Historical parallel—to a point

Jeff Livingston occasionally hosts KZFR’s All Mixed Up and has taught U.S. history at Chico State since 1989.

“Again, it is a singular omission in this message, that it nowhere intimates when the president expects the war to terminate … after all this, this same president gives us a long message, without showing us that, as to the end, he himself has even an imaginary conception. As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man.”

Michael Moore in a flight of eloquence? Another powerful indictment of Bush by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann? Ted Kennedy or Nancy Pelosi in a prepared statement?

No. It’s Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln, addressing the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 12, 1848. Lincoln was condemning President James K. Polk, who, like our current president, deceived Americans into fighting an unprovoked war.

In Polk’s case, it was against Mexico, accused of occupying U.S. territory between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River to the north.

In actuality, the boundary between Texas and Mexico had for years been recognized by many Americans and Mexicans as falling along the Nueces and not the Rio Bravo (the Mexican name for the Rio Grande). But Polk wanted war with Mexico so he could annex California. With its superb harbors at San Francisco and San Diego, California would provide the springboard for American commercial penetration to the fabled markets of the East Indies and Asia.

Unlike President Bush, Polk got what he wanted at an acceptable price. For $15 million, the United States acquired nearly half of Mexico’s national territory. American loss of life in the Mexican War was limited to 1,700 combat deaths (though disease killed more than 11,000 American soldiers).

If only the war in Iraq went that well for President Bush. As it stands now, more than 2,700 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed. Iraq has become, according to the consensus view of U.S. intelligence agencies, a breeding ground for terrorism. Around the world, U.S. credibility and moral leadership have fallen to depths not seen since the Vietnam War.

And the end of the war is not in sight. Maybe it’s time to take a page from Rep. Lincoln and speak out against our president and his war.