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Provocations as Pretexts for Imperial War: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11
by Prof. James Petras - Global Research
May 25, 2008
Wars in an imperialist democracy cannot simply be dictated by executive fiat, they require the consent of highly motivated masses who will make the human and material sacrifices. Imperialist leaders have to create a visible and highly charged emotional sense of injustice and righteousness to secure national cohesion and overcome the natural opposition to early death, destruction and disruption of civilian life and to the brutal regimentation that goes with submission to absolutist rule by the military.
The need to invent a cause is especially the case with imperialist countries because their national territory is not under threat. There is no visible occupation army oppressing the mass of the people in their everyday life. The ‘enemy’ does not disrupt everyday normal life – as forced conscription would and does. Under normal peaceful time, who would be willing to sacrifice their constitutional rights and their participation in civil society to subject themselves to martial rule that precludes the exercise of all their civil freedoms?
The task of imperial rulers is to fabricate a world in which the enemy to be attacked (an emerging imperial power like Japan) is portrayed as an ‘invader’ or an ‘aggressor’ in the case of revolutionary movements (Korean and Indo-Chinese communists) engaged in a civil war against an imperial client ruler or a ‘terrorist conspiracy’ linked to an anti-imperialist, anti-colonial Islamic movements and secular states. Imperialist-democracies in the past did not need to consult or secure mass support for their expansionist wars; they relied on volunteer armies, mercenaries and colonial subjects led and directed by colonial officers. Only with the confluence of imperialism, electoral politics and total war did the need arise to secure not only consent, but also enthusiasm, to facilitate mass recruitment and obligatory conscription.
Since all US imperial wars are fought ‘overseas’ – far from any immediate threats, attacks or invasions - -US imperial rulers have the special task of making the ‘causus bellicus’ immediate, ‘dramatic’ and self-righteously ‘defensive’.
To this end US Presidents have created circumstances, fabricated incidents and acted in complicity with their enemies, to incite the bellicose temperament of the masses in favor of war.