President Bill Clinton said “Americans never fought for empire, for territory, for dominance,” during a Memorial Day Ceremony speech on May 29, 2000 at Arlington National Cemetery.How wrong he was. But keep in mind that this is the same guy that smoked but didn’t inhale and doesn’t think that oral sex is…well… sex.
Young Bill Clinton must have missed the lesson in history class where they went over how Thomas Jefferson said, “Our confederacy must be viewed as the nest from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled.” He didn’t want to rush things, though, because “those countries cannot be in better hands.” But he didn’t want to take too long either, because he felt the Spaniards were “too feeble to hold them till our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece.”
Another significant detail that should have been brought up was that before the Mexican-American War even started, President James K. Polk said, “I brought distinctly to the consideration of the Cabinet the question of ordering an expedition of mounted men to California.” He went on to answer the question of why he would want to send an army to California—hardly a strategic placement of troops while waging a war in south Texas—and that it was because he felt that it would be very important that the United States should hold military possession of California at the time peace was made, declaring his purpose to be “to acquire for the United States, California, New Mexico, and perhaps some others of the Northern Provinces of Mexico whenever a peace was made.”
It appears that what a president wants, a president gets. On August 18, 1846, less than four months after the start of the Mexican-American War, General Stephen Kearny said to the people of New Mexico, “I have come amongst you by the orders of my government, to take possession of your country, and extend over it the laws of the United States. We consider it, and have done so for some time, a part of the territory of the United States. We come amongst you as friends—not as enemies; as protectors—not as conquerers. We come among you for your benefit—not for your injury. Henceforth I absolve you from all allegiance to the Mexican government.”
Perhaps if the people of New Mexico had been better versed in the English language, they would have entertained a debate regarding the distinction between friends and conquerors. They might have questioned whether a friend—such as General Kearny purported himself to be—would also say to them that day, “He who promises to be quiet, and is found in arms against me, I will hang!” or “There goes my army. You see but a small portion of it; there are many more behind. Resistance is useless.” Not very friendly statements. The people of New Mexico might also wonder why allegiance to Mexico was a sin so heinous as to require absolution. And who was this Kearny guy anyway, thinking he could go around “absolving.”
Since Bill Clinton graduated from Georgetown University, won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in 1968, and received a law degree from Yale University in 1973, it is safe to assume he is no dummy. He probably did pretty well in history class and his peculiar distinctions between what activities constitute sex would more appropriately indicate poor performance in English class. It is much more likely that the previous statements made by two Presidents of the United States and one General in the United States Army never made it to the history books.
Edmund Burke once said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” That would be the more generous reason behind the cyclical manner in which America has selfishly treated Mexicans. Most likely, though, the reason is that America is just real good at rationalization. It was an “I want it, you’ve got it, let’s figure out why I should have it” mentality that provided the justification for seizing from Mexico what would become the states of Texas, California, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. There was even a name for that mentality—“Manifest Destiny.”
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