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Neutrality: 1812, 1943, and 2012
May 2, 2012
by William P. Meyers

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Barack Obama made a big election speech last night, one of the great post-1984 speeches of American history. He proclaimed himself a triumphant war leader, and yet someone who negotiated peace with victory in Afghanistan, in time for his presumed re-election later this year. The timing of the speech was suspect: while given on the anniversary of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, it allowed the corporate security state news outlets to avoid coverage of the increasingly revolutionary Occupy movement's activities the same day.

Pakistan would like to be neutral nation, at peace with all nations, at war with none. But the current U.S. global paradigm does not allow for that. How much the attitude of the United States of America has changed towards the concept of international neutrality can be traced through our history and corresponds closely with our shifting from being one of the world's newest, weakest nations in 1776 to being the imperialist thugs of our current era.

In American history books the War of 1812 is cast as mainly about America's thwarted desire to be a neutral nation, with the right to trade (and profit) with all nations during a time of global warfare. Ignore, for the purposes of this essay the true cause of the war, the desire of the U.S. to conquer Canada, Florida, and Indian nations. The Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France ran from 1803 to 1815, and the United States did not want to take sides.

Naturally, both the British Empire and its allies and France and its allies wanted to win the war. American entrepreneurs wanted to profit by selling whatever they could to both sides. The British wanted the U.S. to trade exclusively with them, and the French exerted similar efforts. In the U.S. political factions favored one side or the other: the Federalists preferred the British, the Republicans the French, but neither could prevail over the common wisdom to profit from neutrality.

The difference between the rival empires was that after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 the British really did rule the waves. Beginning in 1806 they stopped U.S. ships bound for French-controlled territories. They also began "impressing" U.S. seamen, capturing them and forcing them to work in the British Navy. If you are willing to listen to the British side, you might note that captured U.S. citizens had allegedly signed contracts with the British Navy, and had bugged out of them, and were not really U.S. citizens, except in cases of mistaken identity.

The right of neutral nations not to be caught up in more powerful nation's wars proved difficult for the United States to maintain. After trying a self-imposed embargo (refusing to export U.S. goods to any nation), probably the stupidest policy in U.S. history, and endless negotiation, the United States declared war on Britain in June, 1812. It was a controversial declaration of war, passing the House with a vote of 79 to 49, and the Senate 19 to 13.

Without being explicit about it, the U.S. was fighting side by side with the French dictator Napoleon Bonaparte. The U.S. failed to conquer Canada, and France lost the global war, so pretty clearly the U.S. lost the war. However, we did steal huge amounts of Indian Nation lands in the process, so the land speculation faction had a happy day.

Having fought alleged slights to it's neutrality, you might think the U.S. would honor the neutrality of other nations. That was true so long as it was some other nation that was having its neutrality trampled on, like Belgium during World War I. When neutral nations got in the way of U.S. war aims, however, a different story line emerged.

Cordell Hull, who was Secretary of State under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, documents this in excruciating details in his Memoirs. At the beginning of World War II the U.S. establishment planned to repeat its triumphant accomplishments of World War I: make a lot of money being a neutral nation, then join the war towards the end, on the victorious side, grab while the grabbing is good, and mask mercenary aims behind high-sounding peace and democracy rhetoric. Before the British, German, Japanese, and Russian empires could totally destroy each other, however, the Japanese made U.S. involvement in the war official on December 7, 1941.

The United States immediately ordered its Latin America puppet nations to enter the war on its side, and many did. A number of other nations were determined to be neutral, however. Cordell Hull recounts how starting in 1943 he pressured Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Argentina, Ireland and Turkey to either officially enter the war on the side of the United Nations (originally, and still really, a fighting organization of U.S./British puppets) or at least cut off crucial war materials to the enemy Axis nations.

Of course, Americans think: but was not Hitler really evil? Is it not okay to bash neutral nations when they are refusing to fight evil?

What, exactly, you might want to ask, made Hitler so evil that the rules could be broken by the U.S.? He was a racist. Oops, so were Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull, their Democratic Party, and the British Empire. He conquered non-German territories, not allowing each nation of Europe to determine its own destiny. The U.S., in contrast, liberated the American Indians and bossed around Hawaii, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico through entirely peaceful means, and the British Empire was not built on the blood and bones of millions of citizens of defeated nations. Why were the Irish neutral? Are you kidding? Because as much as they would have liked to smash the British Empire, or at least kick the Brits out of Northern Ireland, actually declaring war against Britain would have just ended up with another round of genocide at British hands in Ireland.

Sure, Hitler was a bad guy. But you will notice the U.S. did not send troops to fight Hitler (or any other Catholic Four leader: Mussolini, Franco, Petain and Hitler) when war first broke out in 1939. Even after the U.S. declared war Roosevelt kept building up the U.S. economy by selling to the both our allies and, in many cases documented (and rationalized away) by Hull, to the Axis powers too! Churchill and Stalin begged the U.S. to actually send troops to fight. Twenty million Russians died defeating Hitler. Only then, when Hitler was clearly defeated in 1944, did the U.S. invade France and mop up the seniors and teenage conscripts who manned Germany's army on the eastern front.

The U.S. global empire does not like neutral nations today any more than King George or Napoleon did in their day.

Pakistan, in particular, is bashed for trying to remain neutral and at peace with its neighbors. Pakistan has plenty of problems of its own without the U.S. butting in with its political manipulations, its drones, its attacks on the army of Pakistan, and its threats. The U.S. puppet government of Afghanistan is not some shining light of the region. It is corrupt to the core. Those who doubt that billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars will be able to prop up this regime in the long run have history on their side.

President Obama plays the smiling predator game well. He's about as complex as Tony Soprano. He says the new agreement with Afghanistan will "build an equal partnership between two sovereign states." Within that equal partnership the U.S. has assigned our Afghan puppets the job of "patrolling its cities and mountains" to kill anyone who is not a U.S. puppet. "Others will ask why we don't leave immediately... our gains could be lost ... I refuse to let that happen." [Full Barack Obama Afghanistan Speech]

What gains? A higher national debt? The deeper entrenchment of the corporate security state in the U.S.A.? Gains for who? 99% of American citizens have lost a lot in this past decade, Mr. President. We lost it mostly to banks and speculators, not to the Taliban. If only you had declared war on investment banks, Mr. President, I might not be neutral. But of course they financed your 2008 election campaign, so you have directed us to look elsewhere for enemies.

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