Montreal, March 2, 2002  /  No 99  
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Ralph Maddocks is a retired textile executive and former management consultant. He lives in Cowansville, Quebec.
by Ralph Maddocks
          It may have struck readers of QL that Mr. Bush's War on Terrorism had something in common with several previous wars involving the United States. It was preceded by a very dramatic incident perceived by the public to be attacks on American interests. Firstly, one recalls that short and pathetically one-sided war, the Spanish-American War. This war represented a powerful resurgence of the same doctrine of Manifest Destiny that led the United States to expand westward by defeating Mexico in 1846-48. The U.S. tendency toward imperialism took place at a time when the major European nations were busy establishing colonies throughout Africa. Following the Spanish-American War, the United States became a world power that oversaw an empire stretching from the Caribbean Sea to the Far East.
The sinking of the Maine 
          Attempts by U.S. mercenaries to foment rebellion against the Spanish date back to before the U.S. civil war. In fact many of the Southern plantation owners financed such expeditions with the hopes of expanding their slave empire. During the years following the civil war, the possession of Cuba came to be seen as strategically desirable. As plans went forward for the construction of a canal across Central America, control of Cuba came to be seen as even more imperative. U.S. lust for Cuba was hardly a secret. Some years earlier, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts had declared, "England has studded the Atlantic seaboard with strong places which are a standing menace to our Atlantic seaboard. We should have among those islands at least one strong naval station, and when the Nicaragua canal is built, the island of Cuba [...] will become to us a necessity." Another Senator, Shelby M. Cullom, was even more blunt in expressing American imperialist ambitions. He said, "It is time someone woke up and realized the necessity of annexing some property. We want all this northern hemisphere." The only problem that remained was how to convince the public, at a time when the people were still imbued with the ideals of the American Revolution and the war against slavery, that the forcible annexation of Spanish colonies could be reconciled with democratic principles. 
          The brutality of the Spanish forces on the island of Cuba was dramatized in American newspapers, arousing a great deal of sympathy across the United States. This was depicted graphically in the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, both of whom were eager for war with Spain. By means of one-sided and sensational reporting these newspaper barons popularised a fight for colonial plunder, the seizure of Cuba, the Philippines and other territories from the Spaniards. Hearst even sent the renowned artist Frederic Remington to Cuba to provide sketches for American newspaper readers of the revolution. When a disillusioned Remington wired Hearst, "Everything quiet. No trouble here. There will be no war. I wish to return." Hearst shot back the notorious reply, "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I will furnish the war." 
          On the pretext of protecting American citizens, although in fact there was no such threat, the President ordered the battleship Maine to Key West, Florida, where it could sail to Cuba at a moment's notice. Then, when a group of conservative Spaniards attacked a Havana newspaper office on January 12, 1898, McKinley sent the Maine to Havana. The Spanish, very anxious to avert war, accepted U.S. explanations that the visit of the powerful warship was a "courtesy call." The ship's officers were treated with all possible respect. Then, on February 15, just as the Maine prepared to leave Havana, a huge explosion tore apart the ship causing the deaths of two officers and 266 enlisted men, out of the 354-man crew. The Spanish helped to rescue the survivors and expressed great shock at the tragedy. 
          To this day, no one knows for sure what caused the explosion. The Spanish certainly had no motive for provoking a war given the huge military and industrial strength of the United States. Without one shred of evidence, the American press assumed the Spanish were to blame. When Hearst heard the news of the explosion he declared, "This means war." The New York Journal carried a headline reading, "The War Ship Maine Was Split In Two By An Enemy's Secret Infernal Machine." The front page carried a drawing of the ship riding on top of mines with wires leading to a Spanish fort guarding the harbor. A commission hastily assembled by the United States concluded that a mine had indeed destroyed the ship. The assumption, though not explicitly stated, was that the Spanish were responsible. The slogan "Remember the Maine" became the battle cry of U.S. militarists. 
          No proof of Spain's involvement has ever surfaced and various Courts of Inquiry have been unable to obtain evidence fixing the responsibility for the destruction of the Maine upon any person or persons. In August 1910, Congress authorized the raising of the Maine and directed Army engineers to supervise the work. A second board of inquiry appointed to inspect the wreck after it was raised reported that injuries to the ship's bottom were caused by an external explosion of low magnitude that set off the forward magazine, completing destruction of the ship. It has never been determined who placed the explosive. Technical experts at the time of both investigations disagreed with these findings, believing that spontaneous combustion of coal in the bunker adjacent to the reserve six-inch magazine was the most likely cause of the explosion on board the ship. An opinion reiterated in 1976 by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover in his book, How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed. Using documentation gathered from the two official inquiries, as well as information on the construction and ammunition of the Maine, the experts concluded that the damage caused to the ship was inconsistent with the external explosion of a mine. The most likely cause, they speculated, was spontaneous combustion of coal in the bunker next to the magazine. 
The sinking of the Lusitania 
          Secondly, there is also some suspicion related to the sinking of the Lusitania a British cargo and passenger ship that was torpedoed and sank due to German submarine activity in May of 1915. The Lusitania crossed the Atlantic peacefully many times over the years, but as World War I escalated and German submarines became more threatening, her situation became precarious. The Lusitania felt herself unsinkable because of her reserve speed capabilities. Because of her over-confidence she set out from New York on May 1, 1915, with the intent of delivering food and passengers to England in spite of threats of sinking by German authorities. Six days later, on May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was too slow to notice both the periscope and the torpedo of a German submarine to escape her fate.  
     « Here we have four earlier examples of a U.S. administration misleading its people and it would be naive to believe that it could never happen again. Indeed, there have been mutterings that the September 11th attack on the WTC may have been known to the administration before it happened. »
          She took a solid hit whose sound was described by passengers as a "peal of thunder," a "dull thud-like sound," or "like a million-ton hammer hitting a steel boiler a hundred feet high and a hundred feet long." Though they did not explode, water rushed into the first and second boiler rooms and caused the boat to shake from side to side. She then rose a little before a second massive explosion took her down into the sea. The exact cause of the second explosion is a point of contention. The Lusitania shows evidence that she may have been torpedoed a second or even a third time – but the second, most destructive, explosion may not have been caused by a German torpedo, but rather may have come from inside the ship. The reason behind this speculation is that the Lusitania's cargo has been called into question. She had originally said she would take, along with her passengers, platinum, bullion, diamonds and various other precious stones, but these things were never found and port records do not list them. She is believed to have instead carried, under the guise of bales of fur and cheese, 3-inch shells and millions of rounds of rifle ammunition. If true, these materials comprised "a contraband and explosive cargo which was forbidden by American law and... should never have been placed on a passenger liner(1)." 
          Whether the torpedoes completed the destruction of the ship by their own power or whether they were aided by the explosion of internal ammunition, the German submarine attack devastated the Lusitania. The ship sank within twenty minutes of being hit and took with her 1,201 people – leaving only 764 to be saved by those who responded to her SOS (Simpson, 9). Many of the lives lost were American, and because the Lusitania was never officially in government service, the United States believed the attack on her "was contrary to international law and the conventions of all civilized nations." The sinking of the Lusitania caused serious tension between the United States and Germany. 
Not such a surprise 
          Thirdly, there is considerable evidence to suggest that the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 was not the infamous surprise claimed at the time. President Roosevelt did not, like the British who were also warned of the impending attack, inform his commanders but sent his most strategic naval assets (aircraft carriers) out to sea where they would be safe. Then he instructed that the pivotal observation posts on Kauai were to stand down. The Japanese planes made their approach to Pearl Harbour over Kauai! It may be recalled that in the United States at the time there was widespread opposition to intervention in the war in Europe. It is now clear that Roosevelt managed to change that opposition by creating the circumstances which would change public opinion. That opinion changed quickly as the toll at Pearl Harbour became known. Some 2,403 deaths, 1,178 persons wounded, eighteen ships sunk or seriously damaged, including five battleships, 188 U.S. planes destroyed and 162 damaged.  
          Interestingly, during the Grand Joint Army Navy Exercises of 1932, the attacker, Admiral Yarnell, attacked with 152 planes half an hour before dawn 40 miles NE of Kahuku Point catching the defenders of Pearl Harbor completely by surprise. Coincidently it was a Sunday!  
          Fourthly, some twenty three years after Pearl Harbour, on Aug. 5, 1964, a Washington Post headline proclaimed "American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New Aggression." On the same day, the front page of the New York Times reported: "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." Headlines which at the time seemed so clear and unassailable.  
          The facts are though, that there was no "second attack" by North Vietnam – no "renewed attacks against American destroyers." American journalism, by reporting official claims as absolute truths, opened the floodgates for what soon became the traumatic Vietnam War. A pattern emerged: continuous government lies, willingly distributed by a submissive mass media, led to over 50,000 American deaths and millions of Vietnamese casualties. The official version of the facts was that North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an "unprovoked attack" against a U.S. destroyer on a "routine patrol" in the Tonkin Gulf on August 2nd. This was said to have been followed by a "deliberate attack" on a pair of U.S. ships two days later by North Vietnamese PT boats.  
          The truth was very different. Instead of being on a routine patrol on August 2nd, the U.S. destroyer Maddox was actually engaged in pugnacious intelligence-gathering manoeuvres. Manoeuvres which were synchronised with coordinated attacks on North Vietnam by the South Vietnamese navy and the Laotian air force. According to the scholar Daniel C. Hallin, those assaults were "part of a campaign of increasing military pressure on the North that the United States had been pursuing since early 1964." He wrote also that "The day before, two attacks on North Vietnam [...] had taken place," Johnson had ordered U.S. bombers to "retaliate" for a North Vietnamese torpedo attack that never occurred, thus escalating an adventure which has had long lasting effects on the American psyche. 
Misleading people 
          So here we have four earlier examples of a U.S. administration misleading its people and it would be naive to believe that it could never happen again. Indeed, there have been mutterings that the September 11th attack on the WTC may have been known to the administration before it happened. Ruling elites in the USA have never displayed much sympathy when faced with the loss of civilian lives in other countries. One could cite Rwanda, Iraq, Yugoslavia and many other examples in support of this attitude, so they could not be expected to be overly concerned by the prospect of a couple of thousand American deaths. 
          According to one report, an official of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, whose New York City office was located on the 82nd Floor of One World Trade Centre reported that at least three or four months before those two jets ploughed into the buildings, New York police established a higher security profile in and around the complex. According to this source, there were security barricades around the buildings, checkpoints, armed policemen in the lobbies of the centre's buildings, and frequent absenteeism by some government personnel. One week before the attack, an Iranian in Hamburg, Germany contacted police and warned them of an impending terrorist attack against the United States using hijacked aircraft. His warning specifically mentioned the World Trade Centre.  
          A high-ranking U.S. government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, revealed that the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan probably provided legitimate visas for the fake passports used by Bin Laden's associates to enter the United States. Apparently, the U.S. Embassy in the Pakistani capital was a virtual sieve in providing U.S. visas to Pakistanis and Afghanis. Also, according to the source, other U.S. diplomatic missions in Lahore and Peshawar, Pakistan and the Gulf States have loose visa policies. "The intelligence failure started with those visa offices," lamented the same official. 
          In 1998(2), it had been decided that to get at the oil in the Caspian Sea, one of the largest oil-reserves in the world, a new pipeline would be needed. Billions of dollars would flow from tapping this resource but none of the governments through which the oil could flow was then recognised by the U.S. government. One route was through Afghanistan, but this obviously needed a change of government. A bunch of backward zealots would not do. The events of September 11 ensured that a new government was indeed installed.  
          Is it possible that the prospect of money on this scale could motivate a government to cause a terrorist attack on its own people? Many of the world's conspiracy theorists think so, and given the previous history recited above it is not difficult to understand why. 
1. Colin Simpson, The Lusitania, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1972, p. 157-158.  >>
2. U.S. Interests in the Central Asian Republics. Hearing before the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the Committee on International Relations House of Representatives, one hundred fifth congress, second session, February 12, 1998.  >>
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