Washington lies: how many times must Americans rediscover this home truth?
The revelations provided to us by Edward Snowden are just the latest in a long series of whistleblower acts of bravery that have exposed the crimes of our Wise Leaders. From "Deep Throat" to Dan Ellsberg to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, these patriots have cast light on the darkest corners of the criminal syndicate that passes for "government" in our day and age. Yet it isn’t only disgruntled insiders with a conscience who can blow the whistle on the crimes of the mighty: historians, too, play a vital role in unearthing the past crimes of the US government – or, indeed, of any and all governments. And on this day before the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, we would do well to turn our attention to one of them, Robert B. Stinnett, author of Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor.
Utilizing documents procured under the Freedom of Information Act, Stinnett proved beyond any reasonable doubt that if Franklin Roosevelt didn’t know the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was coming, then he must have gone out of his way not to know.
Stinnett showed we had broken Japan’s diplomatic and military codes, which alerted us not only to the movement of the Imperial Navy as it made its way across the Pacific toward its target, but also revealed to us to the presence of a Japanese spy who was radioing vital information from Pearl Harbor to Japanese commanders, including the attack coordinates that would enable the complete decimation of the American fleet.
This information was deciphered and transmitted to 36 high government officials – including FDR. The President, furthermore, insisted on keeping the US fleet at Pearl Harbor, where it was bottled up and vulnerable: when a top naval officer suggested it be moved, he was overruled – and fired.
It’s no secret Roosevelt had been trying to get us into the war for years, and did everything in his power to provoke an attack by German warships on US ships carrying vital supplies to besieged Britain. Yet Hitler ordered his submarine commanders to lay off the Americans: the last thing he wanted was to get the US into the war.
It was therefore necessary to get us in through the back door, so to speak, by provoking the Japanese. The draconian sanctions imposed on Nippon were slowly strangling the Japanese economy and war machine: a veritable blockade was in force, and they frantically tried to loosen Uncle Sam’s grip on their necks through negotiation.
The President, however, rudely rebuffed them: the direct result of this was the fall of the Japanese government, which had up to that time had been in favor of negotiating with the Americans, and the triumph of the Japanese militarists under Tojo, who were bent on war. Once this change in government was accomplished, thanks to FDR’s machinations, war was only a matter of time.
The Roosevelt administration knew all this, and yet ploughed happily onward in its march to war. They knew the Japanese fleet was on its way: they knew the attack coordinates had been transmitted to Japanese commanders. And they knew precisely when the attack would take place – yet the President left the fleet in harbor.
The American people were opposed to entering the war, even at that late date. Some 75 percent told pollsters we should stay out, right up until December 7. The strenuous and relentless efforts by such Anglophile propaganda groups as the Committee to Aid the Allies, "Fight for Freedom," and the Century Club had come to nil. What was needed was a catalyzing incident, a clear act of aggression against us by the Axis powers – in short, the "surprise attack" on Pearl Harbor.
"Remember Pearl Harbor" became the War Party’s battle-cry, and not just back then but for many years afterward – yes even today. It’s no surprise so many of our foreign policy metaphors are taken from that era: whenever the US decides to negotiate rather than bomb, the Usual Suspects turn up with cries of "Munich!" No sooner has some tinpot despot decided to defy Washington’s diktat then he’s automatically promoted to "Hitler" status, his third-rate broken-down army of conscripts likened to the blitzkrieging German war machine of 1939. Pearl Harbor has become shorthand for any sort of "sneak attack" which catches the unwary with their pants down, a signpost on the road of History warning nefarious "isolationists" of the dangers of complacency in a world of endless enemies.
The response to Stinnett’s book, first published in 2000, was all too predictable: the Court Historians went on the offensive, but the best they could come up with was Richard Bernstein in the New York Times, who averred that, while the new information Stinnett had unearthed was indeed "disturbing," on the other hand:
"[T]he mere existence of intelligence does not prove that that intelligence made its way into the proper hands or that it would have been speedily and correctly interpreted."
This kind of artful evasion has been used to explain away practically every large scale deceit by government in modern times: We had bad intelligence, or the good intelligence "fell through the cracks." The former was deployed in defense of the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq, while the latter was utilized to explain away the numerous instances in which the US government failed to follow up on evidence that the 9/11 hijackers were actively preparing a major terrorist attack on US soil.
"We didn’t know!" – Richard Nixon initially tried to claim that about the criminal activities of his White House "plumbers." That’s what George W. Bush said when the hunt for WMD in "liberated" Iraq found nothing. That’s what the Israelis said when Fox News exposed the fact that their agents had been monitoring the 9/11 hijackers and somehow neglected to tell us.
Of course they knew. Yet they’ll never fess up. Which brings me to the point – ah, you knew it was coming! – and it is this: history is mostly a compendium of convenient lies. Convenient, that is, for those in power. What passes for the history of modern times is, simply put, mythology – a "narrative" that serves a purpose.
And what is that purpose?
It’s always to glorify the wisdom of our rulers: their foresight, their virtue, their utter indispensability. If Roosevelt was hell-bent on war, then he must’ve had a very good reason, one which mere mortals were unable or unwilling to see.
That is how Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the "historian" and Democratic party operative characterized FDR’s willful deceit on the question of the war: in public, the President insisted he was for peace while all the time he and his advisors – including Soviet agent Harry Hopkins and a score of other highly placed spies and fellow travelers – were plotting and scheming to provoke a German or Japanese first strike.
The myth of Pearl Harbor – that a "sleeping" America was taken unawares by those sneaky Asian Japanese militarists – is the cornerstone of an overarching mythos: the fable of World War II as the Good War. In reality, there was nothing – repeat, nothing – good about it. The Nazi regime would have imploded on account of its own inherent instability, regardless of how the war in Europe turned out: furthermore, by the time the Americans entered the fray, the British were out of danger and the Soviets had the Germans on the run in the East. The idea that we would all be speaking German – or, in the Western half of the US, Japanese – if not for FDR’s duplicity is just another canard borne of a lie.
If so much "history" is a lie, then the proper role of journalism in the here-and-now needs to be underscored at least twice: because history, after all, is simply what happened yesterday. Journalists are writing the history of our times even as I type this and if these alleged guardians of Truth are corrupted by, or in any way complicit with the mandarins of power, then what we get isn’t history – it’s a "narrative" concocted by politicians, lobbyists, special pleaders, and public relations firms, one suited to continue their depredations and cover up their crimes.
That’s why ensuring the continued existence of Antiwar.com is so vitally important. For 17 years we’ve been on the front lines fighting to expose the true history of Washington’s wiles – but we absolutely cannot continue to do it without your support. And, yes, I mean your financial support.
Look: this fundraiser has been hairy, and plenty scary. I’m not surprised: this economy sucks. We are a good $20,000 short of our fundraising goal: what this means is that, if we don’t raise that pretty quickly, we’ll have to make yet more cuts – and we’re already cut to the bone. Oh, what I would give for a copy editor! Not to mention a technical assistant to help our overburdened webmaster and general manager maintain and upgrade this web site!
As it is, however, we are straining just to maintain our woefully inadequate level of operations. I dread the thought that we’ll fall short – because that would really put a crimp in our sails at a crucial time.
This country is at a turning point: we can either go the way of the War Party – toward a semi-authoritarian state that is constantly on the verge of attacking our perceived "enemies" – or back to the policy of the Founders, who abhorred militarism because they rightly saw it as the doorway to tyranny.
Which way will we go? At the moment, I wouldn’t be willing to make a prediction – it could go either way.
Antiwar.com can make a significant difference – but we have to be around in order to do so. Please help us keep this web site going with your tax-deductible donation – because your support means more than you imagine. By exposing the War Party’s lies, we are indeed making history – the right kind of history, that is.
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NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.