Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Remember the Maine
“Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!” That was a war cry widely heard in the Unites States after the sinking of the USS Maine 114 years ago today, on February 15, 1898. Even though to this day the cause of that sinking is unclear, popular opinion in the U.S. in the weeks following that tragedy blamed Spain.
That popular opinion was formed partly by the use of the slogan Remember the Maine! by William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal. (Three days after the 2/15 explosion the Journal became the first newspaper in history to sell over one million copies.) That slogan, and Hearst’s use of it, thus helped spur the U.S. into the Spanish-American War, which started on April 25 and lasted less than four months (although it didn’t formally end until April 1899).
Hostilities with Spain developed over U.S. concern for how the Cubans were being treated by Spain, which claimed Cuba after Columbus first landed there in 1492 and considered Cuba its possession for the next four centuries.
In 1895 the Cubans began a war of independence from Spain, a struggle which was favored by the U.S. even though they did not become directly involved until three years later. As a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898, Cuba became an independent nation in 1902, although in 1903 Guantanamo Bay was leased in perpetuity to the United States.
The United States profited from the 1898 war in additional ways: at the close of that war Spain ceded the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam for the sum of $20 million. In spite of considerable efforts of the Anti-Imperialist League, there was a considerable expansion of U.S. territorial possessions.
But why write about all this now? I am writing about this issue because I am gravely concerned that some incident in the very near future, real or imagined, will trigger a U.S. attack on Iran. There seems to be a growing likelihood that there will be some sort of military strike by Israel, perhaps jointly with the U.S., in an attempt to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Some “incident” could easily light the fuse for such a strike.
In addition to “Remember the Maine!” helping to spur the Spanish-American War, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, which escalated the War in Vietnam, was based on claims of attacks on American warships that didn’t actually happen. (Actually, there were two separate confrontations with the North Vietnamese, one actual and one now recognized as non-existent.)
“Let there be no doubt,” President Obama declared in his 2012 State of the Union address, “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.”
There are some politicians who are quite vocal about the possible need to engage in preemptive military action against Iran. If there were to be some incident in which American, or Israeli, civilian or military forces were attacked, or even thought to be attacked, by Iranians, that could easily become an excuse for beginning military activities against Iran. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I am fearful it might.
In the same January 24 State of the Union address, the President declared that “a peaceful resolution of this issue [Iran getting a nuclear weapon] is still possible.” Let us pray that he and Congress will make every possible effort to find such a resolution of the problem.