Mar 21 2013
The National Museum of American History, and a billionaire who has funded a new exhibit there, would like you to know that we’re going to need more wars if we want to have freedom. Never mind that we seem to lose so many freedoms whenever we have wars. Never mind that so many nations have created more freedoms than we enjoy and done so without wars. In our case, war is the price of freedom. Hence the new exhibit: “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War.”
The exhibit opens with these words: “Americans have gone to war to win their independence, expand their national boundaries, define their freedoms, and defend their interests around the globe.” Those foolish, foolish Canadians: why, oh, why did they win their independence without a war? Think of all the people they might have killed! The exhibit is surprisingly, if minimally, honest about imperialism, at least in the early wars. The aim of conquering Canada is included, along with bogus excuses, as one of the motivations for the War of 1812.
The most outrageous part of the opening lines of the exhibition, however, may be the second half: “. . . define their freedoms, and defend their interests around the globe.” The exhibition, to the extent that I’ve surveyed it online, provides absolutely no indication of what in the world can be meant by a war being launched in order to “define our freedoms.” And, needless to say, it is the U.S. government, not “Americans,” that imagines it has “interests around the globe” that can and should be “defended” by launching wars.
The exhibit is an extravaganza of lies and deceptions. The U.S. Civil War is presented as “America’s bloodiest conflict.” Really? Because Filipinos don’t bleed? Vietnamese don’t bleed? Iraqis don’t bleed? We should not imagine that our children don’t learn exactly that lesson. The Spanish American War is presented as an effort to “free Cuba,” and so forth. But overwhelmingly the lying is done in this exhibit by omission. Bad past excuses for wars are ignored, the death and destruction is ignored or falsely reduced. Wars that are too recent for many of us to swallow too much B.S. about are quickly passed over.