U.S. History Repeating Itself

Considering we just voted into office a man who has publicly stated that he “loves war” I think it might be timely to reflect not on our most recent misadventures over the past few decades with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but much earlier to the lead up to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). Turns out the not so idle hands that have been currently at work have actually been at work for quite some time.

Here are some quotes I came across from Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” which speak to this.

They suggest to me that nothing has really changed much in this country and that to a great degree we never seem to learn our lesson. Such is the destiny of a people who are ignorant of their own history.

Mexican American War

“Colonel Hitchcock, who wrote in his diary, even before those first incidents: ‘I have said from the first that the United States are the aggressors…. We have not one particle of right to be here…. It looks as if the government sent a small force on purpose to bring on a war, so as to have a pretext for taking California and as much of this country as it chooses.’”

“Polk spoke of the dispatch of American troops to the Rio Grande as a necessary measure of defense. As John Schroeder says (Mr. Polk’s War) ‘Indeed, the reverse was true; President Polk had incited war by sending American soldiers into what was disputed territory, historically controlled and inhabited by Mexicans.’ Congress then rushed to approve the war message… The bundles of official documents accompanying the war message, supposed to be evidence for Polk’s statement, were not examined, but were tabled immediately by the House. Debate on the bill providing volunteers and money for the war was limited to two hours, and most of this was used up reading selected portions of the tabled documents, so that barely a half-hour was left for discussion of the issues.”

Polk

“A handful of antislavery Congressmen voted against all war measures, seeing the Mexican campaign as a means of extending the southern slave territory. One of these was Joshua Giddings of Ohio, a fiery speaker, physically powerful, who called it ‘an aggressive, unholy and unjust war.’ He explained his vote against supplying arms and men: ‘In the murder of Mexicans upon their own soil, or in robbing them of their country, I can take no part either now or hereafter. The guilt of these crimes must rest on others. I will not participate in them..’”

“Accompanying all this aggressiveness was the idea that the United States would be giving the blessings of liberty and democracy to more people. This was intermingled with the ideas of racial superiority, longings for the beautiful lands of New Mexico and California and thoughts of commercial enterprise across the Pacific.”

Sound familiar?