The South’s pro-war history, and our times

I found this article, which was forwarded to me by a friend, to be most interesting in light of what Joseph Smallwood had to say (in Chasing Smallwood) about the causes of the Civil War.

By Sherwood Ross

The South is far more inclined to war than the rest of America and its politicians played a major role involving the U.S. in Iraq, a noted legal authority says.

“We’d better find some way of ending the solidly-conservative-to-reactionary-bloc- power of the South or it will cause us disaster again in the future,” writes Lawrence Velvel, dean and cofounder of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.

“War has regularly been a Southern policy of choice—not excluding the Civil War,” he points out. “The South wanted the War of 1812, it wanted war with Mexico, it wanted the Civil War, it wanted to invade and take over Cuba and parts of Central America.”

“The South became militaristic at least as early as the 1830s or so if not before—it started creating military academies to train men against the day it might be necessary to fight the North, and it never gave up its violent, militaristic attitudes,” Velvel writes.

The initial Senate vote authorizing Texas President George Bush’s invasion of Iraq in October, 2002, Velvel recalls, was 77-23 affirmative. Of the 77 “yea” votes, 23 came from the Old Confederacy or the border states of Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland.

Velvel says that this vote, like others on Iraq, stems from the South’s heritage of slavery that allowed whites to torture those in bondage, a practice continued after the Civil War during the days of racial segregation, and which continues today as part of President Bush’s policy in the Middle East.

The legal authority says that to be pro-war “is the position of people who are conservative to reactionary (as well as some moderates). Southerners are Republicans because they are conservative to reactionary. They are not conservative to reactionary because they are Republicans. The South has been a conservative to reactionary stronghold (now called a red state stronghold) for at least 175 to 180 years, and that is why it is Republican today.”

Velvel points out that southern legislators weren’t the only ones who voted to attack Iraq, that northerners voted for the war as well. “Yet it makes a considerable practical difference, when it comes to war or any other policy, if you start with a large, diehard committed bloc on your side, a bloc that will argue for you, work for you, and needs no convincing, but instead will push for you. The South is such a bloc when it comes to war.”

Velvel states his views on the belligerent South in his new book, “An Enemy of the People”(Doukathsan Press). He contends the South has disproportionate political power because of the constitutionally mandated composition of the Senate, with two Senators from each state, regardless of population.

He says switching to a proportional representation system rather than relying on the electoral college would cost liberals and/or progressives some representation in states such as California and New York. By contrast, though, southerners would be able to elect some anti-war liberals.

“Our major problem really is not, and as far as I know, never has been, the existence of divided political power in the North,” Velvel concludes. “Rather it has always been the presence of undivided political power in the South. The solid bloc South has already caused this country much disaster, including the Civil War which killed more Americans than any other war even though the country’s population was only 30 million at the time…”

Velvel is dean and cofounder of the Massachusetts School of Law, an institution purposely dedicated to the education of minorities, immigrants, and students from working-class backgrounds, and which places a heavy emphasis on the teaching of history. MSL has been praised as a leader in the movement to reform legal education to make it more affordable and practicable.

(Further Information: Sherwood Ross, Media Consultants, Suite 403, 102 S.W. 6th Avenue, Miami, FL 33130. 305-205-8281 or


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