The reputation of the United States and its unrelenting military must precede any claim these entities make about “truth.”

An 1898 propaganda poster uses the explosion of the USS Maine to manipulate public acceptance of war with Spain as part of the ‘manifest destiny’ of U.S. imperialist expansion.

Time and time again, the U.S. State and Defense Departments have lied their way into war. U.S. forces have razed the earth on which they warred, and countless millions of people have died in their wake. Defense companies and politicians have profited at the total expense of the global community.

What are some of the lies the U.S. has fabricated in order to justify its wars?

The USS Maine – and Cuba

In February 1898, a United States battleship, the USS Maine, exploded in the then Spanish-controlled Havana Harbor, now liberated and under the control of our Cuban comrades. The explosion, publicized with fervor by media mogul William Randolph Hearst and his bellicose cronies, was then casus belli (reason for war) for the United States to go to war with the Spanish Empire.  

A declassified CIA document written March 13, 1962, outlines Operation Northwoods, a plan for a U.S. attack on Cuba following its 1959 Revolution: (tinyurl.com/2p9cj7ek)

On page 11, during an outline of false-flag tactics, the CIA directly uses the phrase “a ‘Remember the Maine’ incident,” and follows with plans to intentionally blow up a U.S. ship to start a desired “war on communism.” Our revolutionary comrades in Cuba hold as official history that the 1898 incident was a planned, false-flag operation. 

Some historians believe the Maine catastrophe to have been caused by munitions exploding onboard, or, more dubiously, by spontaneous combustion. But only “patriotic” indoctrinating textbook companies or U.S. ultranationalists put forward the debunked story of a Spanish naval mine or torpedo. 

The result of the ensuing 1898 war was a U.S. imperial seizure of former Spanish colonies, including Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. With this came the brutal U.S. occupation of Cuba, leading to a series of anti-labor and inhumane dictatorships, financed by the deep pockets of the United Fruit Company. 

Cuba became a U.S. organized crime outpost and an offshore “Las Vegas” destination at the expense of the Cuban population. The war in the Philippines led to the establishment of concentration camps, massive waves of cholera, and a nightmarish onslaught that killed an estimated 1.5 million Filipinos, out of a population of 6 million at the time. 

All because of a lie – “Remember the Maine.” 

Pearl Harbor and the bombs

The December 1941 Japanese bombing of the U.S. naval station in Pearl Harbor – which led to a U.S. declaration of war – is usually characterized as a sudden “unprovoked attack.” 

What is erased from the standard education of the working class in the United States is that the U.S. had been supportive, financially and diplomatically, of Imperial Japan’s heinous conquest of China. 

The U.S. had supplied oil and war materials to the Japanese government as part of an “Open Door” policy of exploitation in China. Then Japanese imperialism turned its goals towards the vast reserves of rubber, tin and oil in the rest of Southeast Asia. At this point the United States cut off Japan’s economic ventures with massive embargos. 

These economic acts of war – or at the very least, anti-neutrality – raised concerns within the State Department that Japan would retaliate. It was already expected that Japan’s expansionism would not simply stop at the Philippines, where the U.S. had already amassed large military forces as part of its colonial domination. 

Uncle Sam’s dictionary seems to define an “unprovoked attack” as one in which the U.S. or its imperial interests are wounded, regardless of provocation. 

The most simplistic, nationalist U.S. textbooks trumpet that the atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 were a “justified” retaliation for Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. As if the death of around 2,400, nearly all military forces, could justify the death of over 200,000 people, the vast majority of whom were civilians!

Another reason given to uphold that lie is that the war crime was a necessity to end World War II on the Pacific Front. What is stricken from the record of this atrocity is that the Soviet Union had plans to enter the war against Japan. This military move on the USSR’s eastern border could easily have led to a Japanese surrender to the USSR, considering the strength and successes of the Red Army.

Instead, the U.S. dropped its nuclear bombs mere days before the Soviets were to enter Japan, and negotiated a surrender leading to a Japanese client state whose ruling class was dependent on U.S. imperialism and its military machine.

The lie of Tonkin

In summer 1964, a U.S. warship, armed to the teeth, was taking an illegal cruise in the territorial waters of North Vietnam. The ship was surveilling the National Liberation Front and the North Vietnamese Army, in support of the U.S.-backed and armed coup government of South Vietnam. 

During this excursion, the ship attacked the coastline, supposedly because it was being followed by North Vietnamese ships. It was not attacked by torpedoes. Nor was it attacked by torpedoes two days later. But President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said otherwise, in order to rally the U.S. public towards a war in Vietnam – already being played out covertly for years in the hands of the CIA. 

The conflict, lasting 11 more years, senselessly claimed the lives of over three million Vietnamese people, again mainly civilians. The U.S. implemented scorched-earth policies and kill quotas, targeted civilian and agricultural infrastructure, and massacred non-combatants, torching their villages and using chemical weapons to poison the countryside.  

‘Baby incubators’

In October 1990, a 15-year-old girl, identified only as Nayirah, gave testimony to the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus that Iraqi soldiers had stormed a Kuwaiti hospital and “thrown babies out of incubators to leave them on the cold floor to die.” (LA Times, March 6, 1992) She was later identified as Nayirah Al-Sabah, daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States – not exactly a disinterested witness.

This lie was specifically crafted and funded by Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a U.S. public relations firm known for its anti-labor stance, which represented the steel industries multiple times during various strikes in the first half of the twentieth  century. The firm was also responsible for putting out misinformation about the dangers of cigarettes and asbestos. 

The Kuwaiti ambassador and his suspicious Citizens for a Free Kuwait organization paid $12 million for the incubator lie. This prepared a pretext for the U.S. government to justify entering the Gulf War, which caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and to bomb the population back to pre-industrial infrastructure and sanitary conditions through fire and brimstone.

‘Weapons of mass destruction’

There were no weapons of mass destruction in 2002 Iraq, another lie used to justify a second U.S. Gulf War in March 2003. This is admitted and well-known now. 

But in late 2002, the United States agencies fabricated false reports of such weapons, and the U.S. administration clamored for the United Nations to give it leeway to bring the fires of hell down on Iraq. So continued an almost endless war that would ultimately claim the lives of countless civilians.

The WMD lie was finally retracted in 2016 by the U.S. secretary of state who made it before the U.N. in 2003. This was General Colin Powell, who had also been chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Syria and sarin gas

Like a broken record, the United States has claimed that the Ba’ath government of Syria, led by President Bashar al-Assad, has attacked its own citizens using sarin gas. U.N. Human Rights Council investigators and German intelligence operatives following the accusation in 2013 have found that the gas was not used by the government. 

An MIT professor emeritus of science and technology, Theodore Postol, published multiple studies of the gas attacks, showing that these were more likely to have originated from U.S.-backed rebel groups rather than Assad’s government. (See article, science.org, Sept. 24, 2019) The article stirred much controversy as there was opposition to Postol’s position, which was no surprise.  

The United States ignored all of these claims and went forward with its attacks on Syria [including the infamous 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched on then president Trump’s orders to take out the Syrian airbase “from where the [alleged] chemical attack was [allegedly] launched” NYT April 6, 2017], claiming the accusation was reason enough to enter into supporting a proxy war on that country. This war, ongoing, has been a bloody quagmire that has already killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in less than a decade’s time.

Message to the working class of the United States

Working class and oppressed peoples are the primary targets of such blatant, ham-fisted U.S. lies and propaganda. Those in the State Department, with their pockets full from the coffers of Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, need no factual incident to go to war. They want a payoff and their hedge funds want profits! 

But they must manufacture public consent to save the already-tarnished image of “democracy” and wage the wars needed for profit.

These wars, catered to their economic interests quite carefully, are directly opposed to the interests of workers and oppressed people. On the home front, wars bring lower wages, hikes in inflation, higher fuel prices, class division and xenophobia. Wars divert our cries for better living conditions to shouts for someone else’s blood.

Anti-war fighters in the U.S. must call for free healthcare and education, a raise in benefits and wages, gender and race equity and many other material demands. The automated voice message of the U.S. state answers back: “We’re sorry; we need that money for the war.”

Look with hindsight at all of the debunked U.S. lies that in the past have led to total destruction and immiseration. Fight against the new calls for U.S. involvement in the Ukraine. Do not accept “truth” offered by a capitalist state as the truth. 

By prying into the history of this current conflict people can realize that the surface level and the depths are not equal. Remember the WMDs! Remember the Gulf of Tonkin! Remember the Maine!

Danny O'Brien

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Danny O'Brien

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