In the first war between the United States and Mexico (1846), President James C. Polk lied to the American people by claiming Mexicans troops had invaded American soil and drew “American Blood.”
Countering President Polk was Illinois’ congressman and future President: “Whig Abraham Lincoln contested the causes for the war and demanded to know exactly where (Americans) had been attacked and American blood shed. ‘Show me the spot,’ he demanded.”
In the second “war” (in 1914), American President Woodrow Wilson ordered the occupation of Mexico’s port at Tampico (and Port of Vera Cruz) after Mexican forces had detained a dozen American sailors for a brief hour. The Mexicans refused to fly an American flag and fire a 21-gun salute as an “apology.”
The real reason was to occupy both ports, so a load of millions of Mauser rifle bullets bought by the “government” of General Victoriano Huerta could not land. Though Huerta took over the government with help from President Woodrow Wilson’s ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, President Wilson wanted Huerta out. His orders to the Navy: "Seize customs house. Do not permit war supplies to be delivered to Huerta government or to any other (Mexican) party."
When General Huerta was replaced by “President” Carranza, whom President Woodrow Wilson barely supported, the Americans left Mexico, only to return within two years.
On March 9, 1916, horse soldiers of Mexican revolutionary Francisco (Pancho) Villa entered the United States and attacked the New Mexico town of Columbus, New Mexico; they killed 17 Americans. Villa’s men suffered many dead and wounded when troops from a nearby U.S. Army encampment arrived armed with machine guns.
Americans were incensed. President Woodrow Wilson knew a good thing when he saw it, so, with a view of helping our British cousins in the Great European War by abandoning neutrality, Wilson called up the nascent 100,000-man “National Guard” and sent them to the Mexican border to train. He sent 10,000 soldiers with airplanes into Mexico to hunt and kill Pancho Villa. They were commanded by Brigadier General John J. Pershing. They were in Mexico for 11 months. They failed.
In a firefight at Carrizal on 2 June 1916 with Mexican Federal troops of President Carranza, American soldiers died and a group of them were captured and held until Americans left in 1917.
The current strain between the United States and Mexico is the worst of any since the failed hunt for Pancho Villa.
All of it has been fomented by President Donald J. Trump starting with his announcement for President in June 2016 by declaring Mexicans “rapists,” “drug smugglers” and “criminals.
Trump, without a scintilla of knowledge about international trade, calls the most successful trade agreement in American history, that with Canada and Mexico – the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the worst deal ever made by the U.S. His solution; gigantic tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from NAFTA partners Mexico and Canada.
When parsing the word “worst” as Trump uses it, we must use it to display the “worst” decision ever made by a President who imposed a 25% tariff on Mexican steel. The decision was made without proof Mexican steel imports are, in fact, taking advantage of the United States.
Fact: “According to Mexico’s steel industry association, the United States sold $3.6 billion more to Mexico over the past two years than Mexico sold to the United States;” steel that is.
The fourth “war” with Mexico is on. President Trump ordered it. Mexico strikes back with, “…tariffs (that) will be applied to U.S. agricultural products, including apples, cranberries, cheeses, potatoes, pork and whiskey. The products will be hit with a tariff of between 15 and 25 percent...” Of course, despite the U.S. selling Mexico more steel than it buys from Mexico, and selling Mexico many products produced in Trump-supporting states, Mexico hits back.
Trump voters in Iowa and Wisconsin that raise hogs, Kentuckians that make whiskey, Missourians that make nails from Mexican steel, Michiganders that raise apples and make auto parts from Mexican steel will all suffer; many, like Missouri nail makers will lose their jobs.
This isn’t 1916. Many American jobs are being threatened by the imposition of Trump tariffs on our next door neighbor; jobs held by millions of Americans.
Contreras is the author of “THE MEXICAN BORDER: IMMIGRATION, WAR AND A TRILLION DOLLARS IN TRADE” (Floricanto Press) and the “ARMENIAN LOBBY & U.S. FOREIGN POLICY” (Berkeley Press); he formerly wrote for the New York Times’ New American News Service