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American Canto IV
A quartet of wars
that we loved before,
before we knew more:
                             The War of 1812.
This is the war
                 that gives the lie
to the belief
that wars are fought only for a very good reason,
to the belief,
             always advanced
                           in the history books,
that wars are always fought between two sides
diametrically opposed to what the other stands for:
between freedom and slavery,
between democracy and tyranny,
between believer and infidel,
between good us and evil them
                                This war
                                (all war?)
                                was nothing
                                of the sort,
being fought between
                    two semi-free states
on building world-wide empires
                              The natives
were used and abused by both sides;
alliances permanently promised
turned out to be only temporary expedients,
thus giving rise to the oxymoron
of Anglo-American peace treaty
the most lasting thing to come from the war
was a putrid piece of doggerel
written by a hack lawyer fancying himself a poet,
martial crap set to,
                   of all idiocies,
an English drinking song,
the fact that the flag was still flying over some fort,
somehow managing to miss the fact that
the seat of the national government was being sacked and burned to the ground
and the President and Congress were forced to flee for their lives
(A little over a hundred years later
said doggerel would be officially proclaimed
The National Anthem,
                   Hoover's equivalent
of fiddling while the country was burning around him
Soon after,
           the virus of McCarthyism,
                                   nineteen-fifties strain,
infected the body politic,
and caused the doggerel to be played
on all ceremonial occasions)
The next offering to accuracy:
                             The Mexican War.
President James K. Polk
in his message to Congress
asking for a declaration of war:
"Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States,
has invaded our territory and shed
American blood upon American soil"
"As war exists,
notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it,
. . . we are called upon . . . to vindicate with decision
the honor, the rights, and the interests of our country"
Stirring speechifying to be sure
But was it true?
Alas, no
          You see,
one wing of the elite wanted the riches of California;
the other wing wanted potential new slave states
But how to get this?
The solution:
Disregard the historic border
of the recently-annexed Texas,
which was usually taken 
to be the Nueces River
about 150 miles north of the Rio Grande
Send troops to the 'disputed' area
to provoke the expected Mexican response
the war could be couched,
                        as always,
as a purely defensive war,
though it was manifestly
a war for manifest destiny,
a catchy phrase coined the year before
meaning it was manifestly America's destiny
to conquer anyone who had what we wanted
The war itself:
The usual
glossed over in the history books
Desertions and mutinies,
omitted from the history books
And finally the expected effect,
always inserted in the history books,
posed a dilemma:
Take all of Mexico or just half?
The decision was to take 'only' half
And a treaty was 'negotiated'
to ratify the results of the battlefield,
the United States paying 15 million dollars
for half of Mexico,
                  thus enabling
one of the Establishment voices to say,
apparently with a straight face,
"We take nothing by conquest . . .
Thank God"
The third story:
                             The Spanish-American War.
Remember the Maine
Remember Teddy Roosevelt's charge up San Juan Hill
Remember the fight to free subjugated peoples
from their centuries of Spanish domination
Remember reading
a few short paragraphs in the history books
about how the areas of some of those peoples
thus became part of the United States
And remember
the American Secretary of State John Hay
describing it as "a splendid little war",
a splendid little half-truth in that
it was splendid for the American elite,
who now had many million more people
placed firmly in the American sphere
But was it splendid for the soldiers,
5,462 of whom died in the war,
though only 379 of that number
died in the chase for glory,
the rest dying of disease
or from eating the poisoned beef,
famously described by an Army general as "embalmed beef",
that kept Armour's profits high?
Was it splendid for the residents
of Puerto Rico and Guam
to be annexed by the United States,
exchanging political subjugation
for an economic subjugation
without political rights?
Was it splendid for the Cubans
to have the Platt Amendment forcibly implanted
in the new Cuban Constitution,
giving the Americans naval station
and the right to intervene in Cuba
to protect the life, liberty, and property
of American corporations?
And was it splendid for the Filipinos,
patronizingly referred to as
"our little brown brothers",
                          naive enough
to actually believe the American slogans,
in the twentieth century's first genocide,
dying by the hundreds of thousands 
for that mistake?
The fourth and final false idol to fall:
                             World War I.
"The war to end all wars"
"fighting to make the world safe for democracy"
Nice advertising slogans at the time,
later to be inserted unquestioningly
into American history textbooks,
but of course just the usual bullshit
The house of cards that held the hundred tribes of Europe
in what was, for them, a relative period of peace
collapsed on June 28, 1914
after the assassination of the Austrian archduke
A series of interlocking alliances
that promised the protection of mutual destruction
were, for once, honored by all concerned,
and the endless quest for empire,
disguised once again with the mask of honor,
was on,
         and with it,
unimaginable levels of slaughter
on both sides
What had all this to do with America?
although not in the way the war
is usually prsented in the history books,
there are many kinds of empire,
although the United States seemed to feel
it had all the colonial possessions
it needed or wanted at this time,
it wa interested
in another kind of empire
                          You see,
with England allocating
                       all her resources
                                         for war,
the job of world banker was now open
J.P. Morgan,
with the enthusiastic approval
of his puppet President,
appointed himself to the job
The amount of money Morgan loaned 
to England and her allies
made him great profits,
made America's alleged neutrality
a sham that many saw right through
The only question left
                      was how America
could be brought into the war on England's side,
given the real neutrality,
                         if not
the outright distaste for the war,
of a large protion
                  of the American people
                                           The answer,
as always
         during times of war,
                             was lies:
The British 'liner' Lusitania was sunk
by a German submarine,
almost twelve hundred people,
one hundred twenty-four Americans,
        The United States
proclaimed it a great German atrocity,
hiding the fact that the 'liner'
was actually armed to the teeth,
its manifest patently falsified
to conceal that fact from the American public,
willing to scarifice American and other lives
in order to insure Morgan's profits
made many such shipments
in civilian guise,
                       the Germans were right
to treat warships as warships
                               The British navy
also attacked American merchant ships,
only the German attacks provided Wilson
with an excuse to do what his masters wanted
(He knew what side Morgan's bread was buttered on)
"War is the health of the state"
said a pacifist philosopher
not usually found in the history books,
and the war proved very healthy indeed
for the state and its owners
Profits reached record levels,
had to be forced to fight for the fancy advertising slogans
they knew instinctively were meaningless for them
there was the Orwellian-named Espionage Act,
having of course nothing to do with espionage,
it being used to crush dissent
who wouldn't get in line
                        were dealt with harshly
The Socialist Party and the Wobblies were,
for all practical purposes,
            And the Act
remains on the books today
ready to crush the next serious dissent
Fifty thousand Americans were added
to the total number slaughtered worldwide
the kind of 'democracy' Wilson had in mind
was shown by his extension of segregation
in the 'capital of the free world'
the punitive peace further
gave the lie to the slogan
about making the world safe for democracy,
also insured that this would not be 
the war to end all wars

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