In 1898, the USS Maine was sunk in Havana Harbor (if you’re a conservative, Havana is in Cuba). It was sunk in February of that year. By April, we were at war with Spain. At that time, Spain was a world power whose strength was dwindling. But, they still held territories from their days of conquest. When the war was over, Spanish Empire was no more and the United States was a world power taking possession of Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. The war only lasted ten weeks and none of the fighting was in the U.S. or Spain.
The sinking of the Maine was a contributing factor for the U.S. to go to war with Spain. The public wasn’t enthusiastic about war until the Maine was sunk. Newspapers at the time, operating with less journalistic integrity than they do now, published on front pages the rallying cry, “Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain!” And to this day, we don’t know what sunk the ship. But quite frankly, wouldn’t Spain had rather sunk a ship that didn’t rhyme with “Spain?”
There has never been any proof the Spaniards sunk The Maine. In 1974, a U.S. naval investigation agreed with the theory that the sinking happened because the ship’s magazines had been ignited by a spontaneous fire in a coal bunker. Spain never even got a “my bad.”
In 1915 during World War I (which nobody was calling “World War I” at the time), the ocean liner Lusitania was sunk by Germany off the coast of Ireland. Germany was waging submarine warfare against the United Kingdom which had initiated a naval blockade of Germany. Propaganda was spread by both sides, but the tide of public opinion internationally went against Germany, which was easy because they’re German. While the ship was carrying civilian passengers, including many Americans, Germany argued that it was also carrying ammunition for the war. The sinking helped instigate America’s entry into World War I (in case you’re a Trump cultist, we entered on the side of the British, not the Germans), which before had been very unpopular in the U.S. Most Americans couldn’t see how the fight in Europe was any business of the United States. Most historians still can’t find any genuine reason for the U.S. to have been in World War I.
The UK denied that the ship carried ammunition but decades later, issued a warning to divers stating the equivalent of, “hey, be careful. There are ammunitions down there.”
In 1964, the U.S. Navy and North Vietnamese Navy had one or two skirmishes in the Gulf of Tonkin. One or two? Yes, because to this day, we’re not sure. But whatever happened in the Gulf led the U.S. to become way more involved in the Vietnam War.
Three North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the destroyer, USS Maddox. Four North Vietnamese sailors were killed, six wounded, with damages to each torpedo boat. One American aircraft was damaged and a single bullet hole was discovered in the ship. The U.S. later claimed there was a second attack but the only evidence found have been ghost radar images. The U.S. Navy described ghost images as a naval battle.
What happened next was Congress giving President Lyndon Johnson authority to assist any Southeast Asian nation who was being threatened by communist aggression. Lyndon later used this to justify escalating the war. Full details of the Tonkin incident were kept from the public and later, many involved claimed the Maddox was used to instigate North Vietnam to attack it in order to justify the U.S. going to war.
In 2003, the U.S. led an international coalition in an invasion of Iraq based on the lie that they had weapons of mass destruction and a nuclear program. In case you’re a Republican, No. They did not have weapons of mass destruction and their nuclear program was about as advanced as my microwave oven. I have to state that because people like John Bolton, our current National Security Adviser, still argues the case for invading Iraq.
There were also lies that Iraq was involved in 9/11 with a majority of Americans holding that belief. What was ignored by American politicians and the public was that Iraq never attacked the United States.
Ultimately, over 4,000 American soldiers were killed with an estimated 100,000 plus Iraqi civilian deaths. We overthrew Saddam Hussein and Iraq became a “democracy.” Iraq also became a nation full of insurgents. And even though the Iraqi Army was demolished, the government destroyed, and George W. Bush declaring “mission accomplished,” the war continued for nearly nine years. We created a power vacuum in Iraq and created ISIS. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney made a terrorist rock star out of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Are you ready to do it again?
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“Remember the Maine! To Hell with Spain!”
Clay, you left out the rest of The Classic Restroom Graffiti :
“Don’t Forget To Pull The Chain!”
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Well, at least there’s no question about Pearl Harbor.
Except… why did the Pearl Harbor Command ignore the early warnings from the Westinghouse Radars that detected the incoming Japanese planes?
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One possibility is that at the time, public opinion was against getting involved in the war, but FDR needed to sway that public opinion to help their European allies fight back against Germany. Learning of a coming attack was the perfect opportunity FDR needed, and the attack worked in changing American minds about the war.
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