By David Swanson, TeleSUR
Remarks prepared for event in Washington, D.C., on April 11, 2016.
Let's look at ten revealing moments in the history of lying about wars to see what they tell us, and then I'll be glad to try to answer any questions I can. These remarks will be published at TeleSUR.
I'll say the most about the first items on this list, and less as I move toward #10.
1. On January 31, 2003, President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair met in the White House prior to a joint press conference. Bush proposed to Blair that one good way to get a war on Iraq started would be to fly U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colors, in hopes that Iraq would fire on them. This was one of a number of possible ways to get a war started that Bush proposed to Blair. Following the meeting, the two of them walked out to do a joint press conference, of which you can still watch the video.
At the press conference, the two of them said they wanted to keep the peace -- Bush used the word "peace" at least three times -- and that if Iraq would simply disarm of the weapons that in fact it did not have and which much of the world did not believe it had, there would be no need for war. Bush also claimed Iraq had ties to al Qaeda, though declining to claim any "direct" ties to al Qaeda. Asked what they thought of Iraq having just invited UN inspectors back to Iraq, Bush and Blair said it was a trick and a deception. Asked whether he hadn't always wanted a war on Iraq and whether he wasn't just going through a charade of diplomacy, Bush claimed to be denying the charge but in fact spoke mainly of his view of how high the stakes were and seemed to be defending his drive toward war.
This event came six months after the meeting in London recorded in the Downing Street Minutes at which the head of British so-called intelligence reported on his meeting with the head of U.S. so-called intelligence, to the effect that the United States was decided on war and would lie as needed. In fact, by the time of this meeting and press conference, the United States was already deploying troops to the Middle East to attack Iraq.
In addition, by this point, the Iraqi government had approached the CIA's Vincent Cannistrato to offer to let U.S. troops search the entire country. The Iraqi government had offered to hold internationally monitored elections within two years -- something I'd love to see the United States do. The Iraqi government had offered Bush official Richard Perle to open the whole country to inspections, to turn over a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to help fight terrorism, and to favor U.S. oil companies. And the Iraqi president had offered, in the account that the president of Spain was given by the U.S. president, to simply leave Iraq if he could keep $1 billion.
The pretense that war was the last resort requires ignoring all of these other options, plus millions more. One can always think of another resort prior to the last resort. To use war as a last resort would mean to never use it. But even if we imagine the impossible, that literally everything else had been tried, we could not explain away Bush's brainstorming schemes to get the war started, as he did with Blair on January 31, 2003.
Nor should we ignore the fact that the same reasons given for any war have failed to generate a war on numerous other occasions. When the Soviet Union actually shot down a U2 plane, the United States did not choose war. That incident may have been created by the CIA to sabotage President Eisenhower's diplomacy, but Eisenhower did not choose to use it as grounds for war, as Bush seemed to think, in a similar situation, he could. Numerous nations other than Iraq in 2003 actually had weapons of mass destruction, yet in no case other than Iraq's was that seen as a basis for war.
The U.S. war on Iraq in 1990-1991 was also, like every war of the past several decades, depicted as a last resort, but the Iraqi government had been willing to negotiate withdrawal from Kuwait without war and ultimately offered to simply withdraw from Kuwait within three weeks without conditions. The King of Jordan, the Pope, the President of France, the President of the Soviet Union, and many others urged such a peaceful settlement, but the White House insisted upon its so-called last resort. In 2001 the Taliban repeatedly offered to turn Osama bin Laden over to a third country to stand trial, al Qaeda has had no significant presence in Afghanistan for most of the duration of the current war, and withdrawal has been an option at any time. Go back through U.S. history. Mexico was willing to negotiate the sale of its northern half, but the United States wanted to take it through an act of mass killing. Spain wanted the matter of the U.S.S. Maine to go to international arbitration, but the U.S. wanted war and empire. The Soviet Union proposed peace negotiations before the Korean War. The United States sabotaged peace proposals for Vietnam from the Vietnamese, the Soviets, and the French, relentlessly insisting on its so-called "last resort" over any other option, from the day the Gulf of Tonkin incident mandated war despite never having occurred. Osama bin Laden was even killed as a "last resort" despite being unarmed.
2. On June 4, 1939, a ship carrying over 900 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, many of them children, anchored close enough to Miami, Florida, to see the lights. Passengers cabled President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking to be allowed into the United States. The U.S. Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury had just discussed the matter and sought unsuccessfully to persuade Cuba to accept the Jewish refugees. The U.S. Coast Guard was sent out to chase the ship, the MS St. Louis, away from the Land of the Free. Canada also refused to allow the ship entry, and it returned to Europe, where over 250 of the passengers were murdered by the Germans. How is it possible both that such an incident occurred and that World War II was a noble war fought to save the Jews? In fact, it isn't possible. The incident occurred, but the lies used to support World War II at the time were lies of defense and last resort. FDR claimed to have a map of Nazi plans for taking over the Americas. It was forged. He claimed to have a Nazi plan for eliminating religion. He didn't. He claimed that U.S. ships were innocently attacked. They were assisting British war planes. He provoked Japan in hopes of getting into the war in Europe, and drafted a declaration of war on both Japan and Germany the night of Pearl Harbor. He was talked into holding off on Germany.
The lies about World War II being defensive have been overtaken in U.S. mythology by lies about a war fought for the Jews (and presumably also the millions of other victims of the Nazi camps). But let me quote a few lines from my book: "[Y]ou won't find any recruitment posters of Uncle Sam saying, 'I Want You...to Save the Jews.' When a resolution was introduced in the U.S. Senate in 1934 expressing "surprise and pain" at Germany's actions, and asking that Germany restore rights to Jews, the State Department 'caused it to be buried in committee.' By 1937 Poland had developed a plan to send Jews to Madagascar, and the Dominican Republic had a plan to accept them as well. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain came up with a plan to send Germany's Jews to Tanganyika in East Africa. Representatives of the United States, Britain, and South American nations met at Lake Geneva in July 1938 and all agreed that none of them would accept the Jews. On November 15, 1938, reporters asked President Franklin Roosevelt what could be done. He replied that he would refuse to consider allowing more immigrants than the standard quota system allowed. Bills were introduced in Congress to allow 20,000 Jews under the age of 14 to enter the United States. Senator Robert Wagner (D-NY) said, 'Thousands of American families have already expressed their willingness to take refugee children into their homes.' First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt set aside her anti-Semitism to support the legislation, but her husband successfully blocked it for years. In July, 1940, Adolf Eichman, 'architect of the holocaust,' intended to send all Jews to Madagascar, which now belonged to Germany, France having been occupied. The ships would need to wait only until the British, which now meant Winston Churchill, ended their blockade. That day never came. On November 25, 1940, the French ambassador asked the U.S. Secretary of State to consider accepting German Jewish refugees then in France. On the 21st of December, the Secretary of State declined. By July 1941, the Nazis had determined that a final solution for the Jews could consist of genocide rather than expulsion."
It's worth adding to that quote that U.S. officials were obeying majority U.S. opinion. Most people in the United States did not want to allow Jewish immigrants from Germany to enter the country. While the news had been reported from Germany of growing brutality toward Jews and others, the U.S. media, including famously the New York Times, had downplayed it, as had U.S. politicians -- both out of anti-Semitism and out of a desire to maintain good relations with the German government. In fact, following the disastrous treaty of Versailles that ended World War I in a manner predicted at the time to create World War II, the United States invested heavily in Nazi Germany as a preferable alternative to communists. Our peace movement hero Smedley Butler was locked up in Quantico when he publicly said something disfavorable about Benito Mussolini.
The myth of the evil Nazis is not a myth because they were not evil, but because the U.S. government fundamentally did not give a damn, engaged in eugenics and human experimentation before, during, and after the war, ran an Apartheid state for African Americans, locked Japanese Americans in camps, pursued global empire, and pointlessly slaughtered during the war many more civilians than died in Nazi camps -- something that can be said of most parties to that war, a war that killed 50 to 70 million people, while the German camps killed some 9 million.