Saturday, January 30, 2010
The USS Maine and the RMS Lusitania
Well, yes it is. But just because it is like trying to drain the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon doesn't make it pointless and futile! Sometimes they are so easily debunked that they produce a warm feeling of satisfaction in an area just behind the eyes.
Two water-borne conspiracy theories that I only recently became aware of surround the sinkings of the USS Maine and the RMS Lusitania and according to conspiracy site, Hitchens Watch, are believed in by none other than Christopher Hitchens, himself.
Wow! So the claim is that the USS Maine sailed into Havana Harbor and, in 1898, was deliberately sunk by the United States despite the large loss of life of those on board and then blamed on the Spanish? And not only that but owned up to 1976?
I would have thought I'd have heard of this false-flag attack if it were true and so I decided to pick up a few history books that are on my shelves and find out if they agree with the claim.
First, Niall Ferguson's Colossus, a book in which the author claims the United States has always been an imperialist power. There's only one reference - page 48:
Within just three months of the American declaration of war - the trumped-up pretext for which was the accidental explosion of the battleship Maine in Havana Bay, supposedly the fault of Spain - the Spanish forces in both the Caribbean and the Philippines were defeated.
Accidental? That's not what I was promised. Apparently the Yankees have owned up to it being a "false flag" operation. Either Ferguson has been skimping on his research or, far more likely given that he is a war-mongering neo-con, he's pushing the "accident" theory (sometimes known as the "cock-up theory of history") to deflect attention to the confessed bad behaviour of the US.
So, I picked up Hugh Brogan's The Penguin History of the USA to find out what the author has to say about the incident - on page 440, he describes how "rogue newspaper publisher", William Randolph Hearst was eager to foment a war between Spain and the US - this is more like it. Of the incident itself he says:
[Hearst] got his way. A United States battleship, the Maine, on a courtesy visit to Havana, blew up in the harbour on 15th February 1898, killing most of the crew. The explosion was almost certainly an accident, but Hearst thought otherwise. "Remember the Maine!" screamed his papers, announcing that the episode was the result of a fiendish Spanish plot.
Accident? What is Brogan playing at? Not only has no one apparently told him that the Yankees owned up to their false flag in 1976 (Brogan's book was first published in 1985!), but now he's accusing William Rondolph Hearst of being a conspiracy theorist!
Maybe we'll be on safer ground with Howard Zinn, whose credentials are solidly left-wing and whose opposition to war-like foreign policy by the United States is second-to-none. He'll skewer those dastardly Yankee Imperialist Aggressors. Page 304 of A People's History of the United States:
In February 1898, the US battleship Maine, in Havana harbor as a symbol of American interest in the Cuban events, was destroyed by a mysterious explosion and sank, with the loss of 268 men. There was no evidence produced on the cause of the explosion, but excitement grew swiftly in the United States, and McKinley began to move in the direction of war.
What?!? This isn't fair! I was promised a false-flag conspiracy theory that blamed the Yankee Imperialist Aggressors and I'm let down even by Howard Zinn. I have to conclude that Zinn must be one of the fabled "Left Gatekeepers"! Pretending to criticize US foreign policy while actually giving it a pass on its egregious conspiracies.
Unless of course, it simply isn't true that there was a false-flag incident. Where does the claim, that the US have admitted to a false-flag attack come from in the first place?
Well, looking at Wikipedia it appears there are two theories that mainstream historians propose:
1) That the Maine hit a mine laid by the Spanish navy.
2) That the Maine's coal bunker spontaneously combusted detonating nearby magazines.
1976 is the year in which Admiral Rickover conducted his own investigation essentially concluding that the latter hypothesis was the most likely. He didn't conclusively rule out other possibilities but suggested that an accidental coal-bunker fire was the most likely. His investigation formed the basis of his book, titled How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed.
(Interestingly, however, National Geographic conducted a study in 1999, ressurecting the mine hypothesis.)