The Greatest Tragedy


The greatest tragedy in our culture is the widely accepted lie that the wars in U.S. history, since after the American Revolution, have been necessary, proper and even glorious. And this lie has been swallowed, parroted, and perpetuated by many of those who call themselves conservatives, liberals, progressives, socialists, constitutionalists, 'libertarians' and even 'anarchists'--all to the fatal detriment of American civilization and the lives of countless millions.

We've heard that Abraham Lincoln's Civil War, starting in 1861, was the second American Revolution and that it was necessary to free the slaves.

But we rarely hear that Lincoln was a Machiavellian opportunist of the highest degree, who argued in court as a young lawyer to have a slave returned to his master, and began a war that had nothing to do with slavery--for which he had ambivalent feelings--except in terms of enslaving the country under his iron grip. We rarely hear that Lincoln's war was simply an opportune way of instituting high tariffs and corporate welfare, which brought to America income taxation, conscription, paper currency, and massive censorship, and meant the government responding to antiwar activism by closing down newspapers, deporting war critics, and ordering the army to suppress a draft riot in New York by shooting 1,000 rioters dead. We rarely hear that Lincoln had no intention to free any slaves, and his phony Emancipation Proclamation failed to free any slaves, and when his generals tried to free slaves, Honest Abe sent them back to their masters. We rarely hear that Lincoln allowed chattel slavery to thrive in four Union states and in Washington, DC, and instituted a new form of slavery called conscription through which millions of young men were forced to kill their brethren in the most shameful four years in American history, all while slavery was in the last stages of peacefully dying out throughout the rest of the western hemisphere.

And we pretty much never hear the thesis of historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, who points out that all the North had to do to end slavery was to repeal the Fugitive Slave Law and refuse to subsidize the peculiar institution. Instead, the North spent more money that it would have cost to buy every single slave and give each 40 acres and a mule, all in order to wage a war in which 625,000 Americans died murdering each other for no good reason.

We've heard that the United States boldly entered World War I to fight off the aggressive Germans and to ensure a victory for the more democratic nations of Europe .

We rarely hear that Woodrow Wilson, who ran on the slogan 'He Kept Us Out of War,' was a devout imperialist who got his first taste of blood in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, and so his thirst led him to provoke Germany with his bellicose rhetoric and arrogant demands in the name of 'The Freedom of the Seas'--which for some reason he did not demand of the British as they attacked German civilians in cargo boats. We rarely hear that the Germans sent the Zimmerman Telegram to Mexico mainly as a defensive measure, and never had any realistic plans to conquer the United States . We rarely hear about the war protesters who faced prison sentences of ten years for critical comments about the U.S. government, its flag, its allies, its constitution, and its military uniforms. We rarely hear that the war brought income tax rates from less than ten percent to more than 70 percent, and nationalized the economy so fast and impressively so as to make the Progressive Era look like a free market paradise.

We almost never hear that had the United States stayed out of the Great European Family Feud, one of two likely results would have occurred--either the war would have ended in a stalemate, or Germany would have won--and neither likely outcome would have produced the Versailles Treaty, the oppressive sanctions on Germany, and the regimes of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler. The 20th Century could have been a much more peaceful era, and Hiroshima and Auschwitz would have been dots on the map free of any infamous notoriety. Instead, Woodrow Wilson forced millions of Americans to risk their lives, on unlucky odds, all to murder Europeans in a 'war to end all wars' and 'war to make the world safe for democracy,' which, in spite of its advertised goals, set the stage for the worst carnage the planet would ever see.

We've heard that World War II, a clear-cut case of Good vs. Evil, was in fact the most glorious and important war in American history, bringing the United States to its rightful place in the forefront of world affairs and saving civilization itself from the fascists who posed the greatest threat to peace and freedom the planet had ever seen.

But we rarely hear that Franklin Roosevelt's Naval commander, General McCollumb, had sketched out a plan to provoke Japan into attacking the United States, so Americans would throw aside their desperate hopes for peace and their personal efforts to lift themselves from the downs of the Great Depression, all to unite around a president whose lust for power knew no national boundaries and ached for nothing more than to take his subjects to war. We rarely hear of the indefensible double standard wherein the United States became allies with an empire at least as brutal and belligerent as the worst of its enemies, a regime that slaughtered more innocents and conquered more land than Nazi Germany, whose tyrannical master--perhaps the most loathsome human being ever to plague the earth--Roosevelt taught America to fondly refer to as 'Uncle Joe.' We rarely hear that all rationalizations for U.S. atrocities do not withstand the slightest bit of logical scrutiny, seeing as though the people supposedly liberated by U.S. entry into the war were mostly massacred anyway, and indeed suffered accelerated brutality once Britain and the United States began bombing civilian cities, establishing the precedent that targeting noncombatants is an acceptable modern warfare tactic--a precedent recently embraced by al Qaeda. We rarely hear that once the United States helped 'liberate' Eastern Europe , it helped to deliver it to the hands of Stalin, the actual victor of the war. We rarely hear that Germany was as good as defeated when it attacked Russia in 1940 and the winter began to set in, or that Germany had no chance at all in acquiring the nuclear bomb. We rarely hear that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were opposed by most political and military leaders at the time, and that they were entirely unnecessary acts of mass terrorism because (a) an invasion would have sufficed, (b) an invasion was unnecessary because the blockades were working, (c) the blockades were unnecessary because Japan had already begun suing for peace and certainly posed no threat whatsoever to the United States. We rarely hear that at Yalta, Roosevelt conceded to and Truman carried out one of the greatest atrocities in human history, Operation Keelhaul, whereby two million refugees who escaped the U.S.S.R. were rounded up, piled into boxcars, and sent to Stalin, who shot many of them and worked the rest of them to death, all in revenge for their attempts to escape his tyranny.

And we pretty much never hear that had the United States government stayed out of the war, allowing Jews and other oppressed people from Europe into America, Britain and Russia could have easily defeated Germany alone--especially if Britain had brought its troops home from around the world, where they were busy subjugating the colonized populations of India, Africa, and Australia, much in the same way Germany was subjugating Poland and France. Instead of protecting the lives of his people, Franklin Roosevelt forced millions of Americans to murder Europeans and Japanese and to see hundreds of thousands of their countrymen to perish in foreign lands, all for a war against Evil that enlarged what would become America's new premier enemy in nearly a half century of additional killing and madness.

We've heard that the Cold War, culminating most explicitly during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, was fought to stop the spread of Communism. We rarely hear that during that period, America resorted to such totalitarian tactics as conscription, military buildup and political suppression, which blurred the ideological differences between Communism and a supposedly free, western society. Nor is it often enough emphasized that over 90,000 Americans and countless foreigners died in those undeclared and unconstitutional wars, with nearly no effect on Communism, as the dominos continued to fall. We rarely hear about the obvious contradictions involved, with the United States funding an authoritarian government in Vietnam to fight for freedom; with Nixon killing hundreds of thousands of Cambodians with his carpet bombing in the name of standing firm against Communism, even as he rubbed shoulders with Mao; with the U.S. government funding any vile terrorist organization that considered itself anti-Communist; with conscription, Soviet-style surveillance measures, and McCarthyism wielded to fight for freedom.

And we almost never hear that had the United States refused to participate in the arms buildup and Cold War insanities with the Soviet Union, America would be much richer and freer today, the Communists with their asinine economic system would have fallen by the wayside (especially without the benefit of U.S. subsidies), and such anti-American hatred from the Muslim world, resulting from U.S. funding of terrorists and brutal regimes in the Middle East, would never have become so pervasive. Instead, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon forced millions of young Americans to fight against foreigners with whom they had no natural qualms, and every president during the Cold War helped to fund and bring about many of the worst revolutionary groups and regimes in the world--from the Shah in Iran to the Khmer Rouge in Thailand (after it plagued Cambodia)--as they sent U.S. troops around the world, creating enemies everywhere, erecting bases in 100 countries, and squandering much of the international goodwill America had enjoyed as a symbol of peace and freedom.

We've heard that the 1991 war in Iraq was fought to save the peaceful Kuwait from the aggressive megalomaniac, Saddam Hussein.

We rarely hear that U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie told Saddam, who complained that Kuwait was stealing Iraq 's oil through slant-drilling, that if the United States would not intervene if a conflict arose. Meanwhile, the U.S. government told Kuwait that if it did not want to negotiate with Saddam, the United States would back Kuwait in a war. We rarely hear about the doctored photos and lies about incubators used to sell that war to the American people, or that the United States pulled out just in time to betray the rebels who were promised U.S. support against Saddam, who subsequently slaughtered them. Nor do we hear often enough--especially from those who claim to hate the United Nations and the Clinton administration--that the United Stated ended its war there, yet continued bombing Iraq and imposed such terrible sanctions on them as to have led to the death of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

We've heard that Bill Clinton's nation-building and bombing in Yugoslavia was a humanitarian mission to save the oppressed Kosovars from a modern-day Hitler named Milosevich.

We rarely hear that it was the NATO bombing that accelerated the killing to any level that could be honestly considered genocidal. We rarely hear that only a few years beforehand, the United States had assisted the Serbians, who at the time were suffering atrocities at the hands of the Islamic Albanians, and under Clinton, the U.S. government simply decided to help the other side. We rarely hear that after thousands of deaths, the bombing of automobile factories, pharmacies, and the Chinese embassy in Belgrade , Milosevich finally surrendered to the same terms he was willing to concede to prior to the bombing. We almost never hear that Kosovo is in worse shape now, and that children still die from the cluster bombs Clinton dropped by proxy from his comfy chair in the Oval Office, partly to distract the American people from his sexual and political scandals.

We've heard that September 11 was a day that will live in infamy, and that if any war was justified, it is the war on Afghanistan .

We rarely hear that Bin Laden, much like the Shah of Iran, Nasser of Egypt, Colonel Quadafi of Libya, and Saddam Hussein of Iraq, was originally armed and assisted by the U.S. government as a so-called "freedom-fighter." We rarely hear that the U.S. government has armed both sides of every imaginable conflict in the Middle East, and has assisted in the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, and that the U.S. government made 9/11, or something similar, virtually inevitable. We rarely hear that thousands of innocent Afghans died and a million lost their homes, and the country is in ruins because of U.S. bombing.

We almost never hear that going to war with Afghanistan played right into the desires for a holy war that bin Laden prophesized with his attack on 9/11 or that even if bin Laden is captured, it still wasn't worth killing thousands of innocents.

We hear that the United States government had to topple Saddam's regime so as to disarm him of his Weapons of Mass Destruction, disrupt his ability to assist al Qaeda, and liberate the Iraqi people.

Fortunately, we do often hear that the War on Iraq was based on a web of lies. We do hear that there were no WMD, and Saddam was telling the truth. We do hear that Saddam had no significant ties to al Qaeda. We do see in pictures of Fallujah and Abr Ghraib that the Iraqi people do not appear liberated, considering the torture, the barbed wire, the curfews, the brutality of the occupation, and the rampant crime.

We still do not hear often enough that the Iraqi people would have been better off without this war, and that there is no more hope for them to have freedom anytime soon than there was under Saddam.

We still do not hear often enough that the best solution is for the U.S. government to pack up and leave as fast as possible.

And certainly, we do not hear nearly often enough that the disaster in Iraq is no different from America 's past wars, in the lies used to sell it, the brutality used to wage it, and the suppression used to sustain it. We do not hear nearly often enough that every war in American history since at least the War Between the States has been based on lies, murder, slavery, and torture.

War has always been the most significant way that American politicians have stolen the lives, liberty, and property from their subjects, so as to trade away the dreams of the common men and women to satisfy their own greed and vainglory.

War has always led to more hatred, more repression, and more war.

Charles Beard called it the 'perpetual war for perpetual peace.' And Randolph Bourne said, 'War is the health of the state.'

The state is also the health of war. Liberals who hope to have a big government that stays within its own borders are destined to be as disappointed as conservatives who believe an empire abroad and liberty at home can coexist. It's no coincidence that such champions of an active federal government, profoundly intrusive and involved in our lives domestically--Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Lyndon Johnson to name a few--are the same men who have dragged America into war. Those who thirst for power rarely distinguish between intervention at home and intervention abroad.

War clouds almost everybody's mind, at least somewhat. There are conservatives who understand the unnecessary repression under Lincoln during the War Between the States, but who relentlessly defend the carpet-bombing of Cambodia . There are leftists who understand the evils perpetrated by the United States in the Cold War, who practically deify Franklin Roosevelt's handling of World War II and pardon Truman's dropping of the atom bomb. There are socialists who oppose all wars but the Civil War, progressives who think Kosovo was justified, 'constitutionalists' who whitewash Gulf War I, and even 'libertarians' and 'anarchists' who will argue that all wars in U.S. history were unnecessary, except for the War on Terrorism.

For freedom to advance considerably, one of the first steps our civilization must take is to recognize the inherent evil of mass slaughter conducted by rulers over their subjects. Instead of looking back at past wars and justifying their atrocities by ignoring uncomfortable aspects of history, we need to face reality. Those wars were unnecessary and barbaric, as are the ones we see today.

If a group of people is forced into a war, they have a right to fight their way out of it. Over the last couple hundred years, the American people have never been forced into a war, except by their own rulers.

The greatest tragedy in our culture is the widely accepted lie that the wars in U.S. history, since after the American Revolution, have been necessary, proper and even glorious. And this lie has been swallowed, parroted, and perpetuated by many of those who call themselves conservatives, liberals, progressives, socialists, constitutionalists, 'libertarians' and even 'anarchists' ' all to the fatal detriment of American civilization and the lives of countless millions.

Those of us who believe in freedom at home and peace with the world must stand up and speak out loudly, and expose this lie for the destructive drivel that it is.

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Anthony Gregory's picture
Columns on STR: 41

Anthony Gregory is a Research Analyst at The Independent Institute, a Policy Advisor at the Future of Freedom Foundation, and a columnist at His website is