I grew up with that version of history, and I never thought to question it until I was well into my sixth decade.
Forty years before our Civil War, Spain abolished slavery, at home and in all its colonies. France followed a few years later Twenty years before our Civil War, England abolished slavery, and it didn't require a war. Canada was under British rule, and also gave up slavery in 1834. Portugal, the Netherlands, and Sweden had all ended slavery before the American Civil War.
Lincoln declared war on the Confederacy to restore the Union, as he told us at Gettysburg. It was explicitly not to abolish slavery, because states that fought for the Union were exempted from the Emancipation Proclamation.
Later, Brazil and Cuba ended slavery. All of these places in Europe and the Americas have better race relations today than the US. Only in the US does bitterness remain between North and South, left over from a war that ended 154 years ago.
Ending slavery is a noble idea. Endling slavery with armies and cannons and barbary and rape and theft and devastation of war was a madness for which we are still paying today.
I thought we fought the Nazis to rescue Jews from genocide
But the story falls apart when we look at the details. Historians tell us that the Second World War was made inevitable by the Versailles Treaty, which ended the First. We blockaded food shipments to Germany at the end of The Great War, coercing them to agree to The Treaty of Versailles. The terms of the treaty imposed impossible "reparations" that further enriched the bankers who had financed both sides of the War, but led to economic and social chaos in Germany. No wonder they hated us. No wonder they hated the bankers. Hitler managed to twist resentment of the bankers into a vendetta against the Jews.
When Jews fled Germany after Kristallnacht, the US and Britain refused to take them in, turning them back to Germany to face extermination.
The Nazis built their war machine financed by British and American banks, and with the full cooperation of IBM, Ford, General Motors, and other American companies. Meanwhile, American companies were selling scrap steel to Japan, dismantling our rail transportation network and turning it into battleships for Hirohito.
Hitler assiduously avoided attacking the US, though we were sending arms and aid to Britain, because he had his hands full in Europe. Japan also avoided war with the US, and Roosevelt worked hard to lure them into an attack on Pearl Harbor, which he used as an excuse to declare war on Germany as well as Japan.
Profitable arms sales to Germany and Japan only stopped after the declaration of war, and even then our Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA) was secretly supporting Germany against the Soviet Union, via the secret diplomacy of Allen Dulles.
We are still paying for this madness today with the wars over oil in the Middle East, with the pervasive fear that is the War on Terror, with the genocide of Palestinians by Israel today.
There never was a good war or a bad peace.
- Benjamin Franklin
Every war is justified by leaders on both sides who invoke patriotism, freedom, justice, and every other noble sentiment. This superstructure of noble lies is built on a foundation of fear, prepared for a generation or more beforehand.
Cui bono? War is good for corporate profits in general. Commodity prices create profit opportunities galore. We may think that munitions companies and defense contractors head the list of war profiteers, but surprisingly they are second to the bankers. In 1935, Major General Smedley Butler taught us that War is a Racket. Seventy years earlier, General Sherman had told us that war is hell.
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