Sunday, January 14, 2007

Casus Belli by Counter-Terrorism

How ironic that within 24 hours of George Bush's speech announcing a change of policy in Iraq (call the 20 thousand "new" troops what you will, a turnover or an escalation), coalition forces in that country bombed an Iranian consulate in the northeaster Iraqi city of Irbil, located quite close to Kurdish-held areas of the trouble-plagued nation. Although Condomliza Reece is certainly correct in her explanation that it has long been known that the Iranian regime has been supplying I.E.D.'s and other materiel to the Shiite militias and other warring Iraqis, why did Bush-Cheney time its first provocation of a casus belli for the day after the "surge" speech?

The Iranians have formally protested, but they're too cagey to be so easily provoked. (It is entirely possible that they believe pan-Muslim -- if not worldwide -- opinion will side with them, perhaps considering the attack as belated revenge for the taking of American hostages in the infamous Tehran embassy raid as the Shah went out and the Ayatollah Koumeni went in.) Historians have already drawn a parallel to the Peloponnesian War. But it should be remembered that a more modern, American incident reveals, at least in retrospect, how easily a casus belli can be whipped up by a nation bent on attacking another.

I speak of the "Tampico Incident," which the Woodrow Wilson regime utilized as an excuse to invade Mexico at Veracruz in order to overthrow a Sadam-like tyrant, Victoriano Huerta, becase Wilson thought it about time that "we teach the Mexcians to elect good men." Wilson demonstrated that if one is simply patient, an opportunity will eventually present itself to manipulate public opinion for support of a misguided (and unjustified) attack on another sovereign state.

The Bush-Wilson parallels are almost striking. On April 20, 1914, Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress in an attempt to obtain blanket approval of actions designed to restore American dignity in the eyes of the world. The papers had been full of the Tampico Incident. Reduced to the few facts contained in Wilson's speech, it boiled down to a misunderstanding borne of a visit to the Gulf port city of Tampico by a U.S. Naval ship, the Dolphin, which sent a long boat ashore at the Iturbide Bridge for supplies. Two sailors were forcibly removed from the boat and taken prisoner (though soon released) by Huerta's troops. At the time of the incident, the usurperous Huerta regime, dominant in southern Mexico, was engaged in a prolonged war with the Constitutionalist, rebel forces of the Division del Norte (led by Pancho Villa and Venustiano Carranza) and the southeastern followers of Emiliano Zapata. It was no secret that the U.S. supported the Constitutionalists, and it is quite possible that the Tampico troops thought the Dophin's landing a preliminary to international warfare.

In any case, the Huertistas apologized, but the "special ceremony" they conducted, complete with salute to the American flag, did not satisfy Wilson, who quoted Admiral Henry Mayo in his speech and made vague references to Tampico's not being an "isolated" episode but one of "a series of incidents" (shades of W.M.D. and a mythical al-Qaida-Saddam connection!). Wilson had imposed an arms embargo on munitions deliveries to Mexico and, again ironic, at precisely the time of the Tampico incident, a vessel bearing American-made arms, the Ipiranga, was under steam, bound for Veracruz. Interestingly enough, the arms of the Ipiranga had been shipped first to northern Europe, offloaded, then taken aboard another ship for Mexican delivery -- a ruse designed by U.S. multinationals to get around the embargo. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Wilson's response to a "Yea" vote from Congress was to invade Veracruz, with much resulting death to Mexican troops stationed there. Veracruz was the railhead for shipments of arms and ammunition to the capital (the Distrito Federal, i.e. Mexico City), and by seizing it, Wilson and his cabinet assumed they would curtail such importations. The ease with which such good intentions can pave the way to hell is clearly indicated by the fate of the Ipiranga munitions. Upon learning of the landing of the Marine Corps, the Ipiranga simply changed course, landed in Puerto Mexico (a.k.a. Coatzacoalcos, some 150 miles away, as the crow flies). There, the arms were offloaded without complications and sent overland to the capital. Huerta must have delighted in the success of the ruse, especially since he would soon be firing on the Constitutionalists -- supported by the U.S. -- with American-made weapons. No doubt he celebrated the occasion with his usual toast: brandy and marijuana.

Will Bush go before Congress, wrap himself in the flag as did his predecessor, and ask for an extention of hostilities, an expansion of the Mideast Conflict into Iran? Will the U.S. withdraw from Iraq and simultaneously march toward Tehran? Will U.S. Navy warships sail into the Straits of Hormuz in ever-increasing numbers and end up bombing Iranian nuclear facilities in the same manner as the Israelis in Iraq?

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the U.S. is looking for a casus belli to launch an attack on Iran, which is most likely just what their lunatic leader Ahmadinejad wishes. It is well known that a significant portion of Iranians dislike his leadership and long for the secularism and democcratic freedoms of the West. These people, mostly young, will be polarized by a U.S. attack, which, again, is just what the Iranian leadership hopes to bring about. Secretary Rice justifies attacks on Iranians in Iraq as "protection of American troops," but Iran (and perhaps the rest of the Islamic World) may regard it as provocateurism, a form of anti-terrorist terrorism.

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