Greetings from Occupied America

Andrew from the Great White North writes:

I enjoyed your recent column re dying for one’s country, as I’ve always been annoyed by that particular falsehood. However, I’d like to whine about one error of fact: your statement that the US has only been invaded twice by a foreign power.

It’s not really true, because in your first example, the War of 1812, it was the US doing the invading. The US was not defending itself against a British invasion, but invading British territory in what is now Canada. The ostensible reason was to protect maritime sovereignty, but the fact that none of the warhawks actually hailed from coastal states puts the lie to that one. The real reason, it seems, was to halt British colonial ambitions in Canada and remove obstacles to western expansion. In other words, the politicians of the day concocted a patriotic lie under cover of which they launched a war to advance American geopolitical interests and their own commercial ends.

In that respect, the War of 1812 bears a remarkable resemblance to certain present-day events, but there was an important difference. The American soldier of the day, a part-time militiaman, didn’t see much benefit in dying for the warhawks economic ambitions, so he often fought with little enthusiasm. This leads us to the Battle of Queenston Heights, in which American reserves refused to participate on grounds that they didn’t sign up to fight foreign wars, but to defend their homes.

Good points all. It’s important to remember that, from its inception, the story of the United States’ expansion has been tied to aggression. However, this week’s column refers to the fact that the British did invade the United States in the course of the War of 1812, burning both the White House and Capitol in the process. For that matter, the Mexicans didn’t really start the Mexican War of 1846–we did. But they did invade U.S. territory.

Ken writes:

Thank you for your most recent column, pure quality as usual. And I live for your cartoon thrashings.

You referenced the Japanese balloon attacks on coastal Oregon and Washington “without casualties” I read a long time ago and cannot tell you the reference, that there was a life lost to one of these incendiary balloon devices. As I recall it was a young girl on the Oregon Coast who was casually hiking in the forest with a church group. She encountered one of these devices that had not gone off, when she touched or handled it, it exploded and she was killed.

The article revolved around the notion that this girl was the only person who died from hostility on the mainland, the 48 states in WWII. Sorry I can’t provide citation, No ax to grind, I just thought you might find it interesting. Perhaps I’ll Google around and see if I can find some internet reference to the incident.

Several people wrote about this. They’re right. A girl was in fact killed by a Japanese balloon bomb.

Jill writes:

It occurred to me that one of the problems with the Democratic party right now is that they often don’t know how to select a winning candidate during the nomination process. I reflect that in the case of Kerry the nomination process was basically over after about 6-12 states had voted and that the votes in these early states really influenced others. Potential candidates were out of the race before it got to the southern and mid-western states. Considering how important these states have become re electing a Republican president perhaps the Democrats would do well to look at this nomination process to see if they can overcome what I see as a liability that is built into the process. Can that process be changed?

Probably not, but my primary objection (no pun intended) to the current system is that the electorate does such a shitty job picking nominees. Small committees–the proverbial smoke-filled room–were more likely to emerge with candidates with strong personalities and positions on the issues than what we currently have: design by committee. On the other hand, the DNC/DLC picked Kerry many years ago for the ’04 slot, so it’s not like the big shots are picking the candidates anyway. Why waste money on primaries when the fix is in against insurgent candidates like Dean?

Dean writes:

Hi, loved the article; just want to tell you that Japan occupied 2 Aleutian islands in WW II, and there was one major battle in which hundreds of US soldiers died defeating the Japanese. That was all after the Dutch Harbor bombing you mention in the article. I used to work for a museum in Anchorage, and put together a program on historic sites in Alaska, including the WW II sites in the Aleutians.

I don’t know if it’s hundreds of causalties, but this is generally correct. Two small islands were occupied by the Japanese in the Aleutians after the Dutch Harbor incident and had to be dislodged by force.

Jeff writes:

Were you trying to argue that no military action since 1846 was unjustified? It seems as if you are just arguing over semantics, and in a way to poke fun at soldiers who died in Iraq. Fighting for your country’s geopolitical interests is the same as defending your country when one aspect of America’s geopolitical interest is to protect our country from foreign threats through military action that may not have been provoked by direct attack, but that furthers our country’s security. There seems to be no point in your article.

This week’s column raises more questions than answers. Obviously the U.S. can justify the retaliatory war against Japan in World War II. And the Civil War could be justified by both sides as self-defense. But I have no interest in “poking fun” at the Iraq war dead. Quite the contrary–those deaths are tragic, pointless, a waste. I don’t agree, obviously, that promoting the geopolitical interests of one’s country as determined by its political and business leaders is the same as “fighting for your country.” That’s just not what people think of when they think of “defending America.” The point of my column is to expose the military death cult for what it is: a fraud.

Mike wrote:

Great work, as usual, in your column this week. I’ve often argued that nobody’s died for this country since the revolutionary war. Well, that’s not entirely true: lots of people die for this country — police officers, for instance — but not in our myriad military actions.

I must make a small exception, however, to your statement that the attacks on Pearl Harbor (in my hometown) and Dutch Harbor were on American soil. They were certainly on American forces, but neither Alaska nor Hawaii were states yet. Hawaii, for its part, was a colony ill-gotten by overthrowing its government.

Accurate points about Alaska and Hawaii. Still, they were–from the standpoint of mainstream, non-Howard Zinn, American history–U.S. territory.

Finally, Jo writes:

Just a note to say thanks for your excellent piece titled, They Fight and Die, But Not for Their Country. As a career soldier and a veteran of the Gulf War, I believe you are right on target. Soldiers fight and die for their fellow soldiers, regardless of the war. It is tragic that our country’s leaders continue to exploit them in the name of patriotism. America’s soldiers need better leadership at the top; leaders who respect their skills and potential as human beings.

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