Before the War

I can't remember a time when there hasn't been war

By Roberto Rodriguez

Published on LatinoLA: August 26, 2005

Before the War

I can't recall a time when this country hasn't been at war.

As a child, I was brought to this country in 1960 and admittedly, I wasn't old enough to make sense of the Bay of Pigs invasion against Cuba nor about the early doings of the U.S. government in Indochina. However, because I became a paperboy in East L.A. in elementary school, I actually became generally aware of the world at quite an early age.

At this time, I also became aware that some people intentionally look the other way - to pretend that wars are not being fought in their name - while others are susceptible to extraordinary fears (communism, terrorism & aliens). It is these fears which government has historically exploited, that has allowed the U.S. government to tell extraordinary lies to be able to war on countries that pose little or no threat to this country.

For many people, war conjures up Vietnam, then a huge void, and now Iraq. Actually, interventions, illegal wars and U.S.-supported military coups have been the norm immediately before (Iran & Guatemala) and in the intervening years. In 1965, the U.S. military invaded the Dominican Republic. The Vietnam War also involved the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia. That had something to do with dominos. The Cold War also involved lots of other secret wars and cost millions of lives.

There was this other war I remember when I was a kid: The war against Mexicans. It probably started in the 1830s when slaveholders and segregationists converged on Mexico's northern provinces, culminating with the creation of the Texas Republic. Then shortly thereafter came the brazen theft - also based on complete lies -- of half of Mexico's territories. Perhaps as justification, from that era began a campaign to dehumanize and demonize Mexicans. In a sense, that was but a continuation of what Europeans had earlier done to steal the whole continent.

That's why I say I can't remember a time when there hasn't been war.

It is dehumanization and demonization - along with greed - that have always permitted, genocide and land theft. (We can't either forget the Spanish American War which was started based on other lies and netted Cuba, the Phillipines and Puerto Rico).

Growing up, what I remember most is Mexicans always getting blamed for everything. Well, actually, Blacks made for great scapegoats too. And early on, I think someone created the plan for Mexicans and Blacks to hate and blame each other. (Until Asians moved in).

That was a good plan: Keep them busy killing each other. Forget that they were both shedding blood for someone else's wars.

The Southeast Asian wars dragged on, made evident by the daily death counts. But then came the East L.A. Moratorium against the Vietnam War on August 29, 1970 and the violent response to it by law enforcement. Two deaths had been confirmed, but additionally, down the street from where I lived on Whittier Blvd, a bar was barricaded. A newspaperman (Ruben Salazar) had been shot and sherriff's deputies were not allowing his body to be retrieved. It was this callousness that convinced us that there was a war against Mexicans.

This same war on the streets never actually went away. Too many to mention. (And there's the other wars against ourselves in which tens of thousands of Mexicans/Central Americans have also died in gang wars, but we don't talk about those).

Here, it's the military wars we're concerned with. During this time, there were more U.S.-supported coups and the installation of military dictatorships throughout the Americas, compliments of the School of the Americas.

Then came the 1970s-1990s and the secret U.S.-financed wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. There too, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost. Many thousands were raped, tortured and subjected to death squad assassinations, while millions were uprooted.

Then there were the even more secret and more lethal wars in Africa that have never stopped.

Then there were the superpowers of Grenada and Panama. Perhaps this is what has inspired this president to invade defenseless little countries. Except that Iraq has turned out to be anything but defenseless. Yes. President Bush heads a country that has historically warred whenever it's wanted territories and riches, whether there was legal justification or not.

And some long for the days when the United States was involved only in just wars and when it only dropped bombs [in a humane manner] on military strategic targets [Hiroshima & Nagasaki?].

Before the war.

? 2005 Column of the Americas

The writers can be reached at

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