The Pretexts Behind War Making

December 1, 2003

on KMUD’s Hearts & Minds radio show
December 7, 2003

I have been struck by how incredibly easy it seems for governments to convince vast numbers of its people (though not all) of the nobility of supporting irrational military adventures in far off places. More incredible is that it convinces, or gets away with conscripting, large numbers of young people who are trained and armed, and travel long distances to kill total strangers, following orders of adult male authorities. I am astounded at how easy it was for my government to convince me, a young man considered bright by my peers and teachers, to travel 10,000 miles from my hometown to participate in destroying a society I knew virtually nothing about, hurting villagers who were total strangers, who posed no physical threat to me or anyone else.

My Air Force recruiter convinced me that I would be assigned to a job enhancing my advanced plans to be a criminal lawyer. Instead, I was trained to protect military installations in war zones where I became traumatized from witnessing hundreds of bodies of murdered civilians strewn on their ancestral village lands. So much for representations of recruiters. Wow!

Because public support is so crucial to the process of waging war the phenomenon of using deceit and secrecy is found throughout modern history starting with the first urban "civilizations" in the Fertile Crescent some 6,000 years ago. Governments, or collections of hierarchical oligarchs that seem to be the common denominator of "civilizations," including ours, have regularly resorted to lies and fabrications to instill fear in their citizens to justify aggressive interventions that in fact serve a few wealthy elite, but not popular interests. Wow! It is true that the threat of force was always present, as it is now, to assure that citizens would support and participate in waging war. However, the advent of "democracy" has required the art of persuasion, i.e., public opinion management and the manufacturing of consent [Walter Lippman, Public Opinion, 1922; Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, Manufacturing Consent, 1988)] to generally replace the political use of force.

Since today is the 62nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor, let us look more closely at the so-called "Good War," generally presented as a clear example of why wars are necessary. In an amazing book, Day Of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (NY: The Free Press, 2000), WWII veteran and long-time journalist Robert B. Stinnett confirms earlier suspicions with overwhelming evidence from research under the Freedom of Information Act, that not only was the attack on Pearl Harbor known in advance at the highest levels from decoded Japanese intelligence, but it was deliberately provoked through an eight-step program carried out by the U.S. Navy. When FDR campaigned for re-election in 1940 he promised an isolationist America that no U.S. boys would be sent to fight Europe’s war. In order to enter the war Roosevelt needed an overt aggressive act committed against the United States to garner the public support he needed.

The end of that same "Good War" has been attributed to the dropping of not just one, but two atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945. Once again, honest research delving into the inner workings of President Truman’s administration discovered that Japan had decided to surrender by late June 1945. However, use of the newly tested powerful bomb was deemed necessary as an instrument of postwar diplomacy to "make the Russians more manageable." See Gar Alperovitz’s authoritative studies, Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam–The Use of the Atomic Bomb and the American Confrontation With Soviet Power (NY: Penguin Books, 1965, 1985), and The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (NY: Vintage Books, 1996).

Of course we all NOW know the Vietnam war was based on the fabrication of the Gulf of Tonkin incident that nonetheless quickly led to the Tonkin Resolution supported 416 to 0 in the U.S. House, and 88 to 2 in the Senate, granting President Johnson virtually unlimited authority to unleash incredible firepower and thousands of troops waging war against the Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian societies. Five million human beings were killed, really murdered, due to our criminal invasion of a sovereign society justified by a web of lies and carried out in violation of international laws. Wow!

Looking just into U.S. history, one finds lies surrounding every war and foreign intervention starting with the very first Marine landing in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic in 1798, the War of 1812, the Mexican American War, the Spanish American War, WW I, Korea, Grenada, bombing of Libya, Panama, Gulf War I, NATO’s war against ex-Yugoslavia, and the most recent wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. Virtually all interventions carried out under cover of "plausible deniability," such as the not-so secret Reagan interventions in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in the 1980s, and literally hundreds of other covert actions over the past 50 years, were subsequently discovered to have been based on false pretenses while killing countless human beings, each of whom is worth no less than us.

Next, let us look at world history. Hmm! Similar pattern. Over the past 5,000 years some scholars indicate nearly 15,000 wars, 3,000 of which involved casualties of 1,000 or more in land battles, 500 or more in naval battles. [SEE Quincy Wright’s A Study of War (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1942, 1964)]. Perhaps force was more easily used to enforce conscription, but nonetheless, support of the population at-large was necessary to avoid needless popular rebellion and tax resistance. Listen to how conservative U.S. economist Joseph Schumpter in 1919 described the Roman empire that lasted 900 years conquering lands throughout what is present day Europe, southwest Asia, the Middle East, and northern Africa:


There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome’s allies; and if Rome had no allies, the allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest–why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors… The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies, and it was manifestly Rome’s duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs. [IN Michael Parenti, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome (NY: The New Press, 2003), p.19.]

Does this sound similar? One big difference: the U.S. doctrine of full spectrum dominance now reaches to the entire globe plus outer space! Troops are in not just a handful of countries, but in 150 nations, with ships in every sea space and planes in every air space, with plans to control outer space. Wow!

I don’t believe any of this could happen without the complicity of our population. Therefore, it is important to recognize just how much effort has been expended to persuade us, the people of the so-called exceptional civilization known as the United States of America, i.e., to control the manner and content of our thoughts.

Intensive modern propaganda started during WW I. President Woodrow Wilson campaigned for re-election in 1916 on a platform of remaining neutral, promising not to send our boys off to a war in Europe. However, the powerful domestic economic forces who had been financing the European war (e.g., J. P. Morgan) feared losing their investments and wanted the U.S. taxpayers to become their ultimate guarantor. Wilson was forced to find a way to convince isolationist America (remember Roosevelt’s plight in 1940-41) to support entrance into the war. He quickly established in effect t
he first modern "Ministry of Propaganda" with appointment of liberal journalist George Creel as head of the Committee on Public Information (CPI) to mobilize U.S. popular support as rapidly as possible. A massive national advertising campaign that included billboards, editorials, and ads in virtually every newspaper and magazine proceeded with gusto. 75,000 "Four Minute Men" — mostly local professionals, lawyers and small businessmen were rallied to preach 150,000 times each week supporting the holiness of the U.S. war effort and the threats posed by those holding antiwar opinions.

Edward Bernays, considered the original "liberal" architect of modern propaganda techniques, had served with Creel on the CPI. Bernays’ vivid writings after the war argued that the ability of modern "civilization" to shape and direct public opinion was essential to the maintenance of order. His work reportedly inspired Joseph Goebbels who later became the notorious Nazi propaganda minister. In the 1950s, when the United States feared that the Soviets had learned advanced techniques of mind control we developed our own secret MKULTRA mind-control experiments, a program that lasted more than ten years in efforts to manipulate behavioral control, a la the "Manchurian Candidate." [SEE Stuart Ewen’s PR!: A Social History of Spin (NY: Basic Books, 1996); John Mark’s The Search for the ‘Manchurian Candidate’: The CIA and Mind Control (NY: Times Books, 1979).]

This is the world we find ourselves in, but I maintain that Bush has been presented to us as a cosmic gift in disguise that we, the US American people, might finally SEE the terrible errors of our ways and draw upon our deeper and more ancient human qualities to withdraw our consent from a civilization gone mad. It is time to push aside the curtain of propaganda perpetuating global death and destruction with our dollars and tacit consent. It is time to move beyond civilization and recover our senses as tribal beings living in intimate bioregional communities without hierarchy and oligarchy. Yes, it is a pivotal human evolutionary moment. It is our time!


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