Spotty Lincoln: The Mexican War, by Webster Griffin Tarpley

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Spotty Lincoln: The Mexican War, by Webster Griffin Tarpley

Postby admin » Thu Mar 31, 2016 5:52 am

Spotty Lincoln: The Mexican War
by Webster Griffin Tarpley
Excerpt from "9/11 Synthetic Terror Made in USA," by Webster Griffin Tarpley

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Abraham Lincoln often serves as a kind of touchstone of morality and legitimacy in American politics, and he generally deserves this distinction. For progressives as well as traditionalists and conservatives (as distinct from right wing radicals and neofascist neocons), the notion of getting right with Lincoln has long been a fixture of American political thinking.

What would Lincoln do if he were confronted -- as we are today -- with the attempt to found an entire system of government upon a set of uncorroborated assertions about a certain violent event which has aroused hysterical passions and which has been seized upon by those in power to set off an unjust and aggressive war of conquest? Instead of speculating as to what Lincoln might have done, let us look at what he actually did do.

For Lincoln was, in his youth, confronted with a situation very much like our own after 9/11 and the beginning of continuous warfare.

SPOTTY LINCOLN

For the young Lincoln, the question regarded the James K. Polk administration's policy towards Mexico. Polk was a slaveholder and a proto-Confederate who wanted to expand US territory towards the south in such a way as to increase the power and influence of the slave bloc. Polk was willing to make sweeping territorial concessions to the British in regard to the disputed Oregon Territory, where he repudiated the famous "fifty-four forty or fight" slogan in favor of a rotten compromise. By contrast, Polk's entire administration was devoted to tireless efforts to embroil the US in an aggressive war with Mexico. Polk first sent an envoy named Stockton to meet with the leaders of Texas, urging them to start a conflict with Mexico which the US could then portray as a new outrage perpetrated by the dictator Santa Anna. But Sam Houston wisely rejected this proposal, and would not act as Polk's provocateur. The best study of this attempt is Glenn W. Price's The Origins of the War with Mexico: The Polk-Stockton Intrigue ( 1967), and it can be shown to those who assert that conspiracies do not exist. Here was one which tried to provoke war but failed.

Later, Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor to take a military force across the Nueces River to the Rio Grande. The international border between Texas and Mexico was then about halfway between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. When Taylor's forces got to the present site of Brownsville, Texas on the northern bank of the Rio Grande, they marched across Mexican farms and into the middle of a Mexican township located there. This inevitably led to fighting in which some of the US troopers were killed. Polk then used this incident as a pretext for extorting a declaration of war from the US Congress: after all, US troops had been killed by Mexicans on US soil! The Mexican War of 1846-1848 was on. The armed clash provoked by Polk became the 9/11 tocsin for the Mexican War. The pressure on any politician to go along with Polk's orchestrated incident was as great as today's pressure to go along with the 9/11 myth.

In the midst of the war hysteria, some of the better Americans of the age refused to go along. One was Henry David Thoreau, who went to jail rather than pay a special surtax connected with the conflict. Former President John Quincy Adams led a group of antislavery northeastern Whigs called the Immortal Fourteen who voted against Polk's supplemental budget request to fund the army in the field.

Abraham Lincoln in early 1848 was an obscure Illinois Whig and admirer of Henry Clay who had just arrived in Washington to begin serving his term as a member of the US House of Representatives. We are dealing here not with Lincoln the war president who saved the union, but rather with Lincoln as a member of the opposition during another war -- the Mexican War. Polk's 1848 State of the Union address was a defense of the administration's policy in regard to Mexico. This was the first major speech that Lincoln heard after being sworn in as a congressman. Polk was an earlier president who could never admit to having been mistaken:

... the great bulk was his justification in detail, page after page, of every one of the actions of the United States, and the Polk administration, in the war with Mexico. The most salient quality of this long presentation was its relentless self-righteousness. Its total defensiveness. Polk and America were always and in every regard in the right; Mexico was always and in every way in the wrong. Doubly wrong: Mexico was not just the aggressor who started the war; Mexico was also wrong in every point leading up to that beginning, and had been wrong at every point since. And now Mexico was further wrong in not agreeing swiftly to her own dismemberment -- to the "liberal" and "generous" terms that we are now offering. (Miller 164)


It was under these circumstances that the young Illinois congressman offered his famous series of Spot Resolutions -- demanding to know from Polk exactly where, in what spot it had been on American soil that the bloodshed had taken place -- with the obvious overtone that the fighting had not taken place on US territory at all, but in an area long settled by Mexicans and belonging to Mexico. Lincoln made a speech in favor of his Spot Resolutions on December 22, 1847, after just ten days in the House. Lincoln hammered away at these same issues in later speeches on January 12 and again on January 22, 1848.

The January 22 speech portrayed Polk as a provocateur, and demanded that he tell the truth about what had happened:

Let him answer, fully, fairly, and candidly. Let him answer with facts, and not with arguments. Let him remember he sits where Washington sat, and so remembering, let him answer, as Washington would answer. As a nation should not, and the Almighty will not, be evaded, so let him attempt no evasion -- no equivocation. If the president cannot or will not give the desired answers ... then I shall be fully convinced, of what I more than suspect already, that he is deeply conscious of being in the wrong -- that he feels the blood of this war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to Heaven against him.

Lincoln argued that Polk had been determined all along to find a pretext for war with Mexico; Polk had proceeded

... by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory -- that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood -- that serpent's eye, that charms to destroy -- he [Polk] plunged into it, and has swept, on and on, till, disappointed in his calculation of the ease with which Mexico might be subdued, he now finds himself, he knows not where.

Lincoln did not hesitate to attack Polk personally, nor to advance doubts about his mental state:

How like the half insane mumbling of a fever-dream is the whole war part of his late message! ... His mind, tasked beyond its power, is running hither and thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no position, on which it can settle down, and be at ease ... As I have said before, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant that he may be able to show, there is not something about his conscience, more painful than all his mental perplexity!


Lincoln was convinced that the attempt to assign Polk's plots, lies and provocations such a central role in American public life was destined to have terrible consequences, and in this he was amply justified. The Mexican War and its aftermath, built upon Polk's falsehoods, precipitated the crisis that led directly to the Civil War. But before that Lincoln paid a considerable personal price for his principled stand in favor of truth. For his adversaries, he became "Spotty Lincoln," who had refused to support Polk's rationale for the war. Some Democratic editors referred to Lincoln as a Benedict Arnold.

One who baited Lincoln in such terms was Senator Steven Douglas, the Illinois Democrat who was later one of Lincoln's four opponents in the 1860 presidential election. At the very first of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, held at Ottawa, Illinois, Douglas spoke of Lincoln in these terms: "Whilst in Congress he distinguished himself by his opposition to the Mexican War, taking the side of the common enemy against his own country [voice from audience: That's true"] and when he returned home he found the indignation of the people followed him everywhere, and he was again submerged or obliged to retire into private life, forgotten by his former friends [voice from audience: "And will be again"]."

Lincoln never gave up his principled position about Polk's method of engineering the war. When Lincoln received the Republican presidential nomination in 1860, he was asked to assemble a short campaign autobiography or autobiographical sketch for use in the campaign. Here it would have been easy to omit all mention of the Spot Resolutions, but Lincoln obviously felt that the question of truth was more important. He stood his ground in the 1860 sketch, arguing that

... the act of sending an armed force among the Mexicans was unnecessary inasmuch as Mexico was in no way molesting, or menacing the US or the people thereof, and ... it was unconstitutional, because the power of levying war is vested in the Congress, and not in the President.


On this point, Lincoln never wavered. Many scholars and biographers who otherwise admire Lincoln have been puzzled or even scandalized by his tenacity on this issue. What Lincoln saw, and which the scholars often do not see, was the fatally pernicious consequences of lies in public life. In this sense, as in so many others, Lincoln was the anti-neocon. Lincoln also knew that if provocations were allowed to pass unchallenged, executive rule by provocation and by the threat of provocation would soon be the result. As he wrote to his friend Herndon on February 15, 1848:

Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure .... Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars (Miller 164-191)


These examples from the life of Abraham Lincoln suggest that, if he were alive today, our greatest president would hardly have accepted the fantastic myth of 9/11 in the way that most current politicians have done. Lincoln would have been at the very least a skeptic in regard to the official version and its many fallacies. He might well have been sympathetic to the 9/11 truth movement, since it is this movement which has stood up for the best of traditional American values against the overbearing oppression of the much- repeated lie. All of the neocon arguments about the need to stifle domestic dissent in time of war fall to the ground when confronted with the example of Lincoln.
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