The Pretexts of Powell's Predecessors

Revolutionary Worker #1187, February 16, 2003, posted at

"It really comes down to whether or not the country trusts President Bush's judgment."

Senior official aboard Air Force One, New York Times , January 25

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 liars.

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 of neutrality.

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 the U.S.

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.

Vietnam War

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 Tonkin.

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 of Tonkin."

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 occupied Grenada.

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 Arabia.

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 $2 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.

Sudan Bombing

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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