A Wicked War

The invasion of Iraq was not the first U.S. war to be launched with a lie. That distinction probably goes to the 1846 Mexican-American War, though there’s usually a big serving of political prevarication whenever a nation starts building toward conflict. “In war, truth is the first casualty.” So said a wise Greek a few thousand years ago. President James K. Polk wasn’t doing anything new when he lied us into a war with Mexico by concocting a tale of aggression that hadn’t happened. Polk was intent on expanding American territory, and he wanted to provide new ground in which slavery could take root, so he sold a war based on jingoism, and off we went to Mexico to rape and pillage until the whole sorry business concluded with a reshaping of the map. In the interim, lots of people died, of course, including American troops picked off by Mexican guerrillas during the extended occupation of that country. Much of what is found in Amy Greenberg’s engrossing account of a little-remembered war seems eerily similar to what we’ve recently lived through in Iraq. Arrogance plus ignorance equals lots of dead people. Or to quote yet another sage, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”