The men and women who were shipped in from Europe since then have been romanticised and heroised as refugees who were looking for a country that offered them political, religious and economic freedom (at that time, freedom of speech was not considered more important than food, and no one had to be ashamed of being an economic refugee). And while this is true about a good deal of the immigrants, the other part isn’t mentioned at all - lawless adventurers, criminals on the run, convicted felons (many mass murderers and serial killers were given the choice between the old gallows and the New World, and not all of them picked the rope) and religious fanatics (foremost the Puritans and the Pilgrims who did happen to be persecuted, but who insisted on burning witches and finishing off all those of other beliefs and races themselves).
The extent of religious fanaticism became obvious in 1692 in the Puritan town of Salem, Massachusetts. Three years previously, Rev Cotton Mather of Boston had published a pamphlet about witchcraft in which he detailed the persecution and execution of an alleged witch in his parish which caused a widespread hysteria. Quarrelling neighbours in Salem started accusing each other of sending their spectres to afflict and torment them; hundreds were accused, and with the advice of Rev Mather on the use of ‘spectral evidence’, thirty persons were convicted; nineteen of them were hanged while one was crushed to death. Five more died in prison, including two infants.
(Salem was also the arena for the – so far – last court case of witchcraft in the US in 1878. The cult with the oxymoronic name Christian Science had just emerged, and one follower accused another of mesmerising her. The court dismissed the case, pointing out that imprisoning him wouldn’t prevent the accused from exerting mental control over her.)
There was land for every European at the Frontier - the most western line beyond which no land had been claimed yet. All one had to do was go there, stake the claim and get rid of the Indians.
Of course, as in any other colony, the natives were also taken as slaves since Columbus' first excursion. But Indians don’t last long in captivity, so African slaves were imported and the Indians exterminated.
Christians justified the enslavement of blacks with the Curse of Ham according to which Noah cursed his grandson Canaan because Canaan's father Ham had seen Noah naked. Therefore Noah proclaimed that Canaan would be his brothers' and his uncles' slave. (Genesis 9:20-27)
You may wonder what this has to do with black people. According to Christian mythology Canaan settled in Africa, and the Africans' dark skin is the sign of Ham's curse. Makes sense, doesn't it?
The growing population of the East coast kept pushing northwards, and the British colonies clashed with the French territories in the North which resulted in the French and Indian War, 1754-1763 (the American side of the Seven Years’ War). For their battles, both parties repeatedly allied themselves with Indian tribes whom they killed after the conflicts.
While horses were introduced to the Americas by European settlers, the Indians quickly assimilated them into their culture, and by 1750 all tribes of Plains Indians owned horses.
Most history books render the impression that the random killing of unarmed civilians and the dismembering and mutilating of dead and living children, men and women was the exception. It wasn’t.
The genocide of the Indians lasted for over 300 years. Over this period, they have been pushed westwards until no West was left, into ‘reservations’ that were guaranteed to remain theirs (yep, we know what to think of American guarantees).
After President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, he declared the Mississippi to be the Permanent Indian Frontier which would forever separate the Europeans in the East from the Indians in the West. Of course the only permanent aspect about it was that the Frontier was permanently moved westwards until it disappeared in the Pacific in 1903 with the removal of a Cupeno tribe from their homeland in San Diego County.
There are many supposedly amusing stories about Indians selling land for glass beads and the like. According to British (and later American) law these people were considered aliens (!!!) - they had no citizenship and therefore couldn’t own property in the first place. Apart from that, if someone put a gun to your head and asked you to sell your Rolex for a dime, what would you do?
Many governments paid a reward for every killed Indian (usually the reward for adult males was higher than for children and women). Of course they demanded proof, and some governors got so fed up with the Indian corpses in their offices that they declared their scalps to be sufficient proof. Scalp Acts to that effect were in place as early as 1689 during King William's War, if not earlier. (A handful of Indians copied this habit and created the myth of the savage scalp-hunting Indian.)
Mutilations were also popular, such as establishing the number of killed Indians by cutting off the tips of their noses and counting them or making bridle reins from their skin.
Apart from the old shotgun, the Americans used other methods as well, such as providing them with alcohol, knowing it would kill them. One of the most gruesome was to appear charitable and provide them with blankets they had infected with smallpox.
(Some sources contend that the infections were unintentional. This is not the case. William Trent, commander of the local militia at Fort Pitt, wrote in his journal during the 1763 siege, 'We gave them two Blankets and an Handkerchief out of the Small Pox Hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect.' – It did.
In the account book of Fort Pitt he entered, ‘To Sundries got to Replace in kind those which were taken from people in the Hospital to Convey the Smallpox to the Indians Viz:
2 Blankets @ 20/ £299 099 0
1 Silk Handkerchef 10/
& 1 linnen do: 3/6 099 1399 6’.
A few weeks later, unaware that someone else had put the same strategy into place and that the smallpox was raging amongst the Indians already, Colonel Henry Bouquet suggested to Lord Jeffrey Amherst, 'I will try to inocculate the Indians by means of Blankets that may fall in their hands, taking care however not to get the disease myself. As it is pity to oppose good men against them, I wish we could make use of the Spaniard's Method, and hunt them with English Dogs. Supported by Rangers, and some Light Horse, who would I think effectively extirpate or remove that Vermine.' - Amherst replied, 'You will Do well to try to Innoculate the Indians by means of Blanketts, as well as to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race.')
In 1789 George Washington was elected president.
During the war many Indians fought on the British side in return for promises to see their lot improve. For a short time Great Britain even rekindled the idea of an Indian buffer state between the United States and Upper Canada. One of the leaders they supported was Shawnee chief Tecumseh who had led a coalition of tribes in a war against American invaders. However, his confederacy died with him in 1813.
After Louisiana was admitted in 1812, new states were generally admitted to the Union in pairs (one free state and one slave state) in order to keep the balance, a practice that ended with the Compromise of 1850. Indiana was admitted in 1816 and Mississippi in 1817, followed by Illinois in 1818 and Alabama in 1819.
In 1836, shortly before the end of his term, Jackson issued the Specie Circular which required buyers of land to pay in specie, i.e. in gold or silver rather than with paper notes. The idea behind this executive order was to counter land speculation which had become increasingly common since the Indian Removals.
Both these measures were the main contributing factors of the Panic of 1837 and the four years of depression that followed.
Following the disappearance (and probably murder) of Freemason whistleblower William Morgan in 1826, the single-issue Anti-Masonic Party had been founded which, after initial success, incorporated other topics and opposed the Jacksonian Democrats. In later years the party gradually merged with the Whigs.
Because both main parties were divided over the issue of slavery since they included both supporters and opponents of slavery (including abolitionists who actually owned slaves), abolitionists founded the Liberty Party which ran their own presidential candidates in the elections of 1840, 1844 and 1848.
After his death Vice President John Tyler was sworn in as president. Aged 51, Tyler was the youngest president so far to assume office, a record that he would hold until the next inauguration.
His policies alienated the other Whigs who expelled him after 5 months in office, his excessive use of the veto angered Congress, and he came close to being impeached by his former party.
He was adamant to annex Texas as a slave state, and when it became clear that this wouldn't happen during his first term, he hoped to be nominated as a candidate for the Democrats. This didn't happen, either, and so he formed a party for the sole purpose of his re-election. However, when the Democrats elected James K. Polk (who also supported the annexation of Texas) as their candidate he withdrew his candidacy, stating that Texas was what really mattered to him.
Whig Congressman Abraham Lincoln kept bothering the president with a number of spot resolutions in which he demanded information about the exact location ('the spot') where American blood had been spilled on American soil, the claim that had served as the pretext for the war.
Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845 and Wisconsin in 1848.
Around the same time the United States claimed the area northwest of the Louisiana purchase up to 54°40' from Great Britain who claimed it for Canada. After the war against Great Britain, the United States themselves had suggested the 49th parallel as the border, but now that was not good enough any more.
And since Polk had expanded the US territory so far into the South and West, the Northerners expected him to put the same effort into Northern expansion. Their slogan was ‘54°40 or fight!’ (short, aggressive, catchy and unimaginative - you can almost see the cheerleaders).
However, years of negotiations and joint government in Oregon Country didn’t bear any fruit, and in 1846 the Oregon Treaty was signed, setting the border at 49°, with the exception of Vancouver Island which remained British.
The Mormon's encroachment upon Indian lands led to permanent conflicts in the area, known as Black Hawk War.
Utah received statehood in 1896.
In his First Inaugural Address in March 1861, he repeated his guarantee of having ‘no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery’ and stressed his willingness to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.
In the same speech, he also endorsed the Corwin Amendment (‘No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State’) which Congress had passed under outgoing President Buchanan as a last-ditch effort to keep the Union together, and which would have guaranteed the states’ right to remain (or become) slave states. Lincoln said, ‘Holding such a provision to now be implied Constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.’
(Technically the Corwin Amendment is still awaiting ratification.)
All Union forces were sent away from the Confederate States, but the soldiers in Fort Sumter - who had only been brought in after South Carolina's secession - refused to leave. They were attacked by Confederate forces and surrendered after a bloodless battle.
After Lincoln, with the support of his Democratic opponent Stephen Douglas, started gathering troops, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee joined the Confederation. West Virginia in turn seceded from Virginia to remain in the Union and was accepted in 1863 after passing the Willey Amendment
Soon the freed slaves flooded into the North from the destroyed plantations in the South. Needless to say they weren’t welcome. (At the same time, a flood of carpetbaggers was moving in the opposite direction.)
Five months after his re-election (during which, in order to attract more voters, the Republican Party temporarily changed its name to National Union Party) and five days after General Lee's surrender, Lincoln was shot on Good Friday 1865. He died the following morning.
After Lincoln's death War Democrat Andrew Johnson was sworn in as president. As military governor, Andrew Johnson was one of the few Southerners who freed his own slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation, even though he had succeeded in having Tennessee excluded from it. Despite remaining a racist, he came to oppose slavery solely for economic reasons.
On August 20, 1866, President Johnson declared the war ('insurrection') over.
During the war, Nevada had been admitted to the United States in 1864 as a free state to improve Lincoln's chances of re-election.
Union General Benjamin Butler had asked the President what was going to become of the millions of slaves that were freed in the Confederation, to which Lincoln replied, ‘I think we should deport them all.’
This sounded good in theory. But in the 50 years of its existence, the American Colonization Society had removed some 20,000 freed slaves from US territory - now they faced the deportation of more than four million freedmen, a task that was completely unfeasible, technically as well as financially. It was considered to give them an isolated area within the United States or in South America, but no state was willing to give up part of its territory.
The freed slaves still had no rights. By means of Black Codes Southern States tried to put blacks back in their place by restricting their liberties and movements and by fining them for not finding work, imprisoning those who couldn’t pay the fine (guess how many of them could) and hiring those imprisoned out for work - which is nothing short of slavery.
A number of Northern states also had Black Codes which denied blacks entry to their states.
Eight months after Lincoln’s death, on the 18th of December, 1865, the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery in the whole of the United States and which had been greatly pushed by the Radical Republicans came into force after it had been ratified by the required number of states. From that day the slaves of Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and Missouri (the slave states that hadn’t joined the Confederation) were free as well. (Tennessee had already abolished slavery with their new constitution in February that year.)
In 1865 the Ku Klux Klan, the first of many Christian terror organisations, was founded in Tennessee, aiming - just like the colonizationists in the North - at a purely white Protestant American society. Freedmen and abolitionists (amongst other minorities) were permanently terrorised and murdered.
Riots and street battles caused by racists attacking freedmen remained a common sight for decades.
In 1868, when the Radical Republicans had a vast majority in Congress, the 14th Amendment was passed (overruling President Andrew Johnson’s veto who claimed it discriminated against whites) which granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalised in the United States, except Indians.
In order to get the necessary majority of states to ratify the amendment, the former member states of the Confederation who refused to do so (which were all of them except Tennessee) remained under military rule and were only readmitted on ratification of the amendment between 1868 and 1870 (An act to provide for the more efficient government of the Rebel States, known as Reconstruction Act).
President Johnson obstructed Congress by vetoing all legislation that provided rights for blacks, but Congress overruled these. He became the first president to be impeached in 1868 (albeit on other grounds), but the Senate voted 35-19 to remove him which was one vote short of the required two-third majority.
His impeachment also inspired a group of citizens to petition for the abolition of the presidency, saying that 'only two types of governments are possible: absolute monarchy and absolute democracy', and that Johnson's abuse of power and his acquittal were the perfect example of how unduly powerful the office had become.
In 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified which guaranteed voting rights for all citizens regardless of 'race, color, or previous condition of servitude.' (Of course this didn't include Indians because they couldn't be citizens.)
For a number of years equal rights for blacks, including their suffrage, were enforced. In 1870 and 1871, Congress passed a number of Enforcement Acts, making the use of terror, the intimidation of voters, the attempt to prevent anyone from exercising their civil rights etc a federal offence. Hundreds of KKK members and supporters were tried an convicted, and soon the others went into hiding. The Ku Klux Klan was dead - for the time being.
However, their work was carried on by terror organisations like the White League who continued to kill opponents, intimidate activists and prevent blacks from voting to ensure the election of racist candidates.
In the presidential elections of 1876 Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, but his Republican opponent Rutherford Hayes won the presidency by a single electoral vote in strongly disputed circumstances. It is generally believed that an informal agreement, the Compromise of 1877, had been reached in which the Democrats accepted Hayes' presidency in return for the immediate removal of remaining federal troops from South Carolina and Louisiana and a policy of non-interference with Southern politics.
With the end of the Reconstruction Period the South fell back to the racists who passed Jim Crow laws to disfranchise the freedmen and who applied a ‘separate but equal’ segregation policy, denying blacks the use of the same services and facilities as white Americans.
This policy was upheld by the US Supreme Court in 1896 (Plessy v Ferguson).
In 1883 the Supreme Court also ruled that the 14th Amendment only forbids discrimination by the state, not by individuals; official segregation went on for another century (until a Supreme Court ruling in 1957), and their voting rights were restricted until the passing of the Voting Rights Act exactly 100 years after the war.
Before the attack two officers had complained about betraying the army's pledge of safety, to which he replied, 'Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! [...] I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians. [...] Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.'
Black Kettle was one of the few who escaped, just to be killed in another US Army massacre.
New member states were Nebraska in 1867, Colorado in 1876, North and South Dakota, Montana and Washington in 1889, Idaho and Wyoming in 1890 and Utah in 1896.
By 1893, less than 400 wild buffalo were left.
In 1980, in United States v Sioux Nation of Indians, the Supreme Court decided in favour of the Sioux and ruled that they were entitled to compensation for the Black Hills. The compensation, with interest, at present would amount to more than $1bn. However, to this day the Sioux have refused the money and insist on having their lands returned to them instead.
In 1891 President Benjamin Harrison awarded 20 Medals of Honor to the heroes of the massacre.
The United States always had an eye on Cuba, and they watched with interest how it got more and more difficult for the Spanish to suppress the Cubans. Already in the 1820's President John Quincy Adams predicted Cuba would eventually fall 'like a ripening plum into the lap of the Union' (the Ripe Fruit Policy), and since then several attempts had been made to purchase Cuba from Spain and admit it as a slave state.
By 1898 the civil war was in full swing, and as the Spanish empire was falling apart all over the world, they felt their time had come.
As in many other cases the United States offered to negotiate between them, but their 'assistance' was declined.
McKinley decided to send a battleship anyway, claiming to fear for the safety of American residents, and on January 25th, 1898, the Maine anchored in Havana.
Three weeks later, on February 15th, an explosion on the Maine killed 266 soldiers; the cause has never been established.
Several theories are still being spread - the accidental explosion of the fuel tank, an attack by the Spanish, an attack by Cuban rebels trying to blame it on the Spanish in order to get the US involved, or a false flag attack by the US to justify declaring war.
An attack by the Spanish seems implausible since they had no cause to conceal their identity - after all, the Maine was an uninvited American battleship in Spanish waters.
However, the United States blamed the Spanish and declared war. In their view, Spain had started the hostilities by the supposed attack; the Americans have always made a big deal about the ‘first shot’, and they have worked out a lot of ways to let others fire it. In my opinion, war starts either with a declaration of war or with armed forces entering foreign territory (or refusing to leave it, as was the case in Fort Sumter). This war started with a US battleship entering Cuba, regardless of the cause of the explosion.
The war against Spain spread over several colonies and ended a few months later, on August 12th, with the American annexation of all of Spain's colonies outside Africa, including the Philippines (for which they paid $20,000,000 to Spain), Puerto Rico, and Guam. (Around this time Mark Twain suggested to replace the American flag with a skull-spangled banner.)
The Philippines had declared their independence on June 12th, but nobody took notice. After the Spanish were gone they kept fighting the United States in the Philippine-American War which ended with their defeat in 1902. They would eventually gain their independence in 1946.
Resistance of the populations against American occupation remained as fierce as it was against the Spanish, and the atrocities committed by US forces were nothing short of what their predecessors had done to them.
The Teller Amendment prevented McKinley from annexing Cuba, but while Cuba formally gained independence in 1902, the US officially retained the right to interfere in Cuban affairs, which they repeatedly did.
With the new century approaching, the US decided to become a world power rather than just meddling in the businesses of Northern and Southern American countries. The spirit of the new era was probably best described in Senator Albert J. Beveridge's maiden speech in 1900. 'Mr. President, the times call for candor. The Philippines are ours forever, "territory belonging to the United States," as the Constitution calls them. And just beyond the Philippines are China's illimitable markets. We will not retreat from either. We will not repudiate our duty in the archipelago. We will not abandon our opportunity in the Orient. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world. And we will move forward to our work, not howling out regrets like slaves whipped to their burdens, but with gratitude for a task worthy of our strength, and thanksgiving to Almighty God that He has marked us as His chosen people, henceforth to lead in the regeneration of the world.'
Since the turn of the century two fruit companies which were mostly dealing in bananas had spread in South American countries and controlled several of their governments: the Standard Fruit Company (now Dole) and the United Fruit Company (now Chiquita). These countries, foremost Honduras and Guatemala, became known as Banana Republics, a term coined in 1904 by writer O. Henry.
Whenever the fruit companies lacked the resources to enforce their policies US troops were sent in to occupy the area or to fight the rebels and help to (re-)instate regimes that were friendly towards both the United States and the fruit companies. These interventions are today known as the Banana Wars and include other military actions in South America and the Caribbean to protect corporate and US interests, such as helping the Cuban government to suppress the Negro Rebellion in 1912.
Trade with China played an increasing role at the turn of the century. All the colonising countries had an interest in occupying parts or all of China which would have severely affected their competitors. Therefore in 1899 US Secretary of State John Hay suggested an Open Door Policy to the other imperial powers according to which China may be exploited equally by all of them and which was agreed on.
The Chinese themselves felt increasingly encroached upon by foreigners and missionaries who threatened their traditions and their way of life. This led to the Boxer movement which attacked and killed foreigners and Christians. On June 20, 1900, they reached Beijing and lay siege to the foreign legation district. The next day the Chinese empress declared war on all foreign nations present in China. The Boxer Rebellion was quelled by an alliance of forces from the United States, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Netherlands, Japan and Russia in 1901.
After McKinley’s successful assassination in 1901 Theodore Roosevelt became president. One of his first project was the completion of the Panama Canal which would connect the Atlantic with the Pacific, so no one had to sail around the tip of South America any more. It had been started by the French, but after the company went bankrupt in 1889, nobody had seriously worked on it.
In 1903 he negotiated with Colombia in whose territory the canal was planned, but while the treaty was signed by the United States, it was rejected by the Columbian Senate.
No problem for Roosevelt: he promised to support the rebels in the Colombian province of Panama where the canal was planned and sent the US Navy to assist them. Panama declared its independence on November 3, 1903, while the USS Nashville impeded Columbian forces, and shortly afterwards the works (which were completed in 1914) commenced. (Leigh Mercer summarised the story in his brilliant palindrome, A man, a plan, a canal – Panama!)
In 1904 he attached the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, stating that the United States had policing power in Latin American countries and that some of these countries may 'require intervention by some civilized nation'.
In 1906 Roosevelt occupied Cuba and was awarded the Nobel Peace Price; not for the occupation, of course, but for his negotiations in the Russo-Japanese War.
Roosevelt's diplomatic technique became known as the Big Stick Policy, named after a proverb he frequently quoted and which says, 'Speak softly and carry a big stick' (i.e. giving the weaker negotiating partner the impression they are equals while at the same time demonstrating your military superiority to ensure they do as they're told). Roosevelt claimed the phrase was of West African origin, but since no earlier sources for it exist, it is generally believed he made it up himself.
In order to demonstrate the United States' growing military power and their will to enforce their interests, he sent a large US Navy battle fleet, known as the Great White Fleet, on a voyage around the world that lasted from 1907 to 1909.
He still lives in every children’s room: the Teddy Bear was named after him, following an anecdote according to which he refused to shoot a bear that had been tied to a tree for him - in his opinion big game, other than Indians, deserved a ‘sporting chance’.
Euthanasia was also practiced. Although the most commonly suggested way were local gas chambers, most techniques used to kill them were subtler, such as feeding patients tuberculosis-infected milk, or simply by lethal neglect.
After the fall of Nazi Germany (whose euthanasia policies had been inspired by the example of the United States) eugenics increasingly fell out of fashion, although forced sterilisations continued until at least 2010, with a focus on black and American Indian women.
In Europe territorial claims, boundary disputes and fights over colonies had led to a tense atmosphere amongst the big empires that was calling for a cathartic war.
On June 28th, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, and his wife were killed by Serbian nationalists, and Austria-Hungary sent an ultimatum to Serbia, demanding to cease all anti-Austrian activities and to allow Austrian officials to participate in the investigations.
Serbia’s reaction was to mobilise, as did Russia, their ally.
The European countries now anxiously waited for the moron who would start the Great War.
The moron was forty-three years of age and as determined as he was immature: Germany. Urged by Austria-Hungary to honour their alliance, Germany issued two ultimata: one to Russia, asking them to suspend mobilisation, and one to France, ordering them to remain neutral, threatening that the non-compliance with either ultimatum would lead to war on August 1st, 1914.
On August 3rd, 1914, the Germans marched through neutral Belgium without permission in order to attack France. The war (which everyone expected to be over after a few weeks) had started. The following day, Great Britain declared war on Germany.
In the course of the war, Great Britain blocked all sea routes to Germany by means of ships and submarines to starve them out.
Despite their differences with Great Britain, the Americans happened to support the Triple Entente (Great Britain, France and Russia) which was later joined by others to form the Allied Forces - the British were still closer to them than the Germans.
Although Wilson declared the US to be neutral, the British and French were provided with arms by US manufacturers who transported them on British passenger ships. These vessels were often - usually after sufficient warning for evacuation - attacked by German submarines. The German government also issued ads in the New York Times and other newspapers, warning passengers not to board British ships that might carry arms and head for the war zone.
The arms manufacturers’ lobby demanded that the United States enter the war on the side of the Entente and even circulated the rumour that German soldiers cut off the hands of Belgian babies (don’t forget, we’re in America), but Wilson was hesitant; fighting industrialised European countries certainly involved more risks than invading some underdeveloped South American states.
The groups supporting America’s intervention had to think of something more convincing. Apart from the interest in supplying the US Army with arms, they were also concerned about the payments for the weapons they had sold to the Entente - in case of a victory of the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria) it was doubtful they would get their money.
In 1915 the RMS Lusitania, a British passenger ship, was stocked up with arms before sailing from New York to Great Britain, and someone tipped off the German authorities.
On May 7th, 1915, a German submarine torpedoed the Lusitania, which usually would only have sunk the vessel, not necessarily with the loss of lives - but the ammunition aboard exploded, and about 1,200 passengers, around 130 of them American citizens, were killed.
(Winston Churchill, who had previously tried to involve the US, had written shortly before the attack that 'it is most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores, in the hope especially of embroiling the US with Germany. For our part we want the traffic - the more the better, and if some of it gets into trouble, better still.')
To the disappointment of the arms industry this still wasn’t enough for Wilson to declare war on Germany; after all, the Lusitania was a British vessel sailing under British flag (though she didn’t fly any flag in the war zone). He issued, however, a firm warning against the German government.
His Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, resigned in protest, comparing the use of passenger ships for the transport of munitions to 'putting women and children in front of an army'.
Wilson was re-elected in 1916 with the slogan ‘He kept us out of the war’; but not for much longer. In January 1917 the decoding of the Zimmermann Telegram from the German Foreign Secretary to the German ambassador in Mexico turned the scales. It expressed the firm belief that the US would remain neutral; however, in case they joined the Entente, it was suggested to form an alliance with Mexico (which had frequent border skirmishes with the US), in return helping them to retrieve the territories they had lost to the United States.
The Germans had also declared unrestricted submarine warfare, and after the sinking of seven US merchant vessels Wilson was ready for a war declaration ('It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war') which Congress approved on April 6th, 1917.
1917 and 1918 brought other changes as well: the October Revolution, led by Lenin, put an end to the Tsar’s tyranny in Russia and discontinued its involvement in the war, and the November Revolution in Germany led to the fall of the government, the exiling of the Kaiser and the proclamation of a Socialist Republic two days before the armistice.
During the Russian Civil War which followed the revolution Wilson sent infantry to assist the pro-Tsarist White Guards who wanted the old tyranny back; partly because the White Guards had announced Russia would re-enter the war under their leadership, and partly because they fought communists.
One and a half years after the US had entered WWI (also called the War to End War at the time) it was over, and all parties agreed to put the entire responsibility for it on Germany. The Germans were excluded from the peace talks in Paris in 1919, forced to disarm almost completely, give up 10% of their territory as well as their colonies and pay all war damages (and more) - a sum of $60,000,000,000 (you don’t have to count the zeros, it’s billions) which would be the equivalent of $760,000,000,000 today. The last payment was made in 2010.
The rationale behind the Treaty of Versailles was that Germany should never again be able to fight a war. We know how that went.
Few had any idea of the price the world would have to pay for Versailles. One of them was Field Marshal Earl Wavell who predicted that the Treaty of Versailles had concluded the war to end war with a peace to end peace.
Officially the massacre went down in the records as a 'Negro Rebellion' with 36 deaths (10 white and 26 black).
As with any depression in any country, the blame was put on minorities, mainly immigrants (especially Mexicans and Jews), and violence against them became a common feature.
But, especially with Stalin taking over the leadership of the USSR in 1924, a new enemy was found: communism. And the good thing about it was that anybody could be accused of it.
In the opinion of Americans, communism had taken away the main foundations of human existence: freedom of accumulation of wealth and freedom of speech, and anyone who sympathised with them was silenced; in fact, anyone who in the slightest ventured to criticise US politics was shut up and branded a communist.
In order to combat unemployment he created the Public Works Administration which provided employment for many in public areas.
In an attempt to raise the price of farm products the newly created Agricultural Adjustment Administration compensated farmers to leave parts of their lands barren, leave harvested crops to rot and slaughter and discard millions of piglets while people starved. In 1936 the Supreme Court ruled that the act was unconstitutional, and it was subsequently changed to subsidise farmers growing soil enriching crops instead.
In 1939 Roosevelt introduced the Food Stamp Plan which ran until 1943 and was reintroduced in 1961 by John F Kennedy.
The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRI) introduced collective bargaining rights for both industry and labour, amongst other provisions. The main part of the act was declared to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1935, but important aspects of it were later included in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 which guaranteed employees the right to get organised in unions and the Fair Labour Standards Act of 1938 which outlawed child labour and introduced maximum hours for the work week and a minimum wage.
In 1935 the United States caught up with the rest of the industrialised world (well, kind of) when Congress passed the Social Security Act which provided for an old age pension, unemployment assistance, child welfare and support for the blind; this, together with his labour legislation, caused his opponents to denounce him as a communist. - However, the act did not apply to domestic and farm workers, ensuring that 65% of black workers were not covered.
Roosevelt also created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which recruited millions of unemployed to carry out public works.
The Housing Act of 1937 granted subsidies for local public housing agencies to provide accommodation for the poor.
In order to prevent the Supreme Court from striking down more of his legislation Roosevelt proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 which would have allowed the president to appoint an additional judge for every judge who had served on the Supreme Court for 10 years or more and refused to retire within six months of their 70th birthday. His attempt, known as the court stacking plan, failed.
After an initial recovery the economy began to go into the next recession in 1937, the 'depression within the depression'. But after 12 years the Great Depression would come to a sudden end when Dr Roosevelt found the cure for it: war!
In February 1942 Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which authorised the internment of persons whose ancestors hailed from the belligerent countries, and soon concentration camps were filled with 120,000 people of Japanese, 11,000 of German and 3,000 of Italian ancestry, the vast majority of them US citizens whose families had lived in the States for generations. There was no indication of their disloyalty, and nowadays it is generally accepted that the motives were entirely racist.
And it was not only US residents who were affected by the order. In the name of 'hemispheric security' 6,600 individuals were deported from Latin American countries and sent to the camps.
The Germans, British and Soviets had already commenced what would become the warfare of the future, and the Americans were only too happy to embrace the new strategy: instead of soldiers killing soldiers, air raids were carried out on large cities, killing thousands of civilians without putting one’s own people in danger; at the same time it destroyed the enemy’s already damaged economy.
The war spread over five continents (mainly Europe, Africa and Asia, with isolated attacks in America and Australia) as well as Oceania, and left half of the world in ruins. An estimated 60 million people got killed, the vast majority of them civilians.
Besides the war dead, another 11 millions were killed in Hitler's concentration camps: 6 million of them for being Jews, the others for being Gypsies, homosexuals, disabled persons or regime critics.
Roosevelt was insistent to talk to Stalin in person, and the Soviet leader finally agreed to a meeting in Tehran in November 1943 and another one in Yalta in February 1945.
Descriptions of Roosevelt’s attitude towards Stalin range from conciliatory to servile, yet before the war he had portrayed him as a dangerous dictator. Most historians put this down to senility, but I am convinced that Roosevelt had worked out a detailed post-war plan for the world already, and he pussyfooted around Stalin in an effort not to endanger it.
After the defeat of Germany and Japan (Italy had surrendered already) the United States once more would emerge as the world’s leading power, followed closely by the USSR. I am certain that at this stage Roosevelt had the vision of an American empire covering all countries between the poles; but he knew that the time wasn’t ripe.
There were two possible scenarios for the post-war world: one was that a couple of empires would continue gaining and losing territories, creating alliances and fighting wars, and this was too much of a risk for American supremacy; the second was to divide the planet amongst the two strongest powers and then work on each other’s downfall, and that’s what he aimed at. A mastiff has a better chance against another mastiff than against a pack of hyenas.
For this purpose he intended to set up the United Nations; he was aware that they’d be as powerless as the League of Nations was, because the strongest countries would have to be given a veto, but they would succeed in preventing the emergence of other superpowers beside the US and the USSR.
(Oh yes, Churchill was at these meetings as well. But his presence was merely symbolic; in both World Wars he had schemed to get the United States involved at the earliest stage, demonstrating Great Britain’s dependence on them. Apart from that, Britain was actually the big loser of the war - within a few years, they lost most of their colonies, including India. To my knowledge, Great Britain is the only former empire ever to be dominated by its former colony.)
However, Roosevelt couldn’t openly discuss his vision of American world domination, and many of his subjects who didn’t grasp his subtle master plan thought he sympathised with communism. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage on April 12th, 1945, just after having been re-elected for a fourth term, and just before the defeat of Germany; maybe the excitement of finally reaching his aim was too much, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of his oblivious fellowmen had been involved, thinking he was doing damage control before the post-war conferences.
Roosevelt’s vice-president Truman succeeded him and met with Stalin in Potsdam to ask for his support against Japan, discuss the world’s future and distribute the loot.
After their unconditional surrender on May 8th, 1945, Germany was divided into four zones (the American, British and French zones in the West and the Soviet one in the East), and so was the German capital Berlin itself which lay in the centre of the Soviet sector.
Remembering the disastrous result of the last German defeat and fearing the spread of communism, the United States, speaking softly and carrying a big stick, decided to introduce a new system of domination: rather than plundering the defeated European countries and leaving them on their own, they let them work for the United States while allowing them to elect governments that acted within their parameters. This was called the European Recovery Program, known as the Marshall Plan, which was offered to the European countries affected by the war but declined by the USSR and the states of their zone because it would have given the US too much influence.
The West Germans were leniently punished - at the Nuremberg Trials the figureheads of the Third Reich (who hadn’t committed suicide like Hitler or Goebbels) were executed, and others were sentenced to long prison terms; many of these were released after just a few years.
The others got away; the Americans, with their knowledge of the German mentality, rightly believed that they had just been carrying out Hitler’s orders, and that they would serve the US just as enthusiastically. Thus it was still possible for members of the Nazi party to become president or chancellor of West Germany.
A number of Nazi criminals were also employed by the US (such as Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon, who was recruited by the CIC in 1947 at the time he was sentenced to death in France). Operation Paperclip, a US programme to recruit leading German scientists, engineers and technicians (many of whom had worked for the Nazi regime, such as Wernher von Braun), was put in place right after the war.
The Americans generously invested in the destroyed countries, set up American businesses, helped them manage their debts and taught them of the dangers of communism (and for those who wouldn’t listen they got out the big stick). The American economy (which had been booming since entering the war) kept on booming, the West Germans had their Wirtschaftswunder, the British colonies got their independence: the war had done everyone a world of good!
Well, maybe not the other countries... After 1945, no nation was able to remain entirely neutral (apart from Switzerland where the communists and the capitalists had their offshore bank accounts). Any country claiming independence was either sacked by one of the superpowers, or accused of having been sacked by the other one - this would lead to sanctions and embargoes that automatically forced them to establish ties with the other one, making them more or less dependent on it.
Also, many satrapies declaring their independence were immediately invaded (‘liberated’ or ‘protected’) by their original owners to re-establish their rule, especially those providing crucial materials and those located on their doorstep. South American countries, for example, had been exploited by US companies and citizens for ages, and every emerging democracy was at once removed by the United States, like in Guatemala in 1954, the Dominican Republic in 1965 or Chile in 1973. They also supported terrorists against democratically elected governments like in Chile and Nicaragua.
The one nation that hadn’t surrendered by May 1945 was Japan. But once the war was over in the West, the US were able to focus on Asia, and after a number of victories the surrender of Japan was merely a matter of time.
This put Truman under a lot of pressure: the United States had just finished building the atomic bomb, and this could be the last opportunity in a long time to test its effects under authentic conditions.
On August 6th, 1945, the first atomic bomb (uranium) was dropped on Hiroshima, killing an estimated quarter of a million people instantly or after days, weeks, months or years of agony and crippling, disfiguring and causing cancer to many others. On August 9th another A-bomb (plutonium) was dropped on Nagasaki which is thought to have killed 80,000 by the end of the year. The most macabre experiment in history was concluded, and on August 15th Emperor Hirohito surrendered.
The Cold War was also used to justify the suspension of constitutional rights, like that of free speech, in the name of 'fighting communism'.
On March 15th, 1968, Captain Ernest Medina, believing that a large number of Vietcong were hiding in the village of My Lai, gave the order to destroy everything that was 'walking, crawling or growing' in it the following day. All civilians, he claimed, would have gone to market by 7am.
When the soldiers arrived the next morning they found a peaceful hamlet with no sign of enemy activity, and platoon leader William Calley gave orders to kill everybody. Only three of his men refused to do so at the risk of being court-martialled.
By the time the army broke for lunch they had slaughtered 504 civilians, mostly women and children, many of whom they had raped before they shot or bayoneted them.
Initially covered up, the story of the My Lai Massacre broke 18 months later. Participants, including Calley himself, claimed they had 'only followed orders'. (Where have we heard that before?)
Calley was the only one convicted in a subsequent court martial and sentenced to life in 1971 but paroled three years later.
And while this massacre was a particularly horrendous atrocity it was far from being the only one.
The Vietnam War was the first war ever to be televised in the US, so Americans could order a pizza, grab a beer, sit back and watch crying children run through their destroyed villages while burning to death. But it had an unwanted effect on a lot of people: they realised that war wasn’t something abstract, and that all these atrocities happened to actual people. Opposition to the war increased rapidly, especially with almost 60,000 US soldiers having lost their lives (as opposed to three million Vietnamese, a third of whom were armed) in a war that was started merely to boost Kennedy’s damaged ego.
In 1973 the United States had lost the Vietnam War (which, in their absence, continued for another two years and led to the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam).
As a consequence, war journalism was being restricted from showing victims and, due to public pressure, male slavery (‘conscription’ or the ‘draft’) was abolished for a few years; draft registration was re-introduced by President Carter in 1980.
At the same time riots and murders of black people and their supporters spread over Southern states wherever black children and students enlisted in white-only schools and universities, and wherever other segregation measures were challenged.
This was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement which was largely inspired by Gandhi’s concept of civil disobedience and non-violence.
When nine black students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School, Arkansas, in 1957 several segregationist councils decided to block the students from entering the grounds, and Governor Orval Faubus sent in the Arkansas National Guard to support them (the racists, that is). Little Rock's mayor Woodrow Wilson Mann asked President Eisenhower for federal troops to enforce the Supreme Cout ruling. Eisenhower reluctantly sent in the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army (without its black soldiers) who ensured the students could enter the building.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was the first half-hearted attempt to address racial discrimination.
Beginning with the Dockum Drug Store sit-in a number of lunch counter and other sit-ins were organised in which black activists would sit at the counters without being served. In many cases these sit-ins proved successful.
The Civil Rights Act of 1960 established federal inspection of local voter registration polls and introduced penalties for those attempting to hinder anyone from registering to vote.
Segregation was still practised on interstate buses, and starting in 1961 a number of Freedom Rides took place in which activists would travel South in mixed racial groups. Many were arrested and even more attacked by mobs as police watched.
In September 1962 the enrolment of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi led to the Ole Miss Riot in which two people were killed.
After police in Birmingham, Alabama, bombed the parsonage of Martin Luther King's brother and fellow activist A D King in May 1963 the Birmingham Riot of 1963 broke out which only ended with the deployment of federal troops.
When two black students had registered with the University of Alabama in June 1963 Democratic Governor George Wallace took his Stand in the Schoolhouse Door, blocking the students' entry and repeating his inauguration chant, 'segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.'
President Kennedy responded by issuing Executive Order 11111 which federalised the Alabama National Guard whom he ordered to clear the way for the students. After a short discussion with the General Wallace eventually moved.
In September the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Baptist church in Birmingham, killing four children. During the riots following the events two teenagers were killed.
In July 1964 the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law which outlaws discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex or national origin.
After a state trooper shot and killed a protester in Marion, Alabama, in March 1965 a march from Selma to Montgomery was organised for March 7th but not allowed by the governor. It took place anyway, and around 600 protesters were violently attacked by police and a white militia in what became known as Bloody Sunday. Two days later Martin Luther King (who had been awareded the Nobel Peace Prize a few months prior) led a second march which was attended by 2,500. During the march one protester was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
After a federal judge ruled in favour of the protesters 25,000 turned up for a third march on March 25th. The event concluded with a Stars for Freedom concert by some of the leading musicians of the time. Later that night Klan members murdered one of the activists who was bringing marchers from Montgomery back in her car.
In August the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed which prohibits racial discrimination against voters, including obstacles such as literacy tests.
Riots and murders continued over the following years, and in 1968 Martin Luther King was assassinated (leading to the greatest civil unrest in a century) as the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was underway which provided for equal housing opportunities.
In a perverted twist of justice the all-male United States Supreme Court in 1973 (Roe v Wade) placed the right to privacy above the right to life and ruled that abortion was a 'fundamental right' of the mother. With an estimated 60 million children aborted in the US since 1973 (that’s 60,000,000, a number equivalent to the entire populations of California and Florida put together), the Supreme Court decision has killed as many as the Second World War.
Since 1995 Congress had passed several bills to at least ban intact dilation and extraction ‘abortions’, better known as partial birth abortions, which are technically not abortions since the child is delivered first and killed afterwards, by a procedure which is particularly painful (for the child, that is). However, these bills were vetoed by President Bill Clinton, and the ban was only signed into law in 2003 by President Bush Jr.
Ironically Norma McCorvey (the plaintiff in Roe v Wade) never had an abortion and subsequently changed her views. In her book Won by Love she writes, ‘I was sitting in O.R.'s offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. “Norma,” I said to myself, “They're right.” [...] It's as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth.'
She remained a pro-life activist until her death in 2017 and has unsuccessfully petitioned to have the 1973 decision overturned.
In Iran which had been terrorised by its leader Shah Reza Pahlavi for almost four decades opposition to the monarchy increased rapidly, despite police shooting into the crowds of protesters. He had allowed the country to be shamelessly exploited by the United States while torturing and killing all critics and opponents of his regime.
He had to flee Iran in January 1979, following the outbreak of the Iranian Revolution, and, after travelling from one country to the next, went to the United States for free medical treatment. President Carter didn't want him to enter the country but was put under pressure by others, including Henry (Heinz Alfred) Kissinger (who, as Nixon's Secretary of State, had been responsible for most of the carnage in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). Kissinger threatened to withhold his support for SALT II, a decommissioning agreement with the USSR. Reportedly Carter hung up the phone, shouting, 'Fuck the Shah!'
There were emerging democratic voices in Iran, but the overwhelming majority hailed the return of Ayatollah Khomeini from exile, a radical fundamentalist who, following a referendum, created an isolationist Islamic state.
In the following years Khomeinei had more than 20,000 opponents executed.
In November 1979 an angry mob stormed the US embassy in Tehran and took the remaining staff hostage, demanding Pahlavi’s extradition to try him for his crimes.
The negotiations led nowhere as President Carter refused the exchange; one rescue attempt failed, and after the Iranian despot died of cancer in July 1980, negotiations continued with a new set of demands. In the end an agreement was reached (the Algiers Accords), the main points being that the United States return Iranian assets that had been frozen under Carter and refrain from interfering in internal affairs.
On January 20th, 1981, while Republican Ronald Reagan (who had left Hollywood to become president) was sworn into office, the remaining 52 hostages were released. According to Abolhassan Banisadr, who was president of Iran at the time, the release had been delayed until after the US presidential election at the behest of the Reagan campaign to prevent Jimmy Carter's re-election.
Also in 1979 US protégé Saddam Hussein took over the reigning Ba’ath Party in Iraq and assumed the presidency.
In 1980, taking advantage of the unstable situation in Iran, Hussein used the continuous border disputes to wage war on his neighbour, and Reagan and several Western European countries gladly supplied him with materiel and military intelligence.
In order to keep Iran safe from being sucked into the Soviet sphere, Reagan would have liked to provide them with arms, too, but an arms embargo against them prevented that. Also, he would have liked to help the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua to overthrow their democratically elected government, but the Boland Amendment stood in the way. The solution was simple: Israel supplied Iran with weapons and got resupplied from the United States. The proceeds were used to arm and train the Contras. Besides, the deal also helped to release the Hezbollah hostages in Lebanon. The Iran-Contra Affair was exposed in 1986.
Besides the United States, the USSR also provided weapons to both sides of the conflict.
The war ended in 1988, with neither side having achieved anything.
With the gradual disintegration of the USSR communism was largely defeated, and no longer did the government have to pretend to care about the individual in order to prevent communist sympathies. Therefore Reagan and his familiars, such as Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain and Helmut Kohl in West Germany, spread the policies of neoliberalism which has destroyed Western civilisations ever since. In the name of the 'free market' large corporations, besides their virtual tax-free status, would be showered with enormous grants and concessions while at the same time social security measures would be severely cut (with the aim of eventually being entirely abolished), public services ruined by underfunding in order to justify their privatisation and excessively increasing unemployment and homelessness used to create fierce competition over the most substandard workplaces and accommodations. Besides this regular bank failures would lead to bailouts by the working class and be used as a pretext for austerity measures against the most vulnerable.
To choose a single nation would have been silly, because after its defeat a new enemy would have to be found; this only left a race, an ideology or a religion to pick from.
As mentioned earlier, the US support of the genocide in Palestine had always put a great strain on their relations with the Arab world, so Bush chose War on Islam.
The ideal point to start with was Iraq. Hussein (the Americans, however, still call their old buddy by his first name) had fought the tiring war against Iran, he had used up the chemical and biological weapons the US had provided to get rid of the Kurds, and his country was worn out. He needed money - and his best bet was to get oil.
- Hussein wanted to expand Iraq, he needed money to pay off his debts from the war against Iran, and there had always been border disputes with Kuwait (which, as he argued, was historically a part of Iraq, anyway); what better way of starting the war than encouraging him to invade his neighbour?
In a meeting in 1990, US ambassador Glaspie assured Hussein, ‘We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instructions first given in the 1960's, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.’
The Iraqi leader took the bait and invaded and annexed Kuwait in August 1990. Bush and the world were appalled (Bush even pretended that the United States were suddenly concerned about the Kurds), the UN condemned the invasion, and the US led a coalition to liberate Kuwait in the Gulf War. (Hussein offered to withdraw from Kuwait if Israel would withdraw from the occupied areas in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, but of course this wasn’t considered.) One month later Iraq was defeated, and the Carlyle Group was saved.
Following the war Hussein remained in office, but he was not allowed to possess biological or chemical weapons any more.
Presidential elections in the US are indirect, and the weight of one's vote depends on location; voters in each state vote for a block of electors who make up the Electoral College and elect the president. This system stems from the Founding Fathers' fear of mob rule. While in most cases the majority of electors represents the majority of voters, this is not necessarily the case, and prior to 2000 there have been three presidential candidates who lost the elections despite a majority of voters (condescendingly called the popular vote), the last one in 1888.
The next one was Al Gore. In 2000 George Bush Jr, despite losing the popular vote, won one of the closest presidential races ever.
Florida turned out to be decisive in the election. Fortunately its governor Jeb Bush (George Bush's brother) was responsible for the voting system which was designed to exclude as many black and minority voters as possible. Black voters were also reportedly intimidated by police swarming around polling stations, setting up a checkpoint in a black neighbourhood and questioning them on their criminal records.
Bush supposedly won Florida by a majority of 537 out of 5,963,110 votes (= 0.009%) in an election marred by a number of irregularities.
In the end Bush won by a single vote: that of a judge of the Supreme Court which put an end to the recount of votes in Florida in Bush v Gore.
That morning President Bush visited an elementary school in Florida. When he arrived in the hallway he was told that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. 'That's some bad pilot,' he replied and proceeded to the classroom.
Minutes later, as he sat in the class while teacher and children read The Pet Goat to him, his chief of staff came over to tell him that a second plane had flown into the second tower and that the nation was under attack. With a blank stare Bush remained seated until The Pet Goat was finished. He didn't seem surprised; after all, only a month ago he had been briefed by the CIA on an imminent attack by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. He also appeared to be aware that he himself was not in any danger.
In the course of the 9/11 attacks two hijacked planes crashed into the Twin Towers (which subsequently caught fire and collapsed), one damaged the Pentagon and a fourth was brought down in a field by courageous passengers who, after learning of the previous suicide attacks, tried to overcome the hijackers. 3,000 people died, including firefighters and police.
The Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre and WTC 7 were the only steel-framed skyscrapers ever to entirely collapse supposedly due to fire. There are physicists who argue that this would not have been possible without explosives being placed in the buildings.
Nobody claimed ‘responsibility’ for the attacks.
Bush declared War on Terror which conveniently, other than declaring war against a country or organisation, can be carried on indefinitely, regardless of the results. Just like the Red Scare in the days of the USSR, the War on Terror became a carte blanche for the suppression of civil rights and the invasion of sovereign nations.
He also designated an 'axis of evil', namely Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Saudi Arabia as an important business partner wasn't mentioned and their involvement in 9/11 kept quiet.
Bush kept implying that Saddam Hussein had masterminded the attacks to prepare the public for the planned invasion of Iraq and at the same time delivered an ultimatum to Afghanistan to hand over Osama bin Laden or face attack. The Taliban demanded proof of his guilt which the United States refused to provide. Meanwhile the government organised the safe departure of important Saudis, including members of the bin Laden family, from the States while all other aircraft were still grounded.
A delightful side effect of 9/11 was that Bush had no problem in eliminating civil rights by having the USA PATRIOT ACT (The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) passed just a month after the attacks.
US and UK troops, amongst others, invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to ‘smoke them out of their holes’ for a war that hasn't ended yet and cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians.
Despite all the efforts the US supposedly put into the manhunt, bin Laden was not captured during George Bush’s presidency. His killing by US Navy in Pakistan was reported in 2011, but the Obama administration refused any requests to release evidence to the public.
In 2002 the Bush administration established the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on their naval base in Cuba. It serves as a military prison, mostly for those captured (or purchased from bounty hunters) during their invasions of Muslim countries. Inmates are detained indefinitely without trial and severely tortured.
His greatest achievement was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, generally knows as Obamacare, which enabled a lot more people to get health insurance cover.
Starting in 2010 several Arab nations experienced increasing unrest in what was called the Arab Spring. Protests against their oppressive regimes, many of whom were close trading partners of the United States, swept through the Arab world and were often met with violent responses from authorities. Civil war broke out in some of these countries, and the Islamic State, denounced as a terror group by most Islamic nations, used the opportunity move into some of their countries, trying to absorb them into their caliphate.
In Libya Colonel Gaddafi, trying to avoid a fate similar to Hussein, announced the voluntary destruction of his nuclear, chemical and biological arsenal in 2003 and invited weapons inspectors, but he was not able to save himself from the wrath of his people, and during the Libyan Civil War in 2011 he was killed by rebel forces, assisted by NATO forces (including the US).
The worst affected arena is Syria where a civil war is raging since 2011, with four different belligerents: the Syrian government and their allies (including Russia), the Free Syrian Army with their allies (including the United States), the Syrian Democratic Forces and their allies (including Russia and the United States) and the Islamic State. Estimates of civilian deaths in the conflict are close to half a million. 8 million have been displaced, which led to the worst refugee crisis in decades.
While he presented his blatant lies as 'alternative facts' he called critical media 'fake news' ('Lügenpresse') and excluded them from briefings. Since taking office he ruled by issuing a number of executive orders, putting severe restrictions on public health care, civil rights and environment protection.
He ordered the construction of a wall between the US and Mexico (without getting Mexico to pay for it), and on January 27th, 2017, he issued the first Muslim ban which denied entry to the United States by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen (countries from which no citizen ever launched a deadly terrorist attack on American soil), claiming that these pose a terrorist threat. Between 9/11 and Trump’s inauguration 94 people had been killed in the United States by Islamic extremists, most of whom were legal residents of the country, and none of them coming from any of the affected countries. Not included in the ban were Islamic-majority countries in which Trump is doing business, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Egypt (the countries the 9/11 hijackers originated from), Indonesia and Turkey.
Families were torn apart, children handcuffed and mobile phones checked for social media posts.
Shortly afterwards his travel ban was blocked by District Court Judge James Robart. Trump tweeted that ' if something happens blame him and court system'. And, after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Robart's decision, the president, calling him a 'so-called judge', tweeted at him, 'See you in court, the security of our nation is at stake!' to which a parody Robart account replied, 'You are already in court, you friggin genius!'
A few days later his senior advisor informed the press that the constitutionally mandated separation of powers would not be tolerated by the Trump administration.
Trump continued his efforts to ban Muslims from countries that weren't doing business with him and even added Chad, Venezuela and North Korea to the list, but all of his bans were declared unconstitutional by the courts.
Trump kept insisting on an imminent threat of an attack from Muslim immigrants, and his administration - lacking real life events - kept making up terror attacks that never happened. His attempts at creating an anti-Muslim hysteria could indicate a plan to create or provoke an event similar to 9/11 to consolidate his power, curtail the rule of the courts and govern by executive orders alone, effectively ending the separation of powers in the US.
Besides these orders he also used his presidency to promote not only his own business but those of his daughter and current wife, discussed matters of national security in public, managed to become the first president to deliver a Holocaust Remembrance Day message without mentioning the Jews, fired FBI director James Comey amidst the bureau's investigation into Russia's tampering in the election, threatened to totally destroy North Korea, confused the countries he bombs and broke Obama's record of killing civilians with drones within a few months of his administration.
Life, as Darwin and Hitler said, is survival of the fittest, and we have to deal with the fact that the United States have eliminated all competitors for world domination. But the civilised countries should not allow them to lecture us about freedom, morals or human rights; we should measure our cultural standards against a more challenging benchmark.
(in the process of revision)