RW ONLINE: The Pretexts of Powell's Predecessors
The Pretexts of Powell's Predecessors
Revolutionary Worker #1187, February 16, 2003, posted at rwor.org
"It really comes down to whether or not the country trusts President Bush's
Senior official aboard Air Force One, New York Times ,
The White House claims its armies must make war on Iraq to defeat "threats"
against the people of the United States. But these justifications are only as
believable as the government itself.
Over and over, U.S. presidents have been proven to be cold-blooded
The Spanish-American War
The U.S. battleship Maine blew up on February 15, 1898 in Havana
harbor-- when Cuba was still one of Spain's colonies.
There was never any evidence that Spanish forces were involved in this
explosion. It may have been accidentally caused by the Maine 's crew. But
this did not stop the pro-war forces in the U.S. ruling class from publishing
front-page drawings "showing" how the Spanish forces had attached mines to the
bottom of the ship. Shouting "Remember the Maine!" the U.S. government rushed
into a war to snatch an empire from Spain. The U.S. claimed this war was also to
"liberate" the people of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from
colonialism. But the U.S. quickly seized the islands for itself. It betrayed the
hopes of the people and brutally suppressed their resistance.
World War 1
The transatlantic passenger ship Lusitania was sunk by a German
submarine in 1915. Over a thousand people died, including 124 Americans. The
U.S. government claimed that the Lusitania was a passenger ship only
carrying innocent cargo. Charging Germany with senselessly attacking civilians,
the U.S. soon entered World War 1 on the side of Britain.
In fact, the U.S. government was looking for an excuse to join the war and
was lying about the Lusitania . This ship was, as the Germans charged,
packed with U.S. arms heading for Britain--1,248 cases of artillery shells, 5
million rifle cartridges, and millions of rounds of other ammunition. The U.S.
military coldly used civilians as a human cover while it violated its own claims
World War 2
On December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor
in Hawaii. The U.S. government and media immediately denounced this raid as an
unprovoked "sneak attack on U.S. soil." The U.S. quickly entered the war against
Japan and Germany.
In fact the Roosevelt administration had long been looking for an excuse to
join this war. The White House had already lied about two naval incidents in the
Atlantic involving German submarines and U.S. destroyers.
Hawaii was hardly "U.S. soil." These Polynesian islands had been recently
seized from the indigenous people by U.S. troops. They had been turned into a
massive military base to project U.S. power into the western Pacific--to better
control the people in China and the Philippines.
The U.S. government had knowingly made war in the Pacific inevitable
by cutting off Japanese oil and iron scrap in the months preceding
Pearl Harbor. And the U.S. War Department knew (despite their claims of
surprise) that the Japanese fleet was about to respond with a naval offensive
somewhere in the Pacific. Secretary Henry Stimson wrote in his diary:
"When the news first came that Japan had attacked us, my first feeling was of
relief that the indecision was over and that a crisis had come in a way which
would unite all our people."
The attack provided Roosevelt with the basis for rallying people behind his
long-established aim of waging war with Japan for control of vast areas of the
Pacific and Asia--and projecting and extending American imperial power, in
rivalry with other imperialist states, including enemies such as Germany and
Japan, and allies like England.
Cuban Missile Crisis
Much is being said in the U.S. press about how Powell's UN speech is like the
performance of Ambassador Adlai Stevenson--who "laid out the evidence" at the UN
during the October 1963 Cuban missile crisis. Stevenson showed spy-plane photos
of the Soviet Union moving nuclear missiles onto Cuban soil.
The truth is that Stevenson's presentation distorted the situation by denying
key facts. For example, the U.S. had recently launched an armed CIA invasion of
Cuba--landing at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. Stevenson specifically swore to
the UN that the U.S. was not involved (which was a complete lie). After that
failed invasion, the Cuban government had good reason to expect new attacks from
Stevenson also didn't discuss that the U.S. had just placed
first-strike nuclear Jupiter missiles in bases in Turkey, directly threatening
the Soviet Union. These Jupiter missiles were ready for launch by April 1962.
Soviet ships started moving weapons to Cuba in July 1962.
On August 4, 1964, the White House and Pentagon charged that torpedo gunboats
from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (called "North Vietnam" in the U.S.
media) had launched unprovoked attacks on the U.S. fleet in the Gulf of
The New York Times wrote on its front page: "President Johnson has
ordered retaliatory action against gunboats and `certain supporting facilities
in North Vietnam' after renewed attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf
The U.S. Congress passed the "Gulf of Tonkin Resolution" which authorized the
massive deployment of U.S. troops into southern Vietnam. In April 1965, a U.S.
invasion force of ground troops landed at Danang. It was the start of ten years
of brutal warfare where over 500,000 U.S. troops landed and millions of
Vietnamese and over 50,000 U.S. troops died.
In fact, this "Gulf of Tonkin incident" was a complete lie. The U.S.S.
Maddox was engaged in extremely provocative actions, secretly coordinated
with direct armed actions against northern Vietnam on August 2. And the supposed
torpedo attacks on August 4 simply never happened. One of the Navy pilots flying
overhead on that night later said (when he was a retired admiral): "I had the
best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just
shooting at phantom targets--there were no PT boats there. There was nothing
there but black water and American fire power."
In October 1983, the Reagan White House announced that the tiny Caribbean
island of Grenada was being taken over by Cuban military forces, and that U.S.
students at a local medical school were in great "danger." On October 23, U.S.
forces launched "Operation Urgent Fury"--they invaded with 7,000 troops and
In fact, this pretext was a complete lie. Grenada had a popular radical
government and the Reagan administration was determined to carry out a "regime
change." The Cubans on the island were overwhelmingly construction workers and
engineers helping build a new airport. Reagan later joked that the U.S. had to
retake Grenada because it is the world's biggest producer of nutmeg. "You can't
make good eggnog without nutmeg," he quipped.
Gulf War--Non-Existent "Secret Evidence"
When the U.S. cabinet first discussed launching a war in the Persian Gulf, on
August 3, 1990, General Colin Powell said that it would be impossible to get
support for war over Iraq's takeover of Kuwait. Powell reportedly said: "I think
we could go to war if they invaded Saudi Arabia."
Soon the U.S. government claimed that Iraq was planning to invade Saudi
Arabia. The U.S. said it had "classified satellite photographs" from September
1990 that showed 265,000 Iraqi soldiers and 1,500 tanks "massing" on the Saudi
border. This threat of "renewed aggression" was used to push for UN support and
convince the U.S. public that a war was necessary.
Investigative reporter Jean Heller used commercial satellite photos to
prove that there was no build-up for invasion. "The satellite pictures were so
clear that at Riyadh airport in Saudi Arabia you could see American planes
sitting wingtip to wingtip," Heller says. "We could see clearly the main road
leading right through Kuwait, south to Saudi Arabia, but it was covered with
sand banks from the wind and it was clear that no army had moved over it."
A year later, Powell admitted there had been no massive build-up. By then,
the U.S. had bombed Iraq and established huge permanent bases in Saudi
Gulf War--False Testimony
In November 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti woman sat before a U.S. congressional
committee and told a heart-rending story of cruelty. She said she was a
volunteer nurse who personally watched Iraqi soldiers throw premature babies out
of incubators in the Al Adnan hospital in Kuwait city and leave them "on the
cold floor to die."
President Bush Senior mentioned these "incubator babies" in five speeches.
Senators mentioned them as they voted for pro-war resolutions.
Myra Ancog-Cooke, the Filipino nurse who slept in the Kuwaiti incubator room
with the infants, later said: "I remember someone called and said, `Look at CNN,
they are talking about us.' We watched and it was strange seeing that girl
telling them about the Iraqis taking the babies out of the incubators. I said to
Freida, `That's funny, we've never seen her. She never worked here.' "
The incubator testimony was a total hoax. It was the brainchild of Hill &
Knowlton--a public relations firm hired for million by the Kuwaiti monarchy.
The woman who testified before the world's TV cameras turned out to be Niyirah
al Sabah, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S.
On August 20, 1998, the U.S. sent 13 cruise missiles into the huge al Shifa
pharmaceutical factory near Khartoum in the Sudan--completely destroying it.
The Clinton administration justified the attack, saying the factory was a
threat "to our national security." The U.S. government said the CIA had proof
that al Shifa was linked to Osama bin Laden and was making nerve gas.
The CIA later admitted that these charges were untrue.
Sudan only had two medicine factories. It lost its source of anti-malarial
and anti-TB drugs, aspirin and veterinary medicine. One worker died.
"Given its history, U.S. intelligence should come with a health warning."
Guardian (UK), February 6, 2003
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