Wednesday, May 18, 2005

History is So Confusing: What do the Maine, the Maddox, the Liberty, and the Stark Have in Common?

About 18 years ago, on May 17, 1987, the USS Stark was attacked by a Chinese-made, Iraqi-bought Exocet missile, fired from a Russian-built, Iraqi flown Mig fighter. 28 US sailors lost their lives. Were Iraq and America at war in 1987? No, they were still 'allies' at that point.

Reagan had ordered the fleet into the Persian Gulf to protect Kuwaiti oil-tankers from Iranian hostilities. Those pesky billionaire oil kings. Did the US go to war directly afterwards? No, it would have been against their strategic interests. They allowed the Iraqis to just be really sorry and more careful next time. There was even talk of how it was probably the Iranians who did the deed. That, had probably been the plan. Not really an original plan, though.

It wasn't as bad as on the fourth day of the Arab Israeli War, on June 8th, 1987, when the Israeli Air Force repeatedly attacked the USS Liberty USS Liberty near the Sinai Peninsula, killing 34 sailors and wounding 177 more. The Israelis were able to say that was a, 'tragic error' and also received a light slap on the wrist.

On February 15th, 1898, the USS Maine blew up in the Havana Harbour and started off the 'Spanish American', or 'Splendid Little' War. In 1976, Adm. Hyman Rickover of the U.S. Navy mounted yet another investigation into the cause of the Maine disaster. His team of experts found that the ship's demise was self-inflicted--likely the result of a coal bunker fire. 236 US sailors were killed that night. It led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and netted the US control of the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rica, and Cuba.

On August 6th, 1964, the USS Maddox was 'attacked' in 'international waters' by the North Vietnamese. This fictional attack helped launch the 'American War' in Southeast Asia. The outcome was over 50 000 dead US servicemen, several million dead Asians, and three countries laid waste to such an extent that birth defects and landmine amputees are still a daily occurrence.

At the time of the Stark fiasco the Guardian reported, "Given the scale of casualties in the incident, the American public was going to start asking 'what the hell is the US doing in the Gulf,' one diplomat said." This seems to be more than most of the American public is asking now after 1624 dead US soldiers, and those are just the ones in uniform.

Perhaps the most presented statement made after the Stark's friendly-fire incident came from the Iranian Prime Minister Hossein Mousavi, "(This) shows that the Gulf is not a safe place for the superpowers and it is in their interest not to enter this quicksand."

So remember the Maine, and the Maddox, and the Liberty and the Stark, and remember that history can be confusing. When you get lost in the mists of accepted history remember the maxim of Cassius, as quoted by Cicero, Cui Bono? or Who benefits? Not the dead.

No comments: