U.S. = War, Inc. (part 2)
Remember the Maine!
As I witness Americans once again dancing to the tune of war drums and I get pushback for not genuflecting at the blue-and-yellow altar, I feel the need to inform. To follow is the second installment of a series of articles highlighting how God’s Country™ has been marketing and using war as a way to fatten the wallets of the powers that shouldn’t be. Please allow me to put the lie to the myths surrounding the Spanish-American War.
In 1897, Teddy Roosevelt stated bluntly, “I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one,” His wait lasted less than a year.
February 15, 1898, was a muggy Tuesday night in Havana Harbor. Some 350 crew and officers settled in onboard the Maine. “At 9:40 p.m., the ship's forward end abruptly lifted itself from the water,” writes author Tom Miller. “Along the pier, passersby could hear a rumbling explosion. Within seconds, another eruption — this one deafening and massive — splintered the bow, sending anything that wasn't battened down, and most that was, flying more than 200 feet into the air.”
By the time the “sleeping giant” was jarred into alertness by the Maine explosion, Cuban and Filipino rebels were already fighting Spain for independence in their respective lands. The Maine was in Havana Harbor in 1898 on a purportedly friendly mission. “Yet,” writes Miller, “the visit was neither spontaneous nor altruistic; the United States had been eyeing Cuba for almost a century.”
“At a certain point in that spring, McKinley and the business community began to see that their object, to get Spain out of Cuba, could not be accomplished without war,” Howard Zinn adds, “and that their accompanying object, the securing of American military and economic influence in Cuba, could not be left to the Cuban rebels, but could be ensured only by U.S. intervention.”
American newspapers, especially those run by William Randolph Hearst (New York Journal) and Joseph Pulitzer (New York World), jumped on the Maine explosion as the ideal justification to drum up public support for a war of imperialism. The Journal commissioned a fictitious half-page sketch that alleged to show where a mine struck the ship. Hearst himself was soon offering a $50,000 reward “for the detection of the perpetrator of the Maine outrage.”
When Hearst sent artist Frederick Remington to Cuba, Remington reported that he could not find a war. “You furnish the pictures,” Hearst replied, “and I’ll furnish the war.”
Spain was easily defeated, the legend of Teddy Roosevelt was manufactured whole cloth, and the Cubans (and Puerto Ricans) found themselves exchanging one colonial ruler for another. In the Philippines, where U.S. soldiers were ordered to “Burn all and kill all,” Over the next decade, six hundred thousand Filipinos were eventually wiped out…all to the war cry of “Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!”
Coda: In 1976, Admiral Hyman Rickover of the U.S. Navy mounted an investigation of the Maine disaster. Rickover and his team of experts concluded that the explosion was probably caused by “spontaneous combustion inside the ship’s coal bins,” a problem common to ships of that era. (insert sad trombone here)
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