Saturday, October 5, 2013

Is History the Agreed-Upon Lie? by ROBERT FANTINA

     One would think that certain historical facts are simply that: facts. Yet within those facts, there is often much interpretation. There is, for example, no question that Christopher Columbus arrived on the North American continent in 1492. However, it is erroneous to say that he ‘discovered’ America, since millions of people were already living on the continent. Yet he is looked up to as a great hero who ‘discovered’ America. The other facts, including that he was a slave trader, only looking for a quicker route to India to improve the profitability of his businesses, are somehow not considered.

     Other information presented as facts are simply fabrications; oh, there may, somewhere, be a germ of truth in them, but mostly, they are simply lies. U.S. history is replete with them; they are taught in public schools, and accepted with little question by most of the citizenry.

     A look at just a few is informative.

·         On August 2, 1964, the U.S. destroyer Maddox was on an espionage mission in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of Vietnam. Tensions were already high in the area, as the U.S. attempted to prevent the entire country from coming under the Communist government in the north. The Maddox reported that it was fired upon and that it responded, sinking one Vietnamese torpedo patrol boat. Two days later, instruments on the Maddox indicated that it was under attack again. The Maddox and its sister ship, the C. Turner Joy, fired back, with assistance from U.S. air power.

Yet within a day, the captain of the Maddox concluded that there might not have been any attack at all; why the instruments on the ship indicated that there had been was not explained. James B. Stockdale, the pilot of a Crusader jet that undertook a reconnaissance flight over the gulf that evening, was asked if he saw any North Vietnamese attack vessels. “Not a one,” he said. “No boats, no wakes, no ricochets off boats, no boat impacts, no torpedo wakes – nothing but black sea and American firepower.”

So there was no attack on the Maddox. Yet this non-event was seen by Congress as aggression against the United States. The so-called ‘Gulf of Tonkin resolution’ was passed, giving President Lyndon Johnson a blank check to escalate the war, which continued for over a decade, killed over 50,000 Americans and between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 Vietnamese, nearly destroyed the U.S. economy and brought the U.S. to the brink of revolution. The U.S. grew to be hated and feared throughout the world.

·         Less than forty years later, the fear of Communism had faded, but the U.S. needed a new enemy. There must be some way to continue the lucrative business of defense contractors, and enable the U.S. to arrange world affairs to its liking. So terrorism replaced Communism as that which was to be feared and defeated. And in many ways, terrorism is a much better target, since it is hard to define, and when it is defeated is anybody’s guess.

So in 2002, President George Bush proclaimed to the United Nations, Congress and the world that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and presented an imminent threat to the U.S. A skeptical United Nations sent weapons inspectors to Iraq, and that country’s leader, Saddam Hussein, provided unprecedented access to any requested sites. They found no weapons of mass destruction. Most of the U.S.’s allies were satisfied that the inspections were taking place, and if there were such weapons to be found, the inspectors would find them. This, however, was not good enough for Mr. Bush. He ‘knew’ that Iraq had these weapons, and as a result, the national security of the United States was in jeopardy. He ordered the U.N. to recall its inspectors, so he could invade.

Following a decade-long war and a brutal occupation by the United States, which nearly threw Iraq into civil war and opened up hostilities among groups that had long lived in peaceful, if uneasy, coexistence, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. Yet following the invasion and the quick overthrow of the government, Mr. Bush ordered that the oil refineries and associated businesses be protected, as crowds looted museums and universities. In the ensuing decade, estimates of Iraqi deaths range from 100,000 to 1,000,000, and over 4,000 U.S. soldiers died. Countless others returned with horrendous injuries.

The lies the U.S. tells its citizens do not always involve war, although all its wars have been built on lies. The U.S. belief in the pilgrims, arriving at Plymouth Rock and finding an uninhabited land, only awaiting their arrival to use the rich natural resources they found there aplenty, is another myth, long and diligently perpetrated. The unspeakable genocide committed against Native Americans, as their land was brutally stolen from them, has been documented by countless sources, yet is not taught in public schools.

Two-term president Andrew Jackson, considered a hero of the Mexican-American war, confiscated (read: stole) 23 million acres from the Creek nation, and then sold most of it to his fellow-slave owners, keeping a large amount for himself.

Many slaves who escaped bondage in Georgia and Alabama found homes with the Seminoles in Florida. Over a period of generations, their descendants established a peaceful farm community deep inside the territory. Prior to his election as president, Mr. Jackson invaded with an army of southern whites, attacked the community and killed 270 men, women and children. He then took the captured survivors to Georgia and Alabama, and gave them to anyone claiming to be descendants of the ‘owners’ of the original runaways.

Such atrocities were not unique to Mr. Jackson. Other generals, considered national heroes with roads, buildings and airports named in their memories, were also guilty of horrendous crimes.

But why think about such things? Isn’t the United States the world’s beacon of peace, freedom and democracy? Think of the wonders it has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now, as this is written, think of the many advantages that drone strikes are bringing to Pakistan, Yemen, and other places around the world. So what if some innocent men, women and children are killed? Being killed by a U.S. drone strike is not quite as bad, after all, as being killed by an evil dictator, is it? And while it is a well-known fact that U.S. citizens suffer, bleed and die, citizens of other nations are accustomed to such horrors, so they don’t mind them quite as much. A Pakistani mother, seeing her five-year-old daughter blown to bits by a U.S. drone, doesn’t feel the same about her loss as a U.S. mother would feel, right?

     This is the illustrious history of the United States: lies, war, murder, genocide. Tragic and criminal as it is, it is compounded by the citizens’ lemmings-like adherence to the party line. The facts are there; the trouble is getting people to face them.



Robert Fantina is an author and activist for peace and international human rights. A U.S. citizen, he moved to Canada following the 2004 presidential election. He has written about military desertion from the United States in his book Desertion and the American Soldier, and has also written about the impact that war has on individuals, in his novel, Look Not Unto the Morrow, a Vietnam-era, anti-war story. His writing appears regularly on Counterpunch.org, Warisacrime.org, and other sites. Mr. Fantina resides near Toronto, Ontario.