the “protection and help” from President Polk.
In 1848, a great abolitionist, William Jay wrote one of the most critical books regarding that unjust conflict. In “Review of the Mexican War” Jay asserts, “We have been taught to ring our bells, and illuminate our windows and let off fireworks as manifestation of our joy, when we have heard of great ruin and devastation, and misery, and death, inflicted by our troops upon a people who never injured us, who never fired a shot on our soil, and who were utterly incapable of acting on the offensive against us”
The Mexican war has been the most beneficial to the United States. The annexation of Texas was secured and what now are New Mexico, Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and part of Wyoming became the golden West.
On Veterans Day this productive war is not mentioned at all, ignoring the thousands of Americans who perished following the Manifest Destiny doctrine, perhaps because it was a simple war of conquest.
The Iraq war is not over yet. American soldiers continue dying nearly every week in the occupied Arab nation. Thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children have died. So much for the “sparing the innocent” stated by President Bush. The business of oil and the big contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq conceded to the inner club of companies linked to top officials of this administration cover the air with a smell of suspicion.
The possibility of an investigation by the Senate to determine if the American people and the world were deceived in what George W. Bush pompously called “the first war of the 21st century” could lead to an impeachment and political disgrace.
In the end, from 1846 to 2003, nothing much has changed.